Does a Subwoofer Only Play Bass?

Subwoofers look like other speakers, and I wondered what would happen if I played music through it. So, I did some testing and put together this helpful article to explain what sounds a subwoofer plays.

So, does a subwoofer only play bass? A subwoofer is a specially designed speaker that is made to play the bass or low frequencies. If you play music through just a subwoofer, you won’t hear the vocals and instruments. This is because vocals and instruments are a higher frequency which the sub can’t play.

A sub can produce punchy bass, but sometimes it can get a bit boomy. Therefore, you should know how to break in your subwoofer, and what all the components do. So, below I will discuss how a home theater system and a car audio system work, and everything you need to know subs.

Can You Use A Subwoofer As a Speaker?

A subwoofer is speaker sized and looks like one, but it cannot produce music or sound on its own. If you play music through it you will only hear the bass.

Other instruments like the drums, guitar, and vocals won’t come through your sub. The reason is because of their design. When a speaker is used to play music over a range of frequencies it wears it out.

So, speaker designers and audio engineers split up the band of frequencies into different segments. High frequency, mid-tones, and low frequency. Low-frequency tones are what a sub produces.

High-frequency tones are handled by small speakers called tweeters. They are the size of a baseball or smaller. Specific sounds like small cymbals on a drum set, voices, and other electronic sounds are played through them. 

They are too small to produce low frequency sounds which a sub can.

A sub’s speaker is too big to play the small high-frequency sounds that tweeters can. When they are played through a sub they appear faint, like a whisper even with the volume turned up to the max.

How Does a Home Theater System Work?

Proper home theatre systems have similar major components. These are the receiver, a video source, connection cables, display devices, an audio system, and surge protectors, 

Below, I will explain what each one does and where a sub fits into it.

  • Receiver: The receiver is the control hub for the sound. It is where you plug your audio and video sources. The source is a funny word, but it is the technical term for the component. Source means something that sends audio or videos like a smartphone or DVD player.
  • Video source: A video source comes from a phone, laptop, desktop, iPad, console (Xbox, etc.), and any other device that could send video. These also commonly send sound but it is sent separately.
  • Connection cables: Pretty self-explanatory. There are a bunch of different ones, and each speaker has it’s own. Try not to mix them up when you are setting it up. Keep the cables that came with the speakers in the box or close to the box so you remember.
  • Display devices: Getting a full home theatre experience with a rich sound experience is made possible with a display device. These are TVs, LCDs, plasmas, and newer technology. It seems they keep getting thinner and thinner. This is also a reason why soundbars are used in modern home theatre systems.
  • Audio system: This is where the sub comes in. Good home theatre systems have a soundbar. A soundbar is a thin speaker that sits directly in front of you. You also have a sub. If you buy each item separately a soundbar will come together with a sub. There can be issues with some subs not working with particular soundbars, so you should get the same brand and check what subs can go with what soundbars.
  • Surge protectors: Some homes have inbuilt surge protectors. Due to the high cost of home theatre systems, it makes sense to get separate surge protectors. They plug into your wall, and then other components get plugged in. It stops surges from breaking your home theatre.

What Does a Car Audio System Work?

There are three major components to a car audio system, according to If you haven’t upgraded your car audio system and are thinking about it then read on and I will explain how it all works.

The First Component is the Head Unit.The head unit is what sends the audio signal to the speakers. You plug your smartphone, iPad, or other music players into it, and then the crisp music comes.
After This, We Have the Amplifier.An amp uses electricity to increase the power that goes to the speakers. Normally the speakers don’t have much power, but an amplifier uses some of the car battery and increases it, making the speakers play super loud.
Lastly, We Have Speakers.Most setups have 5 to 7. But, you can have as many or a few as you like. Cars by default have two in the front, and two in the back. More advanced car audio systems have 3 additional speakers. These are the two tweeters that are very small and sit on the dashboard or close by, as well as, a sub.

How Should You Configure a Subwoofer with Your Sound System?

Well, one of the problems with many people with subwoofers they want to be able to point at it and say, “There’s my subwoofer.” A good subwoofer placement though should be about disappearing, integrating with your music. So, your speakers, your stereo image, becomes a complete picture.

There are many connections types and combinations. So, depending on your setup you should use the appropriate configuration. This is a very complicated topic, especially for a new person.

Therefore, you should look through the manual for your specific speaker to know exactly what can and can’t be done with it. If you want to set it up optimally follow their instructions, but there are some tricks about how to get it to sound the best.

One is to put it on a chair. You should know where you want to sit when you listen to it. So, move it around the room, and then sit in your chair and see where it sounds the best. Each room has a unique geometry.

Making the best placement for your speakers unique to you. Like a snowflake. The size of your room will dictate how big a subwoofer you should get, or multiple. Very big rooms use two subwoofers to get the deep bass.

Do Subwoofers Get Louder as They Break-In?

Certain stiff suspension subs get louder after a bit of time. The time it takes can vary. Many people report that their sub gets louder and deeper over time.

How Do You Know if a Subwoofer is Broken In?

You should play your sub louder slowly until it starts to smell. Then you should turn it down and allow it to cool. Then you should turn up the sub until you get the smell again.

Eventually, you will get bored or it will stop smelly. You won’t be able to smell the glue anymore once it has all burnt off. Typically, it will be fully broken within 24 to 48 hours of continuous play.

After which you will notice the sound get deeper and bassier. Some people have recommended to slam the sauce out of it.


A subwoofer only plays bass. This is because of the size and construction. They are specifically designed to play the low frequency music. As we know, music and sound are all vibrations. But, there are different sized vibrations that are interpreted differently by the ear.

The very thuddy sound of low-frequency waves is only made by the sub. The high-frequency sounds of vocals and other instruments get handled by smaller speakers. This makes the speakers last longer sound better.


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