Passive subwoofers require an external power source and there are many ways to get them running. For one, you can choose to connect a passive subwoofer to a receiver. This article will tell you how to connect a passive subwoofer to a receiver through the use of speaker wire connectors and an external amplifier.
Passive subs are built without their own built-in amplifiers, so they function much like old loudspeaker units. If you have a passive subwoofer, you need to connect it to an external amplifier to power it.
On the other hand, active or powered subwoofers are self-contained. It features a speaker or amplifier configuration in which the characteristics of the amp and subwoofer speaker are optimally matched and encased in the same enclosure. For this type of sub, you do not need an external amp.
Are Passive Subwoofers Better Than Powered Subwoofers?
There are pros and cons to each type of sub, and it really depends on many factors, such as your budget, the sound quality you are looking for, and the space you have.
Passive subwoofers are more lightweight since they have fewer components. They are also easier to maintain. But the truth is that a subwoofer’s performance is not determined by whether it is powered or passive.
Some users may argue that powered subs are better because their built-in amplifiers allow you a worry-free experience. However, active subwoofers are more popular because they produce a deeper, more impactful sound without requiring extra components.
Meanwhile, the passive subwoofer is generally a better choice if you will place it in a small room with limited space, and you won’t be needing the powerful sound. It is easier to transport and move around since it’s smaller and less bulky. Even if you plug the passive subwoofer into an external amplifier, you can still reposition the amp in the future to improve the sound quality.
Is it Dangerous to Connect a Passive Subwoofer to a Receiver?
It can get dangerous because passive subwoofers require a lot of power to reproduce the bass. As a result, there is a possibility that your receiver may not deliver the required power for your subwoofer to function optimally. Keep in mind that you might even blow the receiver if you are not careful with your sub! The chances of this happening are definitely higher for older and lower quality gadgets, though.
Where to Connect the Subwoofer to the Receiver
Receivers are made with many switches, ports, and toggles. Wiring is definitely required to complete the connection between a subwoofer and a receiver.
First, check the back of your receiver and look for the setting for either “Yes” or “No,” which is linked directly to your passive subwoofer. This is referring to whether or not you have an active or a passive sub. Since you have the passive sub, be sure that the setting is on “Yes.” By doing so, you are telling your receiver to send all of the bass information through the sub-out connection on the back. All of this information is then transferred down into your passive sub.
You will need to have your passive subwoofer wired to one of the speaker connectors. Then you can connect the speaker wire to the speaker line of the subwoofer. There will be ‘Speaker In’ ports on your passive sub.
Be very careful that your sub is not pulling too much power beyond what the receiver can supply. This can result in overheating and become flammable.
Zone 2 Connectors
Another quick and easy way to connect passive subs to your AV or audiovisual receiver is the use the Zone 2 ports on the receiver.
The typical setup goes like this:
#1. Loopback the sub’s pre-out to phono (analog line) in.
#2. Activate the Zone 2 port.
#3. Enter the AVR’s setting and configure the receiver to play the phono input. This will now become the sub via your Zone 2 connection.
#4. Set the Zone 2 midrange (and up) frequency attenuated down. This allows you to use the AVR itself as a crossover.
However, some of the Zone 2 receivers do not have a crossover. Instead, it supplies a full-range signal. If this is the case for you, then use the power in Zone 1 for your sub.
Receiver Sub out
The sub-out port is popular on most older receivers. This port can power your passive subwoofer, and it is usually located on the bottom half. You can then use the receiver’s cutoff to control the audio frequencies sent to your passive subwoofer.
Subwoofer Wireless Connections
Recent subwoofers in the market now allow for wireless connections. There are two major types:
- Wireless subwoofers with built-in wireless receivers. These receivers connect seamlessly to the subwoofer line output of your home theater receiver. So if you happen to have this sub, all you need to do is connect the receivers to the line output. No need for extra tools, connectors, and equipment!
- The second method is a wireless transmitter that connects to any home theater receiver and a powered subwoofer with a line output. You should opt for this if your subwoofer does not have a built-in wireless receiver.
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How to Connect a Passive Subwoofer to a Receiver
Step #1: Check the Subwoofer
Before attempting any wired connections, inspect the kind of passive subwoofer you’ve got. Next, check whether it has a dual or single voice call woofer system. Double voice call woofers have multiple wiring options compared to single voice call ones.
Depending on what you’ve got, read the manufacturer’s manual and recommendations before moving forward. The last thing you want is to break your sub or your receiver.
Step #2: Double Check That You Have the Right RCA Cables
The most commonly used connectivity cables between subwoofers and receivers are RCA. But this connection depends on the type of subwoofer available, either a mono or stereo transmitter.
If your subwoofer is a monotype, you only need one RCA cable between our passive subwoofer and receiver. But if you are using a stereo subwoofer, you will need two RCA cables in your setup.
In this step, you will need to confirm that the color of the cables matches the ports on your subwoofer where the connection should be made.
Step #3: Connect The External Amplifier
Since passive subwoofers allow you to work with any amplifier, you are free to experiment with any external amp. But be careful before attempting to connect it to the amplifier.
Start by ensuring that your passive subwoofer is switched off. Then wire the RCA cables to the sub and ten to the external amplifier. The jack on the amp where your RCA cables are connected should be labeled subwoofer output or LFE (low-frequency effects).
The same goes if you are connecting more than one subwoofer.
Step #4: Connect The Amplifier To The Speakers
Once the external amplifier is wired to the subwoofer, it is finally time to connect the speakers!
Check the rear side of the amp for output jacks labeled ‘Front’ or ‘Main,’ then use the outputs to connect the speakers to the amp. Ensure that the right and left speakers are connected appropriately during this wiring step.
If your speakers are not labeled left or right, check for the polarities label instead. The negative terminal of the speaker should be connected to the negative terminal of the amplifier, and the same goes for the positive terminal.
Step #5: Switch On The Sound System And Fine Tune The Sound To Your Liking
Once you have connected everything and the subwoofer and speakers are properly wired to the receiver, switch on the main power supply and receive. As you test this out, make sure that the volume is not too high. Then use the bass management on the receiver to control the sound performance. This is the perfect time to customize your home theater and listen for any distortions or errors in the sound quality so you can adjust accordingly.
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The Bottom Line
If you are an audiophile or movie enthusiast, you surely will not regret investing in a subwoofer over traditional speakers. Unfortunately, the typical loudspeakers you get in a home theater system cannot reproduce all the sound frequencies they receive. So, essentially, you miss out on a better sound experience whenever you watch movies or TV at your home.
Listening to music alone is already an improved experience with subwoofers. The extra bass, instrumentals, underlying vocals will shine through thanks to the LFE or low-frequency effects that are pretty much the specialty of subwoofers.
Lastly, if you enjoy gamers or watching sports, the subwoofer will improve the audio experience. You will be even more immersed in the game or match because of the sound effects that your speaker system will reproduce.
Make sure that you purchase a passive subwoofer or powered subwoofer that fits all of your needs. Be sure to check all the wires and ports too. These should be in good condition to ensure proper connections to an external amplifier or AV receiver if needed. Not to mention, the size and structure of your home theater are important in determining if a front-firing or down-firing sub is best for you. Finally, the surrounding sound and low-frequency range will be worth the price and setup. Once you tick all of these boxes, get ready to enjoy the high-quality sound in your home theater.
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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.