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Buying Guides Active vs Passive Speakers

Active vs Passive Speakers

A Detailed Comparison

Active vs Passive Speakers

Do you know the difference between active vs passive speakers or you’re just looking for a good home theater setup? But true audiophiles will understand the importance. Many might think that only professionals need to worry about these but they are unarguably the most important part of the audio setup. You will get to see a variety of speakers while shopping but to pick the best you need to know about active, passive, and powered speakers as well. You should have a clear idea about all three of them to find the speaker that will give the best sound.

What Are Active Speakers?

An active speaker is a compact one. The concept behind active speakers is simple. These speakers already have an amplifier and all they need is a power source to play the sound. All other audio components required are encompassed within the speaker cabinet. So, we like to call it an “all in one system.”

This is how an active speaker works.

Illustration of an active speaker

What Are the Benefits of Active Speakers?

Though active speakers are more like traditional speakers when compared to passive speakers, they still have some great benefits.

Design

An active speaker does not require an amplifier unlike passive speakers, it is often considered bad. But it is rather a benefit as the amplifier is customized to go with the speaker. Active speakers perform really well in terms of bass extension and overall output as they are no chances of fluctuating the power. This is because along with the amplifier, the driver and the crossover network are also designed especially for the speaker.

Connectivity

Wireless connection is the future yet it seems far-fetched. No one likes the messy cables all over the place. Bluetooth and Wi-fi connections still need to be amplified separately. Active speakers eliminate all the extra work. You can easily connect your Bluetooth-enabled device with the active speaker system without any other equipment.

Bi-amping

One of the greatest benefits of having active speakers is that the crossover unit in the speaker help filter out all the signals for each driver before it is amplified. Bi-amping is great for reducing phase shifts between drivers and also increases the power going in each driver.

Unlike passive speakers, where the absence of this feature causes dissipation of some power in the crossover and it never reaches the drivers.

Top 3 Active Speakers on the Market

To help you choose amongst a myriad of active speakers available, we have shortlisted our top three.

1. Edifier R1850DB Active Bookshelf Speakers

  • Great vocal range of 1000-2000 Hz
  • Delivers clear and loud sound
  • Excellent bass output
  • Powerful in-built digital amplifier
  • Compact design
  • Included speaker wire is long
  • We did not experience any issues with these speakers

The Edifier1850DB is a definite step up from the 1700A. Firstly, this active speaker has a dramatically better sound and range than A. It provides clear sound with an excellent range. It also has an unbelievable bass output at this range. The sub tap compliments the sound and will not provide more power to it.

Secondly, the speakers look modern and sleek. They will fit anywhere because of their small size but the control buttons on the speakers are on the backside making it a little difficult to reach them. The highs, lows, and mids are also perfectly balanced in these speakers. You can find them in some of the best surround sound systems.

In conclusion, the Edifier R1850DB Active Bookshelf Speakers are one of the best active speakers on the market right now. They look and sound great. Their performance is excellent for their price. Moreover, they come with a plenty of connectivity options so that you can use them with a wide range of devices.

View on Amazon: Edifier R1850DB Active Bookshelf Speakers

2. SINGING WOOD BT25 Active Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers

  • Great bass
  • Detailed treble
  • Wide sound stage
  • Forward and clear mids
  • No sound distortion
  • High-quality sound performance
  • Durable and sturdy
  • Stylish wooden look
  • Not suitable for large rooms

The SINGING WOOD BT25 Bluetooth Speakers are great mid-range active speakers. First of all, the bass is excellent. You might not like when it reaches 70-80Hz but at 100Hz you will feel the boost. At this range, you will get a deep bass.

Secondly, the treble output by these is very detailed and to our surprise not shrill at all. The entire unit is compact and the sound separation is decent along with the sound stage. The vocals are also quite clear.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a decent mid-range active speakers, then you can choose the SINGING WOOD BT25 Bluetooth Speakers without thinking twice. The Bluetooth set up is pretty convenient and quick. These speakers look vintage and comprise a wide range of connectivity options.

View on Amazon: SINGING WOOD BT25 Bluetooth Speakers

3. Edifier S3000Pro Audiophile Active Speakers

  • Very wide sound stage
  • Incredible lows
  • Aesthetic design
  • Uses propriety wireless technology
  • Excellent high frequencies
  • Tiny display

You pick any speaker from Edifier and it is ought to be good, each providing better sound than the other. We were utterly surprised when we got the Edifier S3000Pro Audiophile Active Speakers. First of all, they sound a lot more luxurious than they actually cost. The sound output is powerful and precise at the same time. The lows literally blew our mind and the bass could not be better.

Secondly, we cannot help but talk about the design and the build quality of this active speaker. Along with the looks, we are also taken aback by how beautifully they work. Their frequency response matches some of the high ends speakers.

The Edifier S3000Pro Audiophile Active Speakers use wireless technology which takes the overall sound quality up by a notch. Except for the power cable, the speaker is totally wireless. Looking at the way it works we can say that these speakers can be an all-in-one solution for you. Undoubtedly, it’s a must-have.

View on Amazon: Edifier S3000Pro Audiophile Active Speakers

What Are Passive Speakers?

Now let’s look at the second important element of the active vs passive speakers comparison. When talking about active vs passive speakers, the passive one always seems to win. But why? A passive speaker uses an amplified signal and is generally used in conventional hi-fi speakers. Audiophiles generally prefer a passive setup as they find choosing separate amplifiers for their speakers fascinating. It gives them a chance to get more accurate sound from the speakers.

Passive speakers are favored as they provide flexibility as you can provide an external amp to it, unlike an active speaker. This is the main reason why speaker manufacturers often offer their best and hi-end products as passive components.

This is how a passive system works:

Illustration of a Passive Speaker

What Are the Benefits of Passive Speakers?

You can call passive speakers more “millennial’s type” because of the benefits they provide. So, let’s see what’s all this active vs passive debate is all about.

Fewer Wires

Fewer Wires = More Space. With passive speakers, you will just need a speaker wire connection. Thus there’s less chaos. But if you are using a powered speaker for home theater then you will need another cable for the processor. Thus, making it two – one from the power outlet and the other for the preamp.

Upgradable

The benefit of adding your own amplifier is one of the main reasons why a passive speaker mostly wins over an active speaker. Only a few active speakers allow you to use your own amp and that is why audiophiles generally prefer passive speakers.

We realize that it is a contradictory statement. Though active speakers have an amplifier specially designed for them if you have a model that has been discontinued then changing the parts will be a task. Also, people who are into this, prefer using an external amp for the speaker separately.

Lighter Weight

Everyone these days wants a speaker which will be easy to wall mount in their home. This is possible if they are lightweight. As they do not come with an amplifier, they do not weigh much. You can also use them as floor-standing speakers.

Top 3 Passive Speakers on the Market

The active vs passive speakers debate is never-ending but if you decide to buy a passive speaker then here are our top recommendations.

1. Edifier P17 Passive Bookshelf Speakers

  • Immersive soundstage
  • Front ported for wall mount
  • Good bass output
  • Compact and easily portable
  • Decently unbiased response
  • Vibrant and clear sound
  • Efficiency could have been better

If you want to buy a passive speaker, Edifier must be your first choice. It is really hard to get an affordable and durable passive speaker that produces good sound. But that’s not the case here.

The Edifier P17 is an excellent choice especially if you are buying a passive speaker for the first time. The sound and the bass output are amazing. With a bass driver of 4″, they are great for classic rock, alternative rock, jazz, and symphony.

Secondly, this passive speaker is ideal if you are looking for a surround sound effect. The richness of the sound will surely impress you. The treble is quite clear and thus dominates the sound but doesn’t distort it. These passive speakers are a little sensitive to location, so make sure to place them where they can give the best output.

Lastly, it definitely outperforms itself given its size. Its compact size makes it possible to place it anywhere you want. If paired with an ideal power amplifier, this passive speaker will definitely be a hit.

In conclusion, the Edifier P17 Passive Bookshelf Speakers are great. They’re small, easily portable, durable and high quality. They deliver clear highs and smooth lows. They need a little EQ boost in the mid-range, mostly around the crossover frequency. We bet you won’t find such flat- and full-sounding speakers in this price range.

View on Amazon: Edifier P17 Passive Bookshelf Speakers

2. Audioengine P4 Passive Speakers Bookshelf Speakers Pair 

  • Can attain high volume without distortion
  • Great bass extension
  • Scratch-resistant body
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Perfect for both movies and music
  • Clear mids and highs
  • Bass may not be enough for bass enthusiasts

This is the first time when we tried a speaker from Audioengine and we are impressed. Looking at its size, we were dubious about its performance. But here’s the deal.

Firstly, these speakers can produce excellent sound without any distortion even at the highest volume. The bass extension is just unbelievable and you can also go without a subwoofer. When paired with N22, it can even hit the low notes properly.

Secondly, the build quality is better than we thought. Passive speakers tend to be a little less durable but these speakers have kevlar woofers making them are very resistant.

Lastly, the only thing that bugs us a little is its price. Though it is often listed on sale, we think if it was affordable, more people could experience this amazing product.

In conclusion, paired with a good amp and subwoofer, the Audioengine P4 Passive Speakers Bookshelf Speakers sing. However, to make the most their fantastic sound quality, you need to adjust the volume per your requirements. They sound excellent at the highest volume; honestly. These speakers are wonderful for their price. Nevertheless, if you just need to play basic desktop sounds in an office, these may not be a good pick. They’re currently available in three styles: Bamboo, Black and White.

View on Amazon: Audioengine P4 Passive Speakers Bookshelf Speakers

3. LONPOO Passive Bookshelf Speakers 

  • Incredible bass
  • Tiny cabinet
  • Excellent for smaller environments
  • Flawless finish
  • Value for money
  • Great treble
  • Balanced bass
  • Bass could have been better

The LONPOO Passive Bookshelf Speakers have matched our expectations so well that even we are stunned. They are perfect in every sense.

Firstly, the division of the sound and the linear response is excellent. It has minor bass that makes it perfect for classical music. The sound output by these speakers makes them suitable for use in small environments.

Secondly, the build quality is at par. The fact that the speaker enclosures all the components in such a tiny cabinet and still manage to perform so well is really incredible.

Lastly, as there’s not much to say about these speakers as they fulfill the top two criteria – sound and built. If you are looking to invest in a good passive speaker, definitely give this a try without a doubt.

In conclusion, the LONPOO Passive Bookshelf Speakers are great value for lesser money. They’re extremely affordable. Their sound quality is decent. However, they’re perfect for smaller rooms. If you’re looking for passive speakers for a large room, we recommend picking the Edifier P17 Passive Bookshelf Speakers. They have a robust construction, compact size and sound more than worthy considering their price range.

View on Amazon: LONPOO Passive Bookshelf Speakers

Can a Speaker System Have a Mix of Active and Passive Speakers?

Certainly. You can simply if you can chain the active one with the passive one. You should keep in mind that all the cables are XLR type and that all the pieces of the chain have inputs and outputs of the signal. You will have to be careful not to mix up the cables as it might cause distortion. Mixing active and passive might have some potential problems.

  • Unequal volumes due to the chain
  • Ground loops
  • Lobing, Comb Filtering, etc.

What is the Meaning of PA Speakers?

PA speakers or Public Address speakers are generally used in concerts or at a large gathering to project live sound to the mass. To put it simply, Pa systems are used to amplify the human voice. It has a microphone, a mixer, and active loudspeakers.

What makes a good PA system?

To determine how good PA speakers work, you will have to focus on three things.

  • Wattage – Help find the potential volume and clarity.
  • Size & Weight – The bigger the size, the better the sound.
  • Sound Quality – Depends on the price quote.

PA system generally comes in two varieties – active pa speakers or passive pa speakers. The presence of power amps makes the difference. Active speakers thrive here as they do not require an additional power amp.

What Are Powered Speakers?

Illustration of a Powered Speaker

A powered speaker is nothing but a type that has a built-in amplifier and does not require a receiver, just like a CD player. They are quite different from active speakers and are also beneficial. Powered speakers are evolving and now have Bluetooth functionality as well. This wireless feature has made them more convenient for use.

Are Active Speakers and Powered Speakers the Same?

There’s always been confusion between a powered speaker and an active speaker because of their similarities. The thing is, all active speakers have powered speakers but not all powered speakers are active speakers as the crossover components in it can be passive.

The signal path of powered speakers is the same as passive speakers. Though the amplification (both pre and power amp) is within the speaker enclosure. There also must be a speaker cable link between the main speakers and the slave partner.

Can Powered Speakers Be Used as Passive Speakers?

Let’s clear out this confusion. Powered speakers are the type that has their own amplifier built in them but passive speakers need an additional amp to function.

It is most certainly possible to use your power speakers as passive speakers. All you will need is a crossover network to build input for an external amplifier. Once you have designed or got your crossover, you will just have to put them together.

But if you simply want to introduce powered speakers to your audio system, here’s a way for you. If you have a power amp, you can wire with your powered speakers using a cable that will create the line-level signal. This is actually a great idea as the sound output might get a lot better but there are possibilities of distortions as well.

What is a Passive Amplifier?

It’s a simple concept. A passive amplifier uses passive means to amplify the sound. It increases the acoustic power, sound intensity, and sound pressure level without the use of external electrical power.

Passive amplification can be done in two different ways – the amphitheater (natural method of amplification) and the horn (more common and truer method)

Key Differences Between Active vs Passive Speakers

There are some notable differences between active and passive speakers that has led to this feud between them. Let’s take a quick look.

  1. Active speakers require power to function whereas passive speaker don’t.
  2. Passive speakers rely on external amp whereas an active system requires a built in amplifier.
  3. Active speakers have active crossover network and passive speakers have a passive crossover network to either deal or amplify line level audio signals.
  4. Active speakers use separate amplifiers for each crossover band whereas for a passive one only an external stereo amplifier is good.
  5. Active speakers don’t need external components whereas passive speakers do.

Final Words

It’s hard to tell if the active vs passive speakers debate will ever come to an end. Active and passive speakers have distinct uses and thus it is difficult to say which one is better. It totally depends on the model you choose and your personal preference. So, if you ask us to say which is better we would say if you don’t want to put any extra effort yet wants speakers that will sound good then go for active speakers. However, if you are an audiophile and very particular about the sound quality and performance, then you should get passive speakers.

Hope you have found this article helpful. Let us know in the comments what else do you want to hear from us.