The woofer is the main loudspeaker driver or bass speaker.
In order to understand the woofer one needs to know a bit more about the entire speaker design. A woofer does not work in isolation so it is necessary to understand the modern speaker. We will explain what are woofers while taking you through the complete speaker setup. This will give you a better understanding.
Understanding frequencies and the need for multiple speakers
While relatively simple it is important to know that a quality speaker consists of a range of speakers or drivers, each responsible for a different range or frequency of sound. A basic speaker might consist of a single speaker designed to cover the full spectrum of frequencies. This, unfortunately, seldom happens.
For basic audio, be it music or a movie soundtrack, you could get away with a basic single speaker system. The better ones work fairly well. You will, however, miss out on some of the frequencies and lose some of the original audio quality;
In more advanced systems, a range of speakers is used to cover the full frequency range. The frequency is measured in Hertz or Hz. A full-range speaker is designed to try and deliver all frequencies. The size of the speaker has an impact on the frequency range. Too small and there is not enough low-range or bass, too large and they struggle with the higher frequencies.
This is the reason for multiple speakers, each one designed to operate at a specific frequency range. They work in harmony to deliver a full rich sound that picks up the subtle notes and tones across the frequency range.
Components of a speaker box
There are typically three separate speakers in a good speaker box. These include the woofers, the mid-range speakers, and the tweeters. Some will have only a woofer and a tweeter (2-way speakers) – more on that later.
Let’s take a look at these three components and what they do.
This speaker is designed to deliver frequencies from low to mid-range. This forms the foundation for most audio from soundtracks to music. Most sound effects, voice, and musical instruments rely on low to mid-range frequencies.
The woofer is generally the largest speaker in the box as it needs the size to deliver the heavy bass and low-range frequencies.
These are the smaller speakers, normally at the top of the box. Tweeters are there to provide the higher frequencies. The dispersion of higher frequencies is directional which makes the positioning of the speakers important.
There are several tweeter designs and technologies that are used.
Many speaker setups include a mid-range speaker. This, as the name suggests, delivers frequency at the mid-range. It will complement the output of the woofers and tweeters.
2-Way vs 3-Way speakers
As discussed above, some speakers contain only a woofer and a tweeter. These are known as 2-way speakers and are a popular option. They deliver decent quality audio without a massive spike in the cost. They are ideal for soundtracks or casual home listening. The good quality 2-way speakers can produce excellent audio so it is not always necessary to have anything more.
Speakers containing a woofer, mid-range speaker, and a tweeter are known as 3-way speakers. These are theoretically better as they are able to carry a wide range of frequencies more accurately.
Leading on from the above, the quality of the speakers is paramount. Quality 2-way speakers could well deliver better audio quality than average or inferior 3-way speakers. There is more to consider than just the number of speakers.
The design, workmanship, and materials used are all important factors to consider. The components used, particularly the quality of the crossover are also important. A good crossover is critical as this will “direct” the frequencies correctly for top-quality audio.
The materials and design of the cabinet also contribute to the quality of sound that your speakers will produce.
So, we have discussed woofers. What then is a subwoofer? While woofers are responsible for the low-frequency deep bass sounds, to get the full effect you want to include a subwoofer. They deliver a rich resonating bass frequency. When you can physically “feel” the sound, that is normally thanks to a good subwoofer.
When installing or using subwoofers it is a good idea to understand the basics of phase control. Read here about Subwoofer Phase 0 or 180.
Woofers vs subwoofers
One has to understand that they are two separate speakers. A woofer will deliver the deep rich bass sounds. If you want extra bass and more low-frequency sound, it is a good idea to add a subwoofer. One can enjoy good audio without a subwoofer but it certainly adds to the quality.
It will add a new dimension to your home theater system or music enjoyment. Many modern soundtracks and music use a full range of frequencies and without the right speakers, you will not be able to appreciate the full extent of the audio.
It can get a lot more complex than that but for most purposes, a quality 2 or 3-way speaker will do the trick. What you want is to enjoy the audio in a format that is close to the original production as possible. For that, you need good speakers. The woofer is the core of your speaker. While all components are important you need to start with good woofers.
The Woofer is the foundation of your speaker system. While all of the components are important, the woofer is top of the list. Without a quality woofer, the rest of the components will not be able to deliver.