How to Connect Passive Subwoofer to Receiver

A subwoofer is a key component of any audio system that lets you enjoy extremely low frequencies. However, for you to get the most from the subwoofer, you’ll need to integrate it into the rest of the system. The type of subwoofer you’re using will determine how you connect it to the receiver i.e., whether it is powered or passive.

Connecting a powered subwoofer, also known as an active subwoofer, is pretty easy since it is already “self-contained”. Active subwoofers don’t require an external amplifier, and as such, you only need a single cable to connect to the home theater receiver.

On the other hand, a passive subwoofer needs external amplification just like other loudspeakers in the home theater setup. So, how do you go about connecting a non-powered subwoofer to receiver? In this article, we’ll teach you how to hook up any passive subwoofer to a receiver using RCA sub outs and the sub pre-outs.

How to connect passive subwoofer to receiver

First off, it is important to note that subwoofers require a considerable amount of power to accommodate deep bass effects. But, they should be able to do so without draining the power supply of the amplifier/receiver. In addition, the amount of power you need will depend on the amount of bass you desire or the size of your room.

Typically, connecting a passive subwoofer to receiver requires more expertise and speaker cables, and it takes a lot of patience to get it right.

One thing that you may have noticed with an AV receiver is that it often has numerous ports, which can be confusing. Additionally, more ports mean lots of cables, but the best part is you only need a few connectors when connecting a subwoofer.

How to connect unpowered subwoofer to receiver with RCA sub out

Unlike an active subwoofer that lets you connect the sub directly to the receiver, the process is somewhat different when using a passive subwoofer. Much like other passive speakers in your home theatre system, connecting a passive subwoofer involves running speaker wires from the external amplifier to the subwoofer.

To connect a passive sub to your receiver, you’ll first need to run a connection from the sub line out on the receiver to the line inputs of the amplifier. This treats the subwoofer as an extra speaker that draws power from the amplifier. Afterwards, connect the amplifier to the corresponding input in the AV receiver. As a result, the amplifier acts as a link between the receiver and your passive subwoofer.

The best part about this is that you can use multiple methods to hook up the amplifier, especially when your receiver does not have pre-outs. You can learn more about how an amplifier to a receiver without pre-outs here.

Most AV manufacturers do not recommend connecting a passive subwoofer directly to the receiver is for obvious reasons. First off, a passive subwoofer requires a lot of power to reproduce low frequency sounds, and the receiver may not be up to the task. Secondly, by connecting an unpowered subwoofer directly to the receiver you increase the risks of blowing up the receiver, especially when the impedance is too low.

How to connect passive subwoofer to pre-out

The receiver pre-outs are generally designed to hook up active speakers and subwoofers. The ports come in handy when you need to add more speakers, which can also include a standalone amplifier. However, this connection method is not applicable when using a passive subwoofer.

But all is not lost. Most receivers provide zone 2 connectors designed to connect the receiver to an extra set of channels/speakers in another room. However, you can use the zone 2 line-out ports to connect the external amplifier needed to power the subwoofer.

Finally, you can connect your passive subwoofer to the amplifier to integrate the sub into the system. Even so, you’ll need to activate the zone 2 port in the receiver’s settings for the subwoofer to work properly.

Tips for connecting a passive subwoofer to a receiver

  • Carefully check whether the passive subwoofer you’re using has a single or dual voice coil woofer construction. A dual woofer offers multiple wiring options, which means you can be flexible when connecting the subwoofer.
  • Before attempting anything, ensure that you have the correct RCA cables and that the color matches the ports on both the sub and the receiver.
  • If you’re using two or more subwoofers, ensure that the amplifier is big enough to accommodate the bass output of each unit. Also, ensure you have enough RCA cables for each subwoofer.
  • Also, ensure that the subwoofers are always wired “in-phase”. This connection requires that the negative terminals of your subs be connected to the negative terminal of the amplifier, and do the same thing with the positive terminals. So, instead of the woofers moving in the opposing direction, this arrangement will help them move in the same direction and not cancel out.
  • When it comes to wiring of other speakers to the amplifier, confirm that both the right and left speakers are connected to the appropriate terminals
  • Always check the user manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation on the best way to connect the subwoofer to the receiver.


Wiring a subwoofer is a relatively simple process, but the process is a bit different when connecting a passive subwoofer to a home theater receiver. It is important to stress that the performance of a sub is not determined by whether it is active or passive.

However, most people feel that a powered one is much better since you don’t need a separate amplifier. Also, since you have to acquire the amplifier individually, passive subwoofers are a bit more expensive than powered ones.

Also Read: How to Connect a Powered Subwoofer to Passive Speakers

The main thing that sets the two forms of subwoofer apart is the actual connection to the receiver. With a powered receiver, you’ll only need to connect it directly to the pre-out port on the receiver. On the contrary, a passive requires you to use an amplifier as an intermediary between the sub and the receiver. However, you may want to be a little careful to ensure that the subwoofer does not draw more powerthan what your amplifier can provide.

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.

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