Loudspeakers - Active vs Passive

Part 1

When you are looking to buy a set of loudspeakers for use at home, there are so many decisions to be made that for many it can be overwhelming ultimately stifling any decision.

Bookshelf vs Tower; Cabinet vs In-wall vs Ceiling; Two-way vs Three-way etc; it can be very confusing but fear not there is a solution for you.

Today, there is an even more fundamental question that needs to be asked; should I buy a set of Active Loudspeakers or Passive Loudspeakers?

Here at SGR Audio we make both Active and Passive Loudspeakers and in this first of a two-part series we’ll begin to breakdown the difference between the two types of Loudspeakers so that you can make an informed decision about what is best for you and your current circumstances.

  • Passive loudspeakers draw their power from a separate external amplifier which connect to the loudspeaker via a cable (speaker wire)
  • Active loudspeakers have an amplifier built into the cabinet
There are other differences, but we’ll leave that to Part 2.

  • Passive loudspeakers have traditionally found their place in home use
  • Active loudspeakers were initially used in professional PA Audio systems and monitors and are now finding their way into consumer homes in ‘normal’ looking loudspeakers as well as in new Bluetooth speakers


The only cabling required for Passive is a speaker wire connection, no power cable is required so you don’t need to position the loudspeakers close to a power outlet. This means that passive loudspeakers are easier to place in your home.

Passive loudspeakers require the audio signal to be amplified prior to getting to the loudspeaker. If your situation changes and more power to your loudspeakers is required, then users can simply purchase a more powerful amplifier or go from solid state to tube or Class A/B to Class D (more on these classes in a future article).

Passive loudspeakers can breakdown and they can wear out, but an advantage is that there is no complicated electronics in them if you need to replace them.

Another advantage with passive is that they are generally lighter than active loudspeakers because of the absence of electronics in the loudspeaker cabinet.


With active loudspeakers the amplifier is included in the cabinet enclosure. High end audio enthusiasts believe that this is a good thing assuming that the loudspeaker is well designed. With an active set-up the drivers, crossover (see our article on crossovers) and the amplifier have all been specifically designed and selected to work together. Bottom line is that you never have to be concerned about under powering the loudspeaker because it always optimised. Note that whilst it’s not impossible to blow out a loudspeaker in an active set-up, it is highly unlikely due to the engineering design that has gone into it.

Increased output and bass extension performance is obtained from an active loudspeaker because all the components are part of one cohesive design.

Typically, users can drive an active set-up relatively hard without being too concerned about potentially damaging the loudspeaker or the amplifier.


Now that the basics are out of the way, in part 2 of our series we’ll go into a little more detail for those interested in more of the intricacies.

For some though, the information provided here in Part 1 is enough for a more informed choice between active and passive loudspeakers.

If you are looking for an easy to position loudspeaker and you already have an amplifier or would like to choose your own amplifier, then passive may be best for you.

If you want a loudspeaker that is perfectly matched with an amplifier that you can drive as hard as you like, then an active set-up may suit you better.

Of course, it doesn’t always have to be one or the other. Many people have both set-ups in different areas of their home audio configurations.