Configuring Your Receiver for a Passive Subwoofer

Setting up an audio system is a lot trickier today than it was many years ago. In the past, speakers were designed to reproduce bass frequencies, so the need for seperate subwoofers were non-existant. When the size of speakers began shrinking, the need for subwoofers to handle bass increased.

In learning The 'Bassics' of Bass Management, you'll discover that receivers figure out what speakers should get bass digitally, and send the appropriate bass information to a powered subwoofer using a line-level connection. But before receivers were digital, bass management had to be handled by the subwoofer using a age-old technology.

Subwoofers have undergone some serious change in the past decade. Intitially, most subwoofers were passive. A passive subwoofer does not have its own amplifier built in, and is therefore connected with speaker wire between the front or all speakers. What makes it more confusing is that even newer powered subwoofers can be connected passively, which means that it is still connected in the same manner as a passive sub. This method of subwoofer hook-up is very common for those that use Bose speaker systems, or anyone with a passive subwoofer.

In the Receiver

The receiver's "yes" or "no" setting for the subwoofer only applies if you own a powered subwoofer connected to the receiver using a line level RCA style cord. When set to "yes" all redirected bass is output through a line level "sub-out" connection on the back of the receiver, thus removing the bass information from the amplified speaker line. Passive subwoofers rely on bass information to be present in the speaker level signal, both to provide sound information and power to the passive sub driver.

The trouble with this system is that size based logic means nothing in this situation. In many Bose speaker systems, the bass module is connected to all of the speaker wire outputs on the back of the receiver, and all the Bose satellite speakers are connected to the bass module. Most people using size logic set all the speakers in the receiver to "small", and subwoofer to "yes". While logically this is correct, it is not correct settings in this setup.

What happens is that all bass information is removed from every speaker, and redirected to the line-level sub out jack on the back of your receiver. Since this cannot be connected to the bass module or passive sub, there will be no bass at all.

Configuring your receiver for this type of system will vary on how the passive sub is connected to the receiver.

Passive or powered subs that connect to the front left and right speaker lines should have the fronts set to "large", center and surrounds to "small", and the sub set to "no". The front left and right speakers will plug into the sub, not the receiver.

Passive or powered subs (Bose bass modules) that connect to all speaker terminals should have all speakers set to "large", and the sub set to "no". All speakers will plug into the sub, not the receiver.

Subwoofers with speaker level connection may have additional bass management controls at your disposal, most commonly a crossover control. For more information on bass management and crossovers, read the article The 'Bassics' of Bass Management



I have an old Yamaha YST-SW120 that I want to use with a new Denon AVR-1910 A/V surround receiver. The Yamaha has raw wire connections (no plugs) and cannot be plugged directly into the receiver subwoofer out. Any, thoughts?

Don't use the bass out; rather, use mains for your sub. If your sub has outs as well as ins, feed your mains with the sub (i.e. connect them in series, from your receiver to your sub, then from the sub to the main speakers). If your mains have outs, you can run them in series the other way. If your receiver will let you run two sets of mains like mine does (labelled Mains A and Mains B), do one to the mains and one to the sub. If you only have the one port, you can connect them in parallel (two speaker lines into one port; *warning* make sure both positives go into the positive terminal and both negatives into the negative terminal, and be sure your receiver can handle the impedance). Then make sure sub is set to "off"/"none", bass is set to "mains", and your center, RR, and LR speakers are all set to "small."

Forgot to mention this great article here for why avoiding the sub jack is a *good* idea (even though it's not an option in your case anyhow).

Hello guys (and ladies),
My dad was de-cluttering out basement, and I noticed he had a perfectly good set of Cambridge SoudWorks speakers from maybe 15 years ago. They are the New Ensemble By Henry Kloss Speakers. In the kit was a the L, C, LS, and RS speakers. Also, there were two unpowered subwoofers. Which brings me to my two part question:
1. How would I hook up these 2 unpowered subwoofers? Would I go from the reciever to the left and right channel respectively, and then take more speaker wire and run it from the left and right speaker to the subwoofer? Or would i have 2 wires running from the outputs on the reciever, one to the left/right channel, and one to the left/right subwoofer?
2. Would it simply be easier/sound better to purchase a cheap subwoofer amplifier (on that note, can any old amplifier be used as a subwoofer amplifier?), and if so, can anyone reccomend me a sub 150$ amplifier?
Thanks for the help

hello RSTONE
I've come to tell you that not just any old amp will work.if you assume any amp will work, you run the chance of the one you get may not have a subwoofer output and it could be the wrong power rating. you should have the speakers tested to see the recomended power handling capabilities and all the specs. they could be useful in the long run. if you don't get an amp that is powerful enough, the speakers will sound horible, but if you get an amp that is too powerful, there is a risk of blowing the speakers.
Even so, there is a cheap $85.00 subwoofer amp at this website.

I've got a Philips MX5600 home cinema system, but I want to replace the DVD/receiver combo with a straight receiver. This system has neither a powered subwoofer nor a RCA subwoofer output, but instead it has clip-type speaker terminals for use with a passive subwoofer (called Twin Subs I believe). The front left and right speakers each attach to separate sub-tube towers. Is there any special tricks to connecting this to a standard 5.1 audio receiver or would the steps above work?

I just purchased a Samson Blueray Theater in a box 5.1. Non powered Sub-woofer to my surprise. I have a powered Subwoofer from my prev 5.1 theater. Can I damage my receiver by connecting my powered sub-woofer?


How do I configure my Denon avr without a sub. I want full range on all 6 channels.

I purchased a 5.1 receiver. I want to use a five-speaker set up using a Bose passive subwoofer. How do I connect the speakers to the subwoofer in order to get the best performance from my system?

Hi so I have a Onkyo TX-SR308 7.1 receiver with Main A & B. I was wondering if it were possible to connect my passive subwoofer with only red and black cables to Main B and have my two front speakers connected to Main A. If I can what would the speakers setup be? Also if this is not possible can I connect my subwoofer to a line-out converter and then RCA out to the pre-out subwoofer output?

Hello everyone! I've just bought a new Yamaha rx 577 receiver. The problem is that I have an old PASSIVE sub and its old system Samsung dvd cm-350. So I took an RCA cable (one half of it actually), put it in subwoofer preout on Yamaha, and the other end I put in aux in on Samsung (in left one because I chose white rca).  I then went to Samsung options, chose aux - rca, then I chose Aux L, but still nothing happend.  Can anyone help?
Hi Everyone, I am a total newbie when it comes to audio setup but i do appreciate good music with good bass. I am in a delima trying to pick a subwoofer that will buzz well. I am currently considering the Orion HCCA154 15inch sub i found here: please kindly advise if i should go ahead or better still make recommendations. What am Looking for: 1. Subwoofer with loud sound 2. should also produce great bass
Dude, i thank you very much for the info! I have been looking for this info whole day! Its like you answered every word of my question on all the forums I know. Precise information, also in "english" :) Thank you and have a great and happy day!!

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