SUBWoofer vs. Woofer - diyAudio
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Old 29th May 2009, 03:06 PM   #1
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Location: Knoxville, TN
Default SUBWoofer vs. Woofer

So what makes a woofer a "SUB" woofer? Is it a particular specification? It's ability to go deeper than a "woofer"? It's in-ability to extend much above the 100hz neighborhood? Is it how it is used? Has the audio industry labeled woofers with the "SUB" prefix incorrectly so as to draw attention like using "turbo" or "nitro" etc. ? Is a "SUB" woofer necessary for playing music or does it cover where music seldom goes?

Some official professional clarity on this subject would be greatly appreciated. If there is a thread/link I've missed please post it.
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Old 29th May 2009, 04:02 PM   #2
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All comes down to the First Rule of Marketing:

"The first liar doesn't have a chance"

For more info, see:
Where John Lenard Burnett will explain why it requires four drivers to cover the audio range (Subwoofer/Woofer/Mid/Tweeter).
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Old 29th May 2009, 04:09 PM   #3
tinitus is offline tinitus  Europe
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I believe passive bandpass was first

Then came active mono (sub)woofer, with eq
Cut below main speakers natural rolloff, mostly around 50hz

Then people began to use stereo subs

After that I believe came the use of equalising woofers in main speakers

It also became popular to use subs up to 100hz, with small main speakers
Main speakers could also be crossed to "subs" active
Its actually a 3way

The term has become difficult to define

But strictly speaking it needs to handle 20hz well to be called a sub

Its still a simplification
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Old 29th May 2009, 04:18 PM   #4
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Organ music aside, how low does classical, pop, rock, techno, jazz, blues etc. go? Bass cello, bass guitar etc. Boomy Rap? From what I've read here its actually a higher frequency than most think.
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Old 29th May 2009, 04:28 PM   #5
tinitus is offline tinitus  Europe
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Good subs that you actually dont hear nor feel, are said to enhance the spaciousness and live feeling of even big mains speakers

The quality of that has somehow changed when surround entered the scene

Later on some people have become more aware of the possible negative phase issues of subs

I believe its much better to eq the mains woofers down to maybe 30hz, if they can handle it
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Old 29th May 2009, 04:43 PM   #6
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Ok. The difference is fairly simple.

In a system, a woofer will be part of the main speakers, helping the tweeter with the mid range. They have to play quite high up aswell (3-5kHz).

A subwoofer will have it's own box and amplifier, and will only play (usually) below 100Hz. If you have this section of the music missing, the music will lose a lot of it's dynamics, tempo and things like that.

For a woofer and a subwoofer of roughly equal price, the subwoofer will play lower than the woofer, but the woofer will play higher better than the sub.

Club, dance etc, usually has it's thuds around 60-80Hz, which is bass you can generally feel hitting you in the chest.

Bass guitars go to roughly 40Hz, so that's where rock and jazz will go.

The bass drums of a rock/jazz etc band will vary, but they're usually 40-50Hz.

You're not meant to be able to hear your sub, but you should be able to tell when it's not playing (ie, switched off).
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Old 29th May 2009, 04:50 PM   #7
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Most "canned" music is above 60Hz. Much of low stuff we think we hear is the "missing fundamental" effect,
including bass guitar and tympani. Even Organ uses this effect for the lowest octave. Playing around with
GoldWave (audio editing program), I was surprised to find some dubstep, techno, etc with some energy
in the 20 - 30 Hz range.

Tom Danley has some great stuff here:

But you'll need more than bookshelf 2-way's...
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Old 29th May 2009, 04:56 PM   #8
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I wish it were that simple Chris.

Here's a 15" woofer specs:
Frequency response: 20-1,000 Hz * Magnet weight: 90 oz. * Fs: 19 Hz

and here's a 15" subwoofer:
Frequency range: 21 - 600 Hz * Fs: 24 Hz * Magnet weight: 150 oz.

Both are made by the same company under the same brand name.

Long before you were born the definition of a subwoofer (as I learned it) was an Fs of 20 Hz and below. It was something that could reach infrasonic. They were very rare indeed. Nowadays the term has lost any meaning other than it's usually a longer throw than it's counterpart of equal size.
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Old 29th May 2009, 05:27 PM   #9
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Thats a good post. Most people don't have 15' woofers in main speakers. I don't know if you can buy that any more. It probably only exist in the DIY and very high end audio. Not counting PA systems anyway. Also, even if a 15" woofer can go low hooked up to a system, the 15" sub with it's dedicated amp should be more flat on the low end and not roll off as much then the woofer.

The difference between a woofer and sub woofer, frequency range aside, a dedicated sub woofer is going to have more xmas and higher power handling then a woofer. A true sub woofer shouldn't have to work over 100hz while a woofer, even a big one needs to mate up with a mid range driver. Aside from that a woofer (for home use anyway) is almost always going to be 8ohm, while a dedicated sub woofer is going to be 4ohm to work with a 4ohm stable sub amp.

For music, if someone had great 15" drivers in stereo mains, they wouldn't "need" a sub woofer. Unless maybe they buy the best of the best and want to go 15hz flat out. or lower?

Here is a little history. Don't take it as 100% fact, but....

HTs have distorted what a sub woofer is, but even if a HT doesn't have a 20hz driver, it is still a dedicated speaker for the bass in the movie.

When I first learned what a sub woofer was, it was defined as producing sub sonic sounds. Now days, they are more for HT, but the hard core guys will still use them to product those low low hits with lots of power behind them.
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Old 29th May 2009, 05:33 PM   #10
tinitus is offline tinitus  Europe
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It can be said even simpler

Everything 100hz and down to 30-40hz is just plain ordinary BASS

SUB-bass is whats below there

Well, then theres the newer PRO subbasses, different kind of thing
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