How to Connect a Subwoofer to a Receiver Without Subwoofer Output?

It’s not the end of the world if you find out there isn’t a subwoofer output for your subwoofer and receiver setup. There are various ways you can make use of your existing connections but you must know how to connect a subwoofer to a receiver without the right way to avoid damage. This is what our audio team is here to address.

Understanding the Two Types of Subwoofers

In order to connect a subwoofer to a receiver correctly, you need to first understand the type of subwoofer you have in your sound system. They are separated into two main categories, and our sound engineers will go into more detail below. 

Passive Subwoofer

There are passive subwoofers, which are ones that require an external amplifier to work well with your stereo speakers to function properly. These models are similar to traditional speakers and offer users more customizability and control over their home theater system.

A passive sub requires more research on the subwoofer and receiver compatibility. Since they do not have an amplifier built in, a non-powered subwoofer is generally lighter and more compact. 

Active/Powered Subwoofer

The other type of subwoofer is the one with a built-in amplifier. These subs are referred to as an active subwoofer or powered subwoofer. What are the benefits of an active sub? It will work with your main speakers right out of the box without you connecting it to an amp. Powered subs will save you a lot of time when you connect a subwoofer to a receiver and other speakers.

Yamaha NS-SW300PN Powered Subwoofer

There are downsides of an active sub, and one of which is the weight and size. Since they house an amplifier, this type of subwoofer is much larger and heavier than the alternative. Active subs are also the more common model available on the market. 

Which one should you choose? Our team says that depends on your needs. Do you want to build your system from the ground up and enjoy customization down the line? If so, then purchase a passive subwoofer. If you want a convenient and easy connection without issue with the receiver, then go for the active options.

Connecting a Subwoofer to a Receiver Without Subwoofer Output

You notice there isn’t a subwoofer output on the components of your stereo system, does that mean your new receiver or new subwoofer won’t work? No, this is not the case, but the connection method will depend on what connections your receiver and subwoofer have.

1. RCA Cables

An easy way for how to connect a subwoofer to a receiver without a subwoofer output jack is to use a great subwoofer cable like RCA cables via RCA inputs.

RCA wires

There will most likely be a preamp output on your stereo receiver even if it doesn’t have a subwoofer output. The preamp output will most likely have left and right speaker terminals where you simply connect the male ends into the sub and the female ends into the receiver. Preamp outputs are located on the back of most receivers. 

Don’t have the left and right terminals on your receiver? If there is only one RCA input, then you may need an RCA Y adapter. The Y adapter is used for a single subwoofer input that turns it into two stereo connectors.

Using the stereo RCA connectors in the RCA jack will require your subwoofer and receiver line in and out connectors to be compatible with the RCA cable. If this isn’t the case, then you will need to connect it like a regular speaker. 

2. Speaker Level Outputs

Another way to connect a subwoofer to a receiver without a subwoofer output is by using the spring clips on the rear panel. They are referred to as speaker level outputs and speaker level inputs. 

Connecting an Old Amplifier to a Passive Subwoofer

Subwoofers that have a speaker level input are the best match. Does your sub have one or two spring clips? If it has one, then the speakers and sub will need to share the same connection to the receiver. If it has two channels, then that means your right and left speakers and sub have separate connections to the receiver through the pre-out.

The connection is as easy as plugging in the speaker wires into the correct speaker terminal for deep bass. 

(Want to level up your turntables? Then, here are the top receivers for turntables you can choose from) 

3. Connect to Another Amplifier (Passive Subs)

What if you have a passive subwoofer without an amp? If you have a passive subwoofer, that means you need to connect it to another amplifier to draw power. By connecting the two devices, you will transform a previously passive subwoofer into an active one. 

mixer and amplifier

Our audio engineers say if you do not opt for an external amp and connect it properly, your subwoofer and amp will not function properly. The setup won’t be able to deliver the right amount of power even if it can provide signals. Your subwoofer’s crossover frequency will also affect the frequency at which the devices function.

(For a seamless connection, know the various parts of a subwoofer here

Why Integrate a Subwoofer to Your System

Why bother integrating a subwoofer into your system? The subwoofer will handle the lower frequencies on the sound spectrum for better overall sound from your front speakers. It also produces more accurate low frequency tones that will flesh out your audio content. You don’t need to be one of our sound experts to appreciate the various layers of sound subwoofers can bring to the forefront. 

You won’t know what you have been missing until you experience the full-range of the audio spectrum. When your entire system functions with no timing differences at all, you will enjoy a seamless listening experience. 

(To get that deep bass you always want, setting up the subwoofer phase is equally important) 


Subwoofers work really well for a home theater with surround sound capabilities. It’s okay if your unit doesn’t have a sub output, because most units without subwoofer outputs will have preamp outputs. There are many ways on how to connect a subwoofer to a receiver without a subwoofer output. Your system can still work without the sub out if you have an RCA input or speaker level connections. 

For a list of reliable subs to connect to your amps, you can check our products below: 


Willie Greer
Willie Greer
Willie Greer is the founder of The Product Analyst. A cinephile, he has made it a personal quest to achieve the awesomest home theater possible. He now shares what he has learned through the years on the site, and has enlisted the help of tech-savvy colleagues in providing more insight about today’s most sought-after gadgets.