Does a Subwoofer Only Play Bass?

subwoofer bass

The idea behind listening to music is to enjoy that punchy rich bass. If you have read the article about what makes a subwoofer good, then you’re aware of the many benefits a subwoofer has as part of your home audio system. But, despite reproducing those rich earth trembling vibrations, most home theater enthusiasts are still curious and disturbed as to whether a subwoofer only plays bass.

Now, a home theater system comprises of three types of speakers. These are the woofers, the tweeters, and the mighty subwoofer. In the past, subwoofers were not viewed as a necessity. However, following the advancement in modern technology, most music, and Hollywood blockbuster movies rely on LFEs to give viewers a breathtaking listening experience. Due to this reason, most home theater systems today come with all three speaker systems to cater to all the frequency ranges to give audio listeners a 3-dimension listening experience.

Turning back our attention to the subwoofer, this large driver is not designed the same way as a speaker or a woofer. Instead, it’s specially and specifically built to only handle the low-frequencies. This means that if you use a subwoofer to listen to a sound, it will be very hard to hear the vocals and the instruments as they lie in the high-frequency band which the subwoofer is unable to handle.

With that said, this short guide will try to answer the question of whether a subwoofer only plays bass as well as explain how to understand frequency ranges.

What is Bass?

The first step of answering whether a subwoofer only plays bass is to know exactly what bass truly is. In a nutshell, bass refers to the low-frequency waves that range from 20Hz to 160Hz. Bass can also be broken down into two forms which are bass and the sub-bass. While bass is the low-frequency we’ve just explained, sub-bass is a much lower frequency that goes to as low as 60Hz to 20Hz.

While bass can be heard by the human ear, sub-bass goes beyond hearing and is instead felt in the form of vibrations that tend to shake everything around you. When shopping for a subwoofer, you’ll notice that they’re classified according to the level of low-frequency limit they can handle.

For instance, you’ll hear of subwoofers that claim to reproduce sub-bass as low as 1Hz. Although it’s possible, such subwoofers must be specially designed since frequencies this low can only be felt but not heard with the normal human ear. Such subwoofers should have large drivers constructed from special materials and must be enclosed in special boxes. They must also be fed with the right wattage for them to reproduce such low frequencies.

When it comes to the upper phase of the low frequency, most subwoofers can reach as high as 200Hz. Since subwoofers are designed to only handle the low-frequencies, it will be impossible for them to go beyond this range. Therefore, if you’re looking to achieve higher frequencies beyond this, then it would be best if you can consider adding a loudspeaker.

Alternatively, you can have your subwoofer modified to reproduce higher frequencies beyond 200Hz. The bad thing about this idea, however, is that once it’s modified, the low frequencies generated will be worse off. 

Can a Subwoofer Work as a Speaker?

Although a subwoofer looks like a speaker, the phycology behind its engineering is very different from a speaker. Its interior structure, which includes the voice coil and the diaphragm, prevents it from reproducing high-frequencies such as vocals. So, if you’re intending to task your subwoofer to perform as a speaker, then what you’ll hear are the low-frequencies without any vocals.

Although I’ve touched on that already, you need to know that audio experts and engineers usually split frequency bands into three major segments. These are the high-frequencies, the mid-tones, and the low-frequencies.

That said, if you intend to hear the drums, the guitar, and the vocals, then the speakers or the mid-woofers will handle that. On the other hand, if you want to hear the high-frequencies that are higher than the mid-tones, then smaller speakers called tweeters will handle that with less effort.

Lastly, if you want to hear the low-frequencies that cannot be generated by the speakers and the tweeters, then the subwoofer is the ideal driver to consider.

How Should You Configure Your Subwoofer?

Now that you’re aware of the three main frequency bands and which speakers generate those frequencies perfectly, my next discussion will be explaining how you’re supposed to configure your subwoofer. In most cases, a home theater system consists of four main accessories. They include the receiver, a video source (which can be your iPad, iPhone, or TV), connection cables, and the audio system (which in this case is the surround speakers and the Subwoofer).

The first step of configuring your subwoofer is to connect it to the power outlet. Next, pick an LFE cable and connect one side to your receiver’s Sub Output. Connect the other side of the LFE cable to your subwoofer’s RCA Input.

When you’re through with the setup, you can now use the subwoofer’s crossover known as the low-pass filter to determine the frequency range that will be allowed to pass through to the subwoofer. For instance, you can configure your subwoofer’s crossover to play low-frequencies of 100Hz and below. This will allow your subwoofer to only kick-in whenever it detects low-frequency waves below 100Hz while allowing the woofers and the surround speakers to handle frequencies above this range.


In case you’ve been wondering whether a subwoofer only plays bass, then I believe this post has offered you a clearer understanding. The best thing about audio engineers is that they’ve managed to split frequency bands into three main segments. With the right audio system, all of these three audio frequencies will be reproduced perfectly without straining any of your speakers.

So, if you want to hear the mid-tones, the speakers and the woofers will handle that. In the case of higher-frequencies, the tweeters will be at full service, and in the case of the low-frequency bass, then the mighty subwoofer will be at your disposal.

David Wilson’s passion for music and technology led him to a career in sound engineering. His technical knowledge combined with his love for writing allows him to create comprehensive and detailed reviews of subwoofers. Read more about the team behind on the about us page.

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