Can You Use Regular Speaker Wire for Subwoofer?

Author: Richard Clyborne | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

A good subwoofer is a perfect complement to your car or home stereo system. A subwoofer makes all the difference when you want to feel that bass rattle your bones.

Will just any speaker wire do for connecting your subwoofer?

The short answer is yes. In most cases, you could get away with the average speaker wire to connect your subwoofer. However, there are some factors to be aware of to get the best sound out of your system.

Are Stereo Wires and Subwoofer Wires the Same?

Subwoofer wires have some unique features that make the sound quality clear. The differences are subtle but they make a huge difference in how your system will sound.

Regular Speaker Wire

Your regular speaker wires connect an amplifier to your speakers. There are a few things at play in these wires to help you get the right sound.

The biggest factor is resistance. Lower resistance allows for more power and sound to be transmitted through the wire. This is a good thing!

To keep resistance low, you can use shorter wires. It is also key to have each wire be of the same length from the amplifier to the speaker.  So, measure carefully and only use as much wire as necessary and try to make them equal lengths.

Thicker wires will also lessen resistance. It’ll also help if your wires are made of copper.

When shopping for regular speaker cables, you’ll find that there are different gauges. When you see these numbers, remember that lower numbers mean thicker wires. Thicker wires in turn mean less resistance.

Regular speaker wire does not have the ability to sort out the lower frequencies of bass. So, while the wires may work and you will get sound, it won’t be the quality that you could expect with the proper wires.

It is important to have your wiring fit between the wire connector and the component connection.

Many times it may seem like there is a poor-quality speaker when it is really just a matter of poor-quality wire or poor connections. Connections should be snug but not too tight.

Subwoofer Wire

These wires look like RCA cables but they are different in that they are made for superior sound.

These cables are copper and then wrapped in one or more layers of metallic mesh. This mesh acts as a shield to keep out anything that would interfere with the lower bass frequencies that balance sound so perfectly.

Subwoofer cables are very high-quality RCA cables that aren’t just used for subwoofers. They can also be used for DVD players and game consoles to name a few.

You may come across the term capacitance when it comes to wiring. In this regard, the capacitance will lower resistance in the wiring. This is a byproduct of the mesh shield on subwoofer wires.

Using Regular Speaker Wires for Your Subwoofer

While you may not get the highest quality of sound, you can run regular RCA from the line in on your subwoofer to your line out on your amplifier or receiver.

There are diehard audiophiles that will disagree with this, but it is a personal choice.

If you are using wires that do not have the connections of RCA cables, you will have to make sure both components have the right connectors.

If compatible, you will need to run the wire from the subwoofer line into the amplifier or receivers line out.

What If the Subwoofer Only Has Speaker Wire Inputs?

In this case, you can make a few tweaks.

On your receiver, be sure to turn off the subwoofer and be sure to set the speakers to large. This should force the receiver to put the sound back to the front speakers.

Connect the Subwoofer with Regular Speaker Wires

  1. Use solid copper wire
  2. Have a white paper plate or paper towel on hand so you can see wire fragments
  3. Gather regular speaker cord – 12 and 14 gauge works best for distances under 25 feet
  4. Use wire cutters to cut off the ends
  5. Use wire cutters to snip up between the strands to separate the positive and negative
  6. Strip the wire – be sure to use the right slot on wire strippers, the wire likely tells you what gauge so you know what to use
  7. Only strip the wire over the white plate or paper towel – you don’t want wire fragments to come off so you can repeat until you get a clean strip
  8. Once the wire is stripped, twist the ends of the wires – they should also be even in length
  9. You can now connect the positive and negative to each component, matching red with red and black with black
  10. You can then connect your speakers if they need it

Avoiding Subwoofer Wire Problems

Most issues with these cables have to do with the connections. Cables tend to get crammed into receptacles or they are not snug enough.

Another problem is disconnecting the wires with tugging and twisting. Handle the wires with care and they will perform correctly.

Know Your Equipment

Subwoofer – Active or Passive?

A passive subwoofer needs an amplifier, and an active one has a built-in amplifier. That’s the short answer.

Why does this matter when it comes to wiring? Here is a bit about these subwoofers to help you understand.

If you have a passive subwoofer and you use it in a large home theater, you may find that you need multiple subwoofers to create the sound you want.

With the right receiver, this is not a problem, but it is harder to set up than the active subwoofer. Placement becomes a large factor in how these systems will sound.

An active subwoofer has a built-in amplifier. These are very basic to set up, and it shouldn’t take much time or effort.

Compatibility Matters

It doesn’t matter which kind of subwoofer you have when it comes to sound quality. They are equal in that respect.

The main key here is to make sure that all of your equipment is compatible and working together, right down to your wires.

To give an example of why this compatibility matters, consider a passive subwoofer. They need power from another source like your amplifier or receiver.

You may have multiple passive subwoofers and they all need a lot of power to produce the sound you want. Your amplifier or receiver needs to have the capacity to put out the amount of power needed.

Which Subwoofer is Better

If you have an active subwoofer, you don’t require nearly as much from your amplifier and that can save some money. The more power output needed from an amplifier, the more the cost.

This may give you the idea that active subwoofers are somehow better. But to be fair, if you have a large space like a home theater, you want multiple subwoofers for balance.

One is simply not better than the other, they just suit different needs. Both can sound excellent.

Now, why did I go into the subwoofer specifics? Because this is going to make a huge difference in your wiring needs.

So, Which Wires to Get?

The quality of your cables matters. If you have multiple subwoofers, you want cords that all meet the same requirements to get the power and information from your receiver/amplifier to your subwoofers. The same can be said for the other speakers.

Many people underestimate the importance of these wires, and the quality does matter for the balance of your sound. Get the right wires and let your quality speakers shine!

So, to recap, can you use a regular speaker wire for your subwoofer?

Sure, you can. But you will not get the amount of power needed, and you will not have the clear separation of bass, mid-level and treble sounds that make a balanced sound system. The system will run but not optimally.

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About Richard Clyborne

Richard is a guitar player and music producer from Denver, CO. Apart from touring extensively with his band, he has briefly worked as a session musician and recorded at several prominent recording studios across Colorado.

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