Setting up your sound system comes with some important decisions- the cables that you use to connect your speakers to a receiver being one of them. When connecting your subwoofer, you have the option of using an RCA cable or a subwoofer cable. But, will a subwoofer cable matter or make a difference?
Subwoofer cables do matter as they enhance sound quality through increased shielding added to the cable that serves to improve the analog signal sent through the wires and reduce audio hum that would otherwise be produced.
While some members of various audio forums might mention that they do not notice any differences in the sound quality achieved by using a subwoofer cable, it is important to note that the differences might be subtle, but they are there.
This is also the case for the physical components of the two types of cables- subtle differences that can streamline higher sound quality for your subwoofer.
Why Does a Subwoofer Cable MAtter for Sound Quality?
As you research and research the various types of cables that you can use to connect your subwoofer to the receiver, you will likely come upon the decision to use a subwoofer cable or not.
You might think to yourself, “how is a cable going to transform my audio experience?” And, while this is understandable for someone who is unfamiliar with a sound system, it is something that experienced audiophiles have messed with for years.
Specifically, using a subwoofer cable will enhance the sound quality of low-frequency audio signals sent through your cable including bass signals. This is done through the additional layers of shielding (often, mesh) that is added to the cable to support higher clarity and reduce audio hum.
But a subwoofer cable looks like an RCA cable, so is there really a difference? What makes the subwoofer cable more special?
You will likely find that the differences in the makeup of a subwoofer cable are subtle (yet transformative) compared to the physical components of an RCA cable.
While a subwoofer cable has two RCA ends, it also has additional shielding added to it that can streamline the audio signal and support its transference to your subwoofer.
Instead of a choppy or unsupported signal reaching your subwoofer, you can expect a clear signal to portray a higher quality audio experience for increased sound quality in your sound system.
Of course, this also has to do with the other components of the cable as well. For example, the copper wiring that is found in the interior of the cable needs to be made of high-quality copper material as well.
Otherwise, you will find that your subwoofer is receiving a distorted signal from this as the signal “climbs” over the poor copper material instead of “gliding” over the smooth, sturdy copper.
Seeing as there are many components that make up the cable that will support the audio signals being sent to your devices, it is important to pay attention not only to the type of cable that you use (like a subwoofer cable) but the quality of cable that you choose to purchase.
Using a cheap RCA cable, for example, will definitely not result in the same sound quality as using a high-quality subwoofer cable. Keep in mind, though, that quality is not inherently tied to a price tag, but there are some cables that cost more for good reason.
Does a Subwoofer Cable Make a Difference on a Passive or Active Subwoofer?
It is important to recognize the mechanics that go behind making your audio experience what it truly is. Realistically, creating the perfect sound system is a science- and one that should not be taken lightly.
Selecting the proper components for your “experiment” in mastering the perfect solution can take a bit of research, but it will certainly pay off as you achieve your desired results.
When using a subwoofer cable, you might wonder if it will make a difference if the subwoofer is passive or active.
A subwoofer cable will enhance the sound quality on both passive and active subs, although many report seeing more noticeable differences with active subwoofers considering the signal strength required with a built-in amp.
To start, though, you might want to take a step back and review what a passive or active subwoofer is and then see how a subwoofer cable will influence the sound quality streamed to both of these options.
Naturally, these two types of subwoofers have their own pros and cons, but using a subwoofer cable with each of them should provide you with better overall sound quality.
Taking a closer look at a passive subwoofer, you will see that it requires an additional power source (amplifier) as it does not have one built into its system.
With many different companies beginning to pump out active subwoofers, you might not find passive subwoofers as commonly, but they are certainly still around, available, and in need of a high-quality audio system setup.
When choosing to use a subwoofer cable with a passive sub, you will notice that the sound quality is enhanced, but it has to do with something a bit different than the active sub.
Using a subwoofer cable with a passive sub means that your cable will be sending a stronger signal to the subwoofer (considering it will have already passed through the amplifier).
In this case, you might find that the difference it makes on the SNR is lower than the effect it has on the subwoofer. Still, you should notice a heightened sound quality compared to using less specific cables.
Alternatively, when you consider the use of a subwoofer cable with an active sub, you might see that it makes a bigger difference immediately. This is because the signal that is being sent through the cable is much weaker (since the active sub contains the amplifier built into its system).
In this instance, you will likely notice that the effect it has on the SNR, as well as the subwoofer, is highly noticeable in the high sound quality that it provides through the low-frequency audio signals that are passed through the subwoofer.
In either case, it is important to note that using a subwoofer cable, compared to an RCA cable or another type of connection, is going to matter for sound quality with an active or a passive subwoofer.
The increased shielding and high-quality copper materials used to make the cable help to support an even, strong flow of the audio signal that will eventually pass through the sub.
You will be left with an amusing deep bass that enhances the overall sound quality found when you stream your favorite movies or music within your home.
Also read: Passive Soundbars Explained (With Pros and Cons)
What to Look for in a Subwoofer Cable?
Now that you are convinced (or at least have the evidence to support that you can be) that a subwoofer cable is going to increase the sound quality streaming through your sound system, you might be taking a closer look at which one to buy.
While there are many great options available, there are a few key factors to look at when choosing a subwoofer cable.
When choosing a subwoofer cable, be sure to look at the cable thickness, a distinguishable end color, wire diameter (AWG), and the type of metal used for the wiring. The best subwoofer cables will use copper wiring and have a strong inverse relationship between the thickness of the wiring and the cable overall.
When looking at the cable thickness, these are likely going to be pretty standard. Then, you can compare them to the wire diameter (in other words, how thick the wires inside the cable mesh actually are). You want this to be a strong inverse relationship. So, a range of 20-25 AWG should put you in a good spot.
Then, of course, you will want to know the type of metal that is used for the wiring inside the cable. This is incredibly important since the purity of the metal is what will determine the purity and quality of the sound resulting from the audio signals passed over the wires.
Look for subwoofer cables that use copper as the internal wiring metal since this is considered to be the purest and strongest type of metal used in audio cables.
Finally, looking for a subwoofer cable that uses a distinguishable color on the RCA ends is not necessary, but it can be helpful in remembering which cable is which and knowing how and where to find it among the other cables in your sound system.
This, among other factors, can lead you to the heightened sound quality promised by a subwoofer cable.
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.