Finding The Right 5-inch Subwoofer Speaker

The subwoofer is an essential part of any audio setup, providing the deep bass frequencies that give your music a lot of its power. A lot of sound equipment manufacturing companies make 5 inch subwoofer speakers, including Sony, JBL, Bose, and B+W.

Which Size Subwoofer Speaker Do I Need?

  • A 5-inch subwoofer is quite small by woofer standards. Generally speaking, smaller speakers produce a less powerful sound than larger speakers, and also will not produce frequencies as deep. However, speaker power and sound profile aren't solely down to size, so you can still find small subwoofers that produce deep, rich bass.
  • 5-inch subwoofers are typically used where space is at a premium, like hi-fi units or car audio systems. Car speaker enclosures have to fit into a fairly small space, so it makes sense to use small cones. Some hi-fi and car subwoofers are even coaxial, as coaxial speakers take up a lot less space.
  • Home audio and home theater systems tend to rely on bigger subwoofers for their bass frequencies. Home theater subwoofer drivers tend to be 12 inches or more across, sometimes even up to 20 inches. While big drivers can be more powerful, the difficulty of controlling such a large cone can create sound quality issues. See the manufacturer site for size details.

Which Other Specifications Should I Look At?

  • Subwoofer power is measured in watts. More powerful speakers have a higher maximum volume, although not by much: doubling speaker power will give you an extra 3 dB of sound. If you choose a powerful unpowered woofer, make sure that your amp can actually deliver enough power for it to use.
  • Resistance is measured in ohms. It measures how much the speaker's voice coil resists electricity, and how hard it is for the amplifier to drive it. Low ohm woofers produce more watts from the same input. You need to match the speaker's resistance carefully to the amplifier though, because one that isn't designed to power a low-ohm speaker may work too hard and overheat. Some drivers have dual voice coils, which gives you some extra control over the amount of resistance they have.
  • Frequency response measures the different frequencies of sound that your woofer can produce. A speaker with a lot of range can make deep, low-end rumbles as well as higher mid-bass sounds. Using a driver with plenty of range improves audio quality greatly.

Powered vs. Passive Woofers

  • Passive woofers are driven by an external amplifier. This allows you to choose the model that gives you the sound profile you want. On the other hand, it also means matching up their power and resistance to your speakers' power handling capacity.
  • Powered woofers have a built-in amp inside the enclosure. Doing away with the separate amp allows you to build an audio system in a much smaller space.