What is the difference between active and passive speakers?

Written by: Jon Duffy



Time to read 3 min

If you’re looking to buy a speaker but don’t know a lot about audio, the sheer number of options including styles and sizes can be overwhelming. One of the core decisions you’ll need to make is whether you want an active or passive speaker. But what is the difference between active and passive speakers? Maplin are here to help you learn the basics.

Active and passive speakers at Maplin

The difference between active and passive speakers

Active speakers

Active speakers feature a built-in amplifier and are often referred to as powered speakers because they need to be plugged into a power socket or charged from a battery. They don’t require any other components – simply plug your audio device straight into it and you’re ready to go!

They are equipped with built-in amplifiers, eliminating the need for an external amplifier or receiver. These speakers feature a self-contained design, with the amplifier and speaker drivers housed within the same enclosure. Active speakers are highly versatile and convenient, offering a plug-and-play solution for audio playback in various settings, including home entertainment systems, professional audio setups, and multimedia applications. With their integrated amplification, active speakers deliver optimal performance and sound quality, as the amplifier is specifically matched to the speaker drivers for efficient power delivery and accurate reproduction of audio content. Additionally, active speakers often feature built-in controls and connectivity options, such as volume knobs, equalizers, and Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing users to easily adjust settings and stream audio from various sources without the need for additional equipment.

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Passive speakers

Unlike active speakers, passive speakers don’t include a built-in amplifier. This means you’ll need to connect an amplifier to get the speaker working. But on the plus side, it draws energy directly from the amplifier, so you won’t have to look for an extra plug socket. To play your music, all you need to do is connect your audio device to the amplifier rather than the speaker.

Passive speakers are a fundamental component of audio systems, relying on an external amplifier or receiver to power them. As these speakers lack built-in amplification, you can customize your audio setup by selecting amplifiers that suit your preferences and requirements. Passive speakers feature speaker drivers housed within the speaker enclosure, including woofers, tweeters, and sometimes midrange drivers, designed to reproduce audio frequencies accurately. With their straightforward design and compatibility with a wide range of amplifiers, passive speakers offer flexibility and scalability, making them suitable for various audio applications, including home theaters, stereo systems, and professional audio setups. Additionally, passive speakers often provide superior sound quality and performance compared to similarly priced active speakers, as users have the freedom to select amplifiers tailored to their specific audio preferences and room acoustics.

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What are the pros and cons?


Active speakers are far easier to set up. Simply power them up, connect your audio device and you’re ready to go! Whilst they tend to be heavier than passive speakers, they take up less space and often feature wireless connectivity.

On the downside, they tend to be more expensive as they include a built-in amplifier. This also means they can’t be upgraded as easily, whereas you can upgrade the amplifier unit you connect to a passive speaker.


So, what about passive speakers? Since it doesn’t have a built-in amplifier, you can choose your own model to experiment with different combinations until you find the ideal audio setup. They also don’t need to be plugged in, so there will be fewer cables trailing around.

However, since they require a connection to an amplifier, passive speakers are far less portable than active speakers. They also require a bit of audio knowledge to get the best performance, as the amplifier will have a big impact on the overall sound quality.

So which model is right for you? Explore our full range of speakers now to start creating your ideal audio setup today!

Active Speakers: Equipped with a built-in amplifier, active speakers offer convenience and versatility with plug-and-play functionality. They feature integrated controls and connectivity options but can be more expensive and less easily upgradable than passive speakers.

Passive Speakers: Require an external amplifier for power, allowing users to customize their audio setup. They offer flexibility and superior sound quality but require more setup and audio knowledge.

About the author

Jon Duffy is a Digital Merchandiser at Maplin.

An avid gamer from a young age, Jon has dabbled in gaming journalism and dedicates much of his spare time to this hobby. He also has an interest in music, playing bass guitar in a rock covers band.

Having previously worked as a copywriter with another electronics retailer, he was eager to join Maplin with their new online venture. In addition to writing blogs, Jon also works on many of the website's landing pages and adding new tech to the range.