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The Differences Between Passive Active Monitor Speakers

Monitor speakers are one of the many pieces of audio equipment that people use to provide a richer and more detailed sound. In audio production, active and passive monitor speakers are two of the most common types of speakers. However, there are a few key differences that you should be aware of if you’re planning on purchasing a speaker for your studio. But what are the differences between passive and active monitor speakers?

Unfortunately, not knowing the difference between the two can lead to not knowing what best suits you. 

Image of a black colored speakers. Source: rosen genov, pexels
Image of a black colored speakers. Source: Rosen Genov, Pexels

In this article, we’ll outline these differences and explain which one is likely to be better for your needs. So if you’re looking to improve your music-listening experience, this post is for you!

What are the differences between passive and active monitor speakers? A power source (or battery) is needed to power active speakers, but a separate power amplifier is needed to run passive speakers. Amplification is required for passive speakers but not for active ones.

What are passive and active monitors?

Studio monitors come in a variety of forms, but deciding between active and passive speakers is the first and most crucial step. We need greater awareness and fewer misconceptions, even among music specialists and audiophiles.

Active speakers

Most people think of active speakers (also known as powered speakers) as a one-and-done solution. However, several models include not just an amplifier but also a mixer, a microphone preamplifier, and equalization controls.

These studio monitors are often used in PA systems, small performance spaces like pubs and clubs, and private recording studios. However, they are also used in high-end consumer audio devices such as subwoofers, Bluetooth speakers, and home audio speakers.

Passive speakers

Unlike active speakers, passive speakers don’t have amplifiers. They need an amplifier to function properly. They do not need an external power source since the amplifier powers them. Connect your audio source(s) to the amplifier to use the passive speakers.

What’s the difference between active and passive monitors?

The amplifier is the main distinguishing feature between the two. You only need to get your active speakers going by plugging them into an outlet or a battery. The speaker drivers of the better models, such as the woofer, will have their own amplifiers (often called bi-amp or tri-amp speakers).

An external power amplifier is required for use with a passive speaker system. The distinction may seem small, but it may cause many problems for those unfamiliar with the ins and outs.

The benefits of using an active monitor speaker

Let’s look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of active and passive speakers before you make a final selection.

Advantages of active speaker

Active speakers provide better sound quality than passive ones since their individual parts (speaker drivers, crossover components, and amplifier) are designed to work together. You will only spend time experimenting to find the best combination of powered speakers, amplifiers, sources, speaker wires, and digital-to-analog converters.

However, although this degree of customization may appeal to some, it may also result in unnecessary expenditures, and either too little or too much loudness being output by your speakers.

If you have limited time, patience, or technical expertise, investing in an active or powered speaker is advisable to prevent blowing out your speakers and losing a lot of money. As the amplifier is integrated into the speaker, there will be no need to manage extra cables. In addition, it’s more orderly and may shield against sound-warping interference and other noise.

The transmission may remain digital for as long as it is technologically practical, which is great news for audio quality. The amplification system, sound mixing board, microphone, and other components of certain active speakers are all included inside a single housing. Those who play in small clubs and pubs without access to elaborate sound equipment may find this useful.

Small enough to fit on a concert stage, this speaker system can play live and recorded music, yet it will never be mistaken for a concert hall. Often, as Meghan Trainor puts it, “it’s all about the bass,” and experts agree that active speakers often offer a better bass extension.

Disadvantages of active speakers

As well as being more costly, active speakers might “lock” you into a certain system configuration. However, the promise of improved performance and more accurate sound depends entirely on the internal parts’ quality and crossover components, so if you’re on a tight budget, you may have to settle for a less powerful active speaker.

Choose wisely or risk being left with a subpar speaker since you didn’t deal with a reputable manufacturer. Unfortunately, you also can’t update your amplifier’s components by taking it apart. So except for shelling out more money for a new set of powered speakers, you’re stuck with your active speaker.

Advantages of passive speakers

Passive speakers need a speaker cable and are powered by your amplifier, in contrast to active speakers, which require power cables (and frequently many extension cords if you don’t have a nearby outlet or power source).

Passive speakers often need half as many cords as active ones. It makes more sense to invest in high-quality passive speakers initially if you’re on a low budget but still want to establish a top-notch sound system. In the future, when you have more money, you may upgrade to a more powerful model and have more options for components.

In general, amplifiers are compatible with a wide variety of speaker types. Once you’ve decided to upgrade, you’ll find various options to suit your requirements and price range. That may help you fine-tune your sound system to your preferences and use the cutting-edge technology and advanced features of today’s greatest power amplifiers. It’s “future-proof,” as they say in IT.

Disadvantages of passive speakers

According to audio specialists, passive speaker systems are said to cause heat issues due to the components being too hot. Power and efficiency are diminished as a result. While the amount of power lost by your amplifier depends on its specific configuration and operating conditions, it is common to see a noticeable degradation in sound quality after prolonged use.

Passive speakers save money, but a good power amplifier will cost you. According to industry experts, many of these external amps are overbuilt, so they can be used with multiple different kinds of speakers, which drives up the price and may increase the amp’s power consumption.

As an added downside, there is always the possibility of anything going wrong while updating your amplifier system. Therefore, you need to pay attention to the specifications to ensure your passive speakers are not damaged by under or over-driving them.

Image of a single black speaker on a table. Source: josh sorenson, pexels
Image of a single black speaker on a table. Source: Josh Sorenson, Pexels

Which one is better for you, passive or active? 

Active speakers are the way to go if you want something that doesn’t need wiring or extra parts. If an amplifier is built into a device, you can be sure that it has been set up to make the best sound possible. When convenience and mobility are paramount, active speakers are a popular choice.

More flexibility and personalization are available with passive speakers. Passive speakers are preferable if you need or want to use a certain amplifier. They provide you with more flexibility in placement since you don’t have to worry about finding an outlet.

If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “Active Speakers vs Passive Speakers 🔊 | Live Sound Lesson” from the Sweetwater YouTube channel.

A video called “Active Speakers vs Passive Speakers 🔊 | Live Sound Lesson” from the Sweetwater YouTube channel.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about passive and active speakers.

Which speakers are better, passive or active?

A passive speaker is a way to choose if you want a discreet speaker that won’t take up too much room and give you the freedom to use whatever amplifier you want, even one with higher wattage. On the other hand, an active speaker is what you need if you’re looking for a powerful speaker with a lot of basses or if you want to stream your music wirelessly to it.

What are passive monitor speakers?

In contrast to active speakers, passive speakers do not process the audio signal in any way before sending it to the loudspeaker drivers. A preamplifier, power amplifier, crossover, and speakers are the standard components of an active speaker system. The crossover separates the signal into component frequencies so that several speaker drivers may be used.

Do passive speakers need an amplifier?

To play audio, passive speakers need to be plugged into an amplifier or mixer and connected to the source through speaker cords. Because they are unable to generate their own power, most speakers need an external amplifier.

What are active speakers used for?

Line-level signals from an audio source and/or preamplifier are received by active speakers, which then amplify the signals internally. The active speaker needs electricity to amplify the line-level signals arriving at its input.


Now that we’ve explained the differences between passive and active speakers, you can make an informed buying decision. If you are looking for a multi-room sound system with little bass, go for the passive setup. But if you want better dynamics and audio quality in your music collection, choose an active one.

However, just as you can’t become an expert cyclist by reading a book, you can’t become a great music producer by reading articles alone. It’s time to take action! Go and put what you have learned into practice.

This article covered what passive and active speakers are, what their differences are, and their benefits. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • Studio monitors come in various forms, but deciding between active and passive speakers is the first and most crucial step.
  • The amplifier is the main distinguishing feature between the two.
  • Active speakers provide better sound quality than passive ones since their parts (speaker drivers, crossover components, and amplifier) are designed to work together.
  • The crossover of a two-way speaker sends the high frequencies to the tweeter, the uppermost driver in the system.
  • Wireless music may be played through the room without wires when you use active speakers with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
  • You may harm the amplifier and drivers in an active speaker if you transmit speaker-level signals from a power amp.
  • The quality of your work and the listening experience will suffer if any distortion is present.

So, which one do you prefer to use, passive or active? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend, and check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on music production. Thanks for reading, and never stop making music.

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Audio Apartment Author
Written By Andrew Ash
Hey there! My name is Andrew, and I've been making music since I was a kid. I now run this blog all about home studios and music production. If you want to improve your home studio setup, this is the place for you!

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