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Why Do Some Subwoofers Have Left and Right Inputs?

When setting up your home theater, did you pay attention to your subwoofer? Or maybe someone else set up the system for you? If you’re reading this, then chances are you’re looking at your subwoofer right now and possibly scratching your head.

Most subwoofers connect to the receiver using a single cable. Some might even have their own special cable that’s completely different from all the other speakers. However, some subwoofers have a left and right input.

In this article, I will answer the question “Why Do Some Subwoofers Have Left and Right Inputs?” to help you avoid any further confusion.

Single Cable Connections

Single Cable Connections

A single cable used for a subwoofer is an LFE (Low Frequency Effects) cable. As the name suggests, a subwoofer in your home theater is responsible for solely delivering low frequency (bass) sounds.

These low-frequency audio waves, which are transmitted to the subwoofer, are recorded in stereo sound. This means there is both a left and right channel, even though the sound plays through a single channel speaker.

How does the LFE cable work?

Essentially the left and right channels are combined into one cable to allow for both channels to be evenly dispersed. Think of it like using a Y splitter to separate two different paths, but the opposite way around. This is done within the receiver.

With the left and right signals now combined into a single channel, the appropriate sound can be directed to the subwoofer. An LFE cable can deliver effective and high-quality audio signals.

Keeping things simple…

Your receiver does the job of separating and directing the low-frequency signals to the subwoofer. These sounds are things like deep bass in music or movies, such as low voices or a train rumbling past.

By understanding how to use an LFE cable, output, and input, you can create one standardized connection. It makes it much easier to identify which cables go where, keeping things simple. And most newer subwoofers and receivers use this connection method.

Replacing your LFE cable…

LFE subwoofer cable

What if you have lost or damaged your LFE subwoofer cable? Luckily these quality cables are readily available at an affordable price. The Mediabridge Ultra – LFE Subwoofer Cable is a highly recommended LFE cable if you need a spare or replacement.

Measuring 6 feet (182 centimeters) in length, this LFE cable from Mediabridge provides a high-quality audio signal. The conductor is shielded using gas-injected foam insulation; this is followed by an aluminum Mylar shield, then braided copper heavy shielding.

Clever features like a split-tip center pin ensure there is always high contact with both the input and output terminals. A special turbine-style grip makes sure that the cable grips the terminal as tight as possible. Both these connections are also gold-plated for protection against corrosion and ensuring maximum conductivity.

How do RCA cables work?

Look at both your subwoofer and receiver. If there are two connections, with one being red and the other white, then you have what’s called an RCA connection. Red is the right, and white is the left channel. So, what is an RCA connection?

RCA stands for Radio Corporation of America and was originally produced in the 1930s as a way to connect record players to radio receivers. Originally, RCA was designed for mono single-channel signals. Two separate left and right cables were introduced when stereo became available.

Splitting the signal…

While the receiver is responsible for converting the left and right channels into a single signal when using LFE, this happens inside the subwoofer with RCA. Therefore, you may ask, “Is RCA better than LFE?” This is a rather simple process, so it doesn’t make too much of a difference.

The main reason why LFE cables are better is because of convenience and easier identification. The audio quality between both an LFE and RCA cable is similar. The only real difference is having to make an extra connection at each end.

Replacement RCA Cables

Just like the LFE cable, high-quality RCA cables are inexpensive and readily available. If you lose your cable or require some spares, this is my recommendation.

KabelDirekt – High Quality RCA Cables

KabelDirekt

These premium two-channel RCA cables from KabelDirekt offer efficient transmission for a clear, quality audio signal. The wire itself is constructed from pure copper, which offers maximum power and the least resistance.

Each of the connections is plated in 24K gold for high conductivity and prevention against any corrosion. Double shielding using aluminum/Mylar foil and copper braiding reduces the risk of any outside interference.

Different Receivers and Subwoofers

Now that you can answer the question, “Why Do Some Subwoofers Have Left and Right Inputs?” there are some more things you should know. Not all receivers and subwoofers are the same. Some might have both LFE and RCA connections available. If there is an LFE connection, I recommend using it purely from a convenience standpoint.

But what if your receiver has only RCA outputs, and your subwoofer has an LFE input? Or the other way around, with your receiver having an LFE output, and your subwoofer RCA inputs? Don’t worry; there’s an easy and affordable solution to this problem.

LFE to RCA cables

It doesn’t matter if it is your receiver or subwoofer that has a different connection type, as LFE to RCA cables operate in both directions. It is simply a matter of connecting the single jack to the LFE connection and the dual jacks into the RCA ends.

The LFE connection converts the two channels into one within the receiver. Conversely, the RCA cable makes the conversion inside the subwoofer. Using an LFE to RCA cable completes this process externally. Here is one of these cables that I highly recommend, the…

SHD – LFE to RCA Cable

LFE to RCA cable

Measuring 15 feet (4.6 meters), this LFE to RCA cable from SHD uses 99.99% OFC (Oxygen Free Copper). This ensures a clean and clear signal between your receiver and subwoofer.

Dual shielding using an aluminum/Mylar foil, followed by braided copper, protects against any interference. The connections are all coated in 24K gold-plating, and a 105P PVC jacket prevents tangles while adding overall durability.

Using Dual Subwoofers

Some home theater systems allow for the use of dual subwoofers. You might have noticed that speaker systems with a subwoofer use a number system. For example, a soundbar, which is a stereo output, plus a subwoofer, is a 2.1 system.

Most home theater systems will be 5.1 systems. This usually consists of front left and right, rear left and right, plus a stereo center speaker making five stereo speakers in total. Add the single-channel subwoofer, and you have 5.1 channel surround sound.

Point two…

Some home theater systems take things a step further by introducing even more speakers. You might have seen a 7.2 surround system. This adds left and right side speakers and also another subwoofer.

This makes a total of seven stereo speakers and two single-channel subwoofers. Normally you place one subwoofer in front, with the second at the rear. Who doesn’t want more speakers, right?

Adding dual subwoofers…

Remember that LFE to RCA cable? Well, if you have subwoofers with LFE connections, then you can use this same cable to add another subwoofer to your system. All without having to splash out on an entirely new, expensive 7.2 channel system.

By plugging the single jack into your receiver, you are then left with two remaining jacks that can be plugged into each subwoofer. By adding another subwoofer, you can experience a more refined sound with an even wider “surround” effect.

Looking for Great Speakers?

Well, we can help you find just what you need, so check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $500, the Best Powered Speakers, the Best High End Home Theater Speakers, the Best 7.1 Home Theater System, the Best PA Subwoofers, and the Best Floor Standing Speakers you can buy in 2021.

You might also like our handy guides on How to Connect Speakers to your TVHow to Program an Xfinity Remote to a SoundbarBi-Wiring and Bi-Amping ExplainedHow is Surround Sound Different Than StereoConnect a Soundbar to TV Without HDMI or Optical, and Soundbar Above or Below TV for more useful information.

Why Do Some Subwoofers Have Left and Right Inputs? – Final Thoughts

By now, you should have a more thorough understanding of the different subwoofer connection types. However, it doesn’t really matter what connection type you use, as long as you can experience that low-frequency bass.

I might have even prompted you to add an extra subwoofer into your existing system. Not everything to do with home audio needs to be an expensive exercise. The more you begin to learn and understand, the more you will save by knowing exactly which components you require.

Enjoy your audio experience and happy listening!

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About Jennifer Bell

Jennifer is a freelance writer from Montana. She holds a BA in Creative Writing and English, as well as an Associate of Applied Science in Computer Games and Simulation Design.

Her passions include guitar, bass, ukulele, and piano, as well as a range of classical instruments she has been playing since at school. She also enjoys reading fantasy and sci-fi novels, yoga, eating well, and spending time with her two cats, Rocky and Jasper.

Jennifer enjoys writing articles on all types of musical instruments and is always extending her understanding and appreciation of music. She also writes science fiction and fantasy short stories for various websites and hopes to get her first book published in the very near future.

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