Which to choose: subwoofer and loudspeaker

What is the difference between a subwoofer and loudspeaker?


A subwoofer is a loudspeaker that only responds to low frequencies but it is both a type of loudspeaker driver


and a loudspeaker.


In English, a loudspeaker is usually a cabinet with one or more loudspeaker drivers.


But, people tend to call a loudspeaker driver and a loudspeaker, “loudspeakers”.

And you have several types of loudspeaker drivers. You have the subwoofer, the woofer, the mid-woofer, the mid-range, the high midrange, the tweeter and the super tweeter.

You also have the full range and within the full range, you have several types of loudspeaker drivers or loudspeakers.


Many people also call dual-concentric drivers such as the Tannoy loudspeakers


full range speakers when in fact they are two speakers in one


(they have a tweeter in the middle and behind the larger driver).

Ultimately they are all loudspeakers.


People just call the cabinet with the subwoofer loudspeaker driver a subwoofer and the rest of them loudspeakers.
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A subwoofer is in fact a loudspeaker but it is a specialized one. A woofer or subwoofer only focuses on low or very low frequencies, much like a tweeter or super tweeter focus only on high or very high frequencies. In the case of the subwoofer and super tweeter, only the extreme ends of the hearing range are being reproduced. By only worrying about certain frequencies, very low or high, these speakers can be designed with fewer compromises and are often housed in separate cabinets. Additionally, these speakers are normally only fed the extreme frequencies, say below 200 or 300Hz for subwoofers, and not the normal frequencies could actually damage the subwoofer or at the least, cause distortions in the output. At these low frequencies, the sounds are as much felt as heard and the wavelengths are quite long. As such, to reproduce these wavelengths a lot of speaker cone surface area is required or elaborately ported and tuned cabinets, hence the larger subwoofer cabinets. In the case of super tweeters, the opposite is true. Super tweeters output very small wavelengths, requiring little cone surface area and small cabinets. I hope this brief summary of subwoofers and extreme speakers in general helps to highlight the differences.