How Do Subwoofers Work?

Subwoofers can greatly enhance the sound experience of the audio that you want to listen to, whether that is in a studio, your room or simply in your car. While they sound like highly technical units, you can use them even for just listening to music on a casual basis.

What exactly is this equipment? How does a subwoofer work and what can you expect from it? We will take you through all these details through this explainer so that you can get a better idea about it and make good use of the unit yourself.

Let’s get started!

What Is a Subwoofer?

A subwoofer is a kind of loudspeaker that you can install into an enclosure. This can then allow you to have an enhanced sound experience by feeling the thumping bass and other lower frequencies of the audio that you are listening to.

Without a subwoofer, it can be easy to miss out on such sounds since they might not always be noticeable.

A subwoofer has several components that come together to make the unit function. It also comes in a range of sizes and types depending on how, where and to what extent you want to use it, whether that includes your car, a music studio, a concert, a club or while watching a movie.

What Does a Subwoofer Do?

A subwoofer is mainly responsible for handling the low-range frequencies of any kind of audio, such as the bass. This can create a thumping sensation around you, allowing you to fully feel the beat of the song.

Other loudspeakers, on the other hand, usually deal with sounds of higher frequency responses in the audio. Using the subwoofer with these other speakers can create an improved and enhanced music experience.

You can also get a louder sound from these subwoofers. Some units might also allow you the option of adjusting and setting the frequency levels so that you can get the exact sound that you desire.

How Do Subwoofers Work?

Subwoofers receive sound signals in the form of a current from the amp or any other receiver that you connect them to. They can then convert these signals into sound waves using its various components. These soundwaves then make their way to your ears, allowing you to sense them better.

The voice coil of the subwoofer receives the current that works its way through the coil, causing it to move which further sets the other components of the subwoofer into motion, creating waves and making the different parts interdependent.

Let’s take a look at this process and the different components involved in further detail below.

Suspension System

You can go through the components and functioning of the suspension system of the subwoofer below.


The basket is the strong framework of the subwoofer that contains and maintains all the other elements of the subwoofer. This basket should ideally be light and ventilated while also being durable and reliable. The basket usually goes inside a box or cabinet.


The surround of the suspension system is a ring or circle that keeps the cone of the subwoofer in place. It also acts as the connecting or middle point between the cone and the basket. This surround is usually made from foam or rubber.


The cone of the subwoofer is an essential element that moves or vibrates in its place to create sound waves from the electric current. This cone should be sturdy and durable and must also be light enough to move. The cone also contains a dust cap to maintain the quality of the cone.


The spider is another connecting ring that links the coil to the cone and the basket. It keeps track of the vibrations and structure of the other components while they move. It can come in different shapes and sizes and also traps dust without letting it enter the other components.


The leads are generally made from tinsel to ensure durability and malleability. They are cables that tend to connect the coil to the nearby sockets.

Motor System

Let’s take a look at the components of the motor system.

Voice Coil

The voice coil is a conductive wire that receives the sound signals from the receiver or amp and produces a magnetic field that can then cause it to move, also causing the other parts to vibrate.


The magnet allows the coil to move and vibrate by exerting some pressure onto the coil and the magnetic field that it creates.

Top Plate

The top plate is a part of the magnet itself, but it also connects to the basket of the subwoofer. It is responsible for creating a path for the magnetic fields of the coil and magnet to come together so that the vibrations can start.

Types of Subwoofers

There are mainly two types of subwoofers that you should be aware of. Let’s take a look.

Active Subwoofers

An active subwoofer, also known as a powered subwoofer, comes with its own amplifier or preamp attached to it. It has line-level inputs and outputs that can make it easier for you to make any required alterations in terms of the crossover frequency levels.

You can also control the volume levels with such a subwoofer. What makes this kind of subwoofer even more convenient is the fact that you do not need to take additional steps of connecting it to outer amplifiers.

It is also quite compact and does not take up too much space, so you can set it down wherever you require it.

Passive Subwoofers

A passive subwoofer is one that does not have any internal amplifier attached to the structure. Instead, you will need to connect the subwoofer to another amp and receiver.

A passive subwoofer can withstand a greater amount of power. You can also join several passive units together to create a stronger impact if this is something you require.

Subwoofer Size

A subwoofer can come in several sizes and are generally up to 15 inches (although these are the larger ones). The size of the subwoofer can have an impact on the overall frequency levels, so make sure you choose one that meets your needs.

You will also need to account for the cabinet enclosures that you will need to fit the subwoofers into. All of these can then add to the space that you will require when it comes to positioning them near the amps or receivers.

It is better to opt for smaller subwoofers if you have limited space, such as in a car. In this case, an active subwoofer might be of better use to you.

Cabinet Enclosures

There are mainly three kinds of cabinet enclosures or designs.

  • A sealed box or enclosure is one that does not leave any gaps in its structure and insulates the front and back components from each other so that the sound is clear and controlled.
  • A ported box has a port or vent that can allow the subwoofer to handle different kinds of frequencies.
  • An isobaric box can let you install two or more subwoofers within the same enclosure so that you can get the desired powerful sound.


Subwoofers can work across a range of applications. No matter where you use them, they can serve the purpose of improving the sound quality when it comes to lower frequencies.

Some common uses of a subwoofer include car audio, home audio system, home theaters, big cinemas, concerts of different scales and lots more. Depending on the scale of the place as well as the kind of receiver and audio, you can buy and use a subwoofer that meets all your requirements.

Make sure you opt for something that is also compatible enough with the other units and frequencies of the sound system.


How Do Subwoofers Make Bass?

Subwoofers can boost the bass of the audio that you are listening to by converting a current that it receives from a receiver into sound waves so that you can listen to the bass effectively.

The subwoofer is also a part of the entire sound system and is connected to other speakers that can enhance the overall sound.

Can You Use a Subwoofer As a Speaker?

You cannot use a subwoofer as a speaker even though the subwoofer acts as a kind of loudspeaker itself. This is because the subwoofer can only handle low frequencies and cannot manage higher frequencies of the audio. For this, you will need to connect separate speakers to the sound system.

Final Remarks

You now know all there is to know about subwoofers, including what they are, what they do, how they work as well as their types, sizes and enclosures.

Essentially, the subwoofers can receive sound signals that they can then convert into sound waves. The result of this conversion process is that the sounds with lower frequencies get enhanced instead of going unnoticed.

You can place these subwoofers in your room, studio, car or your home theater as long as you make sure that you buy compatible ones that can meet your requirements well.

Last Updated on October 23, 2023 by Brian Beasley

Written by Danny Reid

Hey, I'm Danny, and I know how hard it can be to find the perfect audio gear. Need a new stereo, amp, speakers, or subs? Don't worry – my blog is here to help you cut through the noise! My mission is to give you the best reviews, so you can make the right decision for your audio needs. And if you ever get stuck thinking, "Where does this blue wire go?" don't worry – I've got tons of cool tips to help you out of any jam. So come along with me on this fun, sound-filled adventure, and let's find the perfect audio setup to make your tunes really sing!