Woofer VS Subwoofer: Difference between woofer and subwoofer explained

For decades, audiophiles have been fascinated by the “Woofer vs Subwoofer” argument, and rightly so: knowing the distinctions between the two is essential for creating the best possible listening environment.

Audio components like amplifiers, woofers and subwoofers play a vital role in delivering high-quality sound and making the overall sound system complete.

It is therefore very important to understand the difference between a subwoofer and a woofer for creating an immersive audio experience.

In this blog post, we will explore the key differences between woofers and subwoofers, their respective frequencies, and how they enhance audio setups.

Woofer vs Subwoofer and its Relevance in audio Setup

Both subwoofer and woofer have specialized roles to play, thus making the overall audio system complete.

If you have owned a professional amplifier or speakers, you will know what the sub and woofer do.

In a nutshell, they are both specialized speakers designed to achieve that perfect sound quality.

Understanding Woofer and Subwoofer

Woofer

Woofer

A woofer is a type of loudspeaker specifically designed to handle mid and low-frequency sounds.  That being said, they can also handle high frequencies just as well, up to a certain extent.

It is responsible for reproducing bass frequencies, typically ranging from around 40 Hz to 1000 Hz.

Woofers are larger in size compared to other speaker components and are designed to move a significant amount of air to produce powerful and impactful bass responses.

Key features and characteristics of a woofer include a robust construction, a cone-shaped diaphragm made of materials like paper pulp, polypropylene foam, or aluminum, and a voice coil that interacts with a magnetic field to produce sound. 

Woofers are commonly found in multi-way speaker systems, where they work in tandem with other drivers (such as tweeters and mid-range drivers) to cover a wide frequency range.

Why is it called a woofer?

The term “woofer” was coined, drawing directly from the term “‘woof’ from woofer,” to specifically designate the speaker component that specializes in producing the deep bass frequencies in an audio system.

Woof is actually the sound of a dog’s bark.

Over time, “woofer” has become a widely used term in the audio industry to refer to speakers designed for low-frequency reproduction.

Subwoofer

Subwoofer

A subwoofer, on the other hand, is a specialized speaker dedicated solely to reproducing extremely low-frequency sounds, typically below 80 Hz, and delivering deep bass.

It focuses on the sub-bass frequencies that provide depth and rumble to audio playback, including those deep, booming notes in music or the ground-shaking effects in movies.

Subwoofers are often larger than a woofer and are designed to handle the lowest frequencies with precision and impact.

The enclosure design of a subwoofer is optimized to minimize resonance and deliver clean, distortion-free bass, making the home theater systems more lively.

That being said, when we go deep into the concept of subwoofers, different types of subwoofers exist, mainly two types i.e., active subwoofers that have a built-in amplifier and passive subwoofers that are powered by an external amplifier.

I have explained the difference between active and passive subs in detail here.

In a nutshell, active subwoofers are self-contained units that are easier to set up as they do not require an external amplifier for power, while passive subwoofers rely on an external amplifier for power.

Whether you’re seeking a deep bass extension or well-rounded frequency reproduction, knowing the main difference between these two components will help you achieve the desired audio experience.

Note: If you are attaching an extra sub, make sure that it compliments the tweeter output.

Also Read: How to wire subwoofers? (Includes Subwoofer wiring diagram)

Woofer vs Subwoofer: Difference between a woofer and a subwoofer

Frequency Range

The frequency spectrum can be divided into several ranges, including sub-bass, bass, midrange, and treble.

Woofers typically handle the mid-bass and bass frequencies, falling within the range of around 40 Hz to 1000 Hz.

Subwoofers, on the other hand, specialize in the sub-bass frequencies, which are below 80 Hz (lower frequency range).

The different frequency responses of woofers and subwoofers significantly impact audio reproduction.

Woofers reproduce mid-bass and bass frequencies with accuracy and detail, providing a solid foundation for the overall sound.

Subwoofers, with their focus on sub-bass frequencies, deliver deep and powerful bass notes that add impact and intensity to music and movies.

Also Read: What is Low Pass filter or LPF in subwoofer? (Explained)

Sound Reproduction

Woofers and subwoofers employ distinct techniques in sound reproduction.

Woofers utilize their cone-shaped diaphragms and voice coils to convert electrical signals into mechanical vibrations, which in turn produce sound waves.

They excel at reproducing mid-bass and bass frequencies, delivering a tight and controlled bass response.

Subwoofers, with their larger drivers and specialized enclosure designs, are optimized to handle the demanding task of reproducing extremely low frequencies.

They utilize powerful amplifiers and robust cone constructions to produce deep, resonant bass with maximum impact.

Subwoofers are particularly effective at creating a visceral and immersive experience, making you feel the low-frequency sound waves.

Audio setups often benefit from the combination of woofers and subwoofers.

By using woofers for mid-bass and bass frequencies and incorporating subwoofers for sub-bass frequencies (lower frequencies), the system can cover a wider frequency range, resulting in a more balanced and immersive audio experience.

This hybrid setup allows for precise control over different frequency ranges, ensuring optimal sound reproduction for various types of content.

Also Read: Subwoofer Magnet: Speaker magnets fundamentals explained

Usage Scenarios

Woofers are commonly used in a wide variety of audio systems, from home stereos to car stereos to studio recording equipment that boosts the audio quality.

They are integral components in multi-way speaker systems, working alongside tweeters and mid-range drivers to cover a wide frequency range.

Woofers are particularly suitable for music genres that emphasize bass, such as hip-hop, rock, and electronic music.

Subwoofers excel in specific applications where deep and impactful bass reproduction is desired.

They are commonly employed in car audio systems, home theater systems, clubs, and concerts, enhancing the cinematic experience and delivering intense low-frequency effects that captivate the audience.

Subwoofers also find applications in professional audio setups, providing a powerful and extended bass response for live performances and music production.

Hybrid setups that utilize both woofers and subwoofers allow for a comprehensive audio experience.

By incorporating woofers and subwoofers in a complementary manner, these systems can deliver accurate and detailed reproduction across the entire frequency spectrum, ensuring a well-balanced sound output for a wide range of content.

Also Read: 2 ohm vs 4 ohm subwoofers: Ohm difference explained

Structure of a woofer vs Structure of a subwoofer

ComponentWooferSubwoofer
ConeMade of lightweight materials (paper, plastic, composites)Larger cone designed to move lot of air for lower frequencies
Voice CoilStandard-sized coilOften larger to handle higher power for low frequency sound reproduction
MagnetStandard-sized magnetThe size of a subwoofer magnet is larger.
SurroundFlexible ring connecting cone to frameFlexible ring connecting cone to frame
EnclosureNot necessarily enclosed in a boxA subwoofer is typically mounted in an enclosure or box. The subwoofer driver is attached in such a way that it can move a lot of air.
PurposeReproduce accurate and detailed bass frequenciesDesigned to produce deep bass and provide powerful low-end response
ApplicationFull-range regular speakers or dedicated mid-range/low-frequency speakersFocus on the lower frequency – Home audio, Home theater systems, car audio, and professional audio applications.

Also Read: Parts of subwoofers (Fundamentals)

What’s the ideal frequency range of subwoofers and woofers?

The optimal frequency settings for a woofer and subwoofer will depend on various factors, including the specific speakers, the room acoustics, personal preference, and the type of audio content you’re listening to.

That being said, I can give you some general pointers to get you going:

Selecting Woofer Frequency

The frequency range for a woofer typically covers the lower to mid-range frequencies, often starting at around 40 Hz.

In a full-range speaker system, the woofer handles the mid bass and midrange frequencies.

For most use cases, you don’t need to adjust the frequency setting of a standalone woofer since it is designed to reproduce the entire range it is intended for.

That being said, read the user manual of your woofer and receiver to see what suits you best according to the current setup.

Plus, consider room acoustics factors to find the ideal location for placement.

Selecting Subwoofer Frequency

Since subwoofers are primarily focused on reproducing deep bass frequencies.

The optimal frequency range for a subwoofer will depend on the crossover point, which is the frequency at which the subwoofer takes over from the main speakers.

The typical crossover point for a subwoofer is around 80 Hz, as this frequency is where human hearing starts to perceive directional localization less accurately.

However, you can adjust the crossover point based on personal preference and the capabilities of your main speakers.

It is generally recommended to set the crossover frequency of your subwoofer to blend seamlessly with your main speakers.

To find the optimal setting, you can follow these steps:

Step 1: Start with the subwoofer’s crossover frequency set to around 80 Hz.

Step 2: Play audio material that includes a range of frequencies, including bass-heavy content.

Step 3: Gradually adjust the crossover frequency up or down while listening for a smooth and natural transition between the subwoofer and the main speakers.

Step 4: Fine-tune the crossover frequency until you achieve a balanced and cohesive sound without any noticeable gaps or overlaps between the subwoofer and the main speakers.

Also Read: Subwoofer Placement Ideas for deep bass (Find the best spot)

Can woofers be used as subwoofers?

Technically, you can use woofers as subwoofers by ensuring proper connectivity with the audio and the power source.

However, you may miss out on the low end frequencies as the design and structure of a woofer may not allow them to reproduce extremely low frequency sounds.

So, it will make a lot of sense to have a dedicated subwoofer if you want to get that perfect low and high frequency range.

Also read: How to Pair subwoofer with soundbar?

Are multiple subwoofers better than just one?

Having multiple subwoofers can provide a more balanced and immersive bass experience, especially in larger rooms.

Multiple subwoofers can help distribute the low-frequency energy more evenly, reducing the chance of bass “dead spots” where the sound is weak or absent. However, this depends on the specific setup and room acoustics.

Also Read: How to build a subwoofer box for deep bass? (Guide)

Wrap Up

Subwoofer is a specialized woofer that covers a lower frequency range.

In other words, it covers narrow frequency range, whereas regular woofer covers higher frequency range.

The differences between a woofer vs subwoofer may not look like much to the naked eye, but when we get into the nitty-gritty, you will realize that there is a huge difference.

There is a good reason why a woofer and subwoofer exist in the first place, as the function of a woofer is a little different when compared to subs.

Armed with a Diploma in electrical engineering and a remarkable 12 years of expertise, he excels in rejuvenating music systems, washing machines, dryers, and laundry-related appliances. Manish's profound insights and practical know-how establish him as a credible authority in appliance and music system repairs. Contact: manish.singh (at) subwooferblog.com. He's always ready to lend a helping hand!