Subwoofer Connection Types
(Last Updated On: November 8, 2020)

there are many ways you can connect your subwoofer to your AV receiver, amplifier, soundbar, etc. There are many types of cables you can use as well. 

Best Subwoofer Connection Types

Most subwoofer connection types are simple and easily connect to your subwoofer. With that said, please note that not all subwoofer connections are straightforward.

Fortunately, you can use several connections options to connect your subwoofer with an amplifier, receiver, soundbar, or surround sound speakers, including:

Please note that we have a separate list for the various types of speaker wire connectors

Common Subwoofer Connections

1. RCA or Subwoofer Cables

RCA connections are the most common way to hookup an analog or digital subwoofer with other home audio devices.

Subwoofer cables are similar to RCA cables except that they have extra shielding. There are some other minor differences between RCA and subwoofer cables, but it’s minor.

Most 2-channel audio systems use RCA cables to send analog signals between the subwoofer and surround sound speakers or pair it to a receiver.

Normally, RCA connectors come with white and yellow – L/R audio connectors, and all you have to do is connect the wires into their respective colored ports.

The white is for the left channel, while the red is for the right channel. However, both wires work the same, so it doesn’t matter whether you switch them. These connectors are widely used in camcorders, stereo systems, televisions, et.c.

Pros
  • Widely used in analog and modern audio systems
  • The cables are flexible and easy to handle
  • RCA’s plugging color code system is a no brainer
  • RCA cables are cheap and readily available
Cons
  • RCA connectors don’t support modern audio formats like DTS:X and Dolby Atmos

However, if you plan on using high-quality digital signals, then RFCA is not a good option for you.

 

2. Subwoofer Y Cables

Subwoofer Y cables are similar to RCA/subwoofer cables as well. However, subwoofer Y cables do offer some benefits over standard RCA and subwoofer cables. 

The main benefits of using a Y cable include increased dB levels,  better frequency separation, better bass response on some subs, etc. In general, using a subwoofer cable helps to ensure optimal performance.

 

3. HDMI Connections

When connecting modern, digital audiovisual devices, the HDMI connector is the best option. It’s a common way to connect your TV to your TV. It’s also a good way to connect your soundbar to your subwoofer. 

However, this modern connection type confuses many people, especially when connecting multiple audio sources with the subwoofer.

hdmi cables sub

HDMI connectors look similar to a USB connector but with a wider and thinner shape and tapered edges. This type of connection became popular with modern audiovisual systems as the HDMI cable can transmit digital video and audio signals between devices.

With HDMI connections, you can transmit all compressed and uncompressed stereo signals plus surround sound audio formats.

Any device that supports HDMI connections must support uncompressed stereo LPCM audio, which is considered the minimum standard. However, the audio formats you can enjoy depending on your hardware.

When and How to use HDMI connections?

HDMI connections are generally the best option for most modern subwoofers, TVs, home theater systems, and other audiovisual devices.

connect soundbar and subwoofer

To connect your devices with your subwoofer using HDMI connection, plug one end of the HDMI cable on the output port of your audio source and the other side to the input port of your subwoofer.

It’s easy to locate the HDMI ports as they’re well labeled in most devices, though most sophisticated audiovisual devices feature HDMI Arc or HDMI eARC. These are improved versions of your standard HDMI connection, which allows a device to transmit data in two directions via a single cable. As such, many soundbars and subwoofers today connect to your TV using HDMI ARC or eARC connection.

HDMI ARC supports compressed multi-channel 5.1 DTS and Dolby digital audio, as well as uncompressed PCM stereo. On the other hand, HDMI eARC supports high-resolution audio formats such as Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master, Dolby Atmos, and DTS:X. However, both your subwoofer and TV/Soundbar must support HDMI ARC to use this type of connection, though optical connections are another solid option.

Pros
  • Excellent at transmitting high-resolution audio signals like Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD
  • Easy to connect your TV and other devices as one size fits all
  • Affordable and readily available
  • No audio compression during transmission hence no signal degradation (Lossless audio transmission)
Cons
  • Connecting multiple audio devices to your subwoofer might be a little tricky

 

4. Coaxial/Optical Digital Connections

Optical and coaxial cables are the next best alternatives to HDMI connections when connecting your Blu-ray, set-top box, and other audio sources to your audio system.

Coaxial Optical Digital Connections

These two types of connections are slightly different in appearance, though they transmit digital audio signals in between devices. Fortunately, most subwoofers only offer one option for optical connections so the connection is easy.

The main difference is that coaxial cables have higher bandwidth and sturdy connections than optical connections.

However, you might get electromagnetic or radio frequency interference with coaxial cables, as opposed to optical cables. Nonetheless, the two can support 5.1 surround sound signals with almost an indistinguishable difference in the audio quality.

When To Use Coaxial/Optical Connections

While an HDMI connector is the best option for transferring digital audio signals, a coaxial digital audio cable is the next best way to send audio in between devices.

Coaxial connections allow you to send 5.1 surround sound and standard stereo audio.

A coaxial digital output comes in handy when sending multi-channel audio data from a computer or a DVD player to a subwoofer/ stereo amplifier.

Check whether your TV has a coaxial output port at the back, though new models feature an optical output. Nonetheless, the two work pretty much the same, though you can also use a coaxial-to-optical converter if the ports on your devices don’t match.

Pros
  • Helps to protect from signal loss
  • Secure connection with the input components
  • Delivers high-quality digital signal
Cons
  • Doesn’t support high-resolution surround sound formats like DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD

 

5. Wireless Connections

With modern subwoofers, you can easily eliminate tangled wires in your media room using wireless connections.

Since there’s no physical connection required, you can place your subwoofer anywhere in the room and keep it hidden.

Your subwoofer will receive the audio signals regardless of where the transmitter is positioned, though that also depends on your sub’s transmission mode. 

If you don’t have a wireless subwoofer, you can instead use a wireless subwoofer kit that will enable you to connect your traditional subwoofer wirelessly. 

Does Wireless Transmission Affect The Quality?

A wired and wireless subwoofer will deliver the same audio quality provided they have equal power and output ratings. However, you need to factor in the wireless subwoofer’s transmission mode.  

Pros
  • Makes the subwoofer positioning easier and more flexible
  • Saves on installation and configuration time
  • Helps to eliminate wire tangles in your media room
  • Easier to upgrade any component in your audio system
Cons
  • Highly susceptible to audio distortion during transmission
  • Challenging to add a subwoofer crossover

 

Conclusion

Whether you’re using a wired or wireless subwoofer, connecting it to your other components should be easy.

However, you need to factor in your devices’ available connection options to ensure your subwoofer performs to the maximum.

Nonetheless, HDMI connections remain the best choice for anyone planning to enjoy modern high-resolution audio like Dolby Atmos.