Choosing the right cables for your speakers is part of optimizing the performance of your home theater. When it comes to a subwoofer, how does a subwoofer cable compare to an RCA cable?
Most subwoofers are capable of working with an RCA connection, but some subwoofer cables offer higher shielding to reduce AC hum and create a more clear sound. Investing in high-quality cables is essential and a subwoofer cable would provide better sound quality as compared to an RCA cable.
Still, some audiophiles will tell you that using a subwoofer cable and an RCA cable can be interchangeable- that neither will make a true difference, so you should pick one that is more cost-efficient.
This is not always the case, though. Subwoofer cables are designed with more technology specific to the function of the subwoofer. Let’s take a closer look.
Also read: HDMI vs. Optical Audio Cables
Subwoofer Cable vs. RCA Cable – Key Differences
If you have been browsing the internet wondering which pieces of equipment are worth investing in for your sound system, you have likely stumbled onto the debate of using a more recently designed subwoofer cable as compared to a more standard RCA cable.
However, these two cables, while they do often serve the same purpose, vary mainly in their ability to achieve a high-quality connection between the subwoofer and the receiver. Here is a comparison table.
|Feature||Subwoofer Cable||RCA Cable|
|Definition||A specialized cable designed to transmit low-frequency audio signals to a subwoofer.||A general-purpose cable used to transmit audio and video signals between devices.|
|Primary Use||Primarily used to connect subwoofers to AV receivers or amplifiers.||Used for a variety of audio and video connections, including connecting speakers, DVD players, and TVs.|
|Signal Type||Transmits low-frequency (bass) audio signals.||Transmits various types of audio and video signals.|
|Shielding||Often has better shielding to reduce interference and noise, which is important for low-frequency signals.||May have less shielding, depending on the cable quality, making it more susceptible to interference and noise.|
|Cable Construction||Specifically designed to handle low-frequency signals, often with a thicker conductor and better insulation.||General construction, not specifically optimized for low-frequency signals.|
|Price||Typically more expensive due to specialized design and materials.||Generally cheaper due to mass production and less specialized design.|
|Interchangeability||Can be used as an RCA cable, although the benefits may not be noticeable for non-subwoofer applications.||Can be used as a subwoofer cable, but may not provide the best performance due to less shielding and cable construction.|
|Connectors||Usually has RCA connectors at both ends, specifically designed for subwoofer connections.||Comes with a variety of connectors, most commonly RCA connectors for audio and video connections.|
|Compatibility||Compatible with any device that has an RCA subwoofer input/output.||Compatible with any device that has the appropriate RCA input/output.|
|Impact on Audio Quality||Designed to provide optimal low-frequency audio transmission, improving the overall audio experience.||May not provide the best low-frequency audio transmission, potentially affecting audio quality.|
An RCA cable connects a subwoofer to a receiver with an audio signal sent to the standard left, right, and center channels with a coaxial connection. A subwoofer cable typically contains the same wiring but has additional shielding added to reduce the speaker hum and provide greater sound clarity.
With this in mind, it can still be a bit confusing how one would make the sound quality better than the other. If you are not convinced that one is worth investing in, you might begin by looking at your specific model of subwoofer/receiver and checking out the specifications.
A subwoofer cable is specifically designed to connect the subwoofer to the receiver, and since the subwoofer is used to capture and emulate the low-frequency audio signals, it is essential that the cable used to connect the two pieces of sound equipment is capable of transmitting a clear signal from one device to the other.
Realistically, this comes down to the wiring and the coating that is added to a standard RCA cable to make the subwoofer cable what it is.
More often than not, a subwoofer cable will be similarly constructed compared to an RCA cable, but the additional coating or shielding that is added can reduce the hum of the speaker.
There is nothing quite as frustrating as setting up your entire speaker system only to hear the buzz, hum, or squeal coming from a poor connection between the various components in your speaker system.
When choosing to use an RCA cable or a subwoofer cable, you might want to test out your options and listen to the resulting sound of each.
If you are using an RCA cable to connect your sub to your receiver and you do not notice any distinguishable sound distortions or humming, then there is not really a need to change this out.
However, if you find that your RCA cabled connection is not resulting in a highly clear audio signal that does not cause any humming, then it might be time to invest in a more precisely designed subwoofer cable.
Do Subwoofer Cables Make a Difference?
Ok, so maybe you are debating upgrading your cables to using subwoofer cables specifically designed to enhance the low-frequency audio signals sent to your sub.
However, you might still be wondering if the investment is really worth it or not. After all, there are so many different components that you can choose to invest in with a sound system. Will subwoofer cables be worth it?
While some people find that high-quality subwoofer cables are worth the investment in their ability to reduce speaker hum and provide a more clear audio experience, many others argue that a standard (high-quality) RCA cable with sufficient shielding can do the trick. Check your device specifications to be sure.
You might find that the frequency emission ratings that come with your device do not require any specific type of cable and can work just fine with a standard RCA cable used to connect your subwoofer to the receiver.
But, if you are experiencing issues with distorted sound quality coming from your subwoofer, you might want to consider upgrading to a subwoofer cable or at least replacing your cheap RCA cables with higher quality cables.
If you have never considered replacing your cables, then you might not be aware of how this can affect your overall audio experience.
But, just like the type and quality of speakers you use immediately transforms your sound experience within your home theater, the cables used to connect the components in your sound system matter all the same.
The more experienced you get at this, the more you will notice the difference between cheaply made cables and those that have been thoughtfully crafted and distinguishably created to achieve the type of sound quality you are hoping to achieve.
When looking to distinguish between various types of cables, be sure to check the specifications of the cables themselves, but also look for shielding and protection for your wires.
Since the cables are what carry the audio signal between the subwoofer and your receiver, you need to be sure to protect this signal with a high-quality cable.
Not only is it important that the wiring is appropriately available and connected, but the shielding on the cable can help to ensure the proper emission of the audio signal and protection from audio distortion (such as humming that has already been mentioned).
Again, choosing to invest in high-quality cables might not be at the top of your to-do list for your sound system, but starting at the base of where your audio experience begins is an essential way to achieve the highest quality audio performance from the speakers in your sound system.
Investing in high-quality equipment (and knowing how to set it all up) is what will get you your desired results.
For a more detailed explanation, read my article.
Can I Use an RCA Cable for My Subwoofer?
If you are not convinced that the subwoofer cable in its heightened amount of shielding and more specific design for use with a subwoofer is prime compared to an RCA cable, then you are likely still wondering how to achieve a connection between the subwoofer and receiver with a standard RCA cable.
While an RCA cable might not provide as clear of an audio signal as the subwoofer cable would, it can still be used to connect the subwoofer to a receiver.
Just be sure to check the specifications of the cable to ensure a connection to the left and right audio channels as most RCA cables also come with a digital (viewing) connection.
For example, you will likely find that video cables have an impedance different than what your subwoofer will need, so you want to make sure that the ratings (Ohms) match up between the cable and the subwoofer. Still, the RCA cable can generally be used to achieve a connection for the subwoofer.
While it might not be able to provide as clear of an audio signal (considering the RCA cable does not have as dense of shielding among other types of advanced technology like the subwoofer cable will), it can still work to achieve a high-quality audio experience for most low-frequency audio signals sent to your subwoofer.
So, if you are wondering if a subwoofer cable or an RCA cable is better for your sound system setup, the best thing to do is to check the specifications of each of your devices and choose to invest in the highest quality cables that fit your budget and specific audio needs.
While a subwoofer cable will surely do the trick, you might find that an RCA cable can achieve an (almost) indistinguishable quality of audio that you will be just as pleased with.
Truly, there are so many people available to provide feedback and foreknowledge before you begin your journey, so you can always seek the advice of a professional for needs specific to your situation as well.
Check out: The 9 Cables You Need For Home Theater Installations
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.