Whether you currently have a soundbar or are looking to purchase one, you may be wondering how important a subwoofer is. Some soundbars have subwoofers built-in. Some soundbars have external subwoofer add-ons, and some soundbars don’t have any subwoofers at all.
Does a soundbar need a subwoofer? A soundbar doesn’t need a subwoofer to sound good. Soundbars include multiple internal speakers that can sound great on their own, but a subwoofer helps produce low frequencies that many soundbars cannot.
When deciding whether or not a subwoofer is right for you, you’ll want to understand exactly what is included in a soundbar and in a subwoofer, review your home entertainment needs, and look through different soundbar options — with and without a subwoofer.
What Is a Soundbar?
Soundbars have been gaining popularity over recent years since they are a simple, easy addition to a flat-screen TV. They were originally created to be a step up from your flat screen’s included speakers, which are usually pretty low-quality.
As people started turning to soundbars to pair with their flat-screen TVs, the market grew and grew. Now, soundbars are more popular than ever, which means that manufacturers are making some very impressive soundbar systems.
The Basics of a Soundbar
Simply put, a soundbar is a compact speaker system. They are thin and lightweight and typically come in a long rectangular shape. They sit beneath your TV on your entertainment stand and many can be mounted below or above your TV.
Soundbars contain a number of speakers — anywhere from two to five and in some cases, even more. Even though all of the speakers are contained in the enclosure (or bar), manufacturers do their best to create a surround sound system, so sometimes, speakers are angled toward the sides of the room for a more room-filling sound.
You’re able to purchase soundbars by themselves or in a package deal, which can include external speakers, as well as a subwoofer. Since traditional surround sound speaker systems are typically more expensive and more complicated, soundbars are a hot alternative for even the biggest sound gurus.
Soundbars come in a number of speaker configurations — 2.0, 2.1, 3.0, 3.1, 5.1, and beyond (if you’re confused about these, check out our soundbar channels guide).
They are often equipped to connect with your smart home devices, and many are compatible with Dolby Atmos, which can help you create an impressive surround sound in your home theater or entertainment room. It is easier than ever to make a soundbar the base of your surround sound system and customize/upgrade as you wish.
What Is a Subwoofer?
Soundbars seem like the complete package themselves: multiple speakers, upgrading the TV’s default sound, compatibility with best technologies, and integrating with your devices, so why do you need more?
Even though soundbars can take a flat-screen TV’s sound up a notch on their own, a subwoofer is a popular upgrade and is often included in many soundbar packages — but is it necessary?
The Basics of a Subwoofer
A subwoofer is a type of speaker that is known as a loudspeaker. It is responsible for reproducing low-pitched audio frequencies, which most speakers are not capable of producing on their own. Whether you listen to music a lot or mainly watch TV, your audio source sends low-pitched frequencies that won’t be enjoyed the same without a subwoofer.
If you’ve never had a subwoofer in your home entertainment room, you probably wouldn’t even know what you are missing, but those who have subwoofers are hooked. They see them as a critical component of a proper sound system.
When a lot of people think of subwoofers, they think of the large, tower speakers that sit on the floor that are an eyesore, or they think of that friend’s car with the huge subs in the back to make their music loud and bass-heavy. While those options are still available, subwoofers have now upgraded a notch.
Subwoofers come in a range of sizes and quality, and many come wireless. Say goodbye to the bulky subwoofers you once thought of. Subwoofers can sit on a bookshelf, be mounted, etc., and they don’t have to be an eyesore in a shared living room.
When Do You Need a Subwoofer for a Soundbar?
When it comes to figuring out if you need a subwoofer, it all comes down to what your priorities are and who you ask. Are you trying to fill a room with immersive sound or stick to a low-budget sound system?
If you ask a music or movie buff with a subwoofer, they’d say you absolutely have to have one if you love getting the full sound experience in your bass-heavy music or cinema. If you are looking for a low-budget sound system that “does the job”, adding a subwoofer may not be a good use of your money.
A subwoofer is a key to getting a truly and fully immersive sound experience, no matter what you’re watching or listening to. If you have a dedicated home theater room or simply want your speaker system to go above and beyond the call of duty, you’ll want to get a subwoofer.
Subwoofers aren’t always a highly expensive add on — sometimes, they come with the subwoofer for a decent price. As soundbars continue to gain popularity, soundbars with subwoofers will continue to drop in price. If you’re looking for a better-than-average soundbar, you might as well look for one with a built-in subwoofer or an external subwoofer.
On the other hand, there are soundbars that do a good job of reproducing low-pitched sounds without an external soundbar. There are many options on the market that are raved about by reviewers for having an immersive surround sound experience without your traditional subwoofer. Manufacturers are creating some impressive technology that shouldn’t be ignored.
If you’re interested in a soundbar that doesn’t use a subwoofer, check out our recommended soundbars without subwoofers!
Where to Place a Subwoofer
If you do decide to purchase an external subwoofer or buy a soundbar with an included external subwoofer, you may be wondering where you should place your subwoofer. It’s an important question — because the placement of your subwoofer can affect the overall surround sound experience.
For a more in-depth explanation of subwoofer placement, check out my guide to soundbar subwoofer placement!
When deciding where to place your subwoofer, it first depends on whether it’s wireless or wired. If it’s wired, you can only place it so far from your soundbar, and if it’s wireless, you’ll want to make sure it still gets a great wireless signal.
More often than not, subwoofers are placed next to the TV or on an entertainment stand. This is a good option if you have a small room or sit near the TV.
If you have a large room and have many seats throughout your room, such as a dedicated home theater, you can opt to place your subwoofer in the corner of your room or behind your seating. These are both great options that can add to the surround sound of the larger room.
You may also choose to mount your subwoofer if that option is compatible with your soundbar. You can also set it high on a shelf to create a more vertical surround sound, without the addition of upward-firing speakers.
How to Connect a Subwoofer to a Soundbar
Since your soundbar acts as a subwoofer’s receiver, you’ll want to connect the subwoofer to the soundbar (more on how to connect other devices to soundbars in our guide). There are two options: a manual or wired connection and a wireless connection. Both are simple and quick to do, and once connected, your subwoofer will automatically turn on when you power on your soundbar.
If you have a manual or wired connection, your subwoofer will come with a cord that will connect to the output on your soundbar. If you have a wireless subwoofer, you’ll simply want to link your subwoofer and your soundbar through Bluetooth. If your subwoofer came packaged with your soundbar, the setup should be easy and instructions are available from the manufacturer.
If you decide to purchase a subwoofer separately from your soundbar, you’ll want to make sure that it’s compatible with your soundbar. In addition, if you purchase a soundbar on its own and are considering adding a subwoofer at a later time, you’ll want to make sure that it is manufactured to connect to a subwoofer through an output.
Great Soundbars without Subwoofers
When deciding whether or not a subwoofer is right for you, you’ll want to look at some of the great options of soundbars without subwoofers. Here are a few to consider.
The Sonos Playbar (on Amazon) is a great option for a soundbar without a subwoofer. It is highly rated and popular, and if you ever want to add on a subwoofer, you have the choice of adding on the Sonos Sub — plus wireless Sonos speakers. It features crisp dialogue, impressive bass, the ability to mount or sit atop of your stand, voice control, and more.
The only downfall is that it is a high-priced soundbar, and the subwoofer that you may later add on also sits at a high price. Sonos is a top, trusted speaker manufacturer, but there are definitely comparable options at lower prices.
Bose Solo 5
The Bose Solo 5 (on Amazon) TV sound system is another great soundbar without a subwoofer from another heavy-hitting speaker brand. It sits at a pretty low price and comes with a number of advanced technology features — dialogue mode, Bluetooth connectivity for streaming, mounting, rich sound, deep bass with a bass button on the remote, and more.
It sits at a pretty low price, so if you’re a fan of Bose speaker products, this might be a great option for you — no matter your budget.
Bose Soundbar 500
The Bose Soundbar 500 (on Amazon) is another great choice by top brand Bose. This is a mid-range priced soundbar with a lot of sought after features: Dolby Digital and DTS compatibility, app control, Bluetooth streaming, Apple AirPlay 2 compatibility, built-in Google Assistant and Alexa with high-quality voice pickup, and more.
While the sound can be great on its own, this Bose soundbar supports the addition of a Bose Bass Module and Bose Surround Speakers. This is another great option for Bose lovers and for music and TV buffs of all types.
VIZIO has been a top player in the soundbar game, and this low-priced VIZIO SB3820-C6 (on Amazon) 2.0-channel soundbar is a great buy. It comes with 100 dB of sound power, deep bass modules for extra bass without an additional subwoofer, compatibility with Dolby Digital and DTS, Bluetooth streaming, and more.
At such a low price, this powerful soundbar that is packed with great features is hard to beat. This is definitely worth checking out.
There are a lot of great reasons to add a subwoofer to your soundbar, but it’s not always necessary. You may end up choosing a soundbar package that includes a subwoofer, or you may find a great soundbar that has additional bass technology that helps fill in the gap for the low-pitched audio frequencies.
You could easily purchase a soundbar without a subwoofer and add on one later if you see fit, but you’ll need to make sure that your soundbar has that capability. Of course, you could also buy a soundbar with a built-in subwoofer from our list of the top 10.
Whatever route you choose, a subwoofer is a specialized speaker that helps you get the full, immersive surround sound experience that many movie and music buffs love to enjoy. It’s a great idea to look at all of your options before making the right choice for you.
Be sure to test out your options as much as possible and read the reviews to see how the bass sound compares from one soundbar another – to see if the subwoofer is necessary. There are so many great soundbars out there, so you shouldn’t have any problem finding a great one for you.