What’s the Difference Between a Woofer and a Subwoofer?

By Mike D. Schmitt

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When it comes to speakers, there are a lot of different terms to know. Two of the most commonly used terms are “woofer” and “subwoofer.” But what exactly do these terms mean? And what are the different types of subwoofers available on the market today?

Types of Speakers:

Woofer: A woofer is a type of speaker that is designed to reproduce low-frequency sounds, typically between 20 Hz to 2 kHz. They are commonly used in home theater and music systems to enhance the overall sound quality. The size of the woofer can vary, but it is typically between 6.5 inches and 8 inches in diameter.

Subwoofer: A subwoofer is a specialized speaker designed to handle the lowest frequencies of audio, usually below 80 Hz. Subwoofers are typically larger in size than woofers, with diameters ranging from 10 inches to 18 inches. They are commonly used in home theater systems, car audio systems, and live sound setups.

How Subwoofers Work:

Subwoofers work by using a large speaker cone to move air and create low-frequency sound waves. When an electrical current is applied to the voice coil of the subwoofer, it creates a magnetic field that causes the cone to move back and forth. This movement creates pressure waves in the air that we perceive as sound.

Different Types of Subwoofers:

  • Sealed Subwoofer: This type of subwoofer is designed to be installed in a sealed enclosure, which creates a tight and accurate bass response. Sealed subwoofers are commonly used in home theater systems.
  • Ported Subwoofer: A ported subwoofer is designed to be installed in an enclosure with a vent or port. The port allows more air to move in and out of the enclosure, which creates a more boomy and resonant bass response. Ported subwoofers are commonly used in car audio systems.
  • Powered Subwoofer: A powered subwoofer is a self-contained subwoofer system that includes a built-in amplifier. This makes it easy to add bass to an existing audio system without needing to purchase a separate amplifier. Powered subwoofers can be either sealed or ported and are commonly used in home theater and music systems.

Now that you have a better understanding of what a woofer and subwoofer are and the different types of subwoofers available on the market, you can make an informed decision when purchasing a subwoofer for your audio system.

Differentiating a Woofer and a Subwoofer

The main difference between a woofer and a subwoofer is their respective frequency ranges. While a woofer handles low-frequency audio, subwoofers focus on the lowest possible bass frequencies. Woofer speakers usually have a frequency range between 40 Hz and 2 kHz. On the other hand, subwoofers have a frequency range of 20 Hz to 200 Hz. Woofer speakers are typically built into larger speaker systems, while subwoofers are standalone units designed to handle only bass frequencies.

Types of Subwoofers

There are two main types of subwoofers: active and passive. Active subwoofers are self-powered, which means they have an inbuilt amplifier. They have a built-in power source, making them easy to install and use. Passive subwoofers, on the other hand, require an external amplifier to power them. Passive subwoofers do not have an inbuilt amplifier, but they can handle more power and are generally more affordable.

Subwoofer Size and Application

The size of a subwoofer determines its performance and functionality. Larger subwoofers tend to produce more sound and bass. The most common subwoofer sizes range from 8 inches to 15 inches.

  • 8-inch subwoofers are small and ideal for use in small cars or where space is limited. They produce decent sound and bass but do not produce the highest quality of sound.
  • 10-inch subwoofers are the most popular and provide a good balance of sound quality and bass. They are the ideal size for most car audio systems.
  • 12-inch subwoofers produce better sound and bass than the 10-inch models. They are often used in larger vehicles where there is more space to install them. They produce louder and deeper bass, but their larger size means they require more power.
  • 15-inch subwoofers produce the loudest and deepest bass of all subwoofers. They require a lot of power to perform at their best, and they are often used in large vehicles or at concerts and other live events.

When choosing a subwoofer size, consider the amount of available space in your car or room and the amount of power you are willing to invest in your sound system.

By Mike D. Schmitt

Mike is your 'Go-To-Guy' for all things music and pro audio. Engineer, musician, luthier, and quite possibly the biggest gear head on the planet. With over 30 years of industry experience in the studio, and on the road, we turn to Mike and his expertise for those hard hitting music and pro audio questions.

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