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What is a Subwoofer?

Michael Giuffre
Michael Giuffre

A subwoofer is a speaker that is designed to reproduce very low bass frequencies (usually those between 20 Hz and 125 Hz). These speakers tend to be large in size (between 8" (20.3cm) and 15" (38.1cm) in diameter) and require more power to operate than their small speaker counterparts. A subwoofer is used in order to provide the powerful audio rumble or punch commonly used in movies and music.

Common uses of subwoofers include installation in one's car or, more commonly, in home theater use. In either application the subwoofer is not considered a stand alone device but helps to fortify the higher pitched sound produced from the speakers. While never entirely necessary to reproduce sound from a car or home audio system, subwoofers have reached great popularity due to their ability to pack a large, low frequency punch in a small space.

A subwoofer is designed to reproduce low bass frequencies.
A subwoofer is designed to reproduce low bass frequencies.

The quality of a subwoofer depends mainly upon its construction and the components used in manufacturing it. Subwoofers can be made out of many different materials including reinforced paper, polypropylene, Kevlar®, carbon or aluminum. Each material provides a slightly different effect or sound.

Further enhancing the sound of subwoofers are their enclosures. Enclosures are used for subwoofers in order to mount them and give them room to create their booming sound. Many different types and sizes of subwoofer boxes exist and each achieves a different sound effect and volume level. Several home theater systems include a subwoofer that matches the speakers and amplifiers provided. In this case, your work is done for you. However, if purchasing a subwoofer to add to your home system or car audio setup there is an important distinction to consider: Mounted or unmounted?

Subwoofers may be used in home theater systems.
Subwoofers may be used in home theater systems.

Subwoofers can be purchased in their basic form, which is unmounted and not yet ready to be used, or can be purchased already installed in a box. Pre-enclosed subwoofers save the user the hassle of matching the box to the subwoofer and getting it installed properly. On the other hand, unmounted subwoofers allow the experienced consumer to customize their setup by picking a box to fit their installation needs and sound preferences.

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Discussion Comments


Why is it that my satellite speaker has no sounds when I connect it to my subwoofer US Audio subwoofer 508?


I think the subwoofer amplifier is a very important part of any home theater system. My parents have a home theater system, and I can tell a big difference in the quality of the sound when they use their subwoofer and when they don't.

When they first got the system, they didn't get the subwoofer right away because they didn't think it was necessary. However, one of their friends convinced them to go ahead and get it, and the sound is much better now. It really feels like you're in an actual theater!


@indemnifyme - I know exactly what you're talking about! I had a lot of friend in high school with serious subwoofers in their cars too. I always had to laugh, because some of them were so big the subwoofer enclosure took up a significant part of the trunk.

However, I think these days you can buy subwoofers that aren't so sizable. I think there are even some that aren't as strong and can go under one of the seats! That makes more sense to me, rather than wasting trunk space on it.

When I was in high school, it seemed like all of my friends really wanted a car subwoofer. For some reason, teenagers love to spend money on their car audio systems. It becomes almost like a contest for some of them, to see who can get the better car audio system!

I always thought it was kind of a waste, especially because I'm not a huge fan of that much bass. I don't enjoy the feeling of bass reverberating in my chest! It kind of hurts my heart, if that makes any sense. However, other people seem to really enjoy it, so to each their own.


If the subwoofer provides the audio outputs that connect to the satellite speakers, you have to connect the subwoofer to the system. If the satellite speakers are connected to another unit, such as a powered receiver or amplifier, you can leave the subwoofer out.



i want to know if it is possible to use kef100home theater without the woofer. it comes with one but it is very very big. thank you. daliaeran

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    • A subwoofer is designed to reproduce low bass frequencies.
      By: Roman Milert
      A subwoofer is designed to reproduce low bass frequencies.
    • Subwoofers may be used in home theater systems.
      By: mistiqefilm
      Subwoofers may be used in home theater systems.