Active vs Passive Speakers

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There are a lot of different terminologies used within the audio industry. One of the most commonly asked questions, and commonly misunderstood things about speakers, is the difference between active and passive speakers.

Many people aren’t sure what active and passive means when it comes to audio. And whilst they’re very similar, it’s actually quite easy to understand the difference between them. So, let’s look at how they differ, so you can work out which type of speaker you want to add to your home setup.

Active vs Passive Speakers

Essentially, the core different between passive and active speakers lies within the speaker itself. A passive speaker is going to need an external amplifier to power it, typically connected by speaker wire. An active speaker has it’s own internal amp, so it doesn’t need to be connected to one externally.

This is the basic difference between them, but it doesn’t tell the full story when it comes to speakers. Which of them should you opt for, and what are the advantages of each type of speaker? Well, let’s take a look into that in a bit deeper detail.

Passive Speakers

So as I mentioned, essentially a passive speaker relies on another device (an amp) so power it – you can connect the two together by using speaker wire. Even though it might seem like active speakers are the better option of the two, passive speakers still have their place in your home.

The majority of people looking to setup their own home theater system will end up opting for passive speakers to use in tandem with a good amplifier. There are different reasons to opt for passive speakers over active speakers, which we’ll get into now.

Rid yourself of wires

Anyone who has their own full speaker system made up of active speakers can probably admit that it isn’t the easiest to put together. Not only do you have to connect them all, but you also need to find a way to conceal the wires and cables after you’ve finished.

However, this isn’t really a problem with a passive set of speakers, which will run themselves without any extra cables (aside from the AC wire and the speaker wire to connect them!). So, one of the main things that you’ll get from opting for an passive speaker system is that you don’t have to worry about wires as much.


Maybe the most important reason why many people like going to passive speakers is that it’s very easy to upgrade them when you want to. With a full passive system, you can go ahead and upgrade the amp when you need to, or upgrade individual speakers whenever you need. However with an active system, this is typically going to be much more costly, and it’ll likely cost you more to recreate the same quality of sound.


In comparison to a full active speaker system, a passive set of speakers is going to be much more lightweight in comparison. This is because they don’t need to have all the same technology that’s needed in an active speaker system, which means that it can be easier to put together. Having lightweight speakers is essential, especially if you’re going to be putting them in areas around your home, they need to be lightweight (like ceiling speakers, for example).

Active Speakers

So, active speakers is just the term we use for any set of speakers that doesn’t need an external amp to run them – they have that in built into their design. This could be anything from a small Bluetooth speaker all the way up to a larger set of speakers. Whilst passive speakers have been around for a lot time, it took another 50 years before the first set of active speakers was made. There are benefits of an active speaker system.

Easy setup

One of the good things about going for an active speaker system is that you don’t need to worry too much about getting everything set up properly. When you have a passive system, you need to make sure you get the right amplifier for your speakers, as well as a few other things. This included making sure that they match on an impedance rating level, too.

With active speakers, this isn’t something that you need to worry about whatsoever. Active speakers have the distinct advantage that you won’t need to spend time worrying about connecting them to the right amp.


Another thing that’s definitely worth mentioning about active speakers is that many of them nowadays come with inbuilt Bluetooth receivers, or ways to connect to them wirelessly. This is a massive advantage, especially as we move into a world where smart technology is becoming more and more popular. If you want to send a signal to a passive speaker, you’re going to need to use a wired connection to do this.

For people who want the ability to use their speakers wirelessly with their phone, then an active speaker is going to be your best bet.


In conclusion, it’s pretty easy to identify the difference between active speakers and passive speakers. Whilst you can use a pair of active speakers on their own, you’ll need to match a pair of passive speakers up with a good amplifier for you to power them. This makes a massive difference, and you’ll need to know which one you want to buy beforehand.

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