Can You Power A Subwoofer Without An Amp?

Subwoofers like most audio equipment work in a unique way. Therefore, it’s always important to know how they exactly work so we don’t face any problems while using them.

In this post I’m going to discuss whether it’s possible to power a subwoofer without an amplifier.

I chose this topic because I’ve seen it in many audio forums. I’m going to offer my expertise and everything I’ve learnt in the past decade as an audio engineer and music producer.

With that said, Let’s get right into this post!

So, Can you power a subwoofer without an amp?

You need an amplifier or receiver to power a passive subwoofer. Active subwoofers on the other hand don’t need an external amp because they already have an inbuilt internal amplifier.

Active Subwoofer

An active subwoofer is essentially a self-contained speaker and amplifier.

The subwoofer and amplifier are matched so they deliver a well optmized performance and both these components are housed in the same enclosure or box.

This takes a lot of the power load away from the A/V receiver and allows the receiver or amplifiers to just power the mid-range and tweeter speakers.

Advantages of Active subs

Installation

All you need is a single cable from your receiver output (Pre out /LFE output) to your subwoofer input(s).

There is no need for special or extensive cabling; this makes set up extremely easy.

Imagine having to set up your gear with ease and having it running within a few minutes.

It’s certainly a dream for an audiophile like myself.

However, this can also be advantageous to newbies to audio gear because they can easily set up the subwoofer without having to call in an expert to help them.

This can help save up any money that would otherwise be spent on installation costs.

Receiver cost

Since the amplifier is already built-in in your subwoofer, you don’t need a powerful receiver.

Therefore, you save on costs. which allows you to spend this money on other equipment if you’re out gear shopping.

Having a well optmized subwoofer with powerful inbuilt tools and components is certainly a game changer for somebody shopping for equipment on a tight budget or is simply looking to save costs.

Design

Usually they are compact and can be easily placed in several locations of the room without worrying about compromising the quality of the output.

When dealing with speakers, especially when setting them up for complex audio work that demands for high-quality audio output, location of speakers matters.

Active subs can be placed in numerous locations and all you’ll have to do is to test out various locations until you find the right one.

Disadvantages of Active Subwoofers

Buttons, switches and knobs

Active subs have many buttons, switches, and knobs. If you’ve never used this kind of sub before you may find it challenging to  know exactly what needs switching or tweaking.

You therefore have to rely on the instruction manual that comes with subwoofer to get to know its controls and parameters better.

Costs

Active subwoofers being more sophisticated and built with more components usually cost more than a passive subwoofer.

A person on tight budget, faced with the challenge of choosing between passive and active subwoofers would go for the cheaper option.

Power

Active subwoofers consume more power (watts) and also require a power outlet nearby. This can be challenging if you have no extra power outlets to plug in the subwoofer.

Compatibility

Active subs may sometimes require that your receiver/amplifier has a subwoofer pre-out port.

Location

Placement becomes more important because only one subwoofer will be used.

Passive Subwoofers

Passive subs are called passive because they need to be powered by an external amplifier or receiver.

The important thing to remember about passive Subwoofers is that since they need more power to reproduce low frequency sounds, the amplifier or receiver needs to be able to send sufficient power to sustain bass effects reproduced by the sub without draining the power supply in the receiver or amplifier.

Advantages of Passive subwoofers

Cost

Passive subwoofers are often cheaper than than active subs because they have fewer components inside.

Power

With passive subwoofer you don’t need a power outlet nearby because they consume less power.

Disadvantages of Passive subwoofers

Receiver

You should be able to match your receiver or amplifier specification in order to avoid the problem of inadequate power.

Receiver cost

Your receiver or amplifier cost will significatly increase based on the total power that you need to get the subwoofer working.

Furthermore passive speakers require more cables to carry both power and audio signals. Which essentially means that you need high quality cables that could cost more.

Hiding cables

More cables from your receiver to subwoofer are required. Hiding them will be more challenging.

The more cabling around, the harder it is to conceal it.