In a previous article, we talked about Tweeters. This time, let’s get into woofers. When you’re buying a new home theater system or sound bar, or even when looking for a new car, you have likely heard the words: tweeter, woofer, subwoofer, and midranges without really knowing what that means.
Every sound you hear has a given frequency. Typically, the human hearing range is from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, which you may think is a vast range, and indeed it is. That’s why there are several types of speakers. A Woofer is designed to reproduce low-frequency sounds, typically from around 50 Hz to 1,000 Hz (50 Hz to 1KHz).
How do speakers work?
Traditional speakers produce sound using an electromagnet to move a flexible cone back and forth. They use drivers to help translate electrical signals into physical vibrations so that you can hear recorded sounds. A woofer is one of the three main speaker types.
Why are woofers important?
Woofers and subwoofers are essential because the low frequencies also help produce the full, rich, three-dimensional effect we love in movie soundtracks and music. Without a woofer/subwoofer, you’ll miss out on some of the explosions and gunshots for movies and video games. Music-wise, you will partially miss instruments like the bass, tuba, and trombone.
Wait! What is a woofer, and is it different from a subwoofer?
Woofers and subwoofers reproduce low frequencies, but their work frequency range is the main difference. A woofer has frequency ranges of between 20Hz to 2KHz, while a subwoofer can only cover a much narrower frequency range of 20Hz to 200Hz.
In short words, a woofer is a specialized speaker; and a subwoofer is a specialized woofer covering a narrow frequency range. Some examples where a subwoofer is useful are reproducing specific low-frequency effects (LFE), such as earthquakes and explosions in movies, and for music, pipe organ pedal notes, acoustic double bass, and tympani.
How can I tell apart a woofer?
Pretty easy. The key is the size:
- Tweeter: The smallest of all.
- Midrange: They are….well, mid-size.
- Woofer: They are noticeably bigger.
- Subwoofer: Even bigger and likely to find multiple woofers within a large speaker enclosure.
Why are woofers bigger than tweeters?
The lower the frequency, the longer the sound wave. This means drivers need to work harder to produce low frequencies in volumes you can hear, which is why woofer drivers tend to be much bigger than midrange or tweeters (high-frequency drivers): the bigger the driver, the easier it is to produce the long-wave frequencies.
The larger size allows the driver to move much air while maintaining the required low frequency.
Which is the typical size of a woofer?
A woofer can be as small as 4 inches in diameter or as large as 15 inches. Woofers with 6.5-inch to 8-inch diameters are standard in floor-standing speakers. Bookshelf speakers typically have woofers with diameters in the 4-inch and 5-inch range. Here’s how to measure a speaker’s size if you want to learn.
What happens if a woofer reproduces high frequencies?
Not much happens. Most modern sound systems include filters (also called crossovers) that will block any sound out of your woofer’s frequency range.
Materials used in woofers
It is usually the cone material used in most speaker marketing materials to get you to buy speakers. The three chief properties designers look for in cones are lightweight, stiffness, and lack of coloration (unwanted resonances).
Below are some of the most common materials used for woofers:
- Paper: Mistakenly believed that paper is an old fashion way to build a speaker. Sensitive to temperature and humidity.
- “Doped paper: A layer of plastic or other material to protect paper from the environment. Also, it makes paper cones more “stable and rigid” Doped paper: A layer of plastic or other material to protect paper from the environment. Also, it makes paper cones more”stable” and rigid.” Doped paper: A layer of plastic or other material to protect paper from the environment. Also, it makes paper cones more “stable” and rigid.” Doped paper: A layer of plastic or other material to protect paper from the environment. Also, it makes paper cones more “stable” and rigid.
- Polypropylene is the most common material used in today’s speaker manufacture.
- Kevlar: It’s light and stiff but can have coloration problems. It needs to be carefully constructed and built.
- Metals (Magnesium): Similar to kevlar, metals can produce great low-end sound but also bring coloration issues if not well-designed
Other materials could include injection-molded graphite (IMG) and glass fiber. There are hundreds of subcategories under each as speaker manufacturers try to differentiate their speakers and make them unique.
Then, which is the best material for woofers?
¡All of them! And none at the same time. So many factors contribute to a great woofer, not just the material. A well-designed paper woofer could outperform a poorly designed Kevlar woofer which looks nicer and costs twice.
Some of the factors that matter for overall woofer performance are:
- The cabinet
- The crossover (filter)
- Ported or not ported (a hole in the front/back of the speaker cabinet)
- Your listening environment (room layout)
Anything else to know about woofers?
“Of course! Woofers could be called bass speakers. Additionally, the name is from the onomatopoeic English word for a dog’s bark,” woof” Of course! Woofers could be called bass speakers. Additionally, the name is from the onomatopoeic English word for a dog’s bark, “woof.” Of course! Woofers could be called bass speakers. Additionally, the name is from the onomatopoeic English word for a dog’s bark, “woof.” Of course! Woofers could be called bass speakers. Additionally, the name is from the onomatopoeic English word for a dog’s bark, “woof.”
Remember that any speaker will sound completely different in your home than in the store. A good advice is to listen to music you know well to get your first impressions.