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What Is the Difference Between a Woofer and a Subwoofer?

If you’re a car audio enthusiast, you may have heard the terms “woofer” and “subwoofer” used interchangeably.

But what is the actual difference between them? Let’s find out.

Subwoofers reproduce frequencies below 30 hertz, while woofers cover the low- to mid-frequency range of 60 to 2000 hertz. Subwoofers are larger and heavier than woofers and require more power to operate, often from a dedicated amplifier.

As an Amazon Associate, ImproveCarAudio will receive a small commission from qualifying purchases made through the links in this article.

Tip: In many car audio installations, woofers are misused as full-range speakers, but they are designed to cover only mid-bass frequencies.

If you want to fill a mid-bass gap, I recommend checking out my favourite mid-woofers, Morel Hybrid MW Serie or more budget-friendly JBL from GTO Stadium Serie with their coaxial or system design (links to Amazon).

In the article below, I’ll explore the difference between woofers and subwoofers in more detail, including their key features, benefits, and drawbacks.

Woofers vs. Subwoofers: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to car audio, many terms are thrown around. Two that you’ve probably heard are “woofers” and “subwoofers.” But what exactly is the difference between the two?

Woofers are a type of speaker specifically designed to reproduce low-frequency sounds. These frequencies are generally in the range of approx 60 to 2,000 Hz.

To produce these low frequencies, woofers need to be much larger and heavier than tweeters or mid-range speakers (which reproduce higher than woofer frequencies).

On the other hand, subwoofers are explicitly designed to reproduce very low frequencies, often starting below 30 Hz.

These frequencies are so low that they’re below the range of human hearing. However, we can still feel their vibrations, especially those with 20Hz or below.

Skar Audio SDR-12 D4 12" 1200 Watt Max Power Dual 4 Ohm Car Subwoofer

Because subwoofers reproduce such low frequencies, they must be installed in solid enclosures and only rarely installed in trunks as free-range subwoofers.

The free-range subwoofers are rare in car audio and do not tend to perform as well as subwoofers in solid enclosures.

If you want to add a subwoofer to your car audio system, I recommend checking out Skar (link to Amazon).

How Do Woofers and Subwoofers Work?

Subwoofers and woofers work in a similar way, with the main difference being in the size and frequency range.

Both drivers receive the signal from the amplifier, convert it into sound and then emit the sound waves.

Both woofers and subwoofers need an amplifier to function correctly. This is because the radio sends low-frequency signals, referred to on soundtracks as low-frequency effects (LFE), via electrical current to the amplifier.

Then the amplifier amplifies the current and converts it to sound through a magnetic coil that causes vibration of the driver’s cone.

Woofers are smaller than subwoofers (although some subwoofers are made in a 6.5″ or 8″ design), and they work in the frequency range of 60Hz-2000Hz.

They produce mid-bass frequencies, mainly built-in car door speakers, and can have coaxial or component speakers. A woofer uses a cone that is attached to the single coil spring. The size of the cone determines the frequency range that the woofer can emit.

On the other hand, subwoofers are larger, and they work in the frequency range of 20Hz-200Hz. As a result, they produce low-bass frequencies and are used in cars to improve sound quality.

KICKER 41L7124 12" Q-Class L7 Subwoofer w/Dual 4-Ohm Voice Coils

A subwoofer uses stronger cones that depending on the type, can be either circle or square, for example, Kicker L7 Serie (link to Amazon). 

Unlike woofers, which have only one voice coil, subwoofers can have either one voice coil (SVC) or two voice coils (DVC), affecting their performance and bass quality.

Woofer vs. Subwoofer: Which Is Right for You?

It depends on what you are looking for in a speaker, but in a correctly designed car audio system, you should have both types installed.

A woofer is suitable for you if you want a speaker that will produce mid-bass frequencies.

JBL Stadium GTO 860C - 6 X 8" Component Car Audio Speaker System

However, a subwoofer is the better choice if you are looking for a speaker that will produce the lowest bass frequencies.

Here is a table summarizing the difference between woofers and subwoofers:

Woofers

  • Mid-bass frequencies
  • 60Hz-2000Hz frequency range
  • Coaxial or component speaker design
  • Cones are attached to a single coil spring.
  • The size of the cone determines the frequency range.

Subwoofers

  • Low-bass frequencies
  • 20Hz-200Hz frequency range
  • Can have different number of voice coils
  • Circle or square cone shape
  • Cones are more robust than woofers.

The Benefits of Having a Woofer in Your Car

Woofers can provide a number of benefits to your car audio system, including:

#1. Better Sound Quality:

Woofers reproduce mid-bass frequencies that are responsible for creating full and rich sound. This can significantly improve the overall sound quality of your car’s audio system.

#2. Improved Soundstage:

Woofers can help create a wider and more spacious soundstage. This is because mid-bass frequencies are responsible for giving sounds their directional cues from the speakers on both sides of the car.

#3. Tighter Bass:

Woofers can provide tighter and better-defined mid-bass as compared to subwoofers. This is because woofers have a smaller cone surface area, which results in less cone flex.

The Benefits of Having a Subwoofer in Your Car

Subwoofers can provide a number of benefits to your car audio system, including:

#1. Enhanced Bass:

Subwoofers are designed to reproduce low-bass frequencies. This means that they can provide enhanced bass as compared to woofers.

#2. Improved sound quality:

The enhanced bass that subwoofers provide can also improve sound quality because the low-bass frequencies are responsible for giving sounds their fullness and richness.

#3. Improved soundstage:

Subwoofers can also help create a broader and more spacious soundstage.

The low-bass frequencies make the space better filled with low-end sounds.

Can I Use a Woofer as a Subwoofer?

You cannot use a woofer as a subwoofer because woofers are designed to reproduce mid-bass frequencies, while subwoofers function by reproducing the lowest frequencies.

You can have several woofers installed in the car, even as standalone drivers in dedicated enclosures, but although they will create strong and clear mid bass, they will not be able to make the same low-end sound as a quality subwoofer.

How to Install a Woofer in Your Car

Installing a woofer in your car is a relatively simple process and is not much different from installing standard coaxial speakers in the car:

#1. The first thing you need to do is to remove the trim panel on the door. Once the trim panels are removed, you can access the speakers.

#2. Next, unscrew the speakers from the door panel and disconnect the wires. Once the cables are detached, remove the speakers from the door.

#3. Now, connect the wires to the new speaker. Once the cables are connected, you can place the new speaker on the door and screw it to the door panel.

Finally, you must reassemble the door panel and screw it back.

How to Install a Subwoofer in Your Car

Installing a subwoofer in your car can be a bit more challenging than installing a woofer, but it is still a relatively simple process:

#1. The first thing you need to do is to find a suitable location for the subwoofer. The trunk is often the best location for the subwoofer.

#2. Next, you must select the subwoofer’s amplifier and connect it to the battery and stereo via remote wire.

#3. Finally, you must run the wires from the subwoofer to the amplifier. The best way to do this is to use a speaker wire of adequate gauge.

Do I Need an Amplifier for My Woofer or Subwoofer?

An amplifier is not required for a woofer, but it is recommended. When it comes to the subwoofers, an amplifier is a must unless you use a powered (active) subwoofer.

This is because amplifiers can provide more power than no car stereo can achieve.

Having a subwoofer without an amplifier will not give you any good bass. 

The subwoofer will work, but it won’t produce any sounds you want to hear. Instead, there will be just a faint rumble.

What Size Woofer or Subwoofer Do You Need for Your Car?

The woofers have a standard common size of 6.5″, which can be installed in most cars without any fitment issues.

The subwoofers have a bit more diverse size options, and their size actually depends mainly on the size of the trunk. The most popular and standard sizes are 10″, 12″, or 15″ with either single or dual enclosure designs.

If you have a smaller car, I recommended to go with a 10″ subwoofer. If you have a larger car, such as an SUV, it is recommended to go with a 12″ or 15″ subwoofer so the cabin can be better filled with the low frequencies.

Also, a larger subwoofer can naturally create more SPL (sound pressure level), so it will be easier to reach higher volumes without distorting the sound.

How Much Does a Woofer or Subwoofer Cost?

The woofers can cost anywhere from $30 to $200, depending on the quality and features. As for the subwoofers, they can cost anywhere from $100 to $1000, again depending on the quality and features.

For the woofers, there is no need to spend a lot of money unless you are looking for high-end models, and the vast majority of woofers are combined with tweeters in either coaxial or system design.

The subwoofers, on the other hand, can be quite expensive, but it is worth it if you want to create a quality sound system in your car.

The simplest way to get a solid and deep bass is to buy a quality, ready-made subwoofer set with a loaded enclosure, designated amplifier and all the wiring.

Skar Audio Single 10" Complete 2,000 Watt EVL Series Subwoofer Bass Package - Includes Loaded Enclosure with Amplifier

An excellent example is the SKAR Single SDR Package (link to Amazon).

This package has several main pros over similar products:

  • Strong and deep bass
  • One of the cheapest sets on the market
  • Clear installation diagram
  • Easy set-up

Troubleshooting Your Woofer or Subwoofer

If the woofer or subwoofer is not working correctly, there are a few things you can do to try and troubleshoot the problem:

#1. Check all the wiring connections and make sure they are tight and secure.

#2. Ensure the stereo and amplifier are turned on and set to the correct volume.

#3. Check all the fuses and replace them if necessary.

#4. Check the amplifier’s gain setting and ensure it is set correctly.

If, after checks, you still have a problem with the sound coming from the woofer or the subwoofer, you may need to take it to a professional to have a look at it.

FAQ

What Is the Difference Between a Woofer and Subwoofer?

The main difference between a woofer and a subwoofer is that a woofer covers frequencies between 60 Hz to 2 kHz, while a subwoofer covers frequencies between 20 Hz to 200 Hz.

Additionally, woofers are typically larger than subwoofers.

Can I Use a Subwoofer Without an Amplifier?

You will need an amplifier to power the subwoofer. Without an amplifier, the subwoofer will not produce any sounds you want to hear.

What Size Woofer or Subwoofer Do I Need for My Car?

Most woofers have a standard common size of 6.5″, which can be installed in most cars without any fitment issues.

The subwoofers have a bit more diverse size options, and their size actually depends mainly on the size of the trunk. The most popular sizes are 10″, 12″, or 15″.

How Much Does a Woofer or Subwoofer Cost?

The woofers can cost anywhere from $30 to $200, depending on the quality and features. As for the subwoofers, they can cost anywhere from $100 to $1000, again depending on the quality and features.

What Is the Difference Between a Coaxial Speaker and a Component Speaker?

The main difference between coaxial and component speakers is that coaxial speakers have the tweeter and woofer in the same housing.

In contrast, component speakers have the tweeter and woofer in separate housings.

Additionally, component speakers typically provide better sound quality than coaxial speakers.

Can I Use a Subwoofer Without a Box?

You can use a subwoofer without a box, but it will not perform as well as it would with a box. The enclosure helps to increase the bass response, increases the sound pressure, and protects the subwoofer from damage.

Do Subwoofers Come With an Amplifier?

Unless there are active models, most subwoofers do not come with an amplifier. Therefore, you will need to purchase an amplifier separately to power the subwoofer.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there are many differences between woofers and subwoofers, including their size, frequency range, and price.

Woofers are smaller and lighter than subwoofers and cover frequencies between 60 Hz and 2 kHz, while subwoofers cover frequencies between 20 Hz and 200 Hz.

Additionally, subwoofers cost more than woofers and need an amplifier to function correctly, while many woofers can be powered by the car radio.

When choosing between a woofer and a subwoofer, you must consider the size of the vehicle, the type of music you typically listen to, and your budget.

If you are looking for deep bass and are on a tight budget, then standard woofers in the coaxial speakers will do the job.

If you are looking for a better sound dynamic and are willing to spend more money, then a subwoofer is the way to go.