Active vs Passive Speakers

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Updated July 25, 2022

If you are new to the world of hi-fi sound, you may look to compare active vs passive speakers. The best speakers, after all, ship with one of these two designs. So what are the major differences, the contrasts between bookshelf and monitor speakers, and which speaker type is best for your personal entertainment setup? Keep reading to find out more useful information, even if you are comparing the Logitech Z623 vs the Z625.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Active speakers, or powered speakers, feature an integrated power amplifier, and passive models require an external amplifier.
  • This gives active speakers the edge in conserving space, but passive speakers have increased sound quality, providing you have a fantastic amp for them.
  • Active speakers tend to be slightly cheaper than passive ones, thanks to the built-in amplifier.

Active Speakers vs Passive Speakers

The primary difference between the two is that active speakers include a power source and passive speakers need an external power source, which is useful information to know if you are looking for top-rated computer speakers. In other words, active speakers feature a built-in power amplifier to transform an audio signal from a source to line level, which is true even if you know what ohms mean with speakers.

Insider Tip

Make sure to have plenty of speaker wire available for connecting passive speakers to power amplifiers.

Passive speakers feature no such power amplifier so you have to provide your own external unit, which is true even when looking for the greatest 6.5” speakers. Here are more differences between the two types, many of which come into play even when comparing Klipsch Sixes vs Fives.

Space Considerations

One area in which active speakers have a serious leg up is when it comes to conserving space. Again, active speakers boast integrate power amplifiers, so you won’t need to find room for a third-party product. Power amps are heavy and often bulky, so you’ll struggle to find the right spot for them if you live in a small apartment or if you are setting up a stereo system with passive speakers in a confined space.

Sound Quality

When you buy active speakers, you are pretty much stuck with whatever power amplifier the company decides to put inside, and they don’t always go with the best model. With a passive speaker setup, however, you can choose the exact power amp that best complements the speakers. In other words, active speakers can sound as good as a decent passive speaker setup, but very rarely does.

Cost

Passive models and active models come in at around the same price, depending on size, features, and other metrics. However, passive speakers demand an additional purchase of a power amp, which increases the price. Also, these power amplifiers are not exactly cheap, so do some comparison shopping beforehand.

STAT: Some of the first powered loudspeakers were JBL monitor speakers. With the addition of the SE401 Stereo Energizer, introduced in 1964, any pair of monitor speakers could be converted to self-powered operation with the second speaker powered by the first. (source)

Active Vs Passive FAQs

How about active speakers with streaming?

Many modern speakers include smart features or the ability to stream audio, with these integrations available primarily or powered speakers.

Do I need active PA speakers?

When it comes to PA use, powered speakers are a good choice, as sound quality isn't quite as important but space and cost are, as you won't need to purchase a separate amplifier.

How to choose the best mixer for church sound systems?

You want to maximize sound quality wherever you install the mixer, so look into a high-quality mixer, good speaker cables, well-built speaker enclosures, an external power amplifier, a speaker driver, and more.
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