Hodgepodge sound equipment can make for some interesting technological setups. And, while many audiophiles are able to establish connections and stream audio in ways that newbies might not have imagined, using a subwoofer as a speaker is probably still up for debate.
Subwoofers are designed for low-frequency audio signal emissions including their structural design, included components, and available input or output ports. Subwoofers cannot be used as speakers because they do not have the capacity to stream high-frequency audio signals required by other speakers.
Specifically, a subwoofer would only be able to provide a minimal amount of audio emission if used as a speaker, even if the subwoofer had the established input and output capabilities.
But, since it is not structurally designed to be used in this way, it is not suggested to try lest you risk damaging your sound equipment. Let’s dive in.
Also read: Can a Normal Speaker be used as a Subwoofer?
What Makes a Subwoofer Different from a Speaker?
If you are struggling to understand why you cannot use a subwoofer as a speaker, it can be helpful to take a look at the key differences between these two pieces of sound equipment.
Then, having a more full understanding of the structural design and how these two devices work to complement each other in a sound system, you might see why they are not so interchangeable.
So, what makes a subwoofer different from a speaker?
A subwoofer is specifically designed to carry out low-frequency audio signals emitting a low bass tone whereas a speaker is designed to emit higher-frequency audio signals and a wider range. A subwoofer, having a more refined frequency range, acts as a unique loudspeaker in the audio that it is able to capture.
Even when taking a look at how a subwoofer and a speaker connect, you can tell that these two are different in their input and output capabilities.
Specifically, a subwoofer generally requires a specific audio line for low-frequency audio signals that have been isolated in the audio recording.
In this way, attempting to plug your subwoofer into your speaker system and use it as a speaker simply will not work. The subwoofer, in that it is designed to read and emit low-frequency audio signals, is not capable of doing the same thing with audio signals outside of its range.
So, if you were attempting to use a subwoofer to capture anything outside of a low bass, it would not be structurally possible in the same capacity.
Along with that, the structural design (as mentioned) goes along with this same concept. The various components on any speaker are designed to be used to work with the laws of physics in creating incredible audio experiences.
So, yes, the structural design behind a subwoofer was highly thought of well before it was released by the manufacturer.
And, in this way, knowing that the driver, spider, enclosure, and other components of the subwoofer were specifically designed to make the best emission of low-frequency audio signals can help you to better understand how these would not work in the same way to play audio that would normally stream from another speaker.
Can You Connect a Subwoofer with Any Speaker?
Ok, so if you cannot use your subwoofer and your speaker interchangeably because of the design and functional purpose of each device, you might be wondering how you can connect your subwoofers to make them work their best.
After all, there are so many different specifications or reviews that it can be difficult for a newbie to know where to start.
So, can you connect a subwoofer with any speaker?
Most sound systems benefit from the low-frequency emission of a subwoofer carrying out the deep bass tones that would otherwise be missing or limited in the audio experience. However, you will find that subwoofers are more often connected to amplifiers or receivers than the speakers themselves.
In finding what works for connecting your subwoofer, you will need to consider where the audio is coming in and out of. For example, if the audio is being streamed and processed by the audio/video receiver (AVR), then this is the most likely place that you will find the sub-out port.
So, instead of attempting to establish a connection from your speakers to your subwoofer, you will actually be connecting the subwoofer to the source of audio-in this case the AVR.
Another option, if you are choosing not to use the subwoofer out, is to connect with the high-end signal.
Since the signal from the receiver will be paired with the speakers, the high-end signal connection to your subwoofer will allow for a seamless connection between all devices allowing for equal amounts of power to hit each device and thus create a cohesive-sounding audio experience.
Either way, one of the best things to do if you are unsure of how to connect your subwoofer is to review the user’s manual or call the company that manufactured your subwoofer (and speaker system) for support.
While many different techies might have a hand at knowing what they are doing with their own equipment, your equipment has unique properties, ratings, and other specifications that will determine the best setup for your sound equipment.
How Do You Match Your Amps to Your Sub?
As you begin to establish the appropriate connections between your sound system devices, you are likely looking at how to establish a connection between your amps or receiver and your sub.
Particularly, as you adjust the placement of your subs and find the perfect spot in the room for them to create the best acoustic experience possible, you might wonder how much power you should supply them with.
So, how do you match your amps to your sub?
To establish this connection, be sure to find the RMS rating for the sub. This will be measured in watts. Then, multiply the RMS rating (watts) times the total number of subwoofers in your sound system. This will provide you with the total RMS rating which is the maximum amount of watts that the sub can be supplied.
It is particularly important to use the science and math behind appropriate connections between your amps and sub as well as the other pieces of equipment in your sound system.
This is often where people who are new to working with high-end speaker systems get a little bit uncomfortable and (appropriately) call in the professionals.
This can point you back to the original question of why you cannot use a subwoofer as a speaker in the first place. It has to do with the science and physics behind the structural design and capacity of each device.
As you can see with the importance of matching the appropriate RMS ratings between your subwoofer and amp, it is also important to ensure the right audio signals are received by your subwoofer.
Therefore, to use your subwoofer as it was designed to be used, you will need to establish a connection with an amplifier (or use another workaround), and match the RMS ratings to ensure an appropriate level of power.
With this, you will know that your subwoofer is set up and ready for successful use with the rest of the components in your sound system.
As long as you are following the RMS ratings for your subwoofer and the other components in your sound system, and you are ensuring that the subwoofer is only receiving the low-frequency audio signals that it was designed to support, you should be good to go in adding this device to your sound system.
And, once you add a subwoofer to your home theater sound system, music-streaming sound system, vehicle, or another location, there is truly no going back. Subwoofers are special in what they can provide for the lowest bass tones in music.
They cannot be used interchangeably with speakers, but they provide a unique musical purpose that is worthy of investment.
So, if you are on the fence about bringing in a subwoofer (or another subwoofer) into your sound system, all you need to do is to consider the appropriate audio support that you would need on the technological side of things, and then begin getting ready to set this piece of equipment up.
In no time, you will see why a subwoofer, that has been specifically and uniquely designed to carry out the low bass, will add immense value to your sound system and, consequently, your media-streaming desires.
Thanks for reading! Check out my recommendations for subwoofers.
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.