Whatever you drive on the road, having an awesome stereo system makes all the difference. In fact, blaring down the highway to your favorite tunes is an incredible feeling. Behind these sound systems are a radio, speakers, and sometimes an amplifier, subwoofer, and woofer.
While many people consider a woofer and subwoofer to be the same thing, they actually have some key differences. In this post, we’ll discuss the differences between a woofer vs subwoofer, including how these fantastic sound products work.
What is a woofer?
A woofer is very similar to a basic loudspeaker. The ‘woof’ part of the term refers to the low sound of bark from a dog, which sounds similar to the sound the woofer produces. A woofer is essentially an advanced speaker with extra perks than a basic speaker.
A woofer makes sound on the lower end of the audible spectrum. While it’s basically a powerful speaker, a subwoofer is considered a specialized woofer that works on a more narrow frequency range.
The main function of a woofer is to transform electrical signals to sound. These woofers are often found in a 2-way or 3-way speaker system. They are typically used as the main speakers in an audio setup. Woofers include both bass and midrange in their frequency range, but only up until the cutoff frequency of the tweeter.
While woofers offer tons of power and high quality, they're limited compared to a subwoofer. This has to do with the design of the unit, including the use of smaller magnets. Woofers also typically use smaller cones than subwoofers, which also limits the power handling.
What is a subwoofer?
A subwoofer is similar to a woofer, but there are some key differences. First, a subwoofer is typically larger than a woofer. This is because the unit has one or several woofers inside of it. The subwoofer is constructed this way in order to have lower frequency ranges.
The design of a subwoofer is usually made of plastic or wood. Another reason for the larger size is that the unit needs more air to work properly. The subwoofer moves around this large mass of air while simultaneously maintaining a low frequency.
Subwoofers are mostly intended for producing low-end bass frequencies with powerful sound. Users will often use their subwoofers at high power levels, which makes them even more impressive.
While you may have multiple woofers in your sound system, there is usually only one subwoofer. These are typically housed in a sealed enclosure or one with ports for added airflow. As a subwoofer is designed to produce sound at very low frequencies, they’re often used alongside speakers that operate at a higher frequency range. That said, a subwoofer is the perfect complement to a complete sound system.
As we touched on this early, the size of these units is a key difference to think about. Simply put, a subwoofer is bigger than a woofer. In order to produce sound at such low frequencies, as in a subwoofer, you need a lot of air. This is made possible with the large cone surface area found in subwoofers. These units are also made possible with a hefty, high-quality magnet.
As woofers can still be large, they aren’t as big as a subwoofer. That said, woofers aren’t capable of hitting those extremely-low frequencies, seen with subs. If you’re looking for powerful bass to complement your stereo system, a subwoofer is the ideal product.
Since a subwoofer is often installed in a box, this dramatically increases its size. In fact, these subwoofer boxes can be a few feet wide. This sometimes takes up the majority of the room in a trunk. This setup is ideal for a standard vehicle, but it can also be used on a motorcycle. However, the unit is usually much smaller in order to fit. Subwoofers on motorcycles still produce incredible power and sound quality.
In the woofer vs subwoofer debate, the frequency range is one of the most important differences to consider. As the average speaker pumps out sound at high frequencies, a woofer is designed to work at a much lower frequency range. While this still creates powerful sound, it will be deeper with more bass. In technical terms, a woofer can create sound at a frequency of 40 Hz to 2,500 Hz.
When we look at subwoofers, they can produce sound at a much lower frequency range. In fact, its range is as low as 0 Hz to 200 Hz. This essentially means a woofer creates a wider frequency range while a subwoofer reproduces a much more narrow range. This results in greater bass in subwoofers.
When you combine a high-quality subwoofer with loudspeakers, these varying frequencies create incredible sound quality. That said, a subwoofer is an ideal add-on to a stereo system. However, while woofers still produce bass thanks to their low frequency, many users get by without a subwoofer. But if you’re looking for more bass and a very low frequency range, a subwoofer is the answer. Subwoofers produce a substantial amount of bass at a high quality.
Due to the several differences between a woofer vs subwoofer, they consume different amounts of power. In simple terms, a woofer produces less power than a subwoofer. This is due to the fact that subwoofers create sound at a lower frequency, which requires more energy consumption. Given this need for power, subwoofers are often hooked up to a subwoofer amp.
A subwoofer amp provides a great deal of power to the subwoofer, and sometimes woofers as well. However, as woofers operate at lower frequencies, they don’t require tons of power to produce great sound. That said, you don’t have to purchase the most powerful amplifier to be used with your woofers.
Even though an amp provides tons of power, there can still be some power consumption issues for the vehicle. For example, you may notice your car lights dim when your system hits those extremely-low bass notes. This happens because your subwoofer is pulling a great deal of power from the amp. This rarely happens with woofers given their lower power consumption needs. However, by adding a capacitor in conjunction with a subwoofer, this can fix the light dimming issue. A capacitor helps out the system by storing electrical charge to push power to the amplifier instantly. Your vehicle lights shouldn’t dim after installing a capacitor.
Powering the Drivers
The woofer vs subwoofer drive is another important topic to discuss. Simply put, woofers and subwoofers differ in the way they’re powered. Woofers are made with passive bass drivers, which means that a woofer is powered by an external amplifier. Many users will power their woofers with the same amp that’s powering their regular speakers. To get the power it needs, woofers only need to be connected to the amplifier output.
Subwoofers, on the other hand, are either active or passive powered. These passive woofers function just like passive woofers. However, that isn’t the case with active subwoofers. In fact, these subs have their own built-in amplifier. You can usually find this in the subwoofer box. If you’re looking for the best sound quality, make sure the sub is hooked up to a dedicated sub output on the amp.
This built-in amp helps to produce the deep bass and powerful quality. It does this by boosting the strength of the input signal from the head unit, which adds more power for the sub. In regards to active subwoofers, these need to be connected to the head unit, as well as to a power source. This creates more of a headache when installing these systems. However, these active subs do include a built-in crossover, which improves the sound quality. These crossovers filter out high frequencies, meaning only low frequencies make it to the subwoofer driver. This results in cleaner bass and impeccable sound.
After looking at the woofer vs subwoofer drive differences, price is another factor to consider. However, the average subwoofer will cost around the same price as a woofer, but there are many factors that come into play. For instance, there are superior subwoofers on the market today that come built with new, advanced technology. These can be much more expensive than woofers.
On the other hand, some woofers are made with incredible features and capabilities. These can be more costly than many subwoofers on the market. Also, since woofers and subwoofers come in various designs and styles from different brands, their prices vary. In fact, with so many options available, you can find extremely affordable subs and woofers, or ones that cost close to $1000.
As many elements come into play when determining the price of subwoofers, the biggest deciding factor usually has to do with the RMS power and overall sound. And since subwoofers today can handle an insane amount of power, this certainly drives up the price.
While subwoofers and woofers are important to building a top-of-the-line sound system, they aren't the only products you need. If you want a complete sound system for your motorcycle or car, you also have to think about mid range speakers, a radio, and tweeters. These speakers work as your mid range driver, which handles sound at the middle range of the spectrum. Tweeters, on the other hand, handle sound at the high end of the spectrum. When combined with a subwoofer, which handles the low frequency sound, the end result can be a balanced system that sounds incredible.
Now that you understand the differences between a subwoofer and woofer, it’s now time to build the sound system of your dreams!