If you’re in the process of buying a subwoofer, you might wonder if you should also purchase a special subwoofer cable. Or would an RCA cable work just as well? Which of the two is better?
Subwoofer Cables Vs RCA – Key Differences
Subwoofer cables can provide better audio quality than RCA cables as they are specifically designed to carry the low-frequency signals played by the sub. The extra shielding and insulation of a subwoofer cable protect the audio signal from interference and noise, thus making it a better option.
However, chances are you already have a set of RCA cables lying around at home and probably want to use them instead of buying new cables.
Here is a quick comparison of subwoofer cable vs RCA:
|Feature||Subwoofer Cable||RCA Cable|
|Purpose||Specifically designed for subwoofers||General audio interconnect|
|Signal Type||Low-frequency signals||Audio signals|
|Connectors||Subwoofer-specific connectors||RCA connectors|
|Shielding||Heavy shielding to prevent interference||Varying levels of shielding depending on quality|
|Bandwidth||Narrow bandwidth specifically for subwoofers||Wider bandwidth to support full-range audio signals|
|Cost||Typically more expensive than RCA cables||Can vary widely in cost depending on quality|
Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of a subwoofer cable versus an RCA cable to help you decide which one you should opt for.
Also read: Why Do Some Subwoofers Have Left and Right Inputs?
What is an RCA cable?
RCA cables are the most commonly found audio cables in a home theater system. They can be used to connect a variety of A/V devices and are quite cheap and easily available.
You’ve probably used them before to connect media equipment such as a DVD player, CD player, gaming device, or cable box to your TV.
RCA cables usually come with color-coded plugs- most often with red for the right channel and white or black for the left channel and yellow for the composite video. These match the corresponding jacks on your A/V devices.
RCA cables transmit non-digital or analog signals.
Pros of RCA cables for subwoofer connections
- RCA cables are very cheap. In fact, you may not even have to buy them as you might already have a spare set in your house which perhaps came with some other equipment you are not using.
- These cables are also easily available in stores and online.
- Thanks to the color coding they are fairly straight-forward to connect
- Since RCA cables are designed to carry a wider range of frequencies, they may not work as well as subwoofer cables which are more optimized to transmit the lower frequency signals for the subwoofer.
- Unlike subwoofer cables, they do not have additional shielding and insulation which can make them susceptible to noise and interference.
- RCA cables are not as long as subwoofer cables. This can pose an issue if you want to place your subwoofer far away from your equipment.
- The gauge of the wire (thickness of the wire) in RCA cables is generally thinner than subwoofer wires. Therefore, their power capabilities tend to be lower than subwoofer cables.
What is a subwoofer cable?
Subwoofer cables are a type of RCA cable specifically designed for connecting subwoofers to receivers or amplifiers.
To protect the low-frequency bass signals played by the subwoofer from interference and noise, these cables have additional layers of insulation as well as better shielding. (Here’s an article explaining how shielding and insulation of a cable protect the signal) This reduces the subwoofer hum and provides greater audio clarity.
Subwoofer cables are longer (some even going up to 30 meters) than RCA cables and more powerful.
Pros of using subwoofer cables
- Subwoofer cables provide better audio clarity as they are specifically designed to transmit low-frequency signals.
- They have thicker insulation and extra shielding to protect the signals from interference and noise which can degrade the quality of audio.
- Their wires usually have a heavier gauge (thicker wires) compared to RCA cables therefore they are capable of handling more power.
- Subwoofer cables are generally longer than regular RCA cables. So if you’re going to do a subwoofer crawl to find the ideal spot for your subwoofer, you can do it with ease. This gives you greater flexibility on your subwoofer placement which is key to getting optimal performance from your sub.
- Subwoofer cables tend to be a little more expensive than standard RCA cables.
- Some subwoofer cables can vary in quality and be unnecessarily costly without much improvement to the audio quality.
Which is better- subwoofer cable or RCA?
It is often said that using the right type of cable can add value to your home theater system.
Since subwoofer cables are optimized for connecting subwoofers to other devices such as home theater receivers and amplifiers, the audio quality is clearer than that of regular RCA cables, which are designed for multiple purposes.
The additional shielding and insulation of subwoofer cables protect the low-frequency signals from noise and interference. Here, RCA cables may not be up to the task.
This is because unshielded RCA cables can pick up interference from adjacent equipment as well as noise from ground loops. If you have a lot of wires from other gear in your home theater room, this can prove to be a problem.
You’ll end up getting frustrated by the hum you hear from the subwoofer.
Also, when it comes to getting the most out of your subwoofer, placement plays a significant role. Subwoofer cables are longer and this allows you to place the subwoofer in the spot where you can hear it best.
Subwoofer cables, thus, are a better option if you don’t want to compromise on the subwoofer sound.
Can I use an RCA cable to connect my subwoofer to a receiver or amplifier?
Yes, you can connect your subwoofer to an amplifier or receiver using an RCA cable and still get good-quality audio.
If you want to use the RCA cables you already have, we suggest you do a trial connection to test how they sound. If you find that the audio is good and there is no hum, then you don’t really need to buy a special cable.
Alternatively, you can also use a good quality RCA with sufficient shielding from a reputed brand.
You can use a standard RCA cable to connect your subwoofer to a receiver or amplifier. However, we recommend you test out this connection.
If you find there is a noticeable buzz or hum, it can ruin your entire audio experience. In that case, you should upgrade to a better cable. There’s no point in spending on a subwoofer if you are going to get a substandard experience.
After all, you want your subwoofer to perform to its full potential and enjoy the deep, rumbling bass.