Audio/Video Problem -- Subwoofer

So, a friend of mine picked up an extremely cheap (in all senses) 5.1 surround sound speaker system, but he knows nothing about audio/video. He didn’t realize that he needed a receiver to get things going at home. I also found out that the speakers he bought are sold as part of a multi-national scam, but I can give more detail on that later, if anyone cares.

At any rate, I did a lot of online research about the speakers and determined that, despite their cheapness, they are certainly functional. So I offered to take them home with me and hook them up to my own receiver to see how they sounded and make recommendations to him about what he needs.

I get home with the speakers, start stripping speaker wire and hooking things up when I run into a problem – the subwoofer is passive and has no RCA jack inputs, just speaker wire inputs. Just about all modern home stereo systems come with subwoofer pre-outs, and it was clear to me from the brief time I had the sub hooked up through the regular stereo output that it wasn’t getting nearly enough power.

So, I’m trying to figure out what to tell my friend. It seems to me that the subwoofer is basically useless to him unless he actually gets an amplifier that will power that sub properly. Otherwise, he’s going to need to replace it with a powered subwoofer.

Am I correct, or am I missing something? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Three options:

  1. Ditch the sub, get a powered one.
  2. Find an amp to power it. Any old amp would do.
  3. Find a Surround receiver with a powered sub out. Not sure how common they would be, but I’d be surprised if there weren’t any.

Well, four options, I guess - he could just live without low frequencies.

You could make one similar to this one only smaller and cheaper.

Or, for just surround sound, you could use the good ol’ fashion homemade approach. A two channel stereo is needed, but a sub is not. A pontentiometer will help as well, as it acts as a volume control.

Diagram from here

However, some restrictions do apply. If they are truly crappy speakers, which most sold out of a van are, they might just blow because of power issues.

Also, the TV speakers can act as a central point if needed.