New to the world of speakers, or perhaps you are just discovering something new on your favorite piece of equipment? You might be confused as to why there are so many input and output options to pair your subwoofer with its receiver.
More often than not, a subwoofer will use a singular LFE (low-frequency effects) input cable to connect with its receiver. However, another method is using the left and right inputs (RCA connectors) in which low frequencies are sent through the right and left channels.
Realistically, you probably will not have to use the L and R inputs if you are using the more common LFE cable option. However, these inputs can exist on the subwoofer whether the device has an LFE cable option or not. If your subwoofer does not have an LFE option, then using both the Left and Right inputs
What is LFE Input in a Subwoofer?
Especially if you are new to the audio world, like if you are just bringing in new equipment to set up a new home theater, then you might be confused about all of the varying acronyms.
It all seemed so simple before you began attempting to connect the cords to the right spots, right? You might know that LFE stands for low-frequency effects, but what does that actually mean?
In brief, LFE cables connect your subwoofer (low-frequency speaker) to its receiver. Since the subwoofer is responsible for low bass tones (aka its sole purpose), it requires a transmitter of low-frequency audio waves. The left and right channels are combined in an LFE cable to allow for a singular cable to evenly disperse the signals to the subwoofer.
More than likely, you will use an LFE input cable for your subwoofer connections. In this day in age, it is far less likely that you will use left and right input, though this is not out of the realm of possibilities.
Most people have found that using an LFE input in a subwoofer will carry the appropriate sound from the subwoofer to the receiver and, thus producing the effective audio.
The sole purpose of the subwoofer is to emit the low-frequency tones (think of the deep bass in voice-overs during a movie, or the low bass that you can hear in a car driving by).
Since this is the case, the subwoofer needs to receive the audio signals intended for this speaker to produce: the lowest frequencies of an audio production. The LFE input in a subwoofer allows for this to be done simply through one standardized connection.
Rather than having to sort through various cords and cables, you can use an LFE input as a single cable to connect your subwoofer to its receiver. This can help to eliminate the confusion about which cable goes where. But, again, this is the more common (and preferred) connection method, so it is likely that this will be what you are used to.
What is RCA Input in a Subwoofer?
Contrarily, if your subwoofer does not have an LFE input connection, then you will find that your option is to use RCA (Radio Corporation of America) -right and left- inputs for your subwoofer.
Though this is not as common and is often less preferred (because you will have to use two cables instead of one), it works well and can achieve the desired result.
RCA cables use a right and left input cable (or split these with a y-cable) to achieve the digital transmission of low-frequencies for right and left channels in a subwoofer. Instead of combining these audio signals, as does an LFE input cable, the RCA inputs these in specific locations: right and left input options connecting the subwoofer to its receiver.
RCA inputs will be seen in the left and right input options for your subwoofer. You may find that your subwoofer has the option of using an LFE cable as well as the left and right inputs.
In this case, most people will opt for using an LFE cable, though this is not required. Left and right inputs work as a dual set in contrast to the singular cable in an LFE input.
Though this is not that much more complicated (plugging in one more cable or using a y-cable to plug in the right and left), it still takes more effort than using an LFE input cable. Additionally, you might find that the overall audio effects stemming from the use of RCA input are not as up to par, though this is not generally the case.
What Cable Do I Need to Connect a Subwoofer to its Receiver?
So now that we have gone over a few acronyms and their respective functions, you will hopefully have a better understanding as to the distinguished purpose of LFE and RCA input cables. However, this might still leave you wondering which cable you need to connect a subwoofer to its receiver.
To connect a subwoofer to its receiver, you can use an LFE input cable or an RCA line-in cable (used for left and right input options). Assuming your subwoofer has the option to use an LFE input, this will be your best choice. But, if not, then an RCA input option will work. Be sure to review the manual for your subwoofer for more information.
If you are unsure of which cable you need or if your subwoofer even came with cables, then you should look at the input and output options first.
If you notice that there is an LFE input/output option available on your subwoofer and its receiver, then this will be the easiest solution for you. If not, then you will use an RCA input cable to connect to the left and right inputs.
You may find that if your subwoofer does not have an LFE input option, it might be worthy of investing in a secondary subwoofer to use a dual connection. Using an equalizer in this situation will help your subwoofers to balance the transmitted signals and yield the desired effect of producing the transmitted audio effectively.
When you begin venturing into the world of dual subwoofers, you might feel like you are in over your head. However, this is why you can hire or seek advice from a professional.
Most of the time, audio experts will recommend using dual subwoofers to advance the distributive localization of the audio, giving more of a surround sound feel, but this might not always be practical for your cause.
Are Dual Subwoofers Worth It?
Read my article on dual subwoofers.
Many audio experts recommend using two subwoofers, but do you really need this setup for your basic audio needs within your home? You might be curious as to if this investment is necessary or an overkill that adds to the expense of your home sound system.
Dual subwoofers will produce a significantly more refined sound experience for low-frequency tones compared to a single subwoofer. Using two subwoofers eliminates the ability to localize the sound, thus you will hear the bass as a more “surround sound” effect. The equalization of signals can also be eliminated with dual subwoofers.
So, yes, dual subwoofers are worth the investment if you can splurge on the additional equipment and learn how (or hire someone) to properly set up the two. There are many tutorials online for how to set up dual subwoofers, though, so not knowing how to do this should not cause you to back away from the purchase.
When you use a singular subwoofer, you will hear the deep bass tones coming from this speaker. As you find an appropriate placement for the subwoofer in your home, you will hopefully be able to eliminate your auditory processing ability to localize the sound.
This will be done when the subwoofer is centrally placed and you are able to interpret the bass as coming from a “head-on” direction.
Contrarily, when you use dual subwoofers, you are able to more easily move on from localizing the sound and can use the duality of the speakers to further enhance a surround sound effect.
Instead of having to find the central spot to physically place your subwoofer, you can use two and angle them to pair well with one another in producing the surround sound effect.
Goodbye, are the days of carefully squatting in different positions in your living room to test out if the bass can be heard well from all directions. Using a dual subwoofer setup will eliminate this.
Additionally, dual subwoofers do not require the equalization of transmitted signals. Instead of being equalized within one speaker system, the dual subwoofer allows for the transmitted signals to be equalized more effectively in two low-frequency speakers.
With all of that said, you still might have to experience it to believe in the effectiveness of using two subwoofers compared to one.
Keeping that in mind, try to test this out by visiting a friend or an audio store that can replicate the difference in using dual or single subwoofers. You will likely find that adding an additional subwoofer to your home sound system is worth the investment.
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.