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Active vs Passive Speakers: Which Should You Use?
By Ben Hardy
What is the difference between active, passive, powered and unpowered speakers? Here the confusion is laid to rest.

Audiophiles understand the importance of speakers in a home entertainment set-up. This is arguably the most important decision made when purchasing and assembling the audio components for the system. It is certainly one of the first features shown off when fellow audiophiles drop in for some aural sampling. When selecting speakers, consumers may find themselves confronted with the option of active speakers, passive speakers, powered speakers, or some combination. To make life more difficult, not all venders and experts agree on the usage of those terms. We've attempted to clear up the confusion and spell out some of the strengths and weaknesses.



Defining Active, Passive, and Powered
The terms passive, active, powered, and unpowered are often confused and used incorrectly, or at least interchangeably. The confusion lies in what, specifically, is being addressed with regards to the speaker. When used, these terms are either in reference to speaker amplification or speaker crossover. Hence, active is sometimes used interchangeably with powered, and passive with unpowered. Here's a quick breakdown:

Active Speakers
In an active speaker, the word active commonly refers to the crossover components/system. The crossover components in an active speaker split the frequency band of the audio signal into smaller parts (low, high, and sometimes mid-range), which are then sent to individual speaker drivers designed to handle those frequencies.

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