A subwoofer is an important component of any audio system. It provides accurate and crisp reproduction of the bass frequencies. Wiring a subwoofer is a process that needs to be done correctly to ensure it performs effectively.
Can you use regular speaker wire for a subwoofer?
Using regular speaker wire to connect your subwoofer to a receiver will allow it to function properly. The only potential issue is that the cable could potentially pick up radio signals and output them via the subwoofer if it is not adequately shielded.
Subwoofer cables are shielded, which prevents interference from tarnishing the output. Speaker wire, on the other hand, is generally unshielded because it is designed to carry an amplified signal.
Unshielded cables are more prone to interference, especially those of the longer variety. In this guide, I’ll answer all of your questions regarding the use of regular speaker wire with a subwoofer.
Using A Subwoofer With Regular Speaker Wire
Although subwoofers are intended to be used with their own specifically designed wires, they are also able to operate using speaker wire. However, this method is likely to be less reliable than the former, due to the way that both speakers are constructed.
- One of the main factors that will impact a subwoofer’s compatibility with speaker wire, is whether it is an active or passive device.
If the subwoofer is active, this means it has its inbuilt amplifiers. Conversely, if it is passive, it operates in the same way as a regular speaker.
An active subwoofer usually requires a certain type of connection.
This is called “phono.” The reason for this is because phono connections can carry a signal from the output terminal which is dedicated to the subwoofer, on the sound system’s main receiver or amp. This low-level connection requires a single wire.
On the other hand, a passive subwoofer operates in the same way as a regular speaker.
Passive subwoofers require an external amplifier to drive them. The majority of modern receivers for AV surround systems are only capable of carrying amplification for the channels dedicated to the surround sound. Rather than using a dedicated subwoofer wire, the bass is sent through and driven by speaker wire.
With that being said, active subwoofers are not incapable of being driven by regular speaker wire. Although they certainly perform better using specifically designed, phono wire which carries the signal from the dedicated subwoofer output, it is possible to use them as part of a regular stereo sound system.
- The issue that is likely to arise when using regular speaker wire for an active subwoofer, is less definition between the bass frequencies and the mid and treble frequencies that are driven by the tweeters.
Stereo amps don’t possess the ability to separate the sub frequencies, and therefore the subwoofer is forced to filter them out of the speaker output. It then has to redirect the higher frequencies back to the speakers. To do so, you would need to use a regular speaker wire.
Using the aforementioned method causes a significant current to be carried through the speaker wire, which isn’t ideal.
The effectiveness will be largely dependent on the capabilities of your receiver and speakers. This high-level connection is not advised if you want to get the best possible performance out of your subwoofer, but it is a viable option nonetheless.
Subwoofers are used for bass, and therefore produce low-frequency outputs which, to generate the low-end, require a significant increase in power compared to speakers that are used for mid or higher frequencies.
Using regular speaker wire for this purpose is not ideal, and it is advised to use thicker wire which is better equipped at handling the increased current produced by the subwoofer.
Check out this Youtube video from PS Audio on how to choose the best subwoofer for audio.
The Best Way To Wire A Subwoofer
As I explained in the previous paragraphs, it is possible to use regular speaker wire for a subwoofer. The most effective way though is to use a specifically-designed subwoofer cable. This is likely to cause a noticeable increase in sound quality.
Where subwoofer wire differs from speaker wire, is in its construction and capabilities. The cables are fitted with RCA connectors on either end, but compared to your average RCA cable, they produce a sound that is much clearer, bass-heavy and superior in quality.
In addition to transmitting regular audio signals, subwoofers produce deep bass signals.
When they are used in a sound system, they greatly enhance the listening experience by producing accurate and crisp low-end frequencies. Without a subwoofer, you don’t get the full experience of a movie, TV show, or song’s bass.
Another reason that subwoofer wire is better than using regular speaker wire is the materials that it is composed of.
The bass conductors are made from a solid copper core, which is then coated in an additional wire. This allows the low-frequency signal to be transported efficiently and results in an overall clearer, more responsive sound.
As long as the receiver or amplifier caters for RCA connection, using subwoofer wire is possible. The design of the wire makes it a line-level, analog audio cable which can transmit low-end analog audio to connect to the line-level input of your stereo system.
The reason that you can use regular speaker wire as a substitute for subwoofer cable, is that the differences between the two are very minimal. Rather than creating a new cable for subwoofers, manufacturers simply alter the existing RCA speaker wire to tailor it, especially for this purpose.
From a physical standpoint, the difference between subwoofer cables and regular speaker wire is that the former contains fibers that are wound more tightly within the cable’s shielding mesh. In some cases, they are layered with additional mesh layers.
From a sonic perspective, the construction of a specifically-designed subwoofer RCA cable is much better at transmitting bass than your regular speaker wire, which is likely to cause a slight compromise of the low-end frequencies when employed for this purpose.
Regular Speaker Wire Capabilities
To get to the bottom of why it is possible to use regular speaker wire for a subwoofer, we need to analyze speaker cables and their capabilities.
Audiophiles are embarked in a constant discussion over the quality of speaker wires, and the difference they make to a sound system, whether it includes a subwoofer or not.
Some proclaim that high-quality speaker wire is one of the most important investments you can make, while others dismiss it as having minimal influence on the overall listening experience.
Speaker wire is essentially the cable that connects speakers and amplifier sources, or in this case, subwoofers. This type of wire is defined by its three main properties, which are:
Of these three qualities, the most important is resistance. A speaker wire that offers low-resistance lets more of the sound source’s audio power pass through the coil and therefore creates a more full-bodied output.
Resistance is especially crucial when using regular speaker wire for a subwoofer.
The point at which it begins to impact the performance of a subwoofer or speaker is when the resistance passes the threshold of 5% of the impedance offered by the sub or speaker.
What Impacts Resistance?
Two main aspects affect the resistance of speaker wire when used with a subwoofer. The first is the length of the wire and the second is the area of the wire’s cross-section. To simplify, the shorter the wire, the less resistance will be present.
This is why it’s a good idea to minimize wire length when connecting a subwoofer using a regular speaker cable. Indeed, logistics have to be taken into account, and adequate space between the speakers and the subwoofer has to be accounted for.
The speaker wire’s gauge, or cross-section area, is also likely to impact its interaction with a subwoofer. The thicker the wire, the less resistance will be created. In the table below, you can see how the wire’s gauge is related to its resistance.
|Wire Gauge||2 Ohms||4 Ohms||8 Ohms|
What is a tweeter?
Tweeters are components within a speaker system that drive the high-end frequencies. They are smaller in size compared to low-end frequency drivers, because high frequencies are made up of smaller sound eaves.
Do you need to use an amp with a subwoofer?
Although there are methods for using a subwoofer without an amplifier, it is better to pair the two. The amplifier delivers a much-needed boost to the subwoofer, strengthening the bass frequencies.
What frequencies does a subwoofer produce?
Typically speaking, subwoofers have a frequency range of 20-200Hz. This differs depending on the model, but in general, this range allows them to cover the main low-end frequencies.