Subwoofers are an essential audio component of most sound systems. Before, having a wired subwoofer means having another cable running through the wall or the ground of your room. But thanks to wireless technology, you can have a wireless subwoofer that you can hide in plain sight without worrying about tripping over connection cables.
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What are Wireless Subwoofers?
Wireless subwoofers come with a built-in amplifier, a transmitter, and the subwoofer speaker itself. People enjoy having a subwoofer because you can configure it yourself. Independent and at-home configuration will allow you to adjust the settings and create harmony with the rest of your home theater setup (if any).
The main difference between a wireless and wired subwoofer is the method of transmitting audio signals. Wired subwoofers only require a connection to the amplifier through a connection cable that will transmit data. Connection cables can be auxiliary jack, RCA, coaxial, optimal, even HDMI. The point is that you need a physical connection for your subwoofer to be a part of your sound system.
Most people place the cables behind walls, on the ground, along the wall, etc. If you are pickier with your home’s interior, you will want an inconspicuous placement for the wires, not to mention the hazard should make anybody trip over them. Being resourceful is key because you do not want your wired subwoofer to clutter your home theater setup.
Of course, the earlier released subs in the market do not have complete wireless connections. Therefore, it’s very important to read about how to properly configure your sub because it can make or break your audio system.
If you are interested in getting a wireless sub instead, keep reading to find out how it is used, its pros and cons, and what connections make it work.
How to Use a Wireless Subwoofer
If you prefer a wireless subwoofer, you certainly don’t have to worry about wires or cables. Instead, what makes a wireless subwoofer work properly are the connections for audio signals, namely radiofrequency, infrared, Bluetooth, and even WiFi.
You would need to connect a transmitter to your amplifier, then connect the receiver to your subwoofer. The audio signal transmission will happen throughout the air space because of the wireless connections, and data gets delivered straight to the subwoofer for output.
Since there are no wires and cables involved, you have more freedom to place your sub anywhere you’d like in your room. In addition, depending on the mode of transmission, your subwoofer will receive the signals regardless of where your transmitter is. This allows you to breathe a sigh of relief because it’s a lot of steps you are certainly skipping, thanks to the wireless subwoofer features.
At this point, you might be wondering – which type of subwoofer produces better audio quality? Wired or wireless?
Based on our research, wireless and wired subwoofers with the same power, output, and customer ratings will produce the same audio quality. But if you do get a wireless subwoofer, the mode of transmission is a big factor.
So let’s get into the different methods of transmission you can choose from.
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What are the Transmission Methods for Wireless Subs?
The sound that your subwoofer will produce depends on two things: the method that your transmitter will use and the efficiency of transmission.
We’ll narrow down each method to help you create a sound system that can deliver audio signals despite relying on a wireless connection.
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Radiofrequency transmission works through radio signals which transfer audio files from the transmitter to the receiver. Subwoofers often use frequencies within 300 Mhz to 1000 Mhz, and the most common is 900 Mhz.
You should know that most communication devices we use in our homes today also rely on radio frequency to send signals through airwaves. Unfortunately, several signals can interfere with your wireless subwoofer whenever it transmits data over the same frequency. This means that the more radiofrequency-reliant devices you are using to transfer audio signals, the higher chances of interference. But don’t worry because as we advance in technology, better wireless subwoofers are being produced to utilize frequency hopping, shielding, and even spectrum technologies to minimize or eliminate interference.
Despite the possibilities of interference, radiofrequency is still common for wireless audio transmission because of its reliability. It is not prone to signal drops even when connecting a sub and transmitter that do not have a direct line of sight, which experts say is essential. Therefore, you can expect your sub to work normally with radiofrequency even if there are obstructions present such as other electronics, plastics, metal, and even cement.
This second method uses infrared light to transmit audio signals from your transmitter or player to the receiver or the sub. It’s ideal for smaller media rooms because it requires a direct line of sight that is no larger than 20 feet for a reliable connection.
Unlike the subs that rely on radiofrequency, subs with infrared will not experience interference from other gadgets and devices. However, if any object that is not 100% transparent blocks the direct line of sight between a transmitter to receive, the connection shall be terminated. This includes even colored translucent items. So you would need to put more thought before going for an infrared sub.
But if you could set it up perfectly, you can expect better reliability than a radiofrequency connection. If you need to move the sub away from the direct line of sight, you can purchase an IR repeater.
But keep in mind that even if you use repeaters, you still need to maintain the same direct line of sight with your transmitter, receiver, and the repeaters in your room.
Bluetooth is probably the wireless connection you are most familiar with. It’s the technology we use in most devices for wireless transmission. Subwoofers can utilize Bluetooth connections with a transmitter, and this type of transmission works better than infrared because you do not need a direct line of sight for your connection.
It is, however, dependent on distance. Bluetooth has a higher latency than radiofrequency and infrared. So if your subwoofer is relatively far from the transmitter, it will likely drop the audio signal.
But this is no reason to drop the choice of a Bluetooth sub. Bluetooth technology is fast evolving and improves over time, so more and more subs utilize this design for new subs. This continuous technological process allows the highest compatibility with most transmitters. So even if you take an external sub and wirelessly connect it to your current sound system, you can almost expect that you can set it up using a Bluetooth connection, and it will work fine.
Qualcomm aptX uses the same framework as Bluetooth, but it is more refined for establishing audio connections. While Bluetooth is great for most wireless connections, it’s not really designed for audio transmission. This is a big part of why Bluetooth-reliant subs suffer from high latency.
People will often say that a Qualcomm aptX is the best option for wireless subs because it offers low latency, reliable connection, less susceptibility to interference, and does not require a direct line of sight.
However, it does have a limited range of transmission. Even if it does not require a direct line of sight to establish a connection, it will be in even less of a limited range if your subwoofer is in a spot with various objects that can interfere with the wireless transmission.
But what makes this stand out is it can only connect to a wireless transmitter that only supports Bluetooth.
Lastly, you’ll be lucky if your wireless subwoofer works from a WiFi connection. Unlike the other methods discussed in this article, using WiFi does not have any cons in terms of range, transmission, and connectivity. But it is the least common option that subs use to transmit wireless audio signals.
Using WiFi is free from interference because the wireless transmitter sends all the signals through a WiFi network, then the sub downloads it for output. So it has a pretty exclusive wireless connection that is ever reliable.
The one disadvantage it has is latency. Since the sub and transmitter are connected to the same WiFi network, the transmission speed depends on the speed of your internet connection. We all know that internet signals can fluctuate, especially if your provider does not offer the fastest and most stable connections.
If you do have a WiFi-reliant subwoofer, you are also counting on your WiFi provider. It can be unpredictable to count on this type of subwoofer because you rely on a third-party service vs. your independent setup.
Even if WiFi does offer the best connection, it has a huge disadvantage which is pretty much the deal-breaker for most people, especially if you have a sound system that relies on real-time transmission of high-resolution audio files (such as for music production).
Now that you fully understand the wireless transmission options out there, we will now list down the advantages and disadvantages of using a wireless sub. Wireless speaker technology has its own set of pros and cons that you should know about before starting.
Pros of Having a Wireless Sub
#1. It requires less effort (and money) to install and configure.
If you have a bigger room for your home theater, buying wires and extension cords can get expensive. There is also added cost when you try to run wires through the wall or hide them beneath other items or furniture.
With a wireless sub, you don’t have to shell out more money for these things, as long as you place your sub within the range of reliable transmission.
#2. It allows you to build a more sophisticated sound system at home.
When using wired subwoofers, the number of cable connections you can make depends on your amplifier’s input/output slots. But if you go the wireless route, you have more room to DIY the audio system of your home theater.
You also don’t need much effort should you upgrade your sound system because you can bring in an external speaker – or two – and seamlessly connect it to your transmitter or amp.
Most importantly, the wireless connection rids you of the hassle of figuring out which cables go where. A wireless subwoofer can connect seamlessly to other devices.
#3. It can increase your sub’s performance.
If you do have a high-end sub, using a physical connection can limit its performance because wires cannot support a lot of frequencies. But these frequencies are vital for a subwoofer to reach its full performance range.
Having a wireless one can automatically increase the quality of your home theater’s audio quality.
Cons of Having a Wireless Sub
We recommend reading up about wireless subs because these are not for everyone. Here are the common disadvantages and issues of having a wireless sub in your home theater.
#1. A wireless subwoofer can be more expensive if you want to get the same sound performance.
As with any device, if you get a cheaper subwoofer, it will have limited capacity to receive audio signals and streams. Of course, any sub will have bandwidth limitations but getting a low-quality wireless subwoofer adds to the shortcomings of your audio system.
If you want an excellent-sounding wireless sub that works perfectly with your current home theater system, you will need to shell out more money to invest in a high-end wireless subwoofer.
#2. Having a large space makes your sub performance prone to distortion.
The further your wireless subwoofer is from your transmitter, the more it becomes more susceptible to distortion regardless of the transmission method you use. This is because there will always be a limit on your wireless subwoofer’s range of transmission.
So if you have a large room for your home theater or sound system, get creative to avoid distortion and even those annoying signal drops.
#3. It is more challenging to set up the subwoofer crossover.
Setting up the subwoofer crossover is an important segment if you want to create harmony from your sound system. In addition, this configuration is essential for a natural sound that seems to be coming from only one device.
If you have a wireless subwoofer, finding the best overlap for the low-pass and high-pass crossover settings can be a challenge.
Given the pros and cons of wireless subwoofers, we also need to tackle the importance of placement.
Placement is a crucial factor before getting immersed in wireless subwoofers. Even if you purchase a high-end wireless sub, it will not perform up to par if placed in the wrong spot.
How To Properly Place Wireless Subs
We have three placement recommendations for wireless subwoofers for DIY audio systems.
#1. Center of the room
An easy choice is to place your sub in the center of the room. Do this by measuring the size of your room from the entrance door to the adjacent wall. Then, take out a third of that room size and use that distance as a reference between your sub and the wall.
#2. Room corner, but not against the wall
Most people will recommend this corner placement for subwoofers. However, while it is pretty much the best place, there should be enough breathing room between the sub and the closest wall – at least eight inches of free space. Otherwise, your sub will underperform in a cramped space.
#3. Manual trial and error
Lastly, we do recommend a manual trial and error depending on your room size and interior. Try placing it in different locations because it will sound different in various parts of your room. If you find a spot where you think it sounds the best, then you’ve found the proper placement.
Opting for wireless subwoofers can bring your audio systems to life. It can truly upgrade your home theater in ways that traditional speakers with built-in subs can’t.
However, you will need to put in some effort to ensure that the type of connection you’re using works in perfect harmony with your current setup and room design.
Despite being more expensive than wired subs, opting for wireless subwoofers frees you from added installation costs and the hassle of manual configuration. As a result, it can be an excellent choice if you truly want to elevate your surround sound setup without the stress of using wires, ports, and cables.
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John Fleming is the senior editor for Audiophilez.com, covering everything from headphones to smart speakers. He is a graduate of Music Production and Technology. Before Audiophilez, John began his career as a staff writer for two different magazines, where he became a skilled storyteller across different mediums. When he isn’t writing, he can be found biking, reading books, and playing the piano.