Difference between Passive and Active Speakers

Now there are many types of speakers available based on the location of their use, but this is not the real thing that distinguish them. The speakers are actually divided in two types only - it's either an active speaker or a passive speaker.

This is where the real confusion begins for most people. Because they don't bear a clear idea about it, and it gets difficult for them to identify these types and their differences.

To understand the differences between active and passive speakers, you gotta know their definitions first.

Active Speaker:

This speaker comes with a built-in amplifier, so you won't need to connect it to an additional amplifier for sound boosting. Though the sound level itself is kinda low, but the amplifier amplifies it and improves the quality.

Active speakers are not that diverse. Subwoofers are a type of active speaker. You'll see, in most sound systems, there's only one active speaker and there's a higher chance that it'll be a subwoofer.

Passive Speaker:

This speaker doesn't come with its own built-in amplifier. Passive speaker has to be connected to an independent amplifier for sound boosting. However, since there's no amplifier installed inside, the speaker is engineered to produce a decent amount of high level audio on its own.

Most of the speakers we see are passive speakers.

Differences between Active and Passive Speakers


Amplifier is what makes the big difference since these speaker types are mainly based on the presence of an amplifier.

Passive speaker doesn't have its own amplifier, so you have to link it to a separate amplifier. As the active speaker already includes one, there's no need for an additional amplifier setup.


The amplifier is always using power. When you're using an active speaker, it also demands continuous power handling due to the presence of an amplifier inside. You gotta always need to keep the power going. This is why the active speakers have to be placed near a power outlet.

However, keeping it near the power outlet is not a mandatory option for passive speakers. They don't require power all the time since there's no amplifier inside. You can place them anywhere you like, just gotta make sure that they're connected somewhere to a speaker cable.


Active speaker's capacity is higher than passive speaker's capacity in several aspects.

Not only that it includes a built-in amplifier, it also comes with the most power options. Basically, passive speakers are constructed to produce frequencies only, where the active speakers feature multiple specs for speaker control.

The dial/switch for tuning, volume control, on/off and plugging ports are always located on the active speaker. In short, the whole control system and power distribution authority belongs to it.

Comparing to this, the only capability passive speaker holds is the capability of dispersing sound.

However, there are exceptions as well. Some passive speakers are constructed for stand-alone usage. These speakers do come with their own control even though they're not active. Still, it's the characteristic of active speaker mainly.


Setting an active speaker up is easier than setting up a passive speaker. As active speakers are already packed with almost every necessary things, not much stuffs are recquired to be installed.

On the other hand, for the perfect audio performance, you have to equip the passive speaker with several things. Which takes time and can be complicated.


Upgrade makes a huge difference between these two speakers, after the question of amplifier's availability.

Now, since the active speaker comes with a built-in amplifier and already bestowed with all the control, there isn't much left for upgrade. Sometimes you can't even upgrade it at all since that will mean replacing everything of the speaker; which is, in other words, not possible.

Moreover, as it is built with all the things already, how can you even upgrade those stuffs? It's not even an option for the most active speakers.

However, you have a complete liberty of upgrading the system when you're using a passive speaker. For instance, to upgrade the sound delivery performance, you can connect it to an amplifier.

Moreover, you can upgrade the whole speaker's ability by adding more speakers and other drivers as well. You can change its look as well. These things are not possible with an active speaker.

The Limitation of Choice

The amplifier choice also distinguishes these speakers.

Active speaker already includes a built-in speaker and the way it's installed, there's no way you can replace it ever. So, you have to be satisfied with the company's selected amplifier. You have to adapt with its performance even if it's not good.

But you get lots of options to choose from when you're using a passive speaker. Since you're not using one built-in mandatory amplifier, you can install any amplifier of your preference. You can replace it as well.

The Price

Since active speakers feature built-in amplifier and are packed with controlling options, they're more expensive than passive speakers.

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