Choosing the right speaker often makes a great difference in the quality of sound. Whether you are a novice or a professional DJ, it is important to pay attention to the standard and usability of your equipment, and to select the speakers that will suit you needs in order to conduct an event appropriately and in professional style.
Active speaker’s aka powered speakers are suitable for both novice and expert sound providers. They usually have an amplifier and crossover built into the same housing as the speakers, however they can also support external amplifiers, and cross over components; they are suitable for all types of use including outdoors.
Powered speakers can be connected by a single line cable from a mixer. They may come with one or more amplifiers to power the drivers in the system. The crossover components split the frequency bands of the audio signal into smaller parts (low, high, and sometimes mid-range), which are then sent to individual speaker drivers designed to handle those frequencies, which ensure better performance of the speaker.
With active speakers you have built in resilience, if one of the active speakers fails, you can still use the other. They are very versatile, and you can take any part of your active system and use it independently and can easily add to it. They are usually heavier than passive speakers however you have less equipment to carry as you don’t need a separate amp. Active speakers are suited for going up on wall brackets but they need a mains power feed, and they can be more costly to repair as their set of components cannot be independently replaced because the amps are part of the speaker package.
Because they contain their own power amp, active speakers will often have RCA line inputs on the back (for a music source) and XLR or jack microphone inputs so you can use them without the need for a mixer. Some active speakers are bi-amped, meaning they can power a passive speaker as well as themselves, being adaptable allows the user to easily daisy chain more speakers or subs without having to worry about the power implications. This makes them easy to use, and great for bands playing in a variety of venues. They have excellent sound quality, are user friendly and have a simple connection direct from the mixer to the speaker.
Passive speakers aka unpowered speakers do not have a built-in amplifier and need to be connected to a separate amp or powered mixer using the speaker cables. Signals received at the speaker are powerful enough to render the sound without any amplification. The passive speakers feature crossover components, which split the audio signal and send each band directly to the loudspeaker drivers and a separate power amplifier that sends the full audio signal to the speakers.
In terms of energy efficiency they do have a tendency to waste heat and may lose up to 30% of the amplifiers power in the process. Passive speakers have a complex set up as they require routing the connection from the controller to an amplifier and from there on to the speaker. They are lighter in weight, can used both outdoor and indoor and they are cheaper than active speakers. The speakers do not need mains power but they must be matched to the power rating of the amplifier or mixer, therefore making your system less versatile.
Passive speakers are for those who consider themselves to be professional as they require expertise in matching the speaker with the right amplifier so that the voice coils do not burn out. The user can add in additional amplifiers, speaker management systems and can upgrade different components of the system separately in order to suit their needs.
In general for pub and small venue gigs, an active system is best suited, particularly if you want to set up quickly as you don’t need to carry as much equipment around from each gig. They also require less technical experience to use. Passive speakers, though common and priced relatively lower than the active models, are intended for users who have a fair understanding and knowledge of working with sound systems.
For larger gigs and installations, passive speakers are suitable as they provide more flexibility and reliability. However both speakers and amplifiers can be independently upgraded when required to achieve the acoustic effect.