Active vs passive speakers

The difference between active and passive loudspeakers can often lead to confusion. Many people new to hi-fi and home cinema are under the impression that loudspeakers simply need to be attached to source devices in order to work. That is, attach your speaker to a CD player or television and presto: They playback the signal.

With active loudspeakers, this is, indeed possible. That’s because active loudspeakers contain more than just loudspeaker components. Within the speaker cabinet sits an amplification unit capable of processing an incoming audio signal and sending it on to the drivers. Passive loudspeakers, on the other hand, only contain the speaker components — drivers, crossovers, etc. — for playing a signal already amplified by an external device. For this reason, those who purchase passive speakers will also require either an amplifier or AV receiver. Read on to learn more!

Passive speakers

In the hi-fi and home cinema scene, the question of active vs passive speakers is usually decided in favour of passive speakers. One reason for this is that for years, people who were serious about sound liked to select their own amplifier or AV receiver separately. Finding the right combination of amplifier and loudspeakers was part of the fun and many hi-fi enthusiasts have very particular ideas about what makes a good amplifier. For this reason, speaker manufacturers have offered their high-end stereo and home cinema speakers as passive components.

Nahaufnahme des Passiv-Lautsprechers Theater 500S
Finest sound in a noble guise – our Theater 500S are passive loudspeakers in the best stereo tradition.

One advantage to the combination of passive speakers with separate amplification units is flexibility. Should a new and better AV receiver or amplifier come onto the market, it’s possible to simply change the amplification unit without tossing out the whole system. It’s also easy with this system to expand from a 5.1 to 7.1 system. Bi-wiring and “double stereo” setups also require the use of a separate amplifier, someone one can easily add if the amplification is separate. This ability to co-create a system’s size and soundstage make passive loudspeakers so popular with audiophiles.

 

Passive loudspeakers from Teufel

definion 3 surround

Definion 3 – 5.1

To the Definion 3 - 5.1

Ultima 40 Mk2 - Stereo Towers

Ultima 40 Stereo

To the Ultima 40 Stereo

What is an active speaker?

Unlike passive speakers, active speakers do not require additional amplifiers or AV receivers to work. Everything needed for playing back a signal fed to the speakers from a source device is contained within the enclosure. This does mean, however, that in addition to a cable attached to the source device, the speakers will require either battery power or mains power connection.

Aktibv-Lautsprecher Rockster Cross auf einem Bootssteg fotografiert.
Real active loudspeaker that you can take wherever you go.

Active loudspeakers from Teufel

ultima 40 aktiv

Ultima 40 Active

To the Ultima 40 Active

Teufel Stereo L

Teufel Stereo L

To the Teufel Stereo L

Active-passive combination 

The active-passive loudspeaker combination is a pair of speakers in which one speaker is active and the other is fed by the amplifier of the active one. However, such combinations are usually referred to as active loudspeakers so that it is clear that no separate amplifier is required. Strictly speaking, however, it is an active-passive combination. This combination is very common. So when you talk about an active speaker pair, you often mean an active and a passive one, like in Ultima 40 Active.

In contrast to a separate loudspeaker-amplifier combination, an active-passive constellation benefits from the perfectly tuned technology. This is especially an advantage for people who want it as uncomplicated as possible.

Our powerful all-rounder fir home cinema, music and gaming

Ultima 40 Active Surround “4.0 Set”: This pair of wireless 3-way speakers with surround effect gives you great cinema nights in your own home. You can also connect a game console, subwoofer and TV.
Theater 500 Surround 5.1 Set: The all-rounder for music enjoyment, home cinema with surround sound and game enjoyment has a precise 3-way system. Thanks to the bass-reflex system, the floor-standing speakers sound great in any location.

Weiße Surroundboxen Ultima 40 Aktiv Surround "4.0-Set" von Teufel
Ultima 40 Active Surround “4.0 set”

Conclusion: Active vs passive speakers

  • Passive speakers are easier to find in the hi-fi and high-end range
  • Active speakers are popular for portable use as well as with WiFi and Bluetooth speakers
  • Passive speakers offer more flexibility in terms of creating bespoke speaker/amplification solutions
  • Active speakers are good options for smaller homes, because of this more hi-fi varieties are being offered

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