Subwoofer Vs Speaker: 4 Ways To Tell Them Apart

Many people can’t spot the differences between a subwoofer vs speaker. So, how can you set them apart from each other?

The difference between these devices is their frequency range. The sub works well with the low range; the speaker is excellent for the mid and high range.

This detailed comparison will tell you more about these items and help you determine the better one. Let’s read on to discover!

What Is A Subwoofer?

A subwoofer is a speaker that delivers lower frequencies like sub-bass and bass, often between 20 and 200 Hz.

In other words, this device is a big low-pressure air pump that transmits low bass vibrations.

You can hear such loud sound effects in orchestral music, rock and roll, or blockbuster movies.

This device looks like a small box. Some models have a wood or plastic enclosure and a port or a vent for signals.


Having a good subwoofer combined with loudspeakers can help enhance the system’s overall sound quality.

This addition will reduce the stress on your loudspeakers and add more width and depth to the output.

Subwoofers will greatly increase stereo image accuracy while adding fascinating dynamics to the sound.


These devices come in different types, varying in size, efficiency, cost, and usage. The simplest way to classify them is to use their features.

  • Active vs. Passive

Active subwoofers feature an integrated amplifier. These models are self-contained, having both a speaker and a subwoofer in one cabinet.

You can set up the system easily because it requires no extra power supply. Hence, the total cost of setup is lower.

On the other hand, passive models need an A/V receiver or an external amplifier to work. These extra tools should be powerful enough to handle the bass effects produced by the system.

Although you have to purchase and set up more cables, these models are cheaper than the active ones as a whole.

  • Down-firing vs. Front-firing

Down-firing models allow the sound to travel from the speaker’s base because it establishes vibrations forward the ground. This feature offers protection for the system because the driver doesn’t face outside.

On the other hand, the front-firing models project the sound out of only one side and create vibrations in the air. Hence, they deliver sound like traditional speakers.

subwoofer vs speaker- There are many types of speakers

The device adds depth to the sound 

What is A Speaker?

You can define the speaker as an audio device that takes electronic data from DVDs, cassettes, or CDs and converts it into mechanical sound.

These devices can deliver sounds of various frequencies but at different intensities.

Although they come with a broad frequency range, the sound in the lower range or bass range may be inaudible sometimes because they are only excellent at the mid-range.


This device is an essential component of any sound system, and it may help you increase the sound quality.

From PCs to sophisticated home entertainment systems, most electronic devices have a speaker.


There are many ways to classify speakers. For example, you can find passive and active models in the market.

The way they differ is the same as the way a passive subwoofer is different from the active one. You can learn the differences between these models right here:

Besides, people also distinguish the devices based on their design:

  • Standing speakers: They are the most popular models. They come with large cabinets to include various drivers, enhancing the sound performance and bass response.
  • In-wall: You will mount the device on the wall or the ceiling to save space. The best thing about this option is that it delivers great sound and is out of sight.
  • Soundbars: They are small but good at producing dynamic audio. They have a stunning design and can blend into your home cinema setup perfectly.
subwoofer vs speaker-There are many types of speakers

There are many types of speakers

Differences Between Subwoofer Vs. Speaker

The frequency range is not the same in these devices, leading to different sound quality. But what are the exact differences? Let’s check!

Frequency range

Subwoofers can produce low-pitched sounds such as sub-bass and bass. In general, their frequency range is lower than woofers.

Standard subwoofers have a frequency range of 20 to 200Hz, but pro live sound demands 100Hz. There are even some that have a range lower than 80Hz.

On the other hand, speakers come with a wide range of frequencies. We will discuss the capacity of a 5.1 system as an example.

This system includes five speakers and a low-frequency speaker: two on both sides and three on the front. The side speakers are full-range devices that can work with ranges from 50Hz to 20kHz.

The center device can handle 60Hz to 100Hz on the low and 20kHz on the high version. The ones on the front work to enhance surround sound effects, giving you a three-dimensional listening experience.

subwoofer vs speaker- Each device is excellent at different frequencies

Each device is excellent at different frequencies 

Sound quality

High frequencies and mid-range tones are the core of traditional speakers. They may also produce bass to a certain extent.

You can notice the strings of a symphony performance thanks to the treble produced by the speakers.

The middle tone helps you enjoy a lead singer’s rich, warm voice. You will, however, discover that something is missing.

How about subwoofers? They amplify the bass emitted by the speakers. They don’t work on themselves, but they provide a sound system with a certain feel.

Moreover, the dynamics get more powerful so that you wouldn’t notice if you didn’t have the sub.

It’s preferable to go with a high-wattage sub because it plays louder than a low-wattage sub and manages lower frequencies effectively.


A subwoofer is a large wooden box, whereas speakers are available in different sizes and styles. The speaker’s design isn’t similar, and it varies depending on the manufacturer.

The box-like shape of the subwoofer is essential for making the boom effect. It’s also easier to detect.

This device has a huge coil and a large magnet, allowing it to handle strong impulses. They also have a huge, solid speaker to help them with their excursion.

Speakers come with a tweeter, which is in charge of balancing the audio.

These big devices also have a circuit or a crossover. This component divides high and low frequencies.

subwoofer vs speaker- Speakers come in different forms

Speakers come in different forms 


It’s hard to tell the difference in cost between these products because it varies significantly depending on the specifications.

Comparison table

We have compared the two units in different terms. Now, it’s time to summarize their differences.

Criteria10-inch subwoofer12-inch subwoofer
Bass outputModerateExcellent
LoudnessLess loudLouder
Sound qualityNot much differentNot much different
Bass controlNot much differentNot much different
DistortionLess distortedMore distorted
TonalityTight mid frequenciesGood at low frequencies

Pros And Cons Of Subwoofer And Speaker

When considering which item to buy, you can weigh up the pros and cons of each option to see if they can meet your needs.



  • Less pressure on the audio system
  • Excellent bass tone
  • Improved overall sound quality


  • Not good for mid and high frequencies
  • Some units can’t work independently.



  • All-in-one option
  • Ability to work independently
  • Good for high and mid frequencies


  • Not ideal for bass sounds

What Should You Choose?

If you want to listen to music, you’ll need speakers. They allow you to enjoy the sound from a wide spectrum of frequencies.

However, the bass is not clear. Then, the subwoofer comes into play.

The sub gives feelings and sounds that the speaker can’t reproduce. It’s also good at accurately producing every note in low frequencies to improve the overall sound.

In conclusion, here are our recommendations:

  • For low-frequency range: subwoofers
  • For mid and high ranges: speakers
  • For the best experience: a subwoofer in a speaker system.
subwoofer vs speaker- It would be best to combine the two devices

It would be best to combine the two devices

Can You Use A Speaker As A Subwoofer?

A regular speaker can’t produce low-frequency audio. As a result, you can’t use it as a sub.

If you need an alternative to the sub, it will be better to go with a woofer. However, the outcome won’t compare with the sub.


We have discussed the difference between a subwoofer vs speaker.

If you like the bass sound, subwoofers are great. On the other hand, speakers should be your way to go if you prefer the treble.

Many people choose to integrate the sub into their speaker system to optimize their listening experience. You will then have the best of both worlds.

Hopefully, you will find this article helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. Thank you for reading!

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