What Is The Difference Between Active and Passive Speakers?

What Is The Difference Between Active and Passive Speakers?

27 Nov 2020 | 3 min read

Quick Summary

Ever wondered what the difference is between active and passive speakers? Wondering whether to purchase Lithe Audio's active or passive in-ceiling speakers? Learn more here.

What Are Active and Passive Speakers?

Active speakers have an amplifier built-in to the speaker directly. They therefore just need power to the amplifier to produce sound.

A passive speaker, by contrast, has no built-in amplifier, so needs no power.  There is nothing to power. A passive speaker needs powered amplification from an external source to produce sound, but it is that external amplifier that requires the power.

An amplifier takes a signal and magnifies it.  The ratio between peak and trough values remains the same, but the values are themselves increased.  This is essential because a signal would otherwise be too weak to drive the speaker cone.


The Difference Between Active and Passive Speakers: An Example

A passive speaker is said to be passive because it performs no action on the incoming signal.  Active speakers actively modify the signal by amplifying it, meaning the speaker itself has a built-in amplifier and performs the amplification role.  Passive speakers cannot do this and require an external amplifier in addition to a power source.

As an example, let’s look at our highly popular wireless ceiling speaker from Lithe Audio. The active units, like this Multi-Room WiFi ceiling speaker, have an amplifier built into the unit and, as a result, are more expensive than their passive ceiling speaker counterparts due to the extra hardware and engineering that have gone into the one unit.

While active speakers require a power supply to power the amplifier to drive the speaker, passive units have no internal amplifier and so do not need a power supply to produce sound. So long as the amplifier they are connected to is receiving power, passive speakers will produce sound just fine.  Passive speakers are therefore cheaper than active speakers all else being equal.

Can You Daisy Chain Active and Passive Speakers?

Passive speakers can be daisy-chained (wired), to active speakers to receive their power and amplification from the amp built into the active speaker. This is an efficient means of operating a dual-speaker setup.

This is why the active speaker is called the ‘master’ unit and the passive speaker the ‘slave’. Passive speakers inherit their power from the active/master unit to which they are attached and have no means of producing sound by themselves.  Depending on the power of the amp, it may be capable of powering many passive speakers or just one.

Typically, if an amp is built into an active speaker, it will tend towards being on the lower end of the power scale, meaning fewer passive speakers can be powered.

For practical reasons, amps built into active speakers have size constraints. External amplifiers have no such constraint, meaning the amp can be larger and, as a result, more powerful.

With Lithe Audio wireless ceiling speakers, active and passive speakers come in pairs, meaning one actively powered speaker can power itself and a single passive partner using its built-in amplifier. If you want more than two speakers in a room, you’ll need to purchase multiple active/passive pairs of speakers.


Lithe Audio Wireless Ceiling Speakers

Given how affordable and cost-effective Lithe Audio speakers are, however, this should be no problem for even the keenest audiophile. Especially when combined with the excellent sound and build quality these in-ceiling speakers provide.

Their fibreglass cones and titanium tweeters get better with age and use and they are compatible with new wireless technologies including Apple’s Airplay 2 and Bluetooth 5.0, with its APTX low-latency technology.

The result? Easily configure multi-room speaker setups with incredible wireless range, so you can enjoy music all over the house without worrying about dropped connections. There are even IP44 rated units available for your bathrooms and indoor swimming pools.

Purchase your wireless ceiling speakers today from NetXL.

What Is The Difference Between Active and Passive Speakers?