Active Vs Passive Subwoofers – Differences Explained

It’s both exhilarating and daunting to set up your personal home cinema system. Admittedly, there are so many variables to take into account. Nevertheless, when it comes to home theater, the active and passive subwoofers are the most popular.

What’s the difference between a passive and an active subwoofer, exactly? Subwoofers that are passive require an extra power source, such as an amplifier or receiver. Active subwoofers come with a built-in amplifier and power supply, and all they need is an audio source to work.

Let’s look at the primary distinctions between the two types of subwoofers and how they could affect your design decision.

prominente Corrispondente Patrocinare active vs passive subwoofer -

What Is A Passive Subwoofer?

A passive subwoofer needs an external power supply, such as a receiver or amplifier, to operate. Passive subwoofers are favored by home theater developers for large spaces that may require many units.

Subwoofers and speakers, which are primarily diverse in regards of frequency spectrum, both require power to generate sound. Choosing an amplifier or receiver that generates enough power to effectively maintain the deep tones generated by your device is critical for passive subwoofers. If you’re utilizing your speakers in combination with the rest of your home theater audio system, you’ll also need to think about how much electricity they’ll take.

When it comes to integrating all the elements, a passive subwoofer may seem more complicated. This is due to the fact that you have both the source and the additional amplifier. As a result, you’ll require more cabling.

Passive Subwoofer (From Rel Acoustics)

Passive subwoofers are the most frequent type of subwoofer used in bespoke home theater systems. Many passive subwoofers are actually built into or placed on a wall as part of a customized installation. Passive subwoofers are often less expensive than active subwoofers, although specialized installations and a more capable receiver can drive up the price.

Passive subwoofers can also be linked together to create larger, more powerful home theater spaces. This means you can distribute the bass around the space without muddying the sound or having to worry about unequal distribution.

Troubleshooting A Passive Subwoofer That Has No Sound

1. Ascertain that the subwoofer is correctly linked to the stereo receiver.

2. To use the subwoofer, make sure the speaker settings on the stereo receiver are correct.

3. If your stereo receiver has many sound fields, try switching to a different sound field.

4. Replace the speaker wire from the subwoofer to the stereo receiver if the problem persists.

What Is An Active Subwoofer?

Active subwoofers, also widely recognized as powered subwoofers, are equipped with their very own power source, such as an integrated amplifier. Active subwoofers are simple to install and work best in a single subwoofer structure. As a result, with active subwoofers, placing is more essential.

Active subwoofers are usually set up in such a way that each of the designed parts is optimized. Active subwoofers are an all-in-one answer for many home theater holders and developers because the built-in amplifier is exactly aligned to the speaker’s power requirements.

Active subwoofers don’t need as many cables as passive subwoofers do. As a result, set-up is usually less difficult. An active subwoofer, on the other hand, consumes more power (watts) to operate. This may seem insignificant to some when they receive their electricity bill, but it is still good enough to justify mentioning.

Edifier T5 - hd-multimedia
Edifier T5 (From Edifier)

Active subwoofers are more expensive than passive subwoofers since they include everything you need for great bass sound. More notably, the adoption of Dolby Digital 5.1 as the DVD standard formed a new standard.

Dolby Digital 5.1 prepared the path for a dedicated bass channel with five main channels and a Low-Frequency Effects (LFE) channel. (This channel is still available on DVD, Blu-ray, and other formats…) Active subwoofers take advantage of this dedicated channel and can deliver high-quality sound from a single unit rather than multiples.

Which Is Better: Passive or Active Subwoofers?

Each style of subwoofer has advantages and disadvantages. Each of these factors should be considered while determining which subwoofer is appropriate for your needs. When looking for the best subwoofer, sound quality is an apparent consideration. Quality is more dependent on the precise brand and model you select than on the type of subwoofer. Apart from sound quality, the following are the six main features:

  • Power: What is the wattage requirement for your subwoofer? Is your receiver/amplifier capable of handling this amount of power?
  • Amplifier/Receiver: Is an external amplifier required for the subwoofer? If so, how powerful should it be?
  • Expense: How much will the subwoofer set you back? Is one variety more expensive than the other? Remember to account for the expenses of all essential components.
  • Connectivity: What types of cables will you require, and how many will you require?
  • Design: What capabilities does your subwoofer come with? Is it possible to simply integrate your subwoofer into your existing decor? Are you seeking for a more personalized solution?
  • Set-Up: How simple will it be to put up the subwoofer? Is it as simple as plugging it in and playing or is it more hard to set up?

Let’s see how passive and active subwoofers pile up against each other based on these requirements.

Pros and Cons of Passive Subwoofers

Passive subwoofers, as noted previously, are those that do not have a built-in amplifier. This can have an impact on not only the parts required to power them, but also a variety of other variables.


  • Power: These subwoofers use less electricity (watts) to operate, resulting in a lower power cost.
  • Design: Passive subwoofers give you additional flexibility and absolute control over your home cinema setup.
  • Set-Up:  Because almost every receiver/amplifier theses days has a subwoofer output, it works with almost any receiver/amplifier.
  • Expense: Because there are fewer components in passive subwoofers, they are frequently less expensive than active subwoofers.
  • Connectivity: When combining numerous subwoofers for a large home cinema setup, passive subwoofers are the ideal solution.
Passive Subwoofer (From Sound Certified)


  • Set-Up: Because the cables needed to connect a passive subwoofer deliver both power and signal, higher quality cables are required.
  • Expense: The scale and kinds of parts you need to acquire may considerably increase the cost.
  • Power: To guarantee that appropriate power is given to each connected component, evaluate the full load on any amplifier being utilized for both your speakers and passive amplifier.

Pros and Cons of Active Subwoofers

Because everything you need is already included in the box, active subwoofers have fewer pieces. What is the difference between this and a passive subwoofer?


  • Connectivity: Active subwoofers are ideally suited for single-subwoofer home theater setups.
  • Design: The majority of active subwoofers are designed to take advantage of LFE channels in order to maximize bass frequencies from a single speaker.
  • Set-Up: There is no need for special or lengthy cabling, making installation a breeze.
  • Design: Active subwoofers are often small and portable, making them easy to install wherever the finest sound is required.
  • Amplifier: All of the necessary components are included, so you won’t have to waste time figuring out which ones will give your active subwoofer the most power.
Active Subwoofer (From Sound Certified)


  • Power: Active subwoofers use more power, which can raise your utility bill if you use them all the time.
  • Expense: Active subwoofers are frequently more expensive than passive subwoofers.
  • Compatibility: Your receiver/amplifier must have a subwoofer pre-out port.
  • Design: With active subwoofers, placement becomes even more critical because only one should be used with your surround sound system.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Is The Purpose Of A Subwoofer?

At the end of the day, it’s critical to comprehend why a subwoofer is an essential component of a home theater sound system.

In the simplest terms, a subwoofer is a speaker that produces low-frequency sounds, most generally referred to as bass. Because not all subwoofers produce the same level of sound, do your homework on the brand and model you’re contemplating before you buy!

Is it Really Necessary To Have a Subwoofer? Aren’t My Speakers Enough?

A diverse variety of tones and pitches are available through your surround sound speakers. The vast of these speakers, on the other hand, lack the breadth and capacity to reproduce or create truly deep, rich bass tones. Subwoofers were created to accomplish just that.

A subwoofer enhances your home theater experience by assisting your speakers in delivering the fullest range of sounds. Subwoofers have almost become a necessity, according to a home theater design specialist.

Does Size Make a Difference?

Subwoofers are available in a variety of sizes. The classic subwoofer was housed in a massive case, which may have been too large for some settings. Improved technology, on the other hand, has enabled manufacturers to shrink the constituent sizes as well as the total sizes of many of today’s subwoofers. This allows them to be more easily hidden and even installed in a wall or cabinet.

How Many Subwoofers Should I Have in My Home Theater System?

Subwoofer dimensions aren’t the only item to consider depending on the size or layout of the room. Large spaces or irregularly shaped rooms may need the use of more than one subwoofer. As previously indicated, this can have a direct impact on the type of subwoofer you purchase, as active models cannot be coupled and may muddy the sound.

Are Woofers and Subwoofers different?

Woofers and subwoofers both reproduce low frequencies, but the biggest distinction is the frequency range in which they operate. A woofer can cover a frequency range of 20Hz to 2KHz, whereas a subwoofer can only cover a much smaller frequency range of 20Hz to 200Hz.

To summarize, a woofer is a highly specialized speaker, while a subwoofer is a specialized woofer with a narrower frequency range. A subwoofer can be used to reproduce specific low-frequency effects (LFE) in movies, such as explosions and earthquakes, as well as pipe organ pedal notes, acoustic double bass, and tympani in music.

Subwoofer Wireless Connections

When it comes to gadgets, wireless communication is becoming increasingly prevalent. Your subwoofer is included with this. Wireless connections are currently possible only with active subwoofers. This capability is integrated into some of the latest models. Older versions with a home theater receiver, AV processor, or LFE connections can also have wireless transmitter/receiver kits.

The Final Verdict

While the final decision on a subwoofer is yours, active subwoofers are the most common variety used in today’s home theaters. Active subwoofers are simple to use, all-in-one, and small. They maximize specific bass frequency channels and increase the effectiveness of your home theater.

Although precise placement is required, most owners believe their active subwoofer to be an excellent complement to their home theater. While the upfront cost may seem to be higher than a passive speaker, keep in mind that you will not require extra power from your amplifier or receiver.

However, if you currently have a receiver with a built-in amplifier, a passive subwoofer can take advantage of this function and save you money. Designers choose passive subwoofers because they are perfect for flush wall mounting and allow many units to be networked together. A passive subwoofer is a viable alternative for larger venues and unique layouts as long as your amplifier supports this arrangement and offers appropriate power.

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