It is easy to get lost while trying to figure out what connects to where and how to get the best sound when setting up a home theater system.
It becomes more complicated when you have a passive subwoofer, which may differ from what most people have. Can you connect a passive subwoofer to a receiver?
You can connect a passive subwoofer to an AV receiver by treating it as a loudspeaker and linking the subwoofer directly to your AV receiver via speaker connectors. You can also power it with an external amplifier and treat it as a powered subwoofer that connects to the pre-out.
Read on and find out why it’s better to have an external amplifier when you’re connecting your passive subwoofer to your AV receiver, as well as how to connect these pieces of equipment and find out more about passive subwoofers and receivers.
Also read: Does a Subwoofer Need an Amp?
What Is a Passive Subwoofer?
Trying to figure out how to set up a home theater system can prove to be a difficult activity for a beginner.
There are just many things to look at and tinker with, such as meters and meters of cable and wires, different types of equipment, and a dizzying number of inputs, outputs, and ports. You also have to decide whether to drill holes or not. But most of the confusion comes from the AV receiver.
What is a passive subwoofer, anyway?
Subwoofers are special types of speakers that are used to reproduce lower frequency sound. These types of equipment work so much like your old loudspeaker because these types of subwoofers do not have an amplifier. A passive subwoofer needs to be connected to an external amplifier to get power.
This setup might sound like a whole lot of trouble because you need extra equipment, but some people prefer passive subwoofers because they are more lightweight. Because these subwoofers do not have a built-in amplifier, there are fewer components to weigh it down.
Passive subwoofers are also a breeze to maintain, especially when compared to their powered counterparts.
How Do Passive Subwoofers Compare to Powered Subwoofers?
If a passive subwoofer doesn’t have its own amplifier, a powered subwoofer works on its own. It has an amplifier and speaker configuration within the same build. It uses a single cable to connect to your receiver or preamp line output.
Because active subwoofers power itself, your receiver will be able to concentrate on powering the tweeter and mid-range speakers that are powered by the receiver’s amplifiers.
What Does a Receiver Do?
Your AV receiver gets all the signals from different input devices. The equipment will then figure out what these signals are and then amplifies it.
Lastly, the receiver will send the signals out to the output devices, such as your subwoofer, speaker, sound system, projector, and TV.
Experts and enthusiasts call the AV receiver the heart, brain, or hub of your home theater system. But what exactly does it do?
Your AV receiver manages the different video and audio sources. It has a preamplifier section that lets you switch or select the audio source to listen to or the content you want to watch.
You should be connecting your Blu-ray, television, and other sources of audio and video to your AV receiver so you don’t have to deal with plugging wires and cables every time you switch from playing a DVD or viewing a show that you recorded on PVR.
The receiver will allow you to enjoy the content you want no matter which devices they are on with only a switch of a button.
Other Things That Your Receiver Can Do
Aside from allowing you to manage and switch from one video and audio source to another, your AV receiver can also allow you to do other things. We list them below.
- Tune in to satellite and regular radio. Some receivers allow you to listen to free HD radio channels.
- Make way for surround sound. Your receiver can also decode digital and analog surround sound formats. There are receivers available that can also work with lossless codecs such as Dolby TrueHD, as well as DTS Master Audio and other codecs used on Blu-ray discs.
- Have multiple speakers. Your receiver has five or more channels that can power and amplify sound sources for surround sound systems.
- Control all electronic components easily. Your receiver gives you additional user interfaces for all the devices connected to your home theater system, including its own remote control, display menus, and even a menu displayed on your television.
Where Do You Connect Your Passive Subwoofer?
The thing with AV receivers is that you will probably have a lot of ports, switches, and toggles, and that can usually mean lots of wires.
The good news is that if you are trying to connect subwoofers to your receivers, you only have to worry about one of these two areas: the speaker connectors and the pre-out.
The pre-out section is where you would find the connectors for audio equipment that have built-in amplifiers. As such, if you have a powered subwoofer, you will be using one of the ports in this section to connect it to the receiver.
Some receivers even have a port that’s specifically labeled as subwoofer. The pre-out section is also very useful if you want to have more speakers in your setup or if you want to utilize a standalone amplifier.
Powered subwoofers, and any piece of equipment that is wired and have their own built-in amplifiers, can be plugged in the pre-out section. But passive subwoofers need to be connected using one of the speaker connectors.
You will treat your subwoofers as an extra set of speakers that can draw power.
How Do You Connect a Passive Subwoofer to a Receiver?
As you can see, there are two main options for you to connect a passive subwoofer to an AV receiver depending on the setup that you have.
If you have AV receivers designed to connect to an active subwoofer, a Japanese electronics manufacturer, Denon, does not recommend connecting a passive subwoofer directly to your AV receiver. Instead, the company suggests the following steps:
- Connecting your passive subwoofer to an external amplifier.
- Using the subwoofer pre-out slot.
- Connecting your AV receiver to the input of the amplifier.
Alternatively, you can also try connecting your passive subwoofer right where you would connect your speakers on the receiver. You will need to open the setup menu on your AV receiver and choose large front speakers and no subwoofers.
Which Way Is Better?
Between these two methods of connecting your passive subwoofer to a receiver, you should use an external amplifier. Doing so would make your passive subwoofer into a powered one, ensuring that your subwoofer gets enough power for reproducing bass lines.
You should remember that a receiver or an amplifier should have enough power to sustain lower frequency sounds produced by the subwoofer. Passive subwoofers will require a lot of power to recreate bass sounds. Your receiver might not deliver enough power for your subwoofer to work optimally if you connect it directly to the speaker connectors.
Powering it with an external amplifier solves this problem.
Can you connect a passive subwoofer to a receiver?
Yes, you can connect a passive subwoofer to a receiver using the speaker connectors. However, it’s recommended to use an external amplifier to act as a go-between with your receiver and passive subwoofer.
Check out my top recommendations for subwoofers.
Jason is a home theater expert with over 10 years of experience in setting up home cinema rooms and systems. What started out as a hobby soon transformed him into an authority in the audio-visual field. He is passionate about providing readers with accurate and up-to-date information on the latest audiovisual technologies and their applications for home theaters. Read more about Jason.