Different Types of Subwoofers: The Complete Guide

Norvan Martin
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You need a subwoofer to add some extra oomph to your audio system and give your music the depth you desire. To get this kind of experience, you should go for a sub designed with your needs in mind. Now, which types of subwoofers are suitable for your needs? Read on for all the important details about different types of subwoofers.

There are many different types of subwoofers including active subs that have a built-in amp and passive subs that use external amps. There are ported subs that have a port in the cabinet and sealed subs that use closed boxes. Others have passive radiators as ports. There are also front and down-firing subwoofers as well as bandpass and horn-loaded subwoofers.

Choosing the best subwoofer is a difficult task. It’s not just about your personal preference but also the setup of the rest of your system. Let’s discuss the different types of subwoofers so that you can make an informed and smart decision. 

There are several different types of subwoofers with varying functionality and features. Below is a list of the most common types of subwoofers:

  • Passive Subwoofers
  • Component Subwoofers
  • Enclosed Subwoofers
  • Ported Subwoofers
  • Front And Down Firing
  • Two Separate Chambers
  • Passive Radiators
  • Horn Loaded Subwoofer
  • Tapped Horn Subwoofers
  • 12 Inch Subwoofers
  • 15 Inch Subwoofers
  • Bass Tubes
  • Shallow Mount Subwoofers
  • SelfAmplified Bass Solutions

When looking for the best subwoofer, you should start by considering the options that you have. Here are the main types of subwoofers that might give you the best listening experience, depending on your entertainment needs:

Powered or Active Subwoofers

This sub combines the subwoofer speaker and an amp inside the same cabinet. For your powered subwoofer to serve you well, all you need is a line output (pre-out, LFE out, sub-out) from your receiver and AC power.

active subwoofer

This arrangement is unique in that it takes away a vast power load from your receiver or amplifier. So, it allows your receiver or amplifier to power your tweeters and the mid-range more easily.

Due to the high degree of efficiency, you might find this subwoofer type the best option. The subwoofer’s small size and simple installation are other reasons you could find them highly valuable.

To learn more, check out our article on active vs passive subwoofers

Passive Subwoofers

External amplifiers power these types of subwoofers. The amount of power you require for these amps to serve you well is directly proportional to the bass you need. 

passive subwoofer

For example, to reproduce extreme bass, your receiver or amplifier should output an amount of power that’s enough to sustain bass effects through the sub without being drained fully.

Other factors, including the speaker requirements and the size of the room, can also determine your passive subwoofer’s power requirements.

To learn more, check out our article on active vs passive subwoofers

Component Subwoofers

The component subwoofer refers to the speaker driver itself and is designed to function in different subwoofer enclosures.

component subwoofer

Depending on the subwoofer’s arrangement, it can serve you well on low or high power. Overall, component subwoofers can be the best choice if you want a custom-built audio system.

Enclosed Subwoofers

Enclosed subs refer to component speakers that come pre-mounted in the correct box.  If you want to improve your bass quality but don’t have adequate time to custom-make your sound system, it could be the ideal choice.

enclosed subwoofer

However, you should bear in mind that component subwoofers offer a much better raw bass production than enclosed ones. Moreover, you require an external amplifier to power these subs.

Ported Subwoofers

A ported sub comes with an extra opening or hole, known as a port. It allows air to escape increases the subwoofer’s bass level and guarantees you a rich, thick sound.

ported subwoofer

These subs can move a lot of air and fill up a very large room with sound.

Front and Down Firing

Front-firing subs have speakers that are mounted pointing forward. These units radiate sound to their fronts and sides.

front firing subwooferdownfiring subwoofer

On the other hand, down-firing subwoofers direct the sound toward the ground and the front. To get the most out of these subs, you should place them on stands or shelves.

Two Separate Chambers

A bandpass speaker has two separate chambers. One of them has a port that releases radiation that originates from the front cone.

Two Separate Chamber subwoofer

You are highly likely to find them in professional live sound equipment like line array systems that feature large arenas. Moreover, many of them are used in sub-cabinets designed for car audio.

Bandpass subwoofers are highly complex, but they allow for clean, natural bass output. Moreover, they will enable you to specify the bass levels you want to come through your speakers.

Passive Radiators

 Some subwoofer designers take the ported speakers idea a step further. They use two passive radiators that aren’t wired to the amplifier instead of the port. The movement of these radiators allows sound to escape with a great frequency range. 

passive radiator subwoofer

If you look around, you’ll notice that passive radiators are standard components of many modern Bluetooth speakers and subwoofers.

Many music enthusiasts now understand that passive radiators allow them to get a decent low-frequency range irrespective of the subwoofer’s size. In other words, these radiators make it possible for you to design and use small enclosures that deliver excellent sound quality.

Horn Loaded Subwoofer

Horn-loaded subwoofers produce highly directional sound, meaning they typically sound much better than their counterparts.  How?

horn loaded subwoofer

They focus on the sound that could have been spread out in various directions and channel it to the desired direction through a longhorn speaker.

Tapped Horn Subwoofers

Subwoofers with tapped horns use the two sides of a high-powered, long-excursion driver in a ported cabinet. It comes with two paths that combine in phase at the mouth of the horn.

12-Inch Subwoofers

These are the most versatile subwoofers and can adequately handle a wide assortment of music. 

12-Inch Subwoofer

If you are an audiophile with a big appetite for bass, you can go for it without looking back. Experienced music lovers agree that it’s excellent for producing the extra bass you need.  Therefore, these subs are less responsive and are ideal for slow-paced music like Blues, Rap, Rhythm, and Rnb.

To learn more, check out our article on 10-inch vs 12-inch subwoofers

15-Inch Subwoofers

These subwoofers are the most powerful and deliver the deepest bass given their favorable large size. 15-Inch Subwoofer

Nonetheless, they lack the tight responsiveness that small subwoofers like 8-inch and 10-inch speakers offer (These small subs are best for vehicles).

If you like listening to Rap, Hip Hop, and other EDM genres, you’ll find 15-inch subwoofers incredibly beneficial.

Bass Tubes

Bass tubes are enclosed in tubes and allow you to add bass to your audio system without using too much space in your car. Many drivers think that these subwoofers can’t deliver an incredible sound. However, they are easy to install and are, therefore, a great choice for DIY installation.

Bass Tube subwoofer

If you are looking for the best bass tubes, you can consider the options made by Pyle and Bazooka. The first one offers bass tubes that range from 8″ to 12″. They can handle as much as 800 watts. The latter option provides car subs ranging from 6″ to 12″.

To learn more, check out our article on subwoofer bass tubes vs bass boxes.

Shallow Mount Subwoofers

As the name suggests, these subwoofers have a shallow mounting depth. Due to this, they are suitable for installation in tight spaces. That’s the reason you are highly likely to find shallow-mount subwoofers in places such as in the back dashboard and under the car seat.

Shallow Mount Subwoofers

Shallow mount subwoofers are ideal for installation in small-sized car trucks. They offer tight bass and take little space. However, they may not be the best for you if you prefer listening to loud, booming sounds as you drive.

Self-Amplified Bass Solutions

Designers of these subwoofers build them into enclosures that in-line amps power. Due to their unique structure, these car subs are useful for a quick and easy upgrade that allows you to save a lot of space in your vehicle. However, like the bass tube, they aren’t the best if you want an incredibly powerful sound.

One of the best-rated all-in-one bass solutions that you can consider if you value quality is the Infinity BassLink series.

Please note that there are also powered and passive car subwoofers. The size of your sub can also directly influence the sound quality you receive. In other words, if you want incredible sound, you should consider going for large-sized car subwoofers.


How Do I Set Up Passive Subwoofers?

First and foremost, you need to have your passive subwoofer connected to one of the speaker connectors. After that, you can connect the speaker wire to the speaker line of the subwoofer.

Notably, there will be ‘Speaker In’ ports on your passive subwoofer, while taking the remaining vigil that your subwoofer does not admit excess power way above what the receiver can supply.

Is It Dangerous To Connect A Passive Subwoofer To A Receiver?

Yes, it can get dangerous to link passive subs to a receiver because passive subwoofers require much more power to be able to reproduce the bass so experienced. Consequently, there is a likelihood that your receiver may not distribute the requisite power for your subwoofer to function most favorably.

Please do not forget that you might even cause the receiver to blow if you are not careful with your subwoofer, especially when comes to older or poor-quality devices.

What Size Subwoofer Has The Deepest Bass?

In the market are 15-inch subwoofers, which offer the most powerful and deepest bass thanks to their enormous size. These subs, however, lack the tight responsiveness of their tiny counterparts, an essential component. The subs will take much of your space which is why they are commonly used in large trucks and SUVs.


You can see you have several different types of subwoofers out there that you can use. Before choosing one, consider whether you’ll get the right amount of bass, need an external amplifier, and the like. That’s all you should do to avoid choosing types of subwoofers that you don’t need.

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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. My email: [email protected]  Connect on Pinterest and Linkedin