The Difference Between a Passive and Powered Subwoofer

We can't imagine of a big stereo system or home theater without a subwoofer. Every other thing can be compromised, but this? No way!

The main purpose of installing a loudspeaker is to get that special hit - the strong rhythmic wave of bass. When we're looking for a system, bass is always our main priority. Because it makes the music more interesting and TV shows more captivating.

For a big system, some speaker cabinets aren't enough to bring that fascinating thrill. That's when the subwoofer is needed. It enhances the depth of low-end frequencies and makes them stronger.

Anyway, there are two types of subwoofers - passive subwoofer and powered subwoofer. Yes, these two types are just like the general types of speakers.

But before observing their differences, you must know what these subwoofers actually are.

Powered Subwoofer: The common type of subwoofer. In fact, most subwoofers belong to this category. Powered subwoofer is completely like active speaker, it has its own built-in amplifier.

I hope you understand now, why the most active speakers are subwoofers actually.

Passive Subwoofer: Though most subwoofers are powered subwoofers, there are plenty of passive subwoofers as well. These subwoofers bear the same characteristics like a passive speaker. They don't include any amplifier, have to use an additional amplifier to boost low-end notes.

Now, let's find out the differences.

Difference Between a Passive and Powered Subwoofer


There's no surprise in that, is there?

If we consider the previous definitions of powered and passive subwoofer, we already know how they are distinguished based on the amplifier's presence.

Though sometimes it may seem unnecessary to use an amplifier for subwoofer. Many people will claim that it's the treble and mid-range that need to be amplified more because naturally these sounds get deemed under the bass produced by a strong subwoofer.

This is nothing but a poor misconception. The main purpose of installing a system or setting a home theater up is to get those low end notes that always seem to get lost when we're using normal system. Yes, loudspeaker is actually meant for bass and needs the most amplifying, more than high and mid-range notes.

So, an amplifier is a must for a subwoofer and this is what makes the big difference. Whether the subwoofer includes an amplifier or not, this is what depicts its type - passive or powered. If you let the amplifier issue go, there aren't much differences between these two speakers.


Obviously a certain amount of power is required to run the subwoofer. The power consumption amount also varies with the subwoofer type.

Since powered subwoofer is equipped with more stuffs and features a built-in amplifier, it requires more power to run.

On the other hand, due to simple mechanism, passive subwoofer doesn't need much power. Moreover, since it's connected to other receivers to get to the actual system receiver, it uses a portion of the power.


These two subwoofers' connection varies as well.

When you're connecting a powered speaker, there isn't much work for it. All you gotta do is, take the subwoofer cable and connect it to the system receiver or processor. Simple as that!

Passive subwoofer connection is a bit complicated. Because there is an additional amplifier too to take care of. This amplifier has its own output for connection.

At first, you gotta connect that output to the subwoofer output on the receiver. After establishing a connection between the receiver and the amplifier, the amplifier output terminal for the actual subwoofer has to be connected to it.

Yes, where the powered subwoofer connection can be formed in one step, you have to perform two steps for a passive subwoofer.


Powered subwoofer is equipped with an amplifier and other drivers, most of which aren't included in a passive subwoofer. Considering this, powered subwoofers tend to be expensive.

However, even though the passive subwoofer is cheap, the total cost is not less since a lot of other things are required to be added to the subwoofer.

Set Up

The setup of a powered subwoofer is very simple. Since everything is already included inside, you don't have to connect it to a lot of stuff and thus, the work becomes easier.

To get proper delivery, you have to connect the passive speakers to other components. So, the setup is less quick than the powered subwoofer's setup.

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