Powered vs Passive Subwoofer – What’s the Difference?

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Powered vs Passive Subwoofer - What’s the Difference

Have you ever bought a sound system and was asked what kind of subwoofer you would like? If you haven’t heard of a subwoofer before, the name might sound funny and weird, but it’s really the name of a speaker that will enhance your audio experience. Read on to know more about this unique speaker.

What is a Subwoofer?

A subwoofer is a specialized speaker that reproduces low-frequency sounds. If you’re watching a movie, the low-frequency sounds are usually those trains, trucks, explosions, and other low, trembling sounds. At first, it seems that you can just do away with those sounds until you try it with a subwoofer. For music, subwoofers capture the sounds of an acoustic or electric bass, even the echoy reverb,even the echoy reverb.

Despite being a necessary part of a sound system, most subwoofers are sold separately. This means that you have to assemble and connect it to the rest of your sound system. To add to that, you have to figure out where it’s best to place the subwoofer. Why? It’s because subwoofers have different sound outputs when placed in different areas of the room. No, they shouldn’t be placed in a corner until there’s no space in the room. Ideally, a subwoofer is placed on the floor, a few meters from the wall.

Two Types of Subwoofers

two types of subwoofer

You’ve probably figured it out from the title of this post that there are two types of subwoofers - powered and passive. The two deliver the same low-frequency sounds, but they differ in their requirement to be powered by an external device. Don’t know which one to buy? Here are a few things to know about the two.

Passive Subwoofer

A passive subwoofer takes its name from being passive in terms of amplifiers. It does not have an amplifier built-in to it, so it relies on an external amplifier.

Does this mean that if you don’t have an amplifier, it will not work? Well, technically, a passive subwoofer can still work even if you have no amplifier. However, the workaround to this is very complicated that you would wish you just bought an amp.

The reason for an amplifier is for the subwoofer to produce low-frequency sounds. Since low-frequency sounds need more power so that they can be heard, an amplifier is meant to provide that necessary power to keep the low-frequency sounds heard. When it comes to how much power the subwoofer needs, this varies depending on the subwoofer’s requirements.

Powered Subwoofer

A powered subwoofer is much like the passive subwoofer, but the main difference is that the former doesn’t need an amplifier for it to play the low-frequency sound. It’s also called ‘active subwoofer’ because it has its own power source or amplifier. No need to worry about buying a separate component.

In short, a powered subwoofer is like a 2-in-1 speaker that acts as both amplifier and subwoofer. Because of this, it only needs one connection to your surround sound system, making it an ideal set up for your home.

Powered vs Passive Subwoofer : Which One Should You Get?

powere or passive woofer settings

You’re probably wondering which one you should get. Is it the powered subwoofer or the passive subwoofer? Is the powered subwoofer better?

Most people would think that just because the powered subwoofer has an amplifier configuration, that it’s already a better subwoofer. Unfortunately, that’s not the case because a subwoofer’s quality is not really determined by its type. It just so happens that people prefer powered subwoofer because it’s straightforward to assemble and you don’t have to buy a separate amplifier. All you really need is one connection to your surround sound system, and you’re good to go.

Another advantage of the powered subwoofer over the passive subwoofer is the consistency in power. You already know that a passive subwoofer needs consistent power so that it can play low-frequency sounds. But if the power isn’t consistent (which happens when your amplifier is not able to give sufficient power), then you will definitely have a terrible time hearing the low rumbles in the movie. And who wants that?

But wait, not too fast! Powered subwoofers may seem like the best pick but take into account the price. Most sites would say that powered subwoofers are more affordable because they don’t need an amplifier. This is only true if you choose a mid-range subwoofer. In reality, both powered and passive subwoofers can be affordable or expensive, depending on the manufacturer and size you choose. Some powered subwoofers end up being too expensive when you buy both a passive subwoofer and an amplifier. The concept - fewer parts equal a lower price - does not entirely apply here.

You should also remember that the sound quality of a subwoofer is highly dependent on its location and setup. If you have loose wires, then even a powered subwoofer will sound bad. So if you plan on setting it up yourself, make sure that you double-check all the wires and that everything is in place.

When it comes to the location, you have to pick the ideal place where the subwoofer can produce the best sound. It might seem funny, but if you have to crawl around the room to know where the best sound is, then that’s what you have to do. Subwoofers have frequencies that bounce off the walls, so placing them in the corner is a terrible idea.


conclusion subwoofer

In the end, a powered subwoofer is ideal if you want to take advantage of the ease of setting it up. If you don’t prefer to get into the complicated stuff involving speakers and subwoofers, then a powered subwoofer can save you all the trouble. Just make sure that when you buy one, it’s up to the standards and preferences you want.

As for the passive subwoofer, it’s not all bad like how others would paint it. Again, there are advantages to a passive subwoofer, especially if you bought high-grade devices. For some people, passive subwoofers are the only ones that can give what they need. So, it’s always up to you when it comes to these speakers.

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