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Subwoofers vs. Normal Speakers – What’s the Difference

Even though speakers and subwoofers both produce audio, they are still two very different things.

A subwoofer (also “sub”) is a woofer or a loudspeaker, and its function is to reproduce low-pitched audio frequencies, commonly referred to as sub frequencies, hence the name “sub”-woofer. A normal speaker, on the other hand, is an electro-acoustic transducer. The transducer converts an electrical signal to sound using the same process but is not capable of handling low frequencies like a subwoofer. 

So, to get a full spectrum of sound, you need a subwoofer and “normal” speakers. 

You’ll also need tweeters that handle higher frequency sounds. They’re often included in other speakers as a second smaller horn in the speaker box.

Differences Between Subwoofers and Speakers

Regular speakers can’t handle songs with a lot of bass and sub-bass. Speakers are used in computers and televisions because they focus on the mid-and high-range frequencies. Although the components are perfect for voices, something is missing when listening to music.

You'll need a subwoofer if you want to hear the lowest frequencies. For a more balanced sound, a subwoofer is designed to exclusively create the deep bass prevalent in most music genres. 

One important thing to remember is that you can use speakers without subwoofers; you cannot use subwoofers without speakers and get a decent sound.

Subwoofers

The sole function of a subwoofer is to produce lower frequencies. The price of the sub often determines the frequency range and its power. The structure of a subwoofer consists of a wooden or plastic loudspeaker enclosure with one or more woofers. 

There are two types of subwoofers: active subs and passive subs. 

The main difference between the two is that active subs have an integrated amplifier. This can help improve power and sound quality, although it is more expensive than passive subs.

Whether you're working with a PA or a home system, adding a subwoofer can significantly improve sound quality, especially if you choose one from a renowned manufacturer. Because the subwoofer handles the lower frequencies, the speakers can focus on the mid and high range, which they are naturally better fitted for.

Pros

  • It increases audio quality across lower frequencies.
  • It helps turn the volume level up without distortion
  • It improves low-mid-range sound, and the bass is deeper.
  • Because the subwoofer concentrates on a different frequency than speakers, the audio is sharper and more precise than what you’d get with full-range speakers. 

Cons

  • You cannot use a subwoofer alone as they don’t cover the middle and high frequencies.

Cheaper subwoofers’ designs are not always top-notch; this might lead to some challenges in sound quality and vibrations in the enclosure.

Speakers

Often, you will use speakers in conjunction with computers and other audio devices. Like subs, speakers are usually divided into two types: active and passive. Active speakers have an integrated amplifier, while passive ones do not. Despite the type, they are both designed to serve the same purpose: producing quality sound.

Speakers are normally sold in pairs for a more balanced sound. Each speaker, left and right, is on its channel, so they work together to give you surround stereo sound, as opposed to mono sound from just one speaker.

Pros

  • They are cheaper compared to subs
  • They are capable of producing good audio even without a sub.

Cons

  • They are not able to produce deep bass.

Having gone through this article, you should be able to tell the difference between a subwoofer and speaker and be familiar with their advantages and disadvantages.

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Chris Daniel Playing Guitar in a nightclub
About The AuthorChris Daniel
My "day job" used to be teaching but I decided to give that up to play music full time. I have gigged all over the world playing in bands or as a solo act since then. I still have a passion for teaching others anything related to music. Writing content for InciteMusic.com gives me an opportunity to combine my love of music and education.
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