As you set up your new home theater surround sound system, you might be happening upon your equipment to find that you will soon need to replace your subwoofer. Or, perhaps you can use what you have got to make this work out for the short or long-term- a woofer, maybe?
Interestingly, many woofers are called subwoofers though they are not entirely limited to low-frequency audio. You can use a woofer as a subwoofer by ensuring the proper connection between the audio channels. However, you might miss out on the low-frequency effect if not set up properly.
To more clearly understand this, it is helpful to know what the differences are between a woofer and a subwoofer as well as a bit of the history of these pieces of sound equipment.
Fortunately, there are many resources available that can help you to establish the appropriate connections when using your woofer as a subwoofer. Let’s take a closer look.
Also read: Can a Normal Speaker be used as a Subwoofer?
What is the Difference Between a Woofer and a Subwoofer?
Before you can begin with understanding the concept of using a woofer as a subwoofer, it is important to take a look at the key differences between the two devices.
While some inexperienced audio junkies will report the differences in one way, other experienced audiophiles can fill you in on the true technological components that make these impressive devices.
So, what is the difference between a woofer and a subwoofer?
While some state that the difference is the number of coils because of a sub consistently having a dual voice coil, woofers can also be found with a dual voice coil. Instead, the difference between these two devices is the frequency that they are designed to emit- subwoofers hitting lower than woofers.
Importantly, you can notice the difference in these two very similar pieces of sound equipment not only in the way that they are designed but in the frequency that they emit.
Considering that the main difference between the spelling of these two types of equipment includes “sub” in reference to a lower level, it is important to know that the low-frequency audio emission is the critical difference between a woofer and a subwoofer.
Consider that a woofer can emit audio frequencies between 20Hz-2KHZ while a subwoofer is limited to a range of 20Hz-200Hz, you can see how these ranges would consequently alter the respective sound experience that these two pieces of equipment create for users.
Since the subwoofer has a much smaller range of audio, and it is low-frequency, it is a little more difficult to use a subwoofer as a woofer.
However, a woofer includes the entire range that a subwoofer can achieve. Therefore, it is not too difficult to see that a woofer can be used to cover the low -frequency range even though it was not designed specifically for this purpose.
Realistically, the woofer will just need to be enclosed and connected to the appropriate audio channels as well as to an amp to be able to produce the low-frequency audio signals that it will become intended to receive (and play).
What Can a Woofer Do?
Perhaps you have heard a subwoofer referred to as a woofer and vice versa. This is not uncommon, even though this is not technically accurate as you look closer at the functions of a woofer and a subwoofer.
With that said, maybe you have been using a subwoofer for your former setup and are looking to make sure your woofer can cover the low-frequency audio signals that you sub can.
A woofer can cover a range between 20Hz-200KHz with more average woofers covering 20Hz-5,000Hz. These low-frequency speakers cover a wide range of sounds and are typically set up right alongside the other speaker channels including speakers that cover higher frequencies.
It is important to note, here, that a woofer is capable of emitting the same low-level frequencies that a subwoofer can cover. However, due to the design of a woofer compared with a subwoofer, the woofer will not play the low-frequency audio signals quite as clearly or effectively.
In the case that you need to substitute one out for the other, though, it is easier to substitute a woofer for a subwoofer than the other way around.
This is because a subwoofer focuses particularly well on the lowest frequency bass tones that come through on the audio signal. Since the woofer can cover a wider range, it can cover these low frequencies as well as those that are a bit higher.
Further, a woofer is a pretty standard driver that you will find in a home theater (or another type of) sound system. It works with the left, right, center, and other audio streams to be able to cover the wide range of frequencies that are sent throughout the interconnected sound system.
Even most Soundbars include the use of a woofer when you begin to look at this type of equipment with more than the standard left, right, and center channels. A woofer is an essential component to a speaker system.
What Can a Subwoofer Do?
Now that you know what a woofer can do and the wide range of audio signals that it can play, it is important to note the specifics of what a subwoofer has to offer.
After all, most people refer to these two pieces of sound equipment rather interchangeably, but is this truly the case?
A subwoofer is an additional component of a surround sound audio system that plays low-frequency audio signals from 20Hz-200Hz. This piece of sound equipment provides the lowest, most clear bass in comparison with other sources of audio. If you want the booming thump of low-frequency audio, you will want a sub.
Of course, knowing that a subwoofer can focus on a much more narrow range of audio signals can help you to conceptualize the difference between a subwoofer and a woofer.
In a sense, a subwoofer is a more refined, more specific version of a woofer in that it focuses more precisely on a narrow range instead of attempting to accommodate a wider range of audio signals.
In this case, you can see how “doing one thing well” can work out for this specific piece of audio equipment. Rather than its counterpart (the woofer), the subwoofer is designed to effectively transmit low-frequency audio through the appropriate setup, connections, and equipment.
Do You Really Need a Subwoofer with a Woofer?
Now that you recognize that a woofer is capable of covering the same low-frequency audio signals that a subwoofer is strictly limited to, you might be wondering how to get the best bang for your buck in this situation.
After all, the woofer can play the entire range that a subwoofer can offer, so what is necessary for producing the highest-quality sound experience in your car or home?
While a woofer is capable of covering the low-frequency audio signals that a subwoofer is targeted at, a subwoofer has a better physical design and overall capacity to play the lowest audio signals in the range. Specifically, if you want to highlight the range 20Hz-200Hz, then you will want a sub.
Here, it is important to look at the design of these two pieces of sound equipment to more fully understand the importance of owning and using a subwoofer when at all possible.
Of course, a woofer can be used to cover the low-frequency audio signals that a subwoofer would typically be used for, but since a subwoofer was specifically designed for this, it is important to know how.
The subwoofer, in its ability to transmit low-frequency audio signals, uses a greater air passage to allow the clarity of these low tones to come through.
Alternatively, the woofer does not have this same capacity and is limited in the overall structure in the way that it accepts (or does not accept) airflow and reverberation.
Thus, while the woofer is technically capable of receiving the low-frequency audio signals in the same range that a subwoofer concentrates on more specifically, it is not capable of achieving this low-frequency audio with the same capacity and gusto.
Thus, you will likely find that a woofer will not offer the robust bass that you are hoping for from a subwoofer. Nor will a woofer likely be able to play the highest frequency audio signals as well in its range either since it is designed to moderately accomplish both (but not accomplish either end of the range to its peak potential).
For this reason, if you are wanting to achieve low-frequency audio to the greatest capacity that your sound system is capable of producing, then a subwoofer will likely be necessary to make this work.
Check out my recommended subwoofers for home theater.
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.