Subwoofers and Woofers: A Complete Comparison

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Subwoofers and Woofers

In your home theater or car, you may have a few woofers, and a subwoofer, and both are crucial components for any competent audio setup. While the names are pretty similar, and they’re both speakers, the actual functions between the two are quite different.

You will often hear subwoofers be called woofers and the other way around, this can cause quite the confusion especially if you’re a beginner audiophile. So to clear everything up, we’re going to be comparing the two and discussing any similarities.

The key difference between the two mostly lies in what function they have. Subwoofers function as a speaker mostly to reproduce low frequencies, and woofers reproduce much higher frequencies.

What Is A Subwoofer

subwoofer
Subwoofer

A subwoofer can be described as a loudspeaker, but a subwoofer doesn’t generate high frequency noises like your typical speaker.

Subwoofers generate low-frequency sound also known as bass, and bass is typically between 60-250 Hz.

These low frequencies are common in most media including movies and TV shows. In music, low frequencies are common in bass guitars and drums. In movies, bass is common in effects such as explosions and thunder.

Normal speakers can play bass, but not to the high standard and clarity that a subwoofer can. A normal speaker will distort the sound at lower frequencies making it unideal for bass.

However, a subwoofer is able to reproduce bass perfectly, and it can also make bass feel. Bass is high energy, so the viewer should feel it more than they hear it, this can also improve upon the immersion.

There are two different types of subwoofers, there are passive and active subwoofers Passive subwoofers do require an external amplifier whereas active subwoofers are fine without.

How Is A Subwoofer Used In Home Theaters & Sound Systems

In home theaters, subwoofers are used to supplement the main speakers by providing a realistic sound experience in terms of bass. So they add a level of immersion that your standard speakers cannot.

This is why you will see subwoofers common in surround sound setups which is basically a combination of main speakers arranged in such a way that encapsulates the viewer.

In surround sound setups and even soundbars that utilize surround sound, they will usually come with a subwoofer, this is because the manufacturers understand the impact a subwoofer has.

The subwoofer usually sits in front of the listening area, you generally only require one subwoofer, but some people will opt for 2 or even 3 subwoofers to further enhance their listening experience.

What Is A Woofer

woofer
Woofer

A woofer is also a loudspeaker, and, woofers can reproduce low sound frequencies like a subwoofer does. Woofers generate sound well into the 2.5 KHz realm, and even up to 5 KHz, but can go as low as 20 Hz.

However, woofers are still able to reproduce a bassy sound thanks to the ability of the woofer to produce low frequency sine waves during the vibration. Woofers are usually found in high end speakers that include tweeters.

A standard speaker setup that just utilizes mid range speakers and a tweeter can work perfectly fine for touching those high-range frequency noises.

However, the downside to this is that it won’t be able to produce low frequency sounds and from an immersive standpoint, this can be quite disappointing if you’re used to an immersive experience.

So a woofer is very similar to a subwoofer, but they have a wider frequency range, and can serve as an alternative to a subwoofer if you don’t have as much space.

How Is A Woofer Used In Home Theaters And Sound Systems

Just like a subwoofer, a woofer can be used in home theater setups to hit those low frequencies and experience immersive thunder and explosions in your favourite action movies.

But the downside to woofers is that they’re not specialized in bass, this can have an impact on the bass quality. Subwoofers will provide a much richer experience when it comes to lower frequencies.

Also, woofers aren’t really good at producing higher frequencies, so you can look at a woofer as a more balanced speaker, in between tweeters and a subwoofer.

What Are The Similarities Between The Two

Now let’s get into the actual comparison, this will help you get an idea on the differences much quicker, and help you make the right decision for your sound setup.

SubwooferWoofer
Frequency Range:20 – 200 Hz20 Hz – 2.5 KHz
Drivers:1Many
Power Handling:HighLow
Size:LargeSmall
Function:Reproduce Low FrequenciesReproduce High Frequencies

Frequency Range

In terms of frequency, subwoofers can produce sound between 20 Hz and 2.5 KHz. This is a huge frequency range compared to your typical subwoofer which is between 20 – 200 Hz.

So a woofer can produce some really low frequencies and some mid sounds around 5 KHz, you can call a woofer a mid-woofer.

Subwoofers have the name subwoofer because of their specialized nature in producing sound well into the sub-level frequency range.

Size

The size of these two devices are different, a subwoofer is bigger because of the speakers being a lot larger. This has to do with subwoofers generating powerful low frequency sounds, the speaker has to be up for the task.

Since woofers have to hit higher frequency sounds, they don’t have to be as big, so woofers end up being smaller in relation to the size of the speaker.

Another reason a subwoofer is larger than a woofer is because of various components such as the back enclosure that protects the system, and a passive radiator for releasing excess pressure.

In terms of inches, subwoofers can be between 8 and 20 inches, a woofer is between 3 and 8 inches.

Number Of Drivers

In terms of the driver count, subwoofers usually have one large main driver, this allows the subwoofer to produce lower frequencies, and allow them to be felt as well as heard.

Woofers usually have many drivers 2+, they need this because they produce much higher frequencies as well as lower frequencies.

A two way woofer will contain 2 drivers, usually a woofer and a tweeter. A 3 way woofer will contain a woofer, a tweeter, and an extra midrange driver. There are also 4 way woofers with an additional super-tweeter.

Power Consumption

For hitting those low powerful frequencies that are felt, you need a lot of power. For this reason, a subwoofer will require a lot more power than a woofer, and generate a lot more powerful soundwaves.

Woofers do not require as much power, this is because they produce higher frequency noises which are smaller in size consequently, significantly lower in power.

In terms of power consumption, a subwoofer will usually require around 200-1000W of power, whereas a woofer requires significantly less, usually around 100W of power.

Conclusion

In conclusion, these are two different components of a sound system, there’s no telling which is better as they both exist for different purposes. A subwoofer exists for only low frequency noises, and a woofer exists to hit low frequency and high frequency noises.