Active vs. Passive Speakers: What’s the Difference?

Consider active speakers if…

  • It is important for you to have a fuss-free, wire-free system

  • When it comes to external amplifiers, you don’t want to have to fiddle around with them

  • The majority of your music is digital, especially if it is in a high-quality format like hi-res

  • There is a limited amount of space available to you

Take a look at our full collection of active speakers here

Consider passive speakers if…

  • The amplifier might need to be upgraded at a later point in time if you decide to do so

  • As for your other hi-fi gear, you have probably already made significant investments in it

  • Your budget is more constrained than it used to be

  • Typically, they are lighter than their active counterparts when it comes to their weight.

To see the full range of passive speakers that we have available, please visit our passive speaker section

There are two types of services that you can choose from. However, what is the difference between the two – and which one is best for you?

The choice for some speakers is not all that hard. Do you want them to be made from natural wood, stained wood or white? Is it a big one or a small one that you want? Is Dynaudio what you are looking for? In my opinion, that’s a no-brainer…

There are a number of types of speakers available nowadays, and choosing what type you want can be a bit tricky. The Dynaudio company makes two types of speakers: passive speakers as well as active speakers. How do these two differ – and what’s best for you if you’re looking for an answer?

What are passive speakers?

In all likelihood, you already own a pair of hi-fi speakers which are usually used in hi-fi systems. A speaker cable and a power amplifier are what you need to use them.

A passive speaker works by amplifying the signal that is transmitted to it. A crossover circuit has the capability of splitting the frequency of a speaker signal into its low frequency component and its high frequency component if there is more than one driver in the speaker (such as a mid/bass unit and a tweeter).

Passive speakers: pros and cons

One of the biggest pluses is the flexibility of the system. Depending on your funds (and long-suffering partners) you may be able to mix-and-match the cables and amplification as they see fit – and upgrade the system as far as you want. There are also usually fewer costs associated with them than with their active counterparts.

As a result of all the parts that need to be added to your kit-rack, your system will require more space, and the length of the cable you will be able to run between your kit-rack and speakers will be limited.

Secondly, there may be interference in the signal path which can affect the quality of the signal. The engineers of our company spend tireless hours worrying about minimizing the amount of interference and noise in order to make our product as reliable as possible, but the laws of physics dictate that wherever you have a wire carrying a signal there will always be some interference and noise. The signal paths in outboard components, as well as the crossovers, long cable runs around the room, all play a role in how well the signal is carried. We make sure that our designers ensure that the effect is as minimal as possible, but it is still there.

What are active speakers?

In contrast to passive speakers, active speakers are equipped with built-in amplification that does not require an external amplifier. There are some active speakers that have dedicated amplifiers for each of the speaker drivers. For example, the Xeo and Focus XD series of speakers.

The only thing that you need is a source, a means of getting the output signal to the speakers (this can be analog, digital, or even wireless), and a way to power each speaker with its own power supply.

There is a growing use of active speakers in professional recording studios – such as our Lyd series.

How about the pros and cons of active speakers?

The main advantage of this system is that it looks neat – especially if you choose to use wireless speakers. A few mains cables are all you need to get started.

It is also important to consider the issue of component matching, in a passive system, where you might end up spending years fine-tuning it in terms of amplifier, source, DAC (digital-to-analogue converter), speaker cables, interconnects and many other factors. As opposed to passive speakers, active speakers have already done all the work for you.

We were able to match these drivers up for the best sound possible since they each have their own amplifier. After that, we were able to further optimize the pair for even better sound. No compromises here! The designers of the Xeo 2s briefly considered matching you with a partner too – but they told us they had their hands full designing the device.

Due to the proximity of the amps to the drivers, there is less internal wiring to be found. Due to the fact that there is less internal wiring, there is less chance of interference – and, because the signal processing on board has evolved to the point of being very advanced, it offers greater chances of compensating for any interference that may occur. This of course also means that it is possible for a signal to remain digital for a longer period of time – only to be converted back to analogue when it is finally time to make it available for consumption as physical sound. In other words, this will result in a cleaner, clearer audio recording.

The one limitation with active speakers is that you cannot make any changes to the amplification, as you can with passive speakers. In addition to being heavier due to the additional components inside, active speakers are usually more expensive as well, for the same reason. Active speakers also have more features than passive speakers do.