Home Music Producer

The Ultimate Music Production Resource

What Do Under-powered Subwoofer’s Sound Like?

Passive subwoofers require a certain amount of power sent through them in order for them to work well. If they are not supplied with adequate power they may sound off.

In this post I am therefore going to dive into explaining what subwoofer’s sound like if they’re underpowered. This will help you be able to understand your subwoofers better so you don’t face any power issues.

There are different types of subwoofers out there but they all fall into categories which are the Active and Passive subwoofers.

With that said, what do underpowered subs sound like?

Below are what your subwoofers will sound like when they’re underpowered.

They’ll sound weak

Subwoofers when under powered will sound weaker than they should sound. This is infact due to the low supply of power being sent through them.

Subwoofers, especially passive subwoofers rely on power to work properly. If they’re denied adequate power they’ll work poorly.

It’s easy to think that your subs have a mechanical fault but the obvious first thing to check for is whether your amplifier wattage is in line with your subwoofer wattage requirements.

This is why it’s always important to check specifications on the gear that you choose to buy.

You’ll have inadequate detail

A subwoofer is responsible for outputting low frequencies which are usually what we consider the bass frequencies.

Bass frequencies arevery delicate and require well optmized subwoofers to run through.

One symptom of underpowered subwoofers is that they tend to output signals that lack detail.

If you’re an audiophile or somebody with a trained ear you can easily spot a bad sounding subwoofer just by paying attention to the amount of low end detail that it outputs.


One of the common symptoms of underpowered speakers and sub-woofers is distortion.

When you supply insufficient power to a subwoofer, turning up the volume will result in the audio being clipped.

Your signal will sound like it’s being pushed too hard. If you’re a sound engineer you probably know and understand what clipping is.

If you don’t, Clipping is simply a form of waveform distortion that occurs when an amplifier is overdriven and attempts to deliver an output voltage or power beyond its maximum capability.

This drives the amplifier into clipping which may cause it to output power in excess of its power rating.

Dynamically depressed

When you hear the term “dynamics” with respect to audio, it simply points to the volume.

An underpower sub will have depressed volume that sounds like it is being held back.

You’ll notice the audio start to fall apart as you increase the volume of the subwoofers.

is it OK to under-power a subwoofer?

In general, overpowering any speaker including a subwoofer is more likely to cause problems that could lead to damage than underpowering it.

This is because distortion is essentially what destroys speakers, and underpowered/overpowered speakers are more likely to distort.

Therefore, its a good practice to supply your speakers and subs with the right amount of power.

Is it better to over-power or under-power a sub?

it is best to match the speaker’s as closely to the output of the power amp as possible. you can go over or under by about 15% or so without it being very problematic.

They can take over powered better than underpowered in most cases so make sure the impedance matches. To avoid damaging your output transformer.

Can your amplifier be too powerful?

An amplifier can be too powerful for speakers when it puts out a lot more wattage than your speaker can handle.

 Speakers should not be driven beyond their limits, because  they can easily get damaged. Cranking up a far less powerful amp is also not good as it will result in clipping, which distorts the sound.

Does more watts mean more bass?

Bass, as with many things, demands a comparison of quality vs quantity.

More bass does not necessarily mean better bass.

The power is determined by the wattage of the subwoofer in question, where a higher wattage means a more powerful subwoofer.

Should the amp be more powerful than the speakers?

Generally you should go for an amplifier that can deliver power equal to twice the speaker’s program/continuous power rating.

What Do Under-powered Subwoofer’s Sound Like?
Scroll to top