First thing first, I should tell you that the question do you need a subwoofer with a soundbar is not an exact yes or no question.
The main reason for saying that it’s not a clear-cut yes or no question is because solo soundbars have built-in subwoofers to make up for the lack of an external, dedicated one.
In general, I believe that most people will be satisfied with the built-in components and the bass they provide. I’m not including audiophiles here.
On the other hand, some people will think that their soundbar needs a dedicated subwoofer to complete the surround sound experience.
Some will say that they have never heard of a soundbar that didn’t sound so much better with a subwoofer connected to it. I mostly tend to agree but that’s just my personal preference.
Others will just be completely satisfied with the solo soundbar they’ve bought and won’t feel the need to add another piece to their single-item system.
Thus, establishing whether you need a subwoofer or not for your soundbar is a personal choice to make.
Do You Need a Subwoofer with a Soundbar? Yes and No
Let’s see what I mean by yes and no when it comes to answering the question do you need a subwoofer with a soundbar.
When I wrote an article recommending my favorite soundbars, I mentioned that the Yamaha SR-B20A was one of my favorites.
I especially recommend it for people who want to keep things on a budget but still want to enjoy very good audio quality from their system.
When we look at the Yamaha SR-B20A, we see that we’re only paying for the solo soundbar, there’s no dedicated subwoofer included in the package. So it’s not a 2.1.
If someone were to ask me if they need to buy a separate subwoofer for their Yamaha SR-B20A, then I would say that they probably don’t.
That’s because I believe that even if we compare this Yamaha with a 5.1 speaker system, I would say that most people would be surprised at how good it really sounds.
Solo soundbars are better for smaller spaces
The exceptions will be people who buy the Yamaha SR-B20A to set-it up in a very large room with very high ceilings.
It’s not made for very large spaces. It excels in smaller rooms. Its built-in subwoofers provide decent bass but if you’re truly passionate about bass, you’ll maybe end up craving an external one, too.
I gave you the example of this Yamaha model because I wanted to show you how things differ from model to model. But they also differ from person to person and the whole size of their living space or rooms.
If you have a generous budgets and a very generous space to create surround sound in, you might also want to consider going straight for more complex soundbar systems.
These kinds of audio systems come with multiple components, like soundbar, satellite speakers, and subwoofer.
Some of these systems will be called 11.1.4 or 5.1 or even a modest 2.1.
Thus, every system that includes that .1 will have a subwoofer. If there’s no .1, you’ll either have to be satisfied with the built-in subwoofer that the soundbar includes or buy a separate dedicated subwoofer but that will increase the final price significantly.
If there’s a .0, that’s another indication that there’s no dedicated subwoofer included.
Built-in subwoofers can be good enough
That doesn’t mean that the built-in subwoofers can’t be quite good.
For example, the Bose Smart SoundBar 300 even comes with a Bose Music App where we can adjust the bass, treble, mid sounds and we can enable Dialogue mode for movies, TV shows, podcasts, etc.
If you’ll read some reviews for the Bose 300, you’ll see that some people absolutely don’t feel the need to buy an external subwoofer, they’re satisfied with what the built-in ones offer. I still believe that the the Bose Smart SoundBar 300 is just too expensive but that’s on me.
Buy a 2.1 or higher soundbar system from the beginning
Soundbars that come with an additional speaker called a subwoofer for providing the extra bass are called 2.1.
Thus, if you know for sure that you want a soundbar for your room or house but you also know from the start that subwoofers are definitely a piece you require for your total audio enjoyment, you should focus on models that are sold as a complete set.
Plus, it’s cheaper and more convenient to buy a complete system from the beginning. Afterwards, you don’t have to worry if a particular subwoofer will be compatible with your solo soundbar.
What is a soundbar?
Let’s learn more about what soundbars are, what their audio capabilities are so that you can understand even better what your answer should be to the question: do you need a subwoofer with a soundbar?
Basically, a soundbar is a speaker that looks way cool with its rectangular, long shape that can fit in any interior design. Mostly, soundbars are used with TVs or with projectors.
Their shape is actually designed to match the length of a TV, although you won’t get the two perfectly aligned.
Another aspect that makes soundbars really good is that they have subwoofers and multiple speakers built-in.
The basic, solo soundbar tries to imitate a more complex audio system, like a 2.1 or a 5.1. It tries to create surround sound all on its own and its integrated components.
More expensive solo models will also come with apps where you can regulate a bunch of features, including the bass and treble to match your audio expectations for the entertainment you enjoy most.
A 2.1 soundbar already indicates that it comes with a dedicated subwoofer. The same goes for 5.1 or any other configuration that mentions a .1.
If you check out models and you see a 7.2 or something like that, that means that the system includes a soundbar with external speakers and two subwoofers.
There’s also a high change that all these external components will be wireless, including the subwoofers.
Soundbars pros and cons
I really love their design, it integrates perfectly with a projector or a TV. But we can say the same about even bigger speaker systems, if we know how to place them strategically in our place.
What I consider to be their biggest pro is that they’re easy to install and use.
Easy to use
Solo soundbars are perfect for people who aren’t into learning how a complex audio system works. And how its various components should be placed in a room.
You just get that one piece that we usually place on our TV stands or media storage furniture and that’s about it. If we get an app, that’s going to take a bit of experimentation until we get used to it.
Of course, if we go into 5.1 or 7.2 or 11.1.4 or 9.2.4 soundbar systems, then those take a while to figure out, too.
People tend to mention that soundbars are an affordable alternative to expensive audio systems. I tend to agree. But it also depends on what affordable means to some people and what it means to others.
For example, cheap Bluetooth speakers that cost around $30-$50 can totally work for some people and they don’t need anything bigger than that.
The Yamaha that I mentioned above is around $200 and that’s one of the cheapest we could buy if we also care about getting pretty top-notch audio quality.
Compare that with a cheap Bluetooth speaker and you’ll see that soundbars are in fact not so cheap for some people.
Plus, even if we were to say that solo soundbars are smaller than 2 satellite speakers and a subwoofer setup, we could counteract by saying that it doesn’t get much smaller than many of the Bluetooth speakers on the market.
As always, what someone views as pros, others might not agree and vice versa. And it’s the same when we’re trying to answer the question do you need a subwoofer with a soundbar.
What is a subwoofer?
We’ve seen what one part of our equation is. Let’s see what role a dedicated subwoofer plays.
Pretty much, when we talk about subwoofers, we talk about deep bass. That’s what everyone knows, even those who are not into having any good audio systems at all.
Deep bass means the deepest frequency our systems can reproduce.
In more technical terms, subwoofers are speakers that deliver lower frequencies, between 20 and 200Hz.
In reality, you can find ones that issue depth charges all the way down to 25Gz and even lower, precisely the kind some people are looking for.
If we talk about normal values that are more popular, we speak of numbers between 35 and 45Hz.
The human ear can perceive sounds from 20 to 20,000Hz. When the sound waves are on the low end of the spectrum, we call them low bass tones.
For the sounds falling between 20 and 100 Hz, the ear perceives them as a low hum or rumble.
It’s those sounds that we can feel in our bones. If we play a strong bass, we can feel it as a pulse every time we hear it.
The low frequencies are produced by instruments such as bass guitar, kick drum or pipe organ. They’re energizing and that’s why we enjoy them so much and why some people might answer totally yes to the question does a soundbar need a subwoofer.
It’s about feeling the sound, especially when we’re watching action movies, playing games or listening to bass-heavy music. That’s what surround sound is about.
When do you need a subwoofer in your home?
The easiest way to tell that you need a subwoofer is if you feel that something is totally missing from your whole entertainment.
If you feel that action movies lack something or that your gaming is not as dynamic or if you feel that you can’t actually feel your favorite songs, then you probably need a dedicated subwoofer.
It’s all about achieving a surround sound experience to match your expectations and audio immersion.
Even if we have an awesome projector, getting the top visual quality might not be enough for most of us. We also need total audio immersion. It’s part of the reason why we enjoy going to the cinema so much.
Are subwoofers expensive?
Let’s say that you’ve spent around $200 on a very decent soundbar that has clear, crisp audio but its built-in subwoofers don’t cut it out anymore.
How much more should you expect to spend on a good subwoofer to complete your system and make it a 2.1?
If that’s what you think you want from the start and you haven’t already bought anything, then I recommend checking out the Vizio V-Series 2.1 if you’re on a budget. It’s a bit under $200 so it’s really cheap for a complete setup.
But if you want to buy a dedicated subwoofer that’s very good but it’s also cheap at the same time, then you should expect to spend at least $200-$300 for a home audio subwoofer.
Of course, there are subwoofers that even cost $2,000 or more, like the SVS SB16.
However, before actually buying a SVS, you should actually check out their article where they explain how some soundbars have proprietary outputs that make connecting a powered subwoofer impossible.
In order to tell if your soundbar accepts a dedicated subwoofer, you should check out for a subwoofer out jack. Always check out for that. Most should definitely have it.
There are also wireless subwoofers to take into account. Some soundbars can’t be upgraded with wireless speakers so it’s another thing to make sure of.
All in all, my final answer to the question do you need a subwoofer with a soundbar is the same that I gave you in the beginning: it depends from person to person but if you really are the type to appreciate a good bass, then you should buy a complete system, 2.1 or higher, from the beginning to save yourself other complications.