What Does A Subwoofer Do?

Nathan Rizzuti Profile image

Written by:

Updated June 27, 2022

The best speaker systems produce a wide range of frequencies that bring the beauty of sound to life. Are you curious about what a subwoofer does? We’re going to look at the answer to this question and when you should consider getting one. And for more great information, check out our article covering what a soundbar does.


  • Adding a subwoofer to your surround sound will create a deeper sound and more immersive experience.
  • Subwoofers produce the lowest frequency sounds on the spectrum and are used to create a true bass response.
  • Passive subwoofers need to be plugged into an external amp, while active subwoofers come with an amp built-in.

What Is a Subwoofer?

A subwoofer speaker is an audio enthusiast’s friend in low places. These speakers beef up the lowest frequency and enhance the bass notes, especially if the subs are tapped into the rear speakers. Intense bass response in the correct listening position is necessary for movies and music and can build on the overall listening experience.

Insider Tip

For the best overall listening experience, try to place the subwoofer and front speakers on the same plane. Also, don’t place the subwoofer behind the listening area.

While other speakers can recreate bass sounds, it’s only with powered subwoofers that listeners can genuinely feel the shaky sensation of a deep bass note. Although, the Beats Pill+ speaker might meet those rumbling sounds. These low, rumbly sounds are produced with instruments such as a bass guitar or a movie effect like an avalanche.

If you’re considering wiring your own speakers at some point, you can check out our article that explains what gauge wire to use for speakers.

When Do You Use a Subwoofer?

If you’re an audiophile or cinephile, having full-range speakers, including a dedicated subwoofer, is an appealing purchase. Only with a good bass sound can you experience how an artist truly meant their work to be felt.

There are two types of subwoofers: active and passive. Passive subwoofers have to connect to an external amplifier and usually are cheaper, lighter, and less powerful. An active subwoofer comes with a built-in amplifier. A dedicated amplifier lends extra power to the speaker, making it louder and more intense.

For most home theater setups, a passive subwoofer will work just fine, and you’ll avoid the heavy lifting that comes from the additional weight of the amplifier. However, if your goal is to make the house shake as much subwoofer output as possible, the active speaker may be more appealing.


A subwoofer can cause irritating rattles with unstable objects or loose windows, and in very rare cases, low bass can cause cracks in walls.


Is it necessary to have a subwoofer with a soundbar?

Getting a subwoofer with your soundbar would be good if you crave bass. But if you are looking to save money and space and can forgo the deeper frequencies, you won’t need one.

Are subwoofers bad for your ears?

Depending on the volume, subwoofers can be hazardous to the human eardrum. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends that people not listen to noises above 85 decibels for more than 8 hours at a time without hearing protection, so keep your subwoofer at around 70-75 decibels.

How much does a good subwoofer cost?

On the more affordable side, a subwoofer will cost around $100. But these speakers can run up into the thousands depending on how much you’re willing to spend.

STAT: A subwoofer’s frequency is a bass frequency that ranges anywhere from 20-200 hertz. (source)

Nathan Rizzuti Profile image