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Subwoofer vs Woofer – What’s the Difference?

Budding audiophiles might feel overwhelmed at all the different speaker options, and when looking for something that will put a little more bark in their sound system, they might get confused between woofers and subwoofers. What’s the difference between the two?

Subwoofers produce lower frequencies than woofers. Woofers have a higher range (typically between 50Hz – 1000Hz) compared to the 20Hz – 200Hz of most consumer-grade subwoofers. You will get deeper bass tones from a subwoofer, but you will need additional speakers to produce frequencies above 200Hz.

Subwoofer vs Woofer

You might still be wondering exactly how this will influence your choice of speaker. Whether you’re building an entirely new sound system or adding to an existing one, I’ve compiled some helpful information below to help you decide.

Also read: Can a Woofer Be Used as a Subwoofer?

Subwoofer vs Woofer – A Quick Look

Below you’ll find a table containing the general properties of subs and woofers to illustrate their differences. Keep in mind that these guidelines aren’t set in stone.

More specialized speakers may not fit these descriptions to a T, though those can be useful if you’re going pro. 

Frequency Range50Hz – 1000Hz20Hz – 200Hz
Power RatingUp to 2000wUp to 200w
Average Cost$100+$200+
ApplicationSimple/budget/portable systemsLarge home systems/Professional

The key takeaway when comparing and choosing between woofers and subwoofers is that it really comes down to your personal needs.

You don’t need stadium sound in your home office and might opt for a pair of compact woofers. But if you’re serious about your sound and don’t want to compromise on quality (space or no space), then subwoofers are the way to go.

Designing Your Existing Sound System

Before you choose between a subwoofer (commonly referred to as a “sub”) and a woofer, you need to know your sound system inside and out. Grab a pen and paper if you have to, or whatever works for you.

Even if you’ve got a good idea of what you have, planning your subwoofer or woofer installation will help it go smoothly.

Make Sure Everything Is Compatible

In the likely event that you’re looking to complement your existing system, have a look at what you have. There’s no point in buying a speaker incompatible with your system.

You might even find that you already have a sub or woofer! Assuming that one works fine, you may not have to buy a new one at all. 

Check Frequency Ranges

Speakers come in many different shapes and sizes. There’s no sense in adding a woofer if you already have enough speakers handling the 200Hz – 1000Hz range.

You can check a speaker’s rating by looking at the back of the enclosure. There’s usually an engraving or sticker that will give you a frequency range and resistance value. Make a note of these values.

If you can’t find information on the box, you may have to remove the speaker. (Usually, there’s a sticker on the back of the magnet.) Once you have all this information, you can easily see what frequencies your system can handle on paper.

Pick Your Amplifier

To produce those deep, crispy bass tones, speakers need to be driven by an amplifier. Before you rush out to buy a new speaker, check whether you can use it in the first place.

Not every amplifier is designed to produce low frequencies. You can look at the connectors on the back of your amp to verify. Alternatively, you can Google the model number of your amplifier or review the documentation supplied with it, if available.

If you can’t find connections for a sub, it might be time to upgrade your amp. Amplifiers convert sound to an electronic signal powerful enough to drive the speakers. The watt ratings you see on speakers determine how much power you need to drive them.

For example, let’s say you have the Klipsch 400w Subwoofer (see details below). While that gorgeous copper-spun driver is all too tempting, you’ll need an adequately beefy amp to drive it. 

The power rating of your amp will determine what kind of speaker you can drive. Woofers can use up to 2000w of power, while subwoofers don’t typically exceed 200 watts.

Some amplifiers can drive multiple speakers simultaneously, but the effect is cumulative. In other words, the more speakers you add, the harder your amp works. 

Adding too many speakers to your amp can overwork it, leading to failure. You might need something like this Gemini GPA-2500 Professional DJ Amp (see details below) if you want to power those Klipsch speakers with a comfortable overhead.

Use this handy guide to help you choose the right amp for your needs.

Designing a New Sound System

Designing a new system is much easier. You can use the same principles discussed above, except you have more flexibility and can match your system to your needs.

Consider the Cost of the System

One of the critical considerations in choosing whether to buy a sub or a woofer is the overall cost of the system. 

Woofers are far more economical than subs because they have a higher frequency range. That means you won’t have to buy additional speakers to compensate. They’re also typically more affordable than subwoofers.

Factor in How You’ll Use the System

Aside from the cost, you should also ask: “Where do I want to use this system?” If you have an entire room to spare, you might have enough space for a complex system made of fine materials. On the other hand, a traveling DJ might prefer something more rugged and portable without sacrificing quality.

Choose woofers for their portability and simplicity if you want to move your system around with ease. If you aren’t keen on sacrificing sound quality for convenience, then you’ll be carrying extra speakers. 

Size Isn’t Everything

“If you don’t rate, just overcompensate” – quoting Dexter Holland from The Offspring’s Pretty Fly For A White Guy – a song about someone trying to be something he’s not. You don’t have to be that person. All you have to do is educate yourself and be realistic about your purchase.

Bigger speakers don’t always translate to better sound. Quality over quantity is the name of the game. The best practice when designing a sound system is to buy once, cry once. Make sure you’re getting the best balance of quality and functionality for your money by researching the products carefully.

You might feel slight anxiety at buying this over a 12″, but I can assure you that the Yamaha brand is one you can trust when it comes to audio equipment. You’ll likely be relieved that you didn’t drop the extra cash on a fancier model — unless you’re one of the uncompromising audiophile types.


This wraps up the differences between these 2 vastly different speakers (if only their names weren’t so deceptively similar!) An easy way to remember their differences is the sub- prefix — in simple terms, the subwoofer produces lower (or “sub”) frequencies compared to a woofer.

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