A Passive Subwoofer Vs. an Active Subwoofer

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Updated October 28, 2022

If your ears are craving some rich bass notes, it’s time to invest in the best subwoofer money can buy. But before doling out your hard-earned wages, to find the best speaker, you need to know what to look for. You’ll hear many terms tossed about when researching sub-speakers, and one hotly contested topic is a passive subwoofer vs an active subwoofer. Below, we’ll explain this and how it affects the listening experience.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Active speakers have a built-in amplifier, while passive ones need to be connected to an external amplifier.
  • An active-powered speaker is better for producing more power and volume. They also are convenient and require less setup.
  • Passive subwoofers use less power and allow users greater customization with wiring schemes.

For more prime subwoofer info, feel free to indulge yourself in our other material. We have a guide on series vs parallel subwoofers and information comparing bass tubes vs box subwoofers.

Insider Tip

Always hide a subwoofer’s wires; this protects them from getting stepped on and damaged over time.

Differences Between Active vs Passive Subwoofers

While both types do the same job, the difference lies in how they’re powered.

The term active subwoofer indicates that the speaker has a built-in amplifier, meaning the speaker is powered on its own. For this reason, they are also known as powered subwoofers.

On the other hand, a passive speaker requires an external amplifier to create sound.

While overall performance depends on many things, the difference between the active subwoofer and amplifier subwoofer design comes with several implications.

Bass Sound Quality

You’ll hear the same dull line on repeat: sound quality doesn’t hinge solely on passive or active. It’s true, but there are some things to consider when selecting the type of power.

First, you need to consider the room your speaker lives in. A larger room requires more power. So, to ensure you get the proper sound quality, see that the built-in or external power supply is enough to fill the space.

Usually, to guarantee that the bass will have a high enough max output, consumers go for active subwoofers. However, for smaller stereo systems and rooms, passive speakers are perfectly adequate.

Convenience

In the ongoing clash of wired vs wireless speakers, the all-in-oneness of active speakers gives them a huge leg up when comparing convenience. Having fewer wires and less work during setup is always nice. Of course, passive subwoofers aren’t incredibly inconvenient, but their extra components require more hands-on work and electrical know-how.

Warning

Keep your subwoofer wires away from where pets could chew on them.

Additionally, active models typically have more compact designs and are less bound by various wires and cables. However, remember that they require one cable connecting it to the home theatre receiver.

Versatility

Regarding wiring configuration and setting up multiple subwoofer speakers in a theatre system, passive models allow greater control over wiring schemes and custom installations.

STAT: Depending on the unit and size, subwoofers typically require 100-1000 watts. (source)

Affordability

Of course, passive units are cheaper if you’re considering the speaker itself. But that’s not the whole story. Passive subwoofers are often more expensive once you factor in the purchase of an external power source. But keep in mind passive speakers use less electricity, which might help save money over time.

Passive Subwoofers vs Active FAQs

Is there any truly wireless connection when it comes to subwoofers?

You can purchase a receiver kit that hooks up to a home theatre system and active subwoofer to create true wireless connectivity.

Which is better for a car stereo system: passive or active?

In terms of ease of installation, an active speaker is simpler to install. However, the answer is always mainly up to personal preference.

What is a suitable subwoofer wattage for a small room?

Many sound experts recommend a type of subwoofer with a 100-300 watt power load to adequately fill a small room.
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