Active vs Passive Subwoofer – What Are the Differences?

Creating a home theater system will require some research and planning. One of the most exciting pieces of the stereo is the subwoofer. Active and passive subwoofers are two of the most common types of subwoofers available today. So if you’re new to the exciting world of home theater audio, you need to know about that very well. If you’re looking for the most popular type of subwoofer, well, knowing active vs passive subwoofers will help you make the decision.

Well, if you are not well aware of the active and passive subs, let me explain then the major differences between the active vs passive subwoofers. So, if you want to get the best sound speaker for your home theater system, you can then know which one would be perfect for you. In this article, we will discuss active vs passive subwoofers as well as how each type is used in different situations.

What Is a Subwoofer?

Subwoofers are used in home theater systems to reproduce low-frequency sound effects and music, which is especially important for movies. In addition, a subwoofer is essentially a speaker that can produce low-frequency sounds such as bass, which is critical to a home theater system.

A subwoofer can have a separate amplifier for the bass frequencies. It produces deep low-frequency sounds and can improve the depth of bass sounds. A Sub adds bass frequencies to music and makes it sound better. This is why they are sometimes called Bass speakers or subwoofers. The lower the frequency, the louder the sound.

The two most common types of subwoofers in audio systems are active and passive. In this modern era, which one would be better for you is a matter of fact in case you really don’t know the differences between them. So, let’s know about active vs passive subwoofers.

Active Subwoofers

Active vs Passive Subwoofer (active subs)

So, what is an active subwoofer? Well, Active subwoofers are usually built-in or powered by their own amplifier. They are ideal for use in a single-speaker system. These types of subwoofers are typically configured to optimize the individual components of the subwoofer, which gives them more performance than passive subs.

However, active subwoofers are a great solution for any home theater owner and designer because they are a compact, single-box amplifier, and speaker system. And that’s why, they can be an efficient, powerful audio solution for any home theater installation.

Check this Polk Audio T15 100 Watt Home Theater Bookshelf Speakers for you.

Moreover, active subwoofers don’t need as many cables as passive subwoofers. In fact, an active subwoofer requires more power than the rest of your speakers.

Active subwoofer systems typically include a large number of components, making them more expensive than passive subwoofer models.

The reason active subs are more expensive is that they include everything you need for optimal bass sound, so they’re often more expensive than passive models.

You know, Dolby Digital 5.1 is more important than ever before, as it established a new standard for sound and video technology.

Although Dolby Digital 5.1 is the current standard for DVDs, it’s true that it’s just a matter of time before something new comes along and becomes the new standard.

The 5.1 standard introduced by Dolby Digital paved the way for a designated bass channel. It was so popular that it continues to exist today on DVD and Blu-ray! It is common for active subwoofers to rely on this channel as well. They make excellent use of the power it provides.

Pros of Active Subwoofers

  • More custom configuration
  • Requires less power (watts) to work
  • Less expensive
  • Compatible with almost any receiver/amplifier
  • The best option for multiple subwoofers for a large home
  • Easier to set up and install
  • Less cables required
  • No external or receiver needed

Cons of Active Subwoofers

  • A bit expensive compared to passive subs
  • Heavier than passive subwoofers
  • Consumes more power

Passive Subwoofers

Passive Subwoofers

If anyone questions you – what is a passive subwoofer?

The short answer would be – the subwoofers need an external amplifier or receiver to run the audio theater is simply called a passive subwoofer. Passive subwoofers are ideal for large rooms that may require multiple units.

The speaker and subwoofer are usually different, but both of them require a power source in order to produce sound.

A Passive subwoofer requires an amplifier or receiver to properly sustain its deep tones. Selecting one that outputs enough current is important. You can check a passive in-wall subwoofer is Monoprice In-Wall Passive Subwoofer.

However, if you’re looking to buy a new set of speakers for your home theater, you’ll need to think about how powerful they should be. It’s important that you have enough power to deliver your audio signal to the rest of your home theater system.

A passive subwoofer is generally more complex to be installed on all the pieces. It all comes down to the fact that you have the source components plus the additional amplifier. Most often this is an indication that you need more wiring for the speaker installation.

Many passive subwoofers are used for wall-mounted home theater systems and speaker boxes, so they often need to have a mounting location on a wall. This may mean that you will need more wiring. Passive subs are most often used by those with custom home theater installation.

Passively-designed subwoofers are often less expensive than active-designed subwoofers but custom installations and a more powerful amplifier can bring the cost of an active system up. However, with some careful planning and design, the passive subs can also deliver much greater performance.

Pros of Passive Subwoofers

  • More custom configuration
  • Requires less power
  • Less expensive compared to active subs
  • Works with almost any receiver or amplifier
  • Can be connected to multiple subwoofers
  • Perfect for large rooms
  • Allows customization of the audio

Cons of Passive Subwoofers

  • The setting is a bit complex
  • Takes more time to set it up
  • Requires more cables and wires

Main Differences between Active and Passive Subwoofers

When it comes to speaker systems, there are two main types of speakers: active and passive. A passive subwoofer is a box that you plug into your audio system and connect to your amplifier. It’s usually powered by an amplifier. The subwoofer has a power cable that goes from the amplifier to the subwoofer. It can be placed in any room of your home, but if you want to maximize its sound, you should place it as close to your listening position as possible.

Active subwoofers are different. They have their own amplification system and a built-in amplifier. They need to be connected to an amplifier in order to work. Active subwoofers have a power source that is powered by an amplifier while Passive subwoofers have no power source, and instead, use the air pressure generated by the woofer to push the sound waves out of the enclosure.

Now, let’s see some of the comparison parameters of active vs passive subs.


A passive subwoofer requires a power source that can provide the necessary power to produce deep and rich bass. In terms of a passive subwoofer, it doesn’t use as much power as an active one. It’s more efficient, so you save money on your electrical bill.

A high-powered amp is a powerful amplifier for your subwoofer, which will provide the necessary power needed to deliver precise bass sounds.

Subwoofers play an important role in home theater systems and other audio systems. Some powered subwoofers also take the load off the speaker drivers, allowing them to produce more sound. This increases the performance of the speaker.

A powered sub will make your system sound better than ever before, but it doesn’t do much for your receivers.


The main differences between an active and a passive subwoofer are in their components. An active subwoofer is a good choice for people who want to get good sound from a smaller, more portable system. External amplification or receiver is completely unnecessary, so the fewer the components, the easier it will be to set up.

However, a passive woofer is not powered by an internal battery or other power sources. The need for external amplification means the process of setting up is complicated, which requires more cables to connect and the system takes up more space. Most people prefer this because they can better customize their sound system, but it also comes with more control and features than the standard system.

Space Required

The two most common types of subwoofers in audio systems are active and passive. The differences between the two are pretty simple. Active subwoofers are more commonly used in larger rooms. These subwoofers have controls that allow you to adjust the bass output. An active subwoofer requires an amplifier to drive it.

Passive subs have no amplifier and instead rely on the power of the room itself as well as they are more commonly used in small to medium-sized rooms. These subwoofers are designed to only produce low-frequency sound and do not have any controls.


If you’re planning to buy only one subwoofer for your audio system, you should look for an active subwoofer.

When it comes to buying multiple subwoofers, you should always consider passive subwoofers as they will make your system more efficient.

Passive and active subwoofers are both small, but an active subwoofer is smaller. A smaller but heavier active subwoofer has more output than a passive subwoofer.

You need to find the right spot for your subwoofer. If it’s placed well, it will give the best output. That’s why you should try and experiment with its placement. Besides, while setting up a passive subwoofer, you will have to deal with more cables and wires.

It is true that with a smaller size and less number of cables and wires, the active subwoofer is easy to install and can be placed in the corner of your room away from your TV.


While both the subwoofers have hard-line connections, if you want a wireless connection, you need to look for a subwoofer with built-in amplification. However, there are two options for hardline connections; one is active and the other is passive. An active subwoofer is preferred if you are looking for a wireless connection as they are readily available.

Wireless subwoofers are rare in the market, but some models come with a wireless system.

As far as the connectivity options are concerned, passive subwoofers have more options. You either have to get an external amplifier or receiver or go with a powered subwoofer. You’ll enjoy a good night of sound if you opt for an active subwoofer. If you don’t like too many cables and wires, choose a subwoofer with few cables and wires.


A comparison of the prices of passive and active subwoofers will not reveal the different between the types. The difference is not significant, and all the products are affordable and easily available.

Although passive models are generally considered to be less expensive than powered ones, amplifiers make these speakers more expensive. A receiver and amp usually cost more than a subwoofer. In addition, you’ll need high-quality cables to provide power and signal.

However, if you already have everything else, a high-quality passive subwoofer is not a big investment for you. In most cases, an active subwoofer is the cheaper option. With a few tools, you’ll have everything you need to operate your system.

Are Woofers and subwoofers different?

Both are similar, but the differences between woofers and subwoofers are in the frequencies that each reproduces. Woofers reproduce low frequencies, and subwoofers reproduce high frequencies.

A woofer covers a wide range of frequencies from 20Hz to 2 KHz. A subwoofer is only capable of covering a narrower range of 20Hz to 200Hz.

A woofer is a specialized speaker, and a subwoofer is a specialized woofer that covers a narrower range of frequencies. Know more.

You can use a subwoofer to reproduce specific low-frequency effects (LFE) such as earthquakes and explosions in movies, and for music, pipe organ pedal notes, acoustic double bass, and tympani.

Active vs. Passive subwoofer – Which one is better?

You don’t need to decide whether a subwoofer is passive or active in order to know how it will perform. You should make sure that you have a subwoofer that will fit the space in which you’re installing it.

Your sound system should be fun to listen to no matter where you are or what the room is like. Make sure all the elements are compatible. Your home theater sound system is made up of many components, and your speakers must work together for a good sound.

Both types of subwoofers have pros and cons. You just need to check it out and make a decision depending on various variables such as space, sound, connecting complicacy, price, power consumption, etc. So, this is all up to you which one you will choose between them. Learn more.

Final Words

If you’re going to buy an audio system for the first time, an active subwoofer would be a wise pick. Subwoofers are great for anyone who already has a good audio system and is looking for a powerful bass enhancement. You don’t have to have a ton of experience with an audio system in order to upgrade for better output and for a larger room, you should opt for a passive subwoofer. In this active vs passive subwoofer article, you can make a decision if you can understand it perfectly. Besides this, you need to research more on it.  

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