As you set up your home theater surround sound system or attempt to update your audio and media room, you could be trying to use what you already have to achieve the best quality of sound. If you do not have a subwoofer, is there an option of utilizing a normal speaker instead?
A normal speaker is not capable of producing low-frequency sound emission and hence, cannot be used as a subwoofer. Given the subwoofer’s unique purpose, a normal speaker cannot replace it. You can use a woofer to achieve low bass tones, but even this does not compare to a sub.
As unfortunate as this might be for your current dilemma, it is important to note that using a subwoofer can be well worth the investment into this piece of sound equipment.
Not only will it emit low-frequency audio signals with clarity, but it will improve the overall sound quality of the media you stream in your home, car, or elsewhere. Continue reading to learn more about how this works.
Also read: Will a Subwoofer Work Without Speakers?
What Does a Subwoofer Do?
We have all heard a thumping bass coming from five cars behind you when you are stopped at a red light.
While some might not see the impressiveness of the bass and find it to be a nuisance to listen to, others will be astounded at the capability of the low-frequency emission that is able to be carried out so effectively.
Still, if you are unfamiliar, you might not recognize that this is coming from the car’s subwoofer.
So, what does a subwoofer do?
A subwoofer is a specially designed speaker that emits low-frequency audio signals using a backward and forward motion of its driver to push audio waves into a ported or sealed enclosure consequently emitting a low bass tone. A sub, when properly placed and effectively set up, can improve your audio’s sound quality.
Subwoofers are used in sound systems within cars, homes, and many other locations. While they are not a required component of a sound system, it is pretty apparent when someone has decided to skip their inclusion.
Without a subwoofer, you are truly limited with the low-frequency audio emissions that you are attempting to create.
In sound systems that do not have a subwoofer, the lowest frequency audio signals are typically emitted by the woofer (different from the subwoofer).
However, because a woofer is designed to cover a wider range of frequencies, it does not produce the low bass with the same precision and clarity that a subwoofer does. Instead, it might sound distorted much more easily as more power and volume is added to this speaker.
Contrarily, when including a subwoofer as a part of your home theater sound system (or another type of sound system), you will be able to achieve the best sounding bass possible. This is precisely because you are using the piece of sound equipment that was designed specifically for this purpose.
Sure, you can attempt to make another scenario work in trying to hear the same bass that would be emitted by your subwoofer, but it most likely will just not be the same.
Check out my recommended subwoofers for home theater.
What is the Difference Between a Speaker and a Subwoofer?
Now that I have frankly burst your bubble and informed you that attempting to use a normal speaker as a subwoofer will likely result in your grave disappointment for the bass that you will achieve, you might be wondering what makes a subwoofer so special. In that, how do a speaker and a subwoofer compare with one another?
So, what is the difference between a speaker and a subwoofer?
Speakers and subwoofers are both designed to emit audio signals. However, subwoofers are unique in that they are structurally designed to emit low-frequency bass tones with precision and clarity.
While it might sound nice to be able to attempt to recreate a subwoofer’s function in your sound system, other speakers cannot achieve low bass tones with the same capacity that a subwoofer (specifically designed for this purpose) can.
If you take a closer look at the structural design of a normal speaker and a subwoofer, you might begin to understand this a little bit better.
Specifically, if you notice how the driver moves forward and backward on a subwoofer, and how it has an enclosure (ported or sealed) on the back of it, you can see how this helps the device to achieve the lowest bass tones out there.
Looking even further, you can research the laws of physics and see how they are applied to the frequency ranges emitted by various speakers.
Realistically, a sound system is a testament to the laws of physics in the way that energy is used to emit various audio signals consequently resulting in a production of heat and sound.
With that in mind, even the shape of a subwoofer and the various components that are involved in the inner workings of this specific type of loudspeaker have much to do with its ability to achieve the low bass tones that it is known for.
So, while a speaker can emit various ranges including high-frequency audio signals, a subwoofer specializes in the low-frequency audio signal range that it was designed to master.
Does a Subwoofer Improve Sound Quality?
Ok, so if you cannot use a normal speaker as a subwoofer because the subwoofer is specifically designed for a more precise range of audio signal emissions, then how will you achieve the sound quality that you are hoping for in your audio system?
After all, you have spent countless hours researching the best sound system equipment, how to make the best choices for your budget and space, and trying to understand the science behind it all. Does a subwoofer really do “all of that”?
Specifically, does a subwoofer improve sound quality?
Yes, as a subwoofer captures the lowest frequency audio signals, it supplies your audio experience with a resounding sound effect that the combination of other speakers simply cannot achieve. A subwoofer enhances the sound quality by making it more robust- specifically with the low bass tones.
If you have ever sat in a cinema or home movie theater and felt the boom of a thunder rumble as your heart races watching your favorite character in action on screen, then you know the difference that a subwoofer can make in a sound system.
Instead of listening to the audio streamed in a seemingly one-dimensional realm, a subwoofer helps to create the surround sound effect that encapsulates the epitome of high-quality audio experiences.
Including a subwoofer in your car will turn your jam sessions from moderate forms of emotional release to a full-on life changing experience that can happen on your daily commute.
Seriously, it might sound like a bit of an exaggeration, but when you experience the difference that a high-quality subwoofer can make to your audio experience, you will never go back.
Do Subwoofers Make Music Louder?
If subwoofers make your audio experience so seemingly unbelievable, what is it about them that provides this authentic upgrade to your home or car sound system?
Is it just the power that they supply, or do they enhance the audio emissions that come from the various speakers in your sound system setup?
Do subwoofers make music louder?
When using a subwoofer, you might feel like the music you are listening to is louder. However, what is really happening is that your subwoofer is enhancing the sound by providing it a fuller and more robust effect- capturing low-frequency audio signals that would be missing otherwise.
So, the music will not be inherently louder, but it will sound more full. How does this happen exactly? Consider if you are in a water spray park.
You are running through the various spray nozzles and soaking in all of the glory that this childhood wonderment can add to your quality of life.
You begin to notice that the spray functions are working in some areas but are off in other locations. Then, you find the lever that will turn on all of the spray nozzles.
Suddenly, you are flooded with the various heights, sizable water streams, and joy that comes from running through a splash pad.
Ok, so maybe you are not the one running through the splash pad at the spray park, but hear me out. Similar to the various spray nozzles that allow water to flow through them at a spray park, the various speakers in your sound system capture and emit various frequency ranges of audio signals.
Then, you are able to hear various audio tones such as high-frequencies and mid-frequencies. But, finding the lever that will turn on all of the spray nozzles is like installing a subwoofer in your sound system.
When you turn this lever, there are more locations that the water is capable of flowing out of, and various capacities at which it is capable of spraying.
Similarly, when using a subwoofer, you are adding a low-frequency audio signal range to the emission of sound within your sound system setup.
In this way, the audio signals that are captured in your sound system are more robust, coming in at various “heights” (aka frequencies) and filling your room with an explosion of high-quality audio.
Maybe this analogy works for you, and maybe it does not. Either way, the message stands the same: using a subwoofer will not inherently make your music louder in terms of volume.
However, there will be more channels for the audio to flow through, and there will also be more frequencies captured for your audio benefit.
Thus, the sound quality will be improved, and you can enjoy the best possible sound system setup available to you in your home, car, or another location.
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.