Once you are dealing with any full-blown audio system, you will hear the terms “subwoofer” or “woofer” and “tweeter”. It can be difficult to understand what these jargons mean when discussing audio equipment unless you have a background in the industry.
Subwoofers and tweeters are both speaker drivers. However, woofers are large and produce low frequencies sounds are a rumble of thunder while tweeters are small and produce high frequencies like the chirping of a bird.
In this article, we’ll describe the various driver types we’ll encounter in speaker design right after discussing speaker driver design and overall speaker design.
What Is A Speaker Driver?
As we said, both subwoofers and tweeters are speaker drivers. To understand the difference between them, you need to understand what speaker drivers are.
Most drivers use what we call an electrodynamic design. This design includes a voice coil, magnet, suspension, and speaker cone/diaphragm. Electrodynamic drivers work on the principles of electromagnetic induction.
The vast majority of speaker drivers have an electrodynamic design. These designs include a voice coil, magnet, suspension, and speaker cone/diaphragm and work on the principles of electromagnetic induction.
with the process of electromagnetic induction, when current passes through the voice coil, it causes variations in the magnetic field in and around the voice coil. This causes the voice coil to vibrate, producing the sound you hear.
What Is A Subwoofer or Woofer
Let’s start with subwoofers.
What is a Subwoofer?
A subwoofer is a specialized woofer designed to reproduce the lowest audio frequencies, commonly referred to as deep bass.
Subwoofers vs Woofers
It is important to note that there are some differences between subwoofers and woofers, but they are very similar.
Some people confuse subs for woofers, so let’s differentiate them to know what we are talking about here clearly. Woofers specialize in the audible spectrum’s low end. Remember, the term ‘woofer’ comes from ‘woof,’ which is the sound of a dog’s low bark.
In brief, a woofer is a specialized speaker that covers a narrow audio frequency range. However, a subwoofer is a specialized woofer that covers the very lowest frequency ranges of the audio spectrum, known as deep bass which is also a narrower audio frequency range.
Since subwoofers focus on the lowest-pitched audio frequencies, they are used for providing constant bass.
Subwoofer Design and Form
A subwoofer comprises one or more woofers that are enclosed in a plastic or wooden cabinet.
The woofers are placed within the closure to create adequate room for the introduction of numerous subwoofer variants. You can distinguish these variants depending on their cost, size, efficiency, power handling, and distortion characteristics.
The common subwoofer designs include:
- Bass reflex
- Infinite baffle
Subwoofer Frequency Ranges
Subwoofers typically cover a frequency range of between 20Hz and 200 Hz. Experts regard this as the perfect approximation for consumer products.
However, for professional live sound, the standard frequency is less than 100 Hz. In THX-certified systems, it is below 80 Hz.
There are two types of subs – passive and powered or passive and active subwoofers:
- Passive Subwoofers: You need an external amp to power them. To reproduce extreme bass, you also need more power, so you should properly match the impedance of the amplifier and the subs for maximum power transfer.
- Powered or Active Subwoofers: As the name suggests, these subs have built-in amps. All that the sub requires is a line output from a receiver. This arrangement allows the amp to power the tweeters and mid-range speakers easier.
Key Points to Remember
- Subwoofer produces the lowest frequencies
- Subwoofer is a specialized woofer
- Subwoofer‘s frequency ranges from 20 Hz to 200 Hz (Can differ depending on how it used)
- Subwoofers consist of one or more woofers
- Subwoofers are large
What Is A Tweeter
Tweeters are used for producing sound on the high end of the frequency spectrum. Let’s see more about tweeter to discover their differences and how they complement subwoofers
How Do Tweeters Work?
Tweeter produces the highest frequencies, and that makes them suitable for producing treble for most media. The name originates from ‘tweet,’ which refers to the high pitched sound of birds.
It is often smaller than a sub and can even produce sound that the human ear can neither sense nor hear.
Tweeters vs Super Tweeters
Please don’t mistake regular tweeters super tweeters. They are different. Super tweeters have additional drivers that are designed to take some of the load off the tweeter.
It produces the highest frequencies and gives the tweeter room to focus on producing an accurate narrower band.
Super tweeters are often found in 4-way speakers in conjunction with woofer, mid-range speakers, and tweeter.
I hope you can use this information to distinguish tweeters from other speakers despite that they appear the same as super-tweeters.
Tweeters and Soundstage
Given that high-frequency sound is highly directional, a tweeter has the unique ability to disperse quality sound accurately into the listening space.
The listener may have limited sitting positions when the dispersion is too low. However, when it is too wide, they can lose the sense of direction of the place from which the sound is originating.
Tweeter Form and Design
Unlike other loudspeakers, including subs, tweeters hardly interact with their enclosures. In many instances, they perform perfectly well without a cabinet. The construction is typically similar to standard electromagnetic speakers.
However, they come in a wide variety of designs, which gives them unique sound characteristics.
Tweeters are extremely small, making it impossible for them to produce a lot of volume. Many established manufacturers like Klipsch produce tweeters that are attached to a horn to resolve this problem.
Tweeter Frequency Ranges
Tweeters typically produce frequencies ranging from 2 kHz to 20 kHz. This is what experts consider the higher limit of human hearing. However, some special tweeters can deliver up to 100 kHz.
The frequency range of a tweeter is the main factor that sets it apart from subwoofers.
Most people classify tweeters depending on their diaphragm designs. Here are the common types:
- Cone: These tweeters have a smaller version of the cone that standard speakers use.
- Dome: The tweeter’s voice coil and a dome made from a compatible metal attached. Check out our comparison of dome vs horn tweeters.
- Piezo: A piezoelectric crystal vibrates the diaphragm.
- Ribbon: A magnetic force applied to a ribbon creates the sound. Check out our comparison of ribbon vs horn tweeters.
- Electrostatic: A thin diaphragm between two metal screens, react to electronic signals and creates the vibration required to create sound.
When any of the above speakers are flared to a horn structure, they become horn tweeters.
Key Points to Remember
- Tweeter produces high frequencies
- Tweeter is a specialized speaker
- Tweeter‘s frequency ranges from 2 Hz to 20 Hz (some have a wider range)
- Tweeters are smaller than subwoofers
- Various tweeter types have different capabilities
Which is More Important, Subwoofer or Tweeter?
Many beginners would most likely want to know whether they can use one of these drivers and ignore the other for various reasons, including reducing their budget.
Unfortunately, we cannot say any either of these drivers is more useful than the other. You need a tweeter to get high frequencies as you do a subwoofer to get the lowest frequencies.
For the best performance, you should choose the right type of tweeter and sub. For example, before buying a passive subwoofer, consider whether you can afford an external amp to power it.
At the same time, before using a tweeter, consider whether the diaphragm is suited for your needs. If you want more volume, horn tweeters might be the right choice for example.
Subwoofers and tweeters complement each other to give you the best quality audio. Tweeter’s unique features make it suitable for producing the highly valuable high frequencies. This is in contrast to subwoofers as they deliver the lowest frequencies.