How to Connect a Powered Subwoofer to Passive Speakers

Adding a subwoofer to your audio setup is a great way of ensuring that you get the most out of your entertainment system. Whether you’re playing party music or just watching movies, a subwoofer will take your audio experience to a whole new level. Apart from adding deep bass, integrating a subwoofer can greatly improve your overall sound system.

However, connecting a subwoofer to an audio system is far more complex than any other component in your system. It can even get more complicated when you’re tasked to connect a powered subwoofer to passive speakers. While it is relatively easy to connect a powered subwoofer to powered speakers, the same can’t be said when working with passive speakers.

How to Connect a Powered Subwoofer to Passive Speakers

Connect a Powered Subwoofer to Passive Speakers

Generally, speakers come in either a powered (active) or non-powered (passive) form. Powered speakers come with a power amp built, so you only need to hook them up and you’re good to go. On the other hand, passive speakers require external amplification.

Simply put active speakers plug directly into the wall while passive ones plug into an amplifier. The amplifier is not built into the speakers meaning you’ll require more gear to connect your speakers. So how, do you do about connecting a powered subwoofer to passive speakers?

If you’re using a passive speaker system, you’ll need to establish a connection between the subwoofer and the receiver first. In other words, you’ll require to run the output from your receiver to the subwoofer before you can finally hook up your passive speakers.

Basically, passive speaker systems are by far the most common, but the trickiest part is adding a powered subwoofer down the road. Like any other loudspeakers, subwoofers can be powered or non-powered. One advantage that powered subwoofers have over passive ones is that they come with their own crossover that helps ensure that mid and high frequencies don’t find their way to the subwoofer.

The crossover also helps to split the frequency range, so the speakers only play the higher frequencies, and the subwoofer reproduces the low frequencies only. So, if your subwoofer offers a crossover function, always utilize it to improve audio quality.

Often, receivers will feature a set of line outputs or an LFE output that you can use to connect to your powered subwoofer. The LFE (Low-Frequency Effects) output is a specialized port that is involved in the reproduction of low-frequency sounds.

When using the LFE output, you’ll need to get an extra set of speaker wires for the speaker level connections. Using speaker wires is the most ideal method as it offers the deepest bass and best sound quality possible. It is also the most preferred method when learning how to connect passive subwoofer to active speakers.

For this connection, you’ll only need to connect the speaker cable from the positive terminal of the receiver to the positive terminal of your subwoofer, and vice versa. Once the speaker cables are in place, you’ll then need to run the cables from the LFE output on the receiver or any other device you’re using to decode signals to the subwoofer.

This type of connection will ensure that your powered subwoofer is enabled and ready to pack a punch. At this point, you plug the subwoofer into a power supply before you can add your passive speakers. Also, ensure to observe polarity when adding a powered subwoofer to passive speakers using a speaker wire.

Most new speakers, whether passive or powered, are equipped with a cable for connecting to the subwoofer. If the cable is missing for one reason or another, you can always get one from an audio equipment store at an affordable price.

How to connect a powered subwoofer to passive speakers without LFE

If your speakers lack the LFE output, the easiest way to connect a powered subwoofer to passive speakers is by getting a Y-adapter. Audio Y-adapter provides an easy way for you to split the audio signal between your subwoofer and the speakers.

When using a Y-adapter, you’ll only need to plug one end of the male RCA connector to the receiver line in or subwoofer out, and the other one to the subwoofer line input found at the back of the subwoofer. The next thing you’ll need to do is to connect the remaining female RCA connector to your passive speakers to complete the connection.

The good thing is that you can either use a regular RCA cable or a specialized 3.5mm cable to connect the subwoofer and speakers. In addition, RCA and 3.5mm cables are standard jacks in most audio devices, and they are generally used to transmit signals from right and left channels.

If there is no sound coming from the subwoofer upon completion of the setup, double check your connection to ensure that both the left and right outputs are connected to the corresponding ports on your receiver. You may also want to adjust the receiver settings to suit your audio needs and personal preferences.

If the bass performance is still not satisfactory, you can try and add subwoofer to powered speakers and note if it will make a difference. Also, you can try and move your subwoofer to another location since its placement can result in a big difference in overall sound quality.


If you’re looking to enhance the performance of your passive speaker sound system, the easiest way is to get a powered subwoofer. The powered subwoofer not only adds deep bass to your sound system but also allows you to experience more details that are often absent in a typical speaker system. And although powered subwoofers are somewhat expensive, they are popular among audiophiles since they don’t require an external amplifier. Connecting a powered subwoofer to a passive speakers system may seem like a daunting task, but it shouldn’t take much of your valuable time as long as you know how to connect subwoofer to powered speakers.

Avatar for Jamie K. Martin

Jamie K. Martin holds a degree in Audio engineering from Husson University, Bangor. Martin spends most of his time testing and trying the technology he writes about to ensure that he provides first-hand information to our customers from all walks of life.

0 thoughts on “How to Connect a Powered Subwoofer to Passive Speakers”

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