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Active Speakers vs Passive Speakers: Which One Should You Go For?

So, you’re in the market to buy a new set of speakers but are overwhelmed with choices! Do you want your boombox in a natural wood finish? Stained? Or just classic white? What about the size? But before you go into deciding on that, you need to understand if you want an active speaker setup or a passive speaker setup. And more importantly, why? Before anything else, we need to understand what we’re dealing with here, so we’ll start our discussion today with a real quick rundown of what’s an active speaker, and what’s a passive speaker, talk about the pros and cons, and end it with some recommendations which will make your buying decision simple and effective. So, without further ado, let’s begin!

Active Speakers vs Passive Speakers

When talking about passive speakers, there’s a high probability that you already own one. Yes, they are your basic, traditional, and conventional hi-fi speakers. What makes them different from active speakers is you use them with speaker cables and an amplifier, enhancing the signal in the process. Unlike the passive speakers, the active variant has no need to rely on an external amplifier. Why? Because active speakers come with a dedicated amplifier built straight into the box. 

ctive Speaker
Active Speakers
Passive Speakers

High-end speakers like the XEO and DyneAudio Focus XD have a dedicated amplifier for each individual speaker driver! All you need for them to work is a source, basically a way of getting the output signal INTO the speakers. This signal can be analog, digital, or even wireless if you fancy. Passive speakers work using an amplified signal. If the speaker contains more than one driver, such as a mid/bass unit and a separate tweeter, the signal gets split into those low and high frequencies in a circuit. This process is known as a “Crossover”. Active speakers are usually implemented and used in professional recording studios.

Why a Passive Speaker?

Now, what makes one choose a passive speaker setup? Well, for starters, flexibility is its biggest bragging right for passive speakers, as you can mix and match your cables and amplifiers and upgrade them as much as your bank account allows you to. But, as expensive as we’ve made them sound, they’re also actually less expensive than their active variants.

But with passive speakers having so many external components, the problem you’ll most commonly face is the space. Also, you’ll be restricted and bound by the length of your cables. There’s also the problem of interference in the signal path. No matter how high-end of a speaker set you have, according to the laws of physics, there’ll always be some interference when you have a wired signal.

Why an Active Speaker?

Now, let’s talk about active speakers. The first immediate benefit you get from using active speakers is you realize how the whole setup is several times neater than your traditional passive speaker setup. In addition, the setup gets even more clean and minimalistic when you go for the wireless variant since all you’ll need are two main cables, and that’s it. Another benefit you’ll be getting is the freedom from the hassle of component matching. Sure, some people love the idea, but there are also people who find the whole idea of matching the amp, source, DAC, and cables an annoying and tedious experience. Hence, active speakers will be the go-to speakers for them since all the matching work has already been done and dusted.

Since the amps and drivers have such a minimal distance between them, the internal wiring is significantly less. Less wiring initially leads to a lower interference possibility, and combined with the advanced onboard digital signal processing, the reduction is enhanced further. This setting also means the signal stays digital for longer and converts to analog at the last possible moment. In Layman’s terms, what this means is cleaner and clearer audio.

But, here’s the catch. With an active speaker setup, what you pay for is initially what you get. What it means is since it’s all built-in, you cannot upgrade or tinker with the amps like you’d be able to do with passive speakers. Active speakers are also comparatively heavier in weight due to the extra components inside. And if it wasn’t obvious up until now, gravity isn’t the only thing that’ll impact these speakers, as they are heavy on the price as well.

Final Verdict

Now, you might be thinking of which one should you actually go for? Well, a lot of it is in the gray area, as it’s not a simple black or white question. You need to consider getting yourself active speakers if you want a less complicated and hassle-free setup with minimum fiddling with wires. If you think dealing with external components like DACs and AMPs is too much for you, and if you prefer to experience a lot of digital music in hi-res format, there’s nothing quite like an active speaker. On the flip side, if you like tinkering with extra components like amplifiers and plan on making a custom-made speaker set with future upgrades in mind, a passive speaker set should be your go-to speaker. They also cost significantly less than active speakers, so if you’re worried about your budget, as the Mandalorian says, this is the way.

So, that was a basic rundown on active and passive speakers and some pros and cons. We hope this article has made an impact on your buying decision and made some effort to inform you with solid ideas to point you in the right direction. 

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