What is the difference between active and passive speakers?

Written by: Jon Duffy



Time to read 1 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’s the difference? Maplin are here to help you learn the basics.

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!

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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.

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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!

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.