What Is a Woofer? An Audiophile’s Explanation

A sound system isn’t complete until it has a speaker. Whether you’re setting up an audio system for music, movies, or gaming, a woofer or bass speaker will likely be one of your favorite components. But what is a woofer?

A woofer is a loudspeaker driver that produces low-frequency sounds, responsible for handling bass and usually in the form of a large stiff paper cone. It prevents sound distortion, improves accuracy in sound reproduction, and provides a better listening experience. 

The rest of this article will explain how woofers work, the different types, and what to consider when buying one. Read on for these and a brief review of the best woofers on the market!

Woofer

How Does a Woofer Work?

One of the fundamental laws of physics is that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. This principle is no different in the world of audio systems, woofers, speakers, and tweeters.

Bass speakers usually connect to audio receivers and amplifiers. These receivers typically send low-frequency signals in the 20 Hz to 2000 Hz range through electrical current. The current is usually amplified and converted to sound by a magnetic coil that causes the driver’s cone to vibrate back and forth, creating low-frequency waves.

What Are the Types of Woofers?

As mentioned earlier, woofers can handle low-frequency sound waves. Although they all perform the same function, they come in different types that handle various frequencies, producing distinct sounds.

Here are the main types of woofers:

  • Standard woofer: It’s designed to produce frequencies in the 20 Hz – 2000 Hz (2 kHz) range. This type of woofer produces a bassy sound, thanks to the low-frequency sine waves created during vibration. They’re often part of high-end speakers that include tweeters and mid-range speakers.
  • Subwoofer: They’re designed to produce frequencies lower than or equal to 200 Hz, featured in most consumer systems. They’re made of multiple woofers mounted inside enclosures. These woofers produce low-level thumps, an aspect that distinguishes them from standard woofers.
  • Midwoofer: These woofers produce tones in the 200 Hz – 500 Hz frequency range. Although they make the best quality sound within that range, they deteriorate when the sound frequency is below 200 Hz or above 500 Hz.
  • Rotary woofer: This is a loudspeaker that features a coil that moves, changing the pitch of a set of fan blades instead of drivers’ cones. The amplifier can change the pitch of the blades. Besides creating superior sounds at frequencies lower than 20 Hz, these bass speakers consume less power than traditional subwoofers.

Why Do I Need a Woofer?

If you need to enhance your listening experience, you can’t go wrong with a woofer. Using mid-range speakers and tweeters alone comes with several drawbacks, such as missing out on low-frequency sounds. 

Have you ever listened to the three-dimensional effects in music and movie soundtracks? If so, you have an idea of how enriching low-frequency sound waves can be!

Here are five reasons to use a bass speaker:

  • Add depth to audio: One of the main benefits is adding more depth and detail to the music, making it seem like a live performance. When you position these speakers close together, they create an incredible “wall-of-sound” effect which can blow you away when listening to your favorite songs.
  • Enhance bass: Another benefit of having a woofer is that you’ll be able to hear the low-end in your music. This makes for an incredible listening experience and makes you feel like you’re at a live concert when using these speakers.
  • Doesn’t distort sounds: One of the main benefits of a subwoofer is that it doesn’t distort sounds as speakers do. Speakers are often designed for more than one purpose, and when you push them to their limit, they can’t keep up with tweeters and mid drivers, distorting your audio, which can be very irritating.
  • Increases clarity: Subwoofers are capable of picking up every little sound and keeping it intact. This leads to much cleaner audio as you’ll be able to hear bits that you wouldn’t normally on your speakers alone.
  • Seamless blending: A great woofer is a bass-thumping juggernaut. It delivers deep, powerful bass without bleeding into the mids or highs. This is because a woofer has a better transient response than other speakers, which helps keep sound waves from interfering.

What To Look For in a Woofer

Now that you’ve learned what a woofer is and why you need one, you may be interested in getting one. Before we recommend some of the best options on the market, let’s explain some things to consider before buying one. They include:

  • Driver size: You’ll need to decide what size driver will work best for your application. If the woofer’s diameter and depth are too large, it can’t fit in a standard speaker cabinet, and if it’s too small, it might not produce enough bass output. Generally, larger woofers feature larger drivers, making them louder.
  • Power handling capability: Most bass speakers are powered. Although they come in different wattage ratings, you don’t necessarily need more power. Nonetheless, more power means lower chances of overpowering your woofer’s amp. As a result, you’d get more headroom and less distortion.
  • Sensitivity: Sensitivity measures how loud your speakers will be relative to the power they receive. A higher sensitivity rating means that you’ll need less amplifier power for greater output, which can save money and space on your rig. The downside is that some bass speakers with high sensitivities might sound too bright or harsh when played at lower volumes.
  • Frequency response: Frequency response is what dictates the range of sound that your woofer will produce. Higher frequencies mean more clarity and definition in the highs, while lower frequencies are necessary for tight lows. It’s better to pick one with a frequency range from below 20 Hz to 100 Hz or higher.
  • Loading. Generally, woofers are usually sealed or ported. Sealed woofers usually feature smaller cabinets, making them tighter. Because of that, they’re typically considered better for music. On the other hand, ported designs come with passive radiators. Besides their great bass extension, they work better for movies. Of course, pick the woofer with the appropriate loading for your needs.
  • Finish. When choosing woofers, select the ones with rigid cabinets. Ensure they’re well-braced to minimize sympathetic vibrations, which tend to reduce audio quality, hurting your listening experience.

The Best Woofers for Home Audio

MartinLogan Dynamo 700W Subwoofer

The Dynamo 700W is a compact and powerful sub that features a high-current peak amplifier and a 10-in (25.4-cm) cone driver for incredibly deep bass. It comes with a wireless transmitter and receiver, making it your ideal choice if you prefer a minimalist look.  

Klipsch R-120SW Subwoofer

The Klipsch R-120SW is designed for performance, low-frequency response, and minimal distortion. It features a digital amplifier for a more accurate reproduction of notes. Its driver provides deep, quality bass, while its aesthetic design makes it blend seamlessly into any décor.

ELAC Debut 2.0 Subwoofer

The ELAC Debut 2.0 features Bluetooth control for remote operability. The 10-in (25.4-cm) driver, 400W amplifier, and 10-in (25.4-cm) passive radiator produce remarkably low frequencies, creating top-of-the-class realism. If you’re looking for a woofer that’s easy to operate and produces high-quality sound, then the ELAC Debut 2.0 is what you need.

Polk Audio HTS 10 Powered Subwoofer

Polk Audio is touted as one of the best, and it truly deserves a spot among the favorites. Its 200 W amplifier delivers deep, tight, core-pounding bass. If you’re looking for a powerful and stylish woofer, you’ll never go wrong with the Polk Audio.

Conclusion

Setting up an audio system without a woofer is a sure-fire way of missing out on the stunning, realistic audio output it provides. Notably, woofers enable you to hear the lowest music notes or sounds, revealing details that most speakers don’t.

They also improve other speakers’ sonic performance and prevent distortion, making them a worthwhile audio system component.

Finally, when looking for a woofer, pick the one with the appropriate loading, depending on the intended application, right driver size, lower distortion, and rigid cabinets for better audio quality.