Difference Between Woofer And Subwoofer

Different speakers have varying capabilities when handling different sounds and notes. This is why DJs, singers and other performers use more than just one kind of speakers. They will use subwoofers, tweeters, mid-ranges and woofers in an effort to achieve a quality sound system.

woofer vs subwoofer

Many a times, most of us have loosely referred to subwoofers as just woofers and the other way round. As identical as the two might appear, there is however, a minor difference between the two.

If you are a bit confused on which of the two you ought to get, don’t fret. In this article, I will explain how the two vary, which one is suited for what setting as well as cover everything you need to know about subwoofers and woofers.

What is a subwoofer?


A subwoofer or sub is actually a woofer or a loudspeaker that is designed to reproduce low-pitched audio frequencies, commonly known as bass.

Because they focus on the lower frequencies, subs are able to provide a constant bass for most media and make it possible for the volume of the bass line in music to be greatly increased.

There are 2 types of subwoofers namely active subwoofers and passive subwoofers.

An active subwoofer would typically have an in- built amplifier, while a passive one would need an external amplifier, and is made of just the subwoofer driver and enclosure.

What is a woofer?


A woofer is basically a loud speaker. The term speaker is used to describe an electro-acoustic transducer.

A woofer specializes on the lower end of the audible spectrum. The ‘woof’ from woofer refers to the low sound of the bark of a dog.

In short, a woofer is a specialized speaker; and a subwoofer is a specialized woofer that covers a more narrow frequency range.

You can differentiate subwoofer variants by their efficiency, cost and size as well as their distortion and power handling capabilities. Check this post to compare top subwoofers for home use.

The structure of a subwoofer is mostly a plastic or wooden enclosure that has one or multiple woofers fitted into it. The focus on the lower frequency ranges causes the subwoofers to often be designed larger than woofers.

The larger size allows the driver to move a lot of air while at the same time maintaining the required low frequency. How you place your subwoofer makes room for the emergence of multiple subwoofer variants.

Bass reflex, horn-loaded, band pass and infinite baffle subwoofers are some of the common subwoofer designs you will encounter while shopping for your sub.

The frequency range of your subwoofer will be determined by how you use it. This said, the frequency range for a subwoofer used at home would usually be between 20-200Hz and around 100Hz for subs used in more professional settings like a church or hall.

Because they concentrate on a narrower spectrum, subwoofers are better placed to create a fuller sound that cannot be achieved on a regular woofer.

There is a downside to this though, as it makes the sound system more complex. This is because you will need to add other speakers to cover the other frequency ranges as it only covers a particular range.

How do they work?

The function of a woofer is to convert electrical signals into sounds, using the concept that the variations of an electric signal facilitate the device’s movement with it and create sound waves through water or air.

The audible differences and distortion that you notice in your sound are all courtesy of the speakers.

In a home audio setup, the woofer is part of the main speaker system. It helps the tweeter with mid-range frequencies.

Woofers typically have a range of about 20 to 2 KHz, which enables it to play low to mid-range frequencies. Because they have a wider range of sounds, woofers are perfect for use in home theatres.

The difference in frequency range is therefore the key difference between subwoofers and woofers.

Subwoofers are used for production of a wide range of low sounds and are great for bass sounds. This is however not the case with woofers; they produce high frequencies just as well as they do mid and treble range.

While the frequency range of woofers is quite adequate for the majority of applications, you will require a subwoofer if you are looking to get the best sound.

If you plan on having a sound system that has more than two speakers, then having woofers is recommended. How good you want the sound to be in your system will determine if you get a subwoofers or a woofer.

Subwoofers are perfect for home theater systems and clubs as they give a more realistic and engrossing sound. Woofers are more ideal for portable systems such as car sound systems.

Key points to remember

  • a woofer is a more specialized kind of subwoofer.
  • a woofer has frequency ranges of between 20Hz to 2 KHz while a subwoofer is only capable of covering frequencies of between 20Hz to 200Hz.
  • woofers are usually smaller than subwoofers

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Can a woofer be used as a subwoofer?

A. The simple answer is yes, you can. However, in this case you would ideally call it a woofer. When the same driver is installed in its own box with its own amplifier, then you could call it a subwoofer because it is a LFE. Drivers that are classified as subwoofers are often designed for lower frequencies than the range of typical woofers.

Q. What makes a speaker a subwoofer?

A. Subwoofers are made up of one or more woofers mounted in a loudspeaker enclosure—often made of wood—capable of withstanding air pressure while resisting deformation. … Passive subwoofers have a subwoofer driver and enclosure and they are powered by an external amplifier. Active subwoofers include a built-in amplifier.

Q. Which is better Woofer or subwoofer?

A. A woofer consists of one speaker driver inside an enclosure. Keeping in mind that woofers are general low-frequency speakers, you should go with a good quality choice to get the music or audio that suits your taste.


I am hopeful that I have clarified the difference between a subwoofer and woofer and that this will make your choice simpler.

Claire Davis is an audio system enthusiast with a background in sound engineering. Claire’s unique insights and passion for all things audio make her articles insightful and engaging for both new and seasoned readers. Read more about the team behind WooferGuy.com on the about us page.

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