The Difference Between an Active Speaker and a Passive Speaker


“If I take these speakers home, can I plug them in and listen to my music?” This is a common question we get asked from first time visitors to our EPIC showroom.


To answer that question, you should understand the difference between an active speaker and a passive speaker.


An ‘ACTIVE” speaker already has an internal amplifier and its own power supply. Think of it as being actively ‘ready to rock and roll!’


Whereas a 'PASSIVE' speaker requires an external amplifier or receiver to operate.


Personally, when I think of an active speaker, my mind goes right to the boombox generation, where we put batteries in our giant portable music player and walked the streets carrying that 10lb device on our shoulder. Yes, it was the bitchin' thing to do back then.


In today's era, the boombox is now a wireless, bluetooth connected speaker that weighs less than a pound and can be carried anywhere... 'tunes ready, with ease'.


The familiar SONOS brand, for example, is currently one of the world’s most trending ACTIVE speakers. The company designed a system of wireless speakers that connect together so you can stream music and even set up a home theater system in any room or every room; and control it all with your phone or tablet.


You might think that active speakers are more flexible because they work almost anywhere there's wifi, but the appeal of a passive speaker is much more versatile. Passive speakers allow you to replace, upgrade or change out any of the connected components. Audiophiles (speaker junkies) typically build a system with passive speakers for the ability to completely customize the listening room of their desires.


But you can’t go by brand alone when looking for either an active or passive speaker, because many brands make both.


As an example, Bowers & Wilkins offers a wireless speaker that uses cutting-edge technologies like Carbon Dome Tweeter-on-Top and Continuum™ drivers to deliver the audio quality Bowers & Wilkins is renowned for. Wireless hi-res sound, without compromise in their Formation Duo model.


There is a "slight" price difference between the two brand examples given in this blog post. The SONOS Roam sells for just under $200. The B&W Formation Duo has an MSRP of $4,999 for the pair.


As with everything related to audio and video, there are many variables, (not just price) so if you are up for a longer winded and more technically detailed answer to the question of active vs passive speakers - give us a call! We're always happy to talk sound!

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