How To Connect A Powered Subwoofer To Passive Speakers EASILY

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  • Learn how to connect a powered subwoofer to passive speakers
  • Learn about safety precautions when setting up a system
  • Tips on how to find good quality cables
  • Also, check out our post on subwoofer vs woofer!

Do you want to know how to connect a powered subwoofer to passive speakers? Well, there are three ways to do this.

To know which one will suit your needs, you must first consider the kind of output you want out of the sound system.

Also, you need to understand that the built-in preamps in your active subwoofer can only amplify the sub itself. So, remember that without an external amp, the passive speakers won’t work.

If this sounds interesting, then read on!

How To Connect A Powered Subwoofer To Passive Speakers Step-By-Step

There are three ways to connect a powered subwoofer to passive speakers: using a stereo RCA, low-frequency effects (LFE) speaker output, and eternal line return (XLR) cables.

Find out how they differ below.

Using Stereo RCA

The phono connector is better known as the RCA connector after its designer and manufacturer, Radio Corporation of America.

You’ve most probably seen RCA plugs and connectors before. They’re the ones that come in pairs or trios.

The pair comes in red and white for the audio, and the trio would include a yellow plug or connector for the video composite.

To use this kind of connection, here’s what you need to do:

  • Check if your subwoofers have a socket for jack plugs labeled “Line In.”
  • Likewise, your passive speakers should have similar sockets labeled “Out.”
  • Connect the passive speakers’ input sockets to an external amplifier using speaker wires.
  • Then, connect the subwoofer to the external amplifier.
  • Take note of the colors; they’re usually red and black. Observe proper color coding when attaching speaker wire to the connectors.

Using XLR Cables

External line return (XLR), better known as 3.5mm jacks, is a better option than RCA. The sound quality output is much superior with XLRs because the cables carry out a more balanced audio signal.

This is because the cable filters out the interference it picks up during transmission, reducing a significant amount of noise. However, ensure that all your equipment supports XLR ins/outs before buying XLR cables.

An XLR cable has a male and female end, both with a series of pins that will match their corresponding connectors.

Moreover, the connection diagram for this method would look similar to RCA. That is, to connect the passive speakers and active subwoofers to an external amplifier.

Only this time, you’ll be using XLR cables and connectors.

Using LFE Speaker Output

When using low-frequency effects (LFEs), the procedure for making the connections are pretty much the same as using stereo RCA and XLR. The only difference is the cables and connectors used.

However, you should know that LFEs use single cables that focus on the bass. Needless to say, the sound output is not a balanced route, especially if you’re using this with a subwoofer, which also focuses on bass.

So, although this isn’t the best alternative out there, we’re putting this here so that you know that you have this option if all else fails.

Tips and Safety Precautions When Setting Up a Sound System

For simple connections, you can DIY most of the setting up procedures without huge risks. However, if you’re dealing with massive speakers and sound systems, it’s best to seek help from a seasoned technician.

Electrical Risks

When installing wired connections, we recommend unplugging from the power source and turning off all equipment. This is for the safety of the handling technician and the appliances.

It would also be ideal to have a training background in proper grounding requirements, especially when handling complex audio setups.

Additionally, avoid working or setting up audio equipment in a wet area. Also, secure extra wires or cables, and don’t leave them lying around.

This way, the cables will be less exposed to wear and tear and, at the same time, prevent tripping accidents.

Speaker Wires and Cables Quality

Most people think that they’ve saved money by settling for unreasonably cheap wires and cables. What they don’t realize is that they’re putting themselves and their audio equipment at risk because, more often than not, these shabby cables didn’t pass standard quality tests.

As a result, the cable delivers a lot of noise and interference, compromising the audio quality. Furthermore, without sufficient metal stranding, you couldn’t expect substandard cables to last that long.

Wrapping Up

You may think an active subwoofer would be enough to power passive speakers, but that’s not the case. So, how would we connect a powered subwoofer to passive speakers?

The answer is to install an external amp, i.e. the main amplifier, to power the passive speakers.

Once you have an external amp, you can choose among the three methods, depending on the kind of cables and connectors available.

Setting up a sound system may initially seem overwhelming for a non-technical person, but after reading this article, you’ll realize that it’s not too complicated.


What Is The Difference Between A Passive And Active Speaker?

An active speaker has a built-in amplifier. A passive speaker doesn’t, so it needs to be powered or connected to an amplifier to work.

Consequently, passive speakers are more lightweight and cheaper than active speakers due to the absence of amps.

What Is The Difference Between A Powered And A Non-Powered Subwoofer?

A powered subwoofer is also called an active subwoofer, while the non-powered type is a passive subwoofer. The difference, then, between a powered and non-powered subwoofer is the presence of a built-in amplifier.

In other words, a powered subwoofer has a built-in amp, while the non-powered subwoofer doesn’t.

Does Cable Length Matter?

Yes, cable length does have an impact on signal quality. Read our post all about cable length here.

Does Expensive Always Mean Better When It Comes To Audiophile Cables?

Not necessarily. There are cheap audiophile cables and speaker wires that are of decent quality. Decent quality means they deliver their purpose well and are durable, too.

Instead of looking at the price tag, we suggest looking for cables with low resistance, inductance, and capacitance. 

Generally, that would be a 12- or 14-gauge speaker wire for wires running at over 50 feet long on speakers at around 4 or 6 ohms impedance.

If using less than 50 feet, 16-gauge speaker wires will suffice with speakers at 8 ohms impedance.

Before you go, check out our guide to 5.1 vs 71. Surround Sound (Pros, Cons & Placement Options)!