Subwoofer Cable vs RCA Cable—Which Wins?

Setting up a quality sound system and connecting your subwoofer, in particular, calls for some important decisions. Among those decisions involves choosing between a standard RCA cable or a specialized subwoofer cable.

When connecting the subwoofer, you’re often tasked to choose an appropriate cable for connecting your subwoofer to the AV receiver. Technically, the cable facilitates the transfer of audio and video signals from the receiver to your subwoofer.

Older setups utilized a direct connection between the subwoofer terminal and the receiver’s sub out. This is the complete opposite of modern receivers, which come with a dedicated subwoofer port that uses an RCA connection, specially designed to transmit low frequency effects (LFE).

While most subwoofers support a standard RCA cable, using a dedicated subwoofer cable provides improved sound quality as compared to an RCA connection. And while the two types of cables serve the same purpose, they vary greatly in their ability to transmit signals between the receiver and the subwoofer.

Subwoofer Cable vs RCA Cable

RCA Cable vs Subwoofer Cable

If you’ve been searching for quality cables for your subwoofer you may have come across the hot debate about the standard RCA cable and the newly designed subwoofer cables. Technically, both are designed to deliver signals from your AV receiver to the subwoofer, and it is not uncommon to find some people using the two types of cables interchangeably.

From an expert point of view, it is generally acceptable to use either a typical RCA cable or a subwoofer cable to connect your subwoofer. As a matter of fact, any cable designed for use with a subwoofer should serve you just fine. But, which cable between the RCA and subwoofer cable is best for the optimum subwoofer performance? Let’s take a closer look!

RCA Cable

Overview of RCA Cable

RCA cables are by far the most common audio cables available. In fact, most home entertainment components use RCA connectors since they are cheap and easily accessible. This begs the question, ‘can I use any RCA cable for subwoofer?’

In most cases, you can use a standard RCA cable to hook up your subwoofer provided that it does not exhibit hum with the cable. A typical RCA cable uses a coaxial connection to connect the subwoofer to the receiver thus allowing signals to be sent to the front channels.

Connecting subwoofer with RCA cable requires you to plug one end of the cable to the dedicated subwoofer connector (Subwoofer Out) on the rear panel of your receiver. Depending on your receiver, the subwoofer output is sometimes referred to as SUB, SUB PRE OUT, or even SUB OUT. You can then go ahead and plug the other end of the RCA cable into the corresponding (LFE) jack on the subwoofer.

Advantages of RCA cables

  • RCA cables are relatively cheaper
  • Readily available in local audio stores
  • RCA cables are also relatively easy to use—you only need to plug the subwoofer, and you’re ready to rock

Disadvantages of RCA cables

  • Most cheap RCA cables cannot handle heavy-duty applications
  • Prone to distortions
Subwoofer Cable

Overview of Subwoofer Cable

Typically, a subwoofer cable comes in the same wiring configuration as an RCA cable, and they serve the same purpose of transmitting low frequency sound signals. However, the former feature additionally shielding and insulation to prevent noise and signal interferences that are common with cheap RCA cables.

Furthermore, most subwoofer cables are often heavy gauge to facilitate better signal transfer. Poor quality cables are the biggest culprits of degraded sound quality, and there’s nothing as frustrating as investing in a high-end sound system, only to have the sound quality ruined by low-quality cables. This is where a subwoofer cable comes in to provide more clarity and noise-free audio signals.

Is a subwoofer cable just an RCA?

At this point, you may be wondering if a subwoofer cable is just some form of an RCA cable or if upgrading from RCA to a subwoofer cable will help enhance LFE signals transmitted to the subwoofer. Well, we’d say it depends. If you’re a victim of inaudible audio signals and occasional humming, it is high time you consider investing in a dedicated subwoofer cable.

Generally, subwoofer cables help to significantly improve the quality of bass signals sent from to the subwoofer, and if you’re an experienced audiophile, you should be able to easily pick the difference between a high-quality subwoofer cable and cheaply made RCA cables.

The primary difference between an ordinary RCA cable and subwoofer cables is the bonus shielding layers that are incorporated into the latter to improve audio clarity. While you can use an RCA cable to make multiple subwoofer connections, upgrading from RCA to subwoofer cable is a great way of protecting the audio signal from distortion while ensuring that you achieve the highest quality performance from your subwoofer.

However, if you’ve been using RCA cables for quite some time and haven’t experienced significant sound quality degradation, then there is no urgent need to upgrade to a subwoofer cable. There’s no doubt that a subwoofer cable delivers distinguishable sound quality, but it is not uncommon to find an RCA cable that’s equally up to the task.

In addition, there are still some RCA cables with high-quality shielding that are capable of delivering the sound quality you have desired to achieve. So, when looking to buy cables for your new sound system ensure to not only check the wire specifications but also the shielding and insulation levels of the cables.

Advantages of subwoofer cables

  • Heavy-duty insulation help ensure that they capable of handling handle more power
  • Reduced low frequency sound distortion
  • Improved durability
  • High-quality bass

Disadvantages of subwoofer cables

  • They are generally expensive but are a worthy choice if you are after more than just a standard setup

Subwoofer Cable vs RCA Cable- Which is Better?

Both RCA and subwoofer cables are used to add a subwoofer to the sound system, but it can be quite challenging to choose one that will improve your overall sound quality. In some cases, subwoofer manufacturers may specify the specific cable type to use with the sub, but in most cases, most subwoofers will work with just any type. At the end of the day, the most ideal option will vary depending on what you want from your sound system.

For sound purists looking to get the most out of their home entertainment system, a subwoofer cable plays a critical role in the overall audio experience. Investing in a dedicated subwoofer cable will help ensure you enjoy the best sound output and transform your home theater experience. However, it is important to note that subwoofer cables are somewhat expensive, so they may not be an ideal choice for novice users looking to make simple connections.

While an RCA cable provides a cheap and convenient way of integrating your subwoofer into your sound system, very few cables can match the power and performance level of a subwoofer cable. In addition, RCA cables are susceptible to sound distortion, and most tend to struggle in demanding subwoofer applications.

If you’re still not convinced on whether to choose an RCA cable or subwoofer cable for your sound system, it is always a good idea to check the requirements of your equipment and choose the option that suits your specific audio needs. Regardless of which connection type you prefer, be it RCA or subwoofer cable, we recommend testing out both types and, evaluate the resulting sound quality from each.

Parting Shot!

Ideally, both types of subwoofer cables come with their own share of pros and cons, but it is a no-brainer that subwoofer cable offers better sound quality. However, using high-quality RCA cable will equally pay off, but it is crucial to pay attention to the quality of the subwoofer wire you choose. And, while RCA cables might struggle to provide a clear audio signal, they get the job done and most excels in delivering a high-quality listening experience.

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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