Shopping for a new sound system can be very exciting. After all, who wouldn’t want to experience top-notch sound throughout their home? However, amidst that excitement, it can be confusing to sift through the different technical terms used to describe sound systems and their functions. For example: what is the difference between active, passive, or powered speakers and subwoofers?
To start, all speakers are either active or passive. A powered speaker is merely an active speaker, and the terms are often used interchangeably. Basically, active speakers contain a built-in amplifier, which is an active electronic device. Therefore, active speakers and subwoofers need power and must be connected to a power outlet.
Active speakers generally fall into the low-end or high-end categories, as opposed to middle-range. For example, a low-end laptop speaker that needs power to function is an example of an active speaker. Also, high-end active speakers are generally sold as a package, and limit the buyer’s ability to customize components (such as including a different amplifier).
On the other hand, passive speakers are much more common and generally preferred among most shoppers. Passive speakers don’t have a built-in amplifier, so they do not have to be plugged into an outlet. However, they will need to be connected to an external amplifier through normal speaker wire or wireless connection. The amplifier itself will need to be connected to a power outlet to provide a signal and drive the speakers.
For most sound systems, the subwoofer is the only active speaker. Subwoofers usually need this extra power to generate low-pitched audio frequencies, commonly referred to as bass. There are passive subwoofers available on the market, but they will need to be connected to a subwoofer amplifier, which can make the cost of the combo more expensive than merely purchasing an active subwoofer.
In general, most shoppers do not need to purchase active speakers and subs. A passive sound system will offer plenty of juice for the casual listener. But those who are looking for a top-of-the-line experience may be interested in what a high-end active sound system has to offer, and fortunately the knowledgeable staff at Century Stereo is always available to help. Call or come in to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of an active or passive system for your particular home entertainment application.