How to Connect a Subwoofer to a Receiver or Amplifier

Easy ways to hook up almost any kind of subwoofer

What to Know

  • Connect a subwoofer through the subwoofer output (SUB OUT or SUBWOOFER) of a receiver using an LFE cable.
  • Connect using an RCA cable if there isn't an LFE subwoofer output or LFE input.
  • If the subwoofer features spring clips, use the speaker output of the receiver to hook it all up.

This article explains how to connect a subwoofer to a receiver or amplifier by using LFE cables, RCA cables, or speaker wire connections.

Connect Using the LFE Subwoofer Output

The preferred method of connecting a subwoofer is through the subwoofer output (labeled SUB OUT or SUBWOOFER) of a receiver using an LFE (Low-Frequency Effects) cable. Almost all home theater receivers and processors and some stereo receivers have this type of subwoofer output.

The LFE port is a special output only for subwoofers; you may see it labeled as SUBWOOFER and not as LFE.

An illustration of the options for connecting a subwoofer.
Lifewire / Miguel Co

Surround sound audio (also known as 5.1 channel audio) such as media found on DVDs or cable television, has a dedicated channel output with bass-only content that is best reproduced by a subwoofer. Setting this up requires connecting the LFE or subwoofer output jack on the receiver/amplifier to the LINE IN or LFE IN jack on the subwoofer. It's usually just one cable with single RCA connectors on both ends.

Connect Using Stereo RCA or Speaker Level Outputs

Sometimes a receiver or amplifier does not have the LFE subwoofer output, and sometimes the subwoofer doesn't have the LFE input. Instead, the subwoofer might have right and left (R and L) stereo RCA connectors or spring clips like you see on the back of standard speakers.

If the subwoofer's LINE IN uses RCA cables and the subwoofer out on the receiver/amplifier also uses RCA, plug it in using an RCA cable. If the cable is split on one end (a y-cable for both right and left channels), plug it in the R and L ports on the subwoofer. If the receiver/amplifier also has left and right RCA plugs for subwoofer output, be sure to also plug in both to the receiver.


How to Connect Speaker Wires to Your Receiver or Amp

If the subwoofer features spring clips for speaker wire, use the receiver's speaker output to hook it all up. This process is the same as connecting a basic stereo speaker using speaker wire. Be sure to mind the channels. If the subwoofer has two sets of spring clips (for speaker in and speaker out), it means that other speakers connect to the subwoofer, which then connects to the receiver to pass along the audio signal. If the subwoofer has​ only one set of spring clips, the subwoofer must share the same receiver connections as the speakers. The best way to accomplish this is by using banana clips that can plug into the backs of each other rather than overlapping bare wire.

Subwoofers are typically easy to connect, given that there are usually only two cords to deal with: one for power and one for the audio input. You're far more likely to spend the bulk of time positioning and adjusting to get the best performance out of your subwoofer than plugging in a pair of cables.

  • How do you connect two or more subwoofers?

    To connect multiple subwoofers, connect one receiver output to one subwoofer, then connect the second one to the other subwoofer. Alternatively, use an RCA Y-Adapter to send two parallel low-frequency audio signals to two separate subwoofers.

  • What cable do I need to connect a subwoofer to a receiver?

    All LFE, RCA, or speaker wire cables are basically the same, so if it fits in the audio port, it should work fine.

  • Can you connect a subwoofer with a coax cable?

    Yes, if your subwoofer has the appropriate jack. Coaxial cables are recommended for long-distance connections.

  • How long can a subwoofer cable be?

    Although there's no limit to the length of a subwoofer cable, a maximum of 20 feet is recommended because longer cables are susceptible to electromagnetic interference.

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