Can You Use a Subwoofer as a Speaker-What You Need to know

If you are getting introduced to home theatre systems, one of the questions that are likely to pop up in your mind is whether or not you can use a subwoofer as a speaker. In fact, as a newbie, I once thought that a subwoofer is the same as a speaker. Well, it turns out I wasn’t entirely wrong after all. So, if you are looking for answers to the same question, then you’ve come to the right place. 

You can not use a subwoofer as a speaker because a subwoofer is designed differently from a speaker. Subwoofers are specifically designed to produce low-frequency sounds. As a result, they will not be able to accommodate high-frequency sounds when you replace your speakers with them in your home theatre system.

Although speakers and subwoofers look alike, they perform entirely different roles in an audio system. If you are a newbie like I was, you might not easily notice the differences. In this article, I’ll discuss some of these differences which do not allow you to use the two interchangeably, and how you can use the subwoofer with receivers or amplifiers. For further details on all of these, keep reading this article till the end. 

Can You Use a Subwoofer as a Speaker

What is the Difference Between a Subwoofer and a Speaker? 

It may come as a bit of a surprise to know that a subwoofer is actually not a speaker. Well, generally speaking, you can name it as a speaker at some point, but if you are well well-versed in the audio industry you’ll know for sure that the two are not the same. 

In terms of how they are designed, they are two different pieces of equipment altogether. This also translates to what roles they play in your audio system. 

Manufacturers of speakers and subwoofers know what they are about. As part of the devices in your audio system, both pieces of equipment basically transmit audio to your hearing. 

However, audio signals span over a wide frequency range. If you want to use a speaker, you can capture almost all of these audio frequencies on a speaker, although speakers are generally not good at emitting lower-frequency sounds. 

This is where the subwoofer comes in. The subwoofer is designed to capture the heavy bass tones – that is the low-frequency sounds. 

If you attempt to use the subwoofer as a speaker, you will not be pleased with what you hear and may even damage your audio system in the process. 

A cursory look at how they connect to other devices in your audio system even gives an about how different they are. If you’re curious enough, you’ll notice that their input and output channels are quite different from the usual speaker. 

Do Subwoofers Improve Sound Quality? 

A subwoofer is a great addition to a home theatre system. Just one subwoofer is enough to turn things around in your audio system. 

When you add a subwoofer to a speaker system, you’ll surely notice a sudden improvement in sound quality from your system. 

This is because the subwoofer quickly captures the bass tones which were otherwise missing from your music when you were using only the speakers. 

By doing so, the subwoofer and the speaker work hand-in-hand to give the very best of musical sounds. 

Do Subwoofers Make Music Louder?

Although a subwoofer is a loudspeaker of some kind, it doesn’t necessarily make music louder. 

When it comes to the loudness of sound in an audio system, it is usually linked with how much power the sounds that speakers are emitting have rather than how bass-like or treble-like the sound sounds. 

Technically, it has got more to do with the amplitude of the sound which in turn affects the power ratings of the speaker. 

The power of a subwoofer is usually indicated as its power rating, measured in Watts.

As a general rule, the more powerful a subwoofer is, the louder the sound that it can produce. However, you must be careful to match your subwoofer’s power rating with an appropriate receiver or amplifier to avoid damaging the subwoofer in the long run.

It is also important to note that any subwoofer, regardless of its power rating, will be able to produce lower-frequency sounds in your speaker system. 

Can I Connect a Subwoofer to a Speaker? 

If you are wondering whether or not you can connect your subwoofer to a speaker after learning that you can’t use both devices interchangeably, don’t worry because I have some answers for you. 

To be on the safer side, subwoofers usually come with their user manuals which you can consult to know how to connect them to other devices. 

It is most likely going to teach you which devices you can connect them to and so forth. 

However, if you’ve been in the audio systems for a long, you’d know that subwoofers are not normally connected to speakers. 

So, you should rather be considering outputs of devices where you can tap your audio signal from into the subwoofer. I

Normally, if you have an audio system or a home theater system, you’ll be using the AV Receiver to distribute the audio signals. If you want a better audio experience, it would be better to connect the subwoofer to a receiver rather than a speaker.

The receiver is therefore an important device that you can connect your subwoofer to. 

On the receiver, you’ll see an output port is labeled “Sub Out or anything similar depending on your model. 

It is in this port that you’ll plug a speaker cable and then plug the other end in your Sub input on your subwoofer. 

The receiver is also designed to recognize that a subwoofer has been connected to it when you use the correct port. This the power from the receiver is distributed correctly to the subwoofer and other speakers that are connected to it, so you don’t have to be scared of any damage so long as the subwoofer has the correct power ratings. 

Can I Connect a Subwoofer to an Amplifier?

The amplifier is also one other important device that you can connect your subwoofer to. 

Just as speakers, subwoofers can be passive or active. Passive subwoofers do not have their means of amplification, so it will be necessary to power them up with an external amplifier. 

Besides the amplifier can also be the route of most audio signals, so connecting the subwoofer is not a bad idea. You can capture as many sounds in your audio system as possible. 

When it comes to connecting to subwoofers to the amp, the power ratings of the subwoofers come into play as well. Technically, you can call it the Root Mean Square rating or the RMS rating. 

In order to ensure an efficient power supply from the amplifier to the subwoofer, you will need to ensure that the RMS rating of the subwoofer matches the RMS of the amplifier. 

If the power supply from the amp is beyond the capacity of the subwoofer, you will end up blowing the subwoofer in no time.

To prevent situations like this, you need to calculate the total power demand of your subwoofer and then connect them to an appropriate amplifier. 

If you are using subwoofers of similar power ratings in your audio system, just pick the RMS of one of them and multiply by the total number of subs in your audio system. This will give you a fair idea of the total power demand for the sub. 

With this knowledge, you can match it with an appropriate amplifier and you’ll be good to go. 

Final Thoughts 

When you consider the looks of a subwoofer and a speaker, it is not unusual to want to use the two interchangeably. However, you just can not use the subwoofer as a speaker in your audio. 

The reasons are basically simple – design and functionality. 

Subwoofers are good at what they were designed for, to emit low-frequency sounds to your hearing while speakers emit all sorts of frequency sounds.

The fact still remains that the role of the subwoofer in your audio system can be replaced with that of speakers. Once you get connections right and hook up a subwoofer to your system, you should be ready for a soothing music experience you’ll never want to turn your back on. 

The subwoofers will not necessarily make your music louder except you very powerful subs. 

In connecting the subwoofer to your audio system, you should aim to connect them to a receiver or an amplifier if you want better sound quality. Also, make sure to consider the power ratings on subwoofers before you connect them to the receiver and the amplifier. 

Once everything is set out right with your subwoofer, brace yourself for the best music experience you’ll get. Cheers!  


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