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Active Vs Passive Subwoofer – Find the Difference?

In the dale of audio systems, subwoofers hold their own place in unlocking the immersive and thunderous world of bass. Indeed, they are one such audio technology piece that are specifically designed to produce stronger bass in music listening and punchy and realistic sounds in action scenes. Well, honestly speaking your home theater audio system feels incomplete without a subwoofer. At least you have to get one for two reasons. Firstly, your sound bar all alone cannot produce a louder three-dimensional surround system, and the second reason is bass production.

There are two types of subwoofers: active and passive, which are slightly different from each other even though the purpose and objective are the same. Understanding both active and passive subwoofers is very important when choosing the right subwoofer for your setup. Going further, we will be looking at some intriguing aspects of these subwoofers, such as what they are, their benefits, drawbacks, differences, features, and some maintenance suggestions as well. 

Here is the list of the topics that are covered in this article for your reference.

What is an Active Subwoofer?

Active subwoofers, also known as powered subwoofers, feature a built-in power source, such as an amplifier. They are an all-in-one source for completing your home cinema audio system. These subwoofers are simple to set up and work best in a single subwoofer configuration. Furthermore, with an active subwoofer, you don’t have to worry about cords, and they can occasionally go wireless.

  • Extremely simple setup with minimal cabling (or) wiring.
  • Consumes more power and is quite expensive.
  • Provides quality sound from a single unit.

What is a Passive Subwoofer?

A passive subwoofer stipulates an external power source, such as an amplifier (or) receiver, to function properly. They are commonly favored by most home theater designers and are ideal for large rooms that require multiple units. The good thing about passive subwoofers is that you have the freedom of choice to pick how much power is required to complete your home theater system.

  • Allows more customized design and ultimate control over your home entertainment setup.
  • Works with almost any receiver (or) amplifier.
  • Operates on less power.

Active vs Passive Subwoofer: Difference

Take a look at the key differences between the two subwoofer kinds that help you to understand their benefits and downsides and make an informed decision.

Active Subwoofer Passive Subwoofer
Active subwoofers do not require an amplifier as the amp is built within the audio device. Passive subwoofers demand an extra amplifier that is compatible with the subwoofer type.
They are built with a more compact body design. They are bulkier in design.
Must be placed closer to the TV to get the best sound quality. You won’t have many options when it comes to their placement.
Its installation (or) setup is quite simple, just plug it in and it starts to work. Its installation is not simple because of its messy cables and wiring. 
They are pretty expensive. They are cheaper than active ones. 
Tends to consume more output power. Consumes less output power.
Available in both wired and wireless forms. Available in wired form only. 

Active vs Passive Subwoofer: Comparison

Feature Active Subwoofer Passive Subwoofer
Purpose Enhances certain bass frequency channels and improves the performance of your home theater Produces deep bass from small speakers in both music and home theater systems
Amplifier Equipped with a built-in amplifier Requires an external amplifier
Installation Quick and simple setup Pretty complex due to extensive wiring
Placement Flexible to place anywhere  Limited placement options
Sound quality Delivers outstanding audio with accurate and clear bass The quality of the sound is entirely based on the external amplifier
Power output Consumes more power to generate loud sounds Consumes less power
Size Compact Bulky
Weight Lightweight Heavy
Power handling Handles power independently with the help of an in-built amplifier Reliant on the external amplifier for the power source
Portability Easy to carry Less portable
Compatibility Compatible with most audio systems Compatible with any receiver (or) amplifier
Connectivity Supports both wired and wireless devices Supports wired devices
Customization Often has customizable sound tuning settings Fewer options for customization
Energy efficiency Energy efficient Dependent on an external amplifier
Volume control In-built volume controls Handled by an external amplifier
Bass management Includes advanced bass management features Has basic bass management features
Sound accuracy Accurate and clean bass Relies on the amplifier’s performance
Equalization Incorporated with built-in equalization options EQ adjustments may be offered by the external amplifier
User friendly Can be handled by beginners as well Requires some technical knowledge 
Price Expensive Budget-friendly

Active vs Passive Subwoofer: Which is Better?

Genuinely it doesn’t matter if the subwoofer is active or passive, you can’t tell which one is better. First of all, you have to think about the qualities such as whether it is made of high-quality materials, if it has a broad frequency range, sensitivity, impedance, and sometimes even cables also. 

However, here are some of the most essential characteristics to look for when purchasing a subwoofer. Finally, you have to decide whether to go ahead with an active (or) passive subwoofer. 

1. Built-In Amplifier

  • Active subwoofers often come with a built-in amplifier, simplifying the setup with optimized performance and customizable bass through dedicated controls. 
  • Passive subwoofers, on the other hand, require a supplementary amplifier, which complicates setup and makes sound quality reliant on the capabilities of the supplied amplifier.

2. Installation

  • Active subwoofers are simple to set up with minimal wiring. In fact, even beginners can effortlessly install them with the help of a user guide. As these subwoofers have an integrated amplifier, they eliminate the need for extra cords.
  • Whereas, the installation process of passive subwoofers is quite complex wiring due to an external amplifier. Moreover, one must have a steeper learning curve while going for self-installation.

3. Placement

  • As the active subwoofer is a single unit, you are free to place it across your room according to your preference. But make sure that it is not placed too far from your audio system (or) TV unit.
  • In general, passive subwoofers are multiple units which makes them complex to move and doesn’t provide much flexibility while placing them. 

4. Sound Quality

  • Active subwoofers are designed to deliver wonderful audio with precise and clear bass. And this is achieved due to the integrated amplifier harmonizing with the subwoofer’s drivers. 
  • In contrast, passive subwoofers rely totally on the capabilities of the external amplifier, which may affect sound quality depending on the amplifier’s performance.

5. Power Handling

  • Active subwoofers feature independent power handling capabilities that are paired with their built-in amplifiers to provide optimal performance.
  • Passive subwoofers rely on an external amplifier, and their power handling is determined by the specifications of the chosen amplifier.

6. Size and Weight

  • Since the active subwoofers come with built-in amplifiers, they are more compact and lightweight, making them easier to move and place in any corner of the room. 
  • And due to the absence of an integrated amplifier in the passive subwoofers, they are usually bulkier and heavier limiting their mobility and handling convenience.

7. Customization

  • Active subwoofers have specific customization options, allowing users to fine-tune the bass output depending on their preference. 
  • But the passive subwoofers provide limited customization choices because the modifications rely on the characteristics and settings of the chosen external amplifier. 

8. Power Output

  • Active subwoofers consume more power from the integrated amplifier to reciprocate the sound with accurate, clean, and clear bass. 
  • However, the passive subwoofers take less power from the supplied external amplifier for the same sound quality. 

9. Connectivity

  • Active subwoofers can be paired effortlessly with both wired and wireless devices.
  • Whereas the passive subwoofers can be linked only with the wired devices because they don’t have wireless features. 

10. Portability

  • Active subwoofers are more portable and easy to move around due to their compact and lightweight design. Moreover, the built-in amplifier is an added advantage here.
  • While the passive subwoofers are less portable because of their complex and messy setups that are less convenient to relocate. Further, the external amplifier confines flexibility. 

11. Compatibility

  • You can easily connect (or) pair any audio devices with the Active subwoofers seamlessly, making them an excellent choice for plug-and-play setups. Additionally, the integrated amplifier assures compatibility and streamlines the integration process. 
  • On the other hand, passive subwoofers are also compatible with any receiver (or) amplifier. But generally, they require careful consideration of compatibility with external amplifiers, potentially leading to more complex integration and setup.

12. Energy Efficiency

  • Active subwoofers use less energy since their built-in amplifiers are designed to supplement the subwoofer’s power requirements. This sleek design guarantees that the amplifier performs efficiently and consumes less energy. 
  • The energy efficiency of passive subwoofers is determined by the efficiency and performance of the external amplifier used.

13. Volume Control

  • Active subwoofers come with integrated volume control, allowing users to adjust the bass output conveniently according to their preference directly on the subwoofer or through remote control.  
  • Volume control for passive subwoofers is handled by the external amplifier, which may require extra modifications and access to the amplifier’s controls to change the bass levels.

14. Bass Management

  • Active subwoofers have advanced bass management features that allow customers to fine-tune the crossover frequency and adapt the bass response to their audio system.
  • Passive subwoofers may lack advanced bass control options and instead rely on the bass settings of the external amplifier, which may provide less versatility.

15. Equalizer

  • Active subwoofers often come equipped with built-in equalization options, allowing users to adjust the bass response and tailor it to their listening preferences or room acoustics. 
  • Passive subwoofers may not have built-in EQ, limiting customization to the external amplifier’s equalization settings.

16. Sound Accuracy

  • Active subwoofers produce outstanding sound accuracy due to the integrated amplifier working in tandem with the subwoofer’s drivers. 
  • The sound accuracy of passive subwoofers is dependent on the capabilities of the external amplifier, which might affect the subwoofer’s performance and precision based on the amplifier’s quality.

17. Convenience

  • Active subwoofers are user-friendly due to their integrated design, making them easier to set up and use, especially for beginners or those seeking a hassle-free audio solution. The integrated amplifier and controls make installation and fine-tuning easier, resulting in a more user-friendly experience.
  • Passive subwoofers necessitate a more complex setup with an external amplifier, which may need a steeper learning curve and other considerations for maximum performance.

18. Price

  • Typically active subwoofers are more expensive than passive subwoofers due to the inclusion of a built-in amplifier, which adds to the overall manufacturing cost. 
  • Passive subwoofers are often more budget-friendly, but you need to go for additional investment in a separate amplifier, depending on the chosen amplifier’s cost and quality.

Tips for Maintaining Your Subwoofers

Here are some of the key tips to maintain your subwoofers so that they last long and deliver optimal performance.

  • Gently wipe the subwoofer with a clean, dampened microfiber towel to remove dirt and fingerprints. 
  • Avoid using cleaners that contain ammonia, alcohol, bleach, or abrasives as it can damage the subwoofer’s surface. 
  • Use a microfiber cloth dampened in lukewarm water to clean the internal surfaces of the subwoofer. 
  • Position the subwoofer in a safe and convenient place, such as between two speakers and away from the front wall (or) on a side wall.
  • Avoid cranking the subwoofer volume all the way up. Instead, turn up the level to 75% for great sound acoustics.
  • Refer to the user manual for troubleshooting minor faults.
  • Approach the technician immediately if your subwoofer is performing badly so that they can check it properly and administer the necessary fixing.

Active Vs Passive Subwoofer – FAQs

1. What is a Subwoofer?

Ans: In simple terms, a subwoofer is a speaker designed to produce low-frequency sounds, sometimes known as bass. Not all subwoofers provide the same level of sound quality, so do your homework on the brand and type you want before purchasing.

2. Can I use an active subwoofer with any audio system?

Ans: Yes, most audio systems with a dedicated subwoofer output (or) a line-level output can accommodate active subwoofers. They are simple to integrate and work with a wide range of settings.

3. Do I really need a subwoofer for my existing speaker system?

Ans: Your surround sound speakers offer a wide range of pitches and tones. The majority of these speakers, however, lack the range (or) power to replicate (or) generate really deep, rich bass tones. Subwoofers were created specifically for this purpose. Adding a subwoofer enhances your home theater experience and allows your speakers to produce the full range of sounds.

4. Can I use a passive subwoofer without an external amplifier?

Ans: Absolutely no. As the passive subwoofer doesn’t have a built-in amplifier it must be powered by an external amplifier to generate sounds. 

5. Are passive subwoofers less powerful than active ones?

Ans: No, not always. The power and performance of a subwoofer are determined by various parameters, including driver quality, enclosure design, and the external amplifier utilized with passive subwoofers. Passive subwoofers can be just as powerful as active ones with the correct amplifier.

6. How many subwoofers do I need for my home theater system?

Ans: It is completely dependent on the size (or) layout of the room. Usually, large areas (or) oddly shaped rooms may require more than a single subwoofer whereas the small ones may just need one. 

7. What are the additional accessories that can enhance subwoofer performance?

Ans: Subwoofer performance can be improved by using high-quality wires and adding acoustic treatment to the space. Investing in a high-quality subwoofer isolation pad can also help minimize vibrations and increase bass clarity.

8. Can I integrate a subwoofer with my soundbar (or) a compact audio system?

Ans: Yes, you can use a subwoofer with your soundbar (or) audio system. Currently, many soundbars and audio systems have subwoofer outputs allowing you to pair any external subwoofers. Moreover, adding a subwoofer to such systems can boost low-end performance and overall audio quality dramatically.


At last, this is all about active and passive subwoofers. While the final decision on a subwoofer is yours, active subwoofers are the most common variety utilized in home theaters today. Active subwoofers maximize specific bass frequency channels and improve the performance of your home theater. They are simple to operate, all-inclusive, and small.

Although precise placement is required, most users believe their active subwoofer to be an excellent addition to their home theater. While the initial cost may appear to be more than that of a passive speaker, keep in mind that you will not require additional power from your receiver or amplifier. However, keep in mind that a passive subwoofer is a feasible alternative for larger rooms and unique designs as long as your amplifier supports this setup and supplies enough power.

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