Having a good subwoofer that delivers deep bass makes your sound system sound so much better. However, subwoofers are only as good as the wiring and an important aspect of the wiring is the subwoofer connections.
In this article, we will discuss what you need to know about subwoofer connection types as well as the necessary steps to take in choosing them.
What is a Subwoofer?
Simply put, a subwoofer is a speaker that provides bass and lower frequency sounds. It helps to reproduce LFE (lower frequency effect) and also gives the needed bass effect for your movies and music. Subwoofers are one of the most important components of a home theater.
Connecting Your Subwoofer to an Amplifier
For this purpose, you will be needing an amplifier, RCA cables, speakers, speaker wires, and of course your subwoofer. Connecting your subwoofer to an amplifier is pretty much straightforward. Here are the steps:
- First, you should make sure that the subwoofer and amplifier are both switched off, and not plugged in.
- Connect your amplifier’s out to your subwoofer’s input, using the RCA cable. For this purpose, the jack on your amplifier should bear the label “subwoofer output”.
- Once you have connected it, you can proceed to connect the amplifier to the speakers. There are speaker wires available for this purpose and you will find speaker outputs on the back of the amplifier. You can also connect the speakers to the receiver if you don’t wish to connect them to the external amp. In this case, your receiver will have output ports labeled either front or main to connect the speakers.
- Connect the speaker wires to the amplifier, making sure to put the left and right wires in the appropriate ports. After doing this, you can plug in your devices and enjoy the great sound.
Note: Here’s how you can connect your subwoofer to an amp without a subwoofer out port. Also, before you go about this guide, you may want to check out our article on the best subwoofer and amp combos.
Connecting a Subwoofer A Receiver
Connecting a subwoofer to a receiver is very easy and straightforward, provided you know what you are doing.
Once you become familiar with the requirement, it is no problem from then on. Below are a number of ways in which you can connect a subwoofer to a receiver.
1. Connection Using the Low Frequency Effects Subwoofer Output
This method is used by most people. It entails connecting a subwoofer using the subwoofer output of the receiver via a low frequency effects cable.
Low frequency effect ports are specifically for subwoofers, so you can be sure to have no problem as long as your home theater has this port.
This method is quite common as most home theater receivers have this output. All you need to do to set this up is, connect the subwoofer output jack on the amplifier to the “LFE In” jack, which is usually on the subwoofer.
This is quite easy as it is usually only one cable having singular RCA connectors.
2. Connection Using Stereo RCA (Speaker Level Outputs)
If this is the case, and your receiver uses RCA connectors as well, you simply have to plug in an RCA cable to both devices.
Usually, RCA connectors have right and left ports so you must be sure to match this on both the subwoofer and receiver. You can also use subwoofer Y connectors for this purpose.
Sometimes, you might come across a y-cable for both the right and left ports. You should plug in both ports on the two devices. This process is very easy and swift.
3. Wireless Connection
There has been increased usage of wireless subwoofers in recent times, making wireless connections very important.
There are two major types of subwoofer wireless connections:
- Some wireless subwoofers come with built-in wireless receivers. These receivers connect seamlessly to the subwoofer line output of your home theater receiver. For such subwoofers, all you need to do is connect the receivers to the line output, no extra tools are required.
- You can also get a wireless transmitter that connects to any home theater receiver and a powered subwoofer with a line output. This is useful for subwoofers without built-in wireless receivers.
4. Using A Y Splitter Cable
You can also connect your subwoofer to your receiver using a Y splitter adapter cable. This cable is normally connected from the sub out on the receiver to the L and R inputs of the subwoofer.
The main reason this is done is often to increase the decibel levels of the sub, increase the bass quality (for some subwoofers), reduce hum, and prevent the sub for chipping out on low levels when always-on is enabled.
Why Do You Need a Subwoofer?
Better Movie Experience
A lot of people wonder why they need subwoofers when they have traditional speakers. Most of the speakers you get in a home theater system cannot reproduce all the sound frequencies which they receive.
This means that without a subwoofer you do not get the best experience, as some sounds like the lower frequencies are not present.
With a subwoofer, all the surrounding sound and low frequency give you a better movie experience with the 3D sound effect coming off perfectly.
Music Sounds Better
With a subwoofer, your music gets all the extra bass needed to enjoy your music better. With the low-frequency feature, you can be sure to hear all the instrumentals in the songs as well as underlying vocals.
You more or less get a full concert experience in your home theater using your subwoofer.
Better Gaming Experience
For gamers who enjoy playing sports and adventure games, having a subwoofer greatly improves the gaming experience.
The 3D sound effect makes the game soundtrack and in-game sounds come off nicely. With a quality subwoofer, you are in for a swell time playing the latest God of War and Call of Duty games.
How Do I Connect an Active Subwoofer to an Integrated Amplifier?
Although a powered subwoofer (active subwoofer) does not require an amplifier since its amp is built-in, you may still connect one to an amplifier for data transmission.
To do this, you need to connect the two with RCA cables and then plug the powered sub into the wall for its power source.
How to Connect Subwoofer to Receiver without Subwoofer Output
If you have a receiver without subwoofer output, it is possible to connect the Subwoofer out from another device such as a Blu-ray or DVD player, cable box, etc.
First of all, turn off your equipment and unplug any cables that are connected to your stereo system to avoid shorting anything out.
Turn on your Receiver and set the speakers settings to “NO” for all speaker connections except for where you plan on connecting your new powered subwoofers.
For example, if you want an extra connection in addition to the front left/right channels then leave those turned up.
They will receive power but do not play a sound because we will be using them later when getting ready for calibration with our Bass Management software.
Can You Add a Subwoofer to a 2 Channel Amp?
Yes, you can. Adding a subwoofer to an amplifier that has only two channels will allow you to add low-end sound. Most amps have more than three channels, but not all of them do.
If the amp only has two and they are currently used for your left and right speakers (and nothing else), then adding a subwoofer is possible.
All you need to do is run the speaker wire from your amp to the sub. After that, run another set of speaker cables to your speakers and you’re done.
How to Connect a Subwoofer to an Old Amplifier
It’s easy to connect a subwoofer to an old amplifier. Here are the steps:
- Connect the speaker outputs on the source unit using the speaker wire.
- Finally, connect them to the matching inputs on the subwoofer and you’re all done ready to play music.
You can even power speakers from the amp or receiver at the same time.
In addition to all the information about subwoofer connections above, it is important that you make sure any subwoofer you choose ticks all the boxes. Determine whether or not you can deal with an external amplifier before making a choice between a passive subwoofer and a powered subwoofer. If you have a passive subwoofer, check out our guide on how to connect a passive subwoofer to a receiver.
Be sure to check that all wires and ports are in good condition to ensure an easy and secure connection. The size and structure of your home theater room is also very important in determining if a front-firing subwoofer or down-firing subwoofer is the best option for you.
Also, be sure of the connection type before setting up your home theater. Once you do all of these things, you can be sure to enjoy quality sound.
Norvan Martin is the founder of BoomSpeaker.com. He is a professional Electronics Engineer and is passionate about home theater systems and AV electronics. BoomSpeaker was created as an online hub to share his knowledge and experiences as it relates to home theaters and home audio electronics.