How Does a Subwoofer Work? [Bass Magic Revealed]
Welcome to the Ultimate Guide on How Subwoofers Work
Gone are the days when subwoofers were only of interest to audiophiles. Today, subwoofers are necessary for most homes, whether for music, movies, or games. Not to mention, regular loudspeakers can’t wholly reproduce low-frequency sound waves such as those from bass guitars, explosions in movies, kick drums, deep voices, booms, pipe organs, and thunders.
Typically, subwoofers are best used to amplify sounds with a low-frequency range (20Hz to 200Hz). Despite their effectiveness in handling low-pitched audio signals, subwoofers can’t work alone. They need full-range speakers that handle high frequencies, while subwoofers handle low frequencies.
If you want to learn more about how subwoofers work, you’re in the right place.
Let’s get started!
What is a Subwoofer?
A subwoofer is a device that delivers low frequencies ranging between 20 to 200 Hz. Usually, every sound, whether high or low-pitched, has a frequency. For low-pitched sounds, they have low frequencies and vice versa. That said, regular speakers such as those in phones, computers, and televisions deliver mid and high frequencies. With regular speakers, sounds from music or movies are usually flat – you can hear these sounds, but you hardly feel them.
On the other hand, subwoofers cover lower frequencies, which are also known as sub-bass or bass. With subwoofers, you can feel the extraordinary sound effects in the music or movie. For example, while watching a movie in a movie theater, you’ll experience the movie’s sound effects, such as explosions or deep voices. Moreover, a subwoofer is built uniquely to handle deep punch bass or high sound pressure levels that regular speakers cannot handle.
As mentioned, subwoofers don’t work alone – they require several full-range speakers that handle the high-frequency range, while the subwoofers cover the low-frequency sounds. This way, you don’t miss any sound – whether on low or high-end frequency in the audio you’re listening to. Let’s look at how a subwoofer works for a better understanding.
What Does a Subwoofer Do?
A subwoofer utilizes large drivers known as woofers or regular speakers to produce deep sounds. Basically, woofers can only cover frequencies that are down to about 50 Hz. On the other hand, subwoofers cover frequencies that are down to about 20Hz. These low frequencies are from bass guitar, kick drum, explosions from movie sound effects, and pipe organ.
You’ll need to connect your subwoofer to the audio receiver when playing music at home or watching a movie. Therefore, as the movie or music plays through the woofers or regular speakers, the low-frequency sounds below 50Hz are submitted to the subwoofer speaker driver through an electrical current, reproducing the sounds effectively. Usually, the subwoofer amplifies the electric current, thus converting it to sound via the magnetic coil, which causes vibrations. The low-frequency sound waves result from the vibrations caused by the magnetic coil.
How Does a Subwoofer Work?
A subwoofer consists of two subsystems – the motor and suspension systems. We’ll discuss these systems to see how they enable the functionality of a subwoofer. Let’s get started with the suspension system.
Usually, the suspension system consists of different parts that work together to produce high-quality bass notes. These parts include:
- The basket – This is the outer part of the subwoofer. The basket provides structural support while holding the rest of the subwoofer components in place.
- Cone/Diaphragm – The cone is another essential part of a subwoofer. It is responsible for creating the heavy vibrations produced by the subwoofer. The cone is often fastened to the voice coil. Therefore, as the cone moves, so does the voice coil. The cone’s rapid movement creates the subwoofer sound. A cone consists of materials such as plastic, metal, or organic fiber that are rigid to handle the high sound pressure levels produced by the subwoofer.
- Surround – The surround refers to the flexible circular piece (consisting of rubber or foam) that connects the basket with the cone or diaphragm. The surround consists of rigid materials that withstand heavy pressure as the cone produces the heavy bass effects. Additionally, the surround holds the cone in position.
- Dust cap – A dust cap helps protect the cone against dust.
- Spider – The spider in a subwoofer helps keep the voice coil at its position as the cone moves upwards and downwards. Additionally, the spider helps protect the voice coil against dust.
- Tinsel leads transmit electrical signals between the terminals and the voice coil.
The motor system is responsible for providing the power that moves the suspension system parts. Generally, this system is the backbone of your subwoofer. The components of the motor system include:
- Voice coil – The voice coil in a subwoofer provides the force needed by the cone to create the sound of the subwoofer.
- Magnet – The magnets in a subwoofer create an opposing magnetic field, thus creating vibrations. The larger the magnets, the more the vibrations.
Types of Subwoofers
Usually, there are two types of subwoofers – active or powered and passive. The difference between these subwoofers is quite simple. An active subwoofer is self-contained, with a built-in amplifier, speakers, and an AC power source. The active subwoofer only requires connecting to a sound system receiver using a subwoofer cable.
On the other hand, a passive subwoofer needs an external amplifier to work. These subwoofers are more complex in connection since they require more cabling. Generally, you’ll need to connect the passive subwoofer to an audio source and the amplifier, hence more cabling. What’s more, passive subwoofers require you to choose an amplifier. Usually, the sound quality of your passive woofer will depend on your ability to choose an amplifier and a speaker that suit each other.
Regarding performance, active subwoofers are more powerful than their counterparts. However, active subwoofers are more expensive compared to passive subwoofers. Active subwoofers are easy to connect for connectivity since there’s no need for special cabling.
Subwoofer placement depends on your room and your personal preferences. It is possible to try out various positions till you locate the ideal area for your subwoofer.
You can start experimenting with corners with sound-absorbing devices to see how the subwoofer sounds. Usually, corners tend to increase the subwoofer’s output or sound. However, corners may not work for everyone. Generally, you’ll need to experiment to find the best spot for your subwoofer placement. Most importantly, ensure that there’s even sound coverage throughout the room by minimizing the seat-to-seat variance of smooth peaks, nulls, and bass response.
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Subwoofer Speaker
Here are some things to consider when buying a subwoofer speaker:
Sensitivity refers to the power required by the subwoofer to produce sound. When selecting the ideal subwoofer for your needs, opt for one with a high sensitivity. High-sensitive subwoofers require less power to make a low-pitched sound.
Impedance refers to the electrical resistance of a speaker. Usually, impedance is measured in ohms. The impedance of most speakers is 4 ohms. However, you’ll find speakers with even 2- or 8-ohms impedance.
When choosing or buying a subwoofer, it’s essential to check the frequency range. A good subwoofer will have a frequency range that goes as low as 20 Hertz.
The subwoofer enclosure determines the sound the subwoofer produces. Enclosed subwoofers will create deeper and fuller sounds than those not enclosed. On the other hand, ported subwoofers will make louder but not deeper sounds.
When buying a subwoofer, check the RMS power rating, which is more important than the peak power. The RMS power refers to the amount of continuous power an amplifier can handle. Usually, a subwoofer’s RMS power is lower than the peak power rating.
Subwoofers either come with single or dual voice coils. Dual voice coils offer more flexibility when wiring your sound system.
What Are Subwoofers Used For?
As mentioned, subwoofers boost low-frequency pitches that range from 20Hz to 200Hz. Here are some reasons why you need a subwoofer:
- You get to experience the deep bass sound, something that you wouldn’t experience with the traditional two-channel or the surround sound systems
- Subwoofers enhance the listening experience of music, games, and movies. You get to experience the explosions, deep voices, and other sound effects in movies and games, plus you enjoy high-bass music such as hip-hop.
- Adding a subwoofer to your sound system or home theater helps improve them since it eliminates the heavy lifting from the loudspeakers.
- With subwoofers, the volume of every note or sound is more acute
People Also Ask
How do you get the subwoofer to work?
To get your subwoofer to work, you’ll need to connect it to an audio receiver using an interconnect cable. Additionally, ensure that the subwoofer volume isn’t on mute. Also, ensure that the stereo system settings have been configured well to use the subwoofer.
How does a subwoofer sound?
Basically, a subwoofer has a deep sound bass. It introduces low-frequency sounds that the regular sound speaker cannot produce. These sounds include kick drums, pipe organs, movie explosions, and thunder.
How do you get sound out of the subwoofer?
To get sound out of the subwoofer, turn on the subwoofer’s volume and ensure that the settings of the television or stereo system are configured to use the subwoofer.
If you’re into music, movies, and games, a subwoofer is a perfect addition to your sound system. You’ll experience low-frequency sounds that regular speakers don’t produce. Regular speakers deliver low-frequency sounds that are down to about 50 Hz. On the other hand, subwoofers deliver low-frequency sounds that are down to about 20 Hz.
When listening to music using regular speakers, you only hear the music but don’t feel it. However, when listening to music through subwoofers, you get to feel it since you can hear the low-frequency waves from kick drums, deep voices, bass guitars, and pipe organs.
That said, subwoofers don’t work alone. You’ll need several woofers that can handle the high frequencies, as the subwoofers handle the low frequencies. Generally, when listening to music, the woofers submit low frequencies below 50 Hz through electric current to the subwoofer, reproducing the required sounds. If you’re looking to add a subwoofer to your existing sound system, consider the factors we’ve discussed, to get a subwoofer that suits your needs.
Last Updated on February 4, 2023 by Danny Reid