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Active or passive speakers with your PA System - which is best?

What are they?

Passive (or non-powered) speakers need to be powered by a separate power amplifier or a powered mixer. The power rating of the amplifier or powered mixer is matched to the speakers so they can only ever be used as a complete system.

Active (or powered) speakers have an amplifier built into them so that they do not need a separate power amplifier. This makes them more versatile in that you can use one speaker on its own, or easily daisy chain more speakers or subs on without worrying about the power implications or Ohmage. This makes them simple to use, and great for bands playing in different sized venues for example.

Because they contain their own power amp, active speakers will often have RCA line inputs on the back (for a music source) and XLR microphone inputs so you can use them without the need for a mixer for meetings, for example.

Some active speakers are bi-amped, meaning they can power a passive speaker as well as themselves.

What should we get?

If you are looking to permanently install the speakers up on wall brackets (in a hall for example) then you need to choose Passive speakers as they don't need a mains power feed. If you want versatility then Actives are the best. Other benefits/disadvantages are:

  Pros Cons

Click to view passive speakers

Usually lighter in weight than the active equivalent in the same range
Better option for putting up on wall brackets
Do not need mains power

Must be matched to the power rating of the power amplifier or active mixer, so your system is not as versatile. More speakers require another power amplifier

Click to view active speakers
Less equipment to carry around as you don't need a separate power amplifier
You have some built in resilience. If one of the active speakers fails, you can still run the other
Usually have line inputs on the back for microphones (XLR/Jack) and a music source (RCA)
Very versatile - you can take any part of your active system and use it independently, and can easily add to it

  Usually heavier than the passive equivalent in the same range


Not suited for going up on wall brackets as they need a mains power feed


Click to view passive speaker packagesHow do I know which power amplifier to use with passive speakers?
To make it easy for you we've put together some passive speaker packages, all ready with the correct power amplifier to power the speakers.

If you need to know how many watts you'll need for your audience size, please check out our How Many Watts page, or just fill in our enquiry form, give us a call on 01375 892317 or email enquiries@whatpa.co.uk and we'll be happy to advise you!

If you are looking to use more than two Passive speakers at once, remember that you have to take the Ohms into account when calculating the correct power amplifier to use. See our Matching Ohms page for more information.





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