Subwoofers have been around for a few decades, but the way they work is not set in stone. That’s because there are two different types of subs: passive and active. Passive subs are powered by an external amplifier while active subs have their own internal amplifier. This allows them to deliver more power without the help of the amplifier. Active subs, in general, sound better than passive subs but can be more expensive.
Keep reading to learn more about the differences between Active vs Passive Subwoofer
What is An Active Subwoofer?
The active subwoofers (also known as powered subwoofers) have their own power source and can be used in one subwoofer configuration. This kind of subwoofers requires more precise placement.
Active subwoofers are usually configured so that each component is optimized. Active subwoofers offer a complete solution for home theater owners and designers because the amplifier is precisely matched to the speaker’s power requirements.
Passive subs don’t require as many cables, but active subwoofers do. This makes setup much easier. However, active subs require more power (watts). While this may seem insignificant to some people when they get their power bills, it is worth noting.
Active subwoofers can be more expensive than passive ones because they provide the best bass sound. Dolby Digital5.1 was the new standard in DVDs. Dolby Digital5.1 established a dedicated bass channel with five channels and a Low-Frequency Effects channel. This channel is still available on DVD, Bluray, and other media. This channel is often referred to as active subwoofers. They can produce high-quality sound with one unit instead of using multiple units.
Read also: How To Connect Subwoofer To Receiver
- Installation: You only need one cable to connect your receiver output (Pre-out/LFE output) and your subwoofer input(s).
- Cost of wiring: You don’t need to run the cabling. This makes it very easy to set up.
- Receiver cost The amplifier is already in the subwoofer so you don’t have to buy a powerful receiver.
- Design: They are usually compact and can be placed in multiple locations within the room.
- The buttons, switches, and knobs of active subwoofers: It can be daunting to look at the back of an active speaker for the first time. Your best friend is the manual.
- Price: They are usually more expensive than passive subs.
- Power: They consume more power (watts), and require one nearby power outlet.
- Compatibility: Your receiver/amplifier must have a subwoofer pre-out port.
- Location: Positioning is more important as only one subwoofer can be used.
What Is A Passive Subwoofer?
Passive subwoofers require external power sources such as amplifiers or receivers. Home theater designers prefer passive subwoofers for large rooms that might require multiple units.
Subwoofers and speakers – which differ in the frequency range, as we explain in our guide- both require power to produce sound. It is crucial to choose an amplifier or receiver capable of sustaining the deep tones created by passive subwoofers. If you plan to use your speakers in conjunction with other home theater sound systems, you will need to think about how much power they will require.
It is possible for passive subs to appear more complicated when it comes down to connecting the parts. Because you not only have the source components but also an amplifier. This means that you will require more cabling.
Most people who have custom-built home theater systems use passive subs. Many passive subwoofers can be mounted on or in a wall to make it part of a custom-made installation. While passive subs are typically less expensive than active subwoofers in general, custom installations and more powerful receivers can increase this cost.
You can also link multiple passive subwoofers together to create larger and more dynamic home theater rooms. You can distribute the bass evenly throughout the room, without worrying about uneven sound distribution or muddied sound.
- Price: Active subwoofers can be more expensive than their passive counterparts. Because they contain fewer components.
- Power: Use less power (watts), and you don’t need a power outlet near your computer.
- Setup: It is possible to have multiple subwoofers, which can be very important for large rooms.
- Receiver: To avoid problems with insufficient power, you must match the specifications of your receiver or amplifier.
- Receiver Cost: The total power that you require will affect the cost of your receiver or amplifier.
- Wiring cost Cables will carry both powers as well as audio signals. You will therefore need better quality cables.
- Installation: You will need more cables to connect your receiver and subwoofer. It will be harder to hide them.
Differences Between Active vs Passive Subwoofer
Our experts will go into greater detail about the build and makeup of active and passive subs now that you have a better understanding of the differences.
As mentioned, the primary difference between active and passive subwoofers comes down to the internal power source. This can be either an amplifier, receiver, or both.
A powered subwoofer can be configured to perfectly work with your home theater speakers. It is easy to find the right cables, source the components you need, and match the power handling outputs of active subwoofers to external amplifiers.
Because there are fewer components, it is easier to set up and requires fewer cables to power the subwoofers.
Passive subwoofers, on the other hand, do not come with a power source. This can be a problem for people who don’t know much about these speakers but it allows users to have more control over the entire system and opens up possibilities for customization.
Passive subwoofers require more components and require a more complex setup to work. Therefore, more cables are required.
The power output level of your home theater speaker system is crucial to its performance. Because of the number of components inside a powered subwoofer, it requires more power to function. One passive subwoofer will require less power than a home theater speaker system.
Although the single passive sub is less powerful, it requires more work to source the external amplifier. Before you decide on the right amplifier, make sure it is compatible with your home theater setup.
Design and Installation
There are pros and cons in both passive and active subwoofer setups. A powered subwoofer is often used in home theaters that have only one subwoofer. These subwoofers are built to maximize low-frequency effects (LFE) channels. This will usually result in better bass quality.
The active subwoofers take up less space than passive subwoofers and are usually smaller. You can move them around freely to find the perfect spot in your space. Active subwoofers tend to be heavier due to the higher number of components. Some active subs are included in our top subwoofers below 500 that can provide powerful, low-frequency bass and sound to your room.
The cables for powered subwoofers can be placed further away from TV receivers, amplifiers, or TVs, as they are only for audio.
Passive home theater subwoofers can, however, be larger and give you greater control over the whole system. Because they are designed to output subwoofer speakers, they are compatible with most receivers and amplifiers.
The passive subwoofer is the best option if you have multiple subwoofers in your speakers.
This was also briefly mentioned in the beginning. The passive sub is cheaper than the other options, but the price can skyrocket when you consider all the components that will be required to make your home theatre a success. Our experts believe that the passive sub will have a smaller impact on your electricity bill, which can help balance the cost.
Although active subwoofers are more expensive, this is a cost that comes with the convenience. For example, the best-seller subwoofer speaker below 200 already contains everything you need, so you don’t have to search for additional parts. They require higher wattage which can lead to higher utility bills.
The passive subwoofers don’t have the same quality sound as active ones. Active subwoofers also produce a higher quality sound. You will get the best sound quality and audio quality because they are optimized for LFE.
When choosing a subwoofer, whether it is powered or passive, our team advises that you don’t look at its price. It is important to consider the quality of low frequency sounds it can produce and which option will best suit your needs and setup.
Both passive and powered subwoofers offer hard-line connections via the speaker output. This allows you to connect passive and powered subwoofers with amplifiers and receivers, as well as other devices.
Your subwoofer might be able to convert to wireless connectivity as wireless technology is becoming more common. Wireless connectivity is only possible for active subwoofers. You can also buy wireless options on the market.
A wireless kit can be added to passive subwoofers in order to make them wireless. This will enable your subs to connect with your system without the need for cables to run on the ground.