Woofer vs Subwoofer

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Updated October 31, 2022

There’s an exhausting amount of terms swirling about the audio world. But if you want the best possible speakers, it’s wise to learn to speak the language. So today’s vocab lesson will focus on advice concerning the best subwoofers and woofers. When comparing the differences between a subwoofer vs a woofer, it’s important to understand that both types are necessary to construct a sound system with good bass and mid-range output.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Woofers produce a low to mid-range frequency range, anywhere from 200-5,000 Hz, and come in driver sizes from 4-15 inches.
  • Subwoofers produce a deep frequency range from 20-200 Hz and come in driver sizes from 10-21 inches.
  • Audio enthusiasts recommend combining woofers and subwoofers in an audio system.

For more information, we have a great guide on the top-rated soundbars if you want to look at some specific sound system equipment.

Insider Tip

Choose one with a larger driver if you want a woofer that plays lower frequencies. The larger the driver, the wider the sound waves it’ll produce.

Differences Between Subwoofers vs Woofers

Outside of a prefix, what’s the difference between these two types of speakers? For starters, they differ in the frequency range. Woofers, also called mid-woofers, have a frequency range of 200-5,000 Hz. Subwoofers cover the lowest frequencies, anywhere from 20-200 Hz.

There’s also a size difference between each speaker type. Subwoofers range anywhere from 10-21″, while woofers range from 4-15″ (but the most common woofer sizes are usually 6.5-8″).

When selecting speakers for a setup, either range of frequencies is necessary to build a home theater system with optimal sound quality.

For more comparisons of the wide range of speaker types, check out our article on tweeters vs woofers.

Versatility

Woofers provide a more comprehensive range of frequency ranges. Not only that, the specific frequency range is the one that’s most common to human hearing. Because of this, many sound experts say to prioritize getting mid-woofers with high sound quality.

If you want a further look into woofer options, check out our guide on the leading 6.5-inch speakers.

Warning

While smaller subwoofers are more affordable, a smaller size usually means sacrificing on total subwoofer output.

Bass Sound

Both subwoofers and woofers play bass frequencies, but as stated above, subwoofers reach the lowest bass range. Subwoofers are necessary to bring alive many sound effects and music genres with heavy rumbling bass. On the other hand, woofers will produce only some lighter bass effects.

For more info on factors that affect a subwoofer’s bass quality, we have an article explaining shallow vs regular mount subwoofers.

Affordability

Because of their size and power consumption, subwoofers tend to be more expensive than woofers. The average subwoofer costs around $200-$400, while woofers cost about $50-$100 apiece.

STAT: The average person has an audible frequency range between 20-20,000 Hz. (source)

Woofers vs Subwoofers FAQs

Can a woofer double as a subwoofer?

If you get a larger woofer, say 8", you'll get low-frequency sound, sometimes bass notes as low as 50 Hz. But a woofer will only partially replace the thunderous bass response of a good subwoofer.

What's the difference between passive and active subwoofers?

The difference between passive and active subwoofers is that an active unit has a built-in amplifier, whereas a passive subwoofer needs to be plugged into an external amplifier.

Does listening position matter to sound quality?

Whenever setting up speakers, be sure to test out various listening positions. Trying out as many positions as possible is a great way to improve audio quality.
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