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The Difference Between Active & Passive Speakers

You’re setting up a sound system so that your space can hold events. Is it as easy as just buying equipment that looks good and seems to do the job? There are a lot of mistakes that you can make. Let’s start with telling the difference between active & passive speakers.

Active Speakers

Active speaker designs are easier to implement. These have amplifiers built in. They’re matched to the various components of the speaker and use crossovers to isolate frequency ranges to each of these components. An active speaker can therefore isolate what should be coming out of the woofers, the mid-range, and the tweeters – these are called three-way actives.

Active speakers deliver performance much more along the lines of plug-and-play (though not quite that simple). Essentially, you can plug an active speaker directly into a mixing board and you’ll be able to directly control the elements of the sound being produced. Their nature also makes active speakers more portable – they require less equipment be transported with them.

Passive Speakers

Passive speaker designs usually require external crossover. These need amplification because it isn’t built in. Now, this allows some more finite control over each speaker component – that also requires a lot more know-how and work. Why is this? It’s because you’ll need an individual channel on your amplifier for each separate component of a speaker.

This makes passive speakers just seem like more of a pain, but they offer their own advantages. They’re often better choices for a single location, and they allow more room for growth when it comes to large spaces. You also don’t have to run power to them in the same way, which means they’re more versatile in how you can place them. Passive speakers are often better for mounting on walls.


Subwoofers also follow this active and passive logic. If you’re adding them to a pre-existing system, powered subwoofers will be easier. If you’ve got extra channels on your amplifier, passive subwoofers will save you money.


When setting up a sound system for a space – whether a small bar or a large stadium – you need to balance quality with cost. There are ways to design the best sound systems with the most suitable equipment, but it requires expertise in sound reinforcement systems. Sound systems last a long time – you’ll want to make sure you get them right the first try.