Active vs Passive Speakers – Which One Should You Use?

As if narrowing down your speaker options wasn’t already hard enough, you also need to think about the sort of technology they use.  You might already know that they can generally split into passive and active types. But what does this actually mean? How do passive speakers differ from active ones?  Which environments are they likely to work best in?

Don’t worry.  The differences are pretty clear once you get down to the nitty-gritty.  Let’s take a quick, easy look at the differences between active speakers and passive speakers, and what might work best for you.

What Are Active Speakers?

Active speakers are the complete package.  You’ll find that most ‘out of the box’ speakers are active.  That’s because these speaker types have internal amplification.  Active speakers have preamps built into their cabinets, which means there’s no need for you to fuss around with extra bits and pieces.

What Are Passive Speakers?

Passive speakers, as you’d expect, need external amplification.  This means that amps aren’t built in, but it does mean that you can easily tweak your sound.  Many people setting up audio at home will likely use passive speakers. You can connect amps via speaker wires, which means that it should never be too tricky to set up. 

Why Use Active Speakers?

Active speakers tend to be better picks for professional and performance audio.  There are less wires and cables involved, and they tend to be wireless-ready. This means that many people will find this tech easier to use, on the whole.

It can also mean that you get better sound engineering for your money.  While some people will likely argue that active speakers tie you into an amp that is fitted into the cabinet, you at least know that the combination has been thoroughly tested.  Therefore, if you are looking for peak speaker performance outside the home, active speaker systems are likely to be the best option to take.

Why Use Passive Speakers?

Many people prefer using passive speakers at home because they are still fairly simple to configure.  The idea of using a separate amp on paper might not sound too appealing. However, this will at least mean that you can chop and change, rather than being tied into a single amp you can’t switch out.

Passive speakers also tend to be more flexible in terms of where you can place them in a room.  Most passive speakers will have lengthy cables, which means you can easily set them up away from your central control unit whenever and wherever you wish.

What’s more, passive speakers tend to be less cumbersome.  It’s another great reason why it’s worth reserving active speaker systems for professional use, where engineering balances out the weight and bulk.

So – What Should You Choose?

We’re going to be really boring here and say that there are good and bad points to both active and passive speaker systems.  That’s because different technology will suit different needs. Therefore, be willing to read up on what other people have to say and consider your own long-term needs.

Chris Wilson

Chris is one of the guys behind HeadphoneSelection.com. He is an Electronics Engineer by profession and he enjoys expressing his real-life experiences with technology and sharing it with others.