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What Is a Laptop Subwoofer?

By C.B. Fox
Updated May 16, 2024
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A laptop subwoofer is a speaker used on a laptop computer to create low frequency sounds. There are two main types of subwoofers that can be used with laptops, those that are built into the computer and those that can be plugged into them when listening to audio. The size of a laptop computer makes it difficult to fit a quality subwoofer into it, so built-in laptop subwoofers may not produce low-end sounds that are of good quality. Plug-in subwoofers are often large and not particularly portable, but they can be used at home to give the laptop a better sound system.

Subwoofers are very similar to other speakers in both their function and design. They produce sound by creating a vibrating surface that forces sound waves into a room. The subwoofer differs from other types of speakers in that it produces sound that is only below a frequency of 200 hertz, which is about the middle of the range of the human voice. A laptop subwoofer will produce these low-end sounds just as any other type of subwoofer would. The sounds that are a higher frequency will be produced by the other speakers on the laptop.

In some cases, a laptop subwoofer is built into the computer. If it is, it will be visible from the outside of the case and situated on the bottom. This type of laptop subwoofer looks like a small disk and is usually no larger than 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter because there is not enough space inside the compact frame of a laptop for a larger subwoofer.

A built-in laptop subwoofer will be limited in function. Regular subwoofers are usually at least a few inches (10 or so centimeters) deep to allow the subwoofer enough space to produce high quality low-frequency sound. Low-end sound produced by a subwoofer that is less than 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) deep will not be high quality.

In order to produce high-quality low-frequency sound, an external laptop subwoofer needs to be used. These devices are usually attached to a pair of external speakers and plug into the laptop through an audio jack, a universal serial bus (USB), or a firewire bus. These laptop subwoofers are often bulky and are not designed to be carried around along with the laptop. If a person frequently uses the laptop at home or at work, however, an external speaker system that includes a subwoofer can be plugged into the laptop whenever needed.

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Discussion Comments
By anon304685 — On Nov 21, 2012

Really, the only laptop sub woofer is the one that comes in the laptop, which is arguably not a subwoofer. Otherwise, it is just an external speaker system. The best way to get the best sound on the go or at home is get a good pair of over the ear headphones plus they can be used to get better sound, albeit at a lower lever, out of the laptop.

By strawCake — On Feb 09, 2012

The last time I was looking into buying a new laptop, I saw a few that had built in laptop subwoofers. I didn't like the way it looked! Also, I was able to test the sound on a few of those laptops with built in subwoofers, and, as the article said, it was definitely subpar. I couldn't really tell the difference between a laptop with a built in subwoofer and one without!

I ended up just purchasing a laptop without a subwoofer, and then purchasing an external laptop subwoofer later on. I've been pretty happy with my choice so far.

By Azuza — On Feb 09, 2012

@KaBoom - That's a good idea about plugging headphones into your computers to get better sound quality. I may try that if I'm ever without my laptop speakers.

Anyway, I find a laptop subwoofer to be totally unnecessary. The article is right that they are quite sizable. They definitely aren't portable, and needlessly take up space in a house or apartment.

I have a set of small plug in speakers for my laptop. They work just fine! I think they're a good compromise between no extra audio equipment for a laptop and a large subwoofer.

By KaBoom — On Feb 08, 2012

I use a laptop as my primary computer. I also use it as my primary means of watching tv. I rarely catch new television episodes right when they come on. Usually, I watch them online the next day.

Unfortunately, my laptop speakers aren't that great. I've found a way around this though: usually I plug my headphones into the headphone jack. That way, I can hear the sound a lot better.

However, I don't really like to have the headphones in my ears for all that long. It gets painful after awhile! I've been thinking about buying some speakers for my laptop, and I think I'm definitely going to get a laptop subwoofer.

By kylee07drg — On Feb 08, 2012

I have a friend who loves watching movies on his laptop. He prefers the cinematic experience, so he has an impressive subwoofer hooked up to his computer.

I have watched movies on his system before, and though the screen is much smaller than a television, I still feel like I'm in a theater. The sound is so intense, and the low frequencies jump out at you as much as the high ones.

A setup like this can greatly enhance a regular old laptop. I was amazed that sound like this could even come through something as small and compact as a laptop, but I know the subwoofer is responsible for this.

By shell4life — On Feb 07, 2012

@cloudel – It must be a nice thing to have. I only have the subwoofer that was built into my laptop, and it sounds okay, but it definitely could use a little help.

I live with my parents, and they don't like loud music. So, there is really no point in me getting an external subwoofer. Even if I had one, I couldn't turn up the music loud enough to hear the awesome bass.

Still, the subwoofer that came with the laptop is better than nothing. I have listened to audio on a laptop without one before, and it had a much flatter, tinnier sound than mine.

By cloudel — On Feb 07, 2012

I use an external subwoofer at home. I like to watch music videos on my laptop, but without the subwoofer attached, the sound is very one-dimensional.

Once I hook everything up, though, the quality is amazing. It is like listening to music through an awesome stereo system. I do have some pretty amazing speakers hooked up to it, but I know that the subwoofer is what brings out that wonderful bass.

I'm such a music lover that I don't think I could do without my laptop subwoofer. I can watch and listen to music videos on demand this way, and I don't have to sacrifice the quality of the sound.

By chivebasil — On Feb 07, 2012

My laptop has a built in subwoofer but it is really just an afterthought. The bass that is is capable of making isn't much to write home about.

Luckily I supplement my regular laptop speaker with a pretty nice wireless set that I got last year. I consider myself something of an audiophile and there is no good reason to listen to music through laptop speakers.

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