What Are Powered Speakers?

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Speakers are among the most important devices in a home theater. To enjoy your movies and your favorite songs, you need to have a set of high-quality speakers.

However, because of so many different types and kinds of speakers, you might be confused about what to buy.

If you’re short in space and only need a simple and clean setup, you might want to go with powered speakers.

What are powered speakers, and what makes them ideal for home studios? Keep reading to find out.

What Are Powered Speakers?

Powered speakers are loudspeakers that have their own amplifiers.

You can see them used in various settings, from music production houses to home studios and live stages.

Unlike passive or unpowered speakers, powered speakers (also called active speakers) directly connect to a media source, such as your computer or mobile device.

Some powered speakers for sound reinforcement systems come with a microphone amplifier and mixing console, enabling a mic to be connected directly to the speaker.

Powered speakers connect to a sound source using a cord or wire, but newer models come with Bluetooth functionality.

As such, you can play music wirelessly from your phone or any mobile device.

These devices are extremely easy to use, allowing you to queue up your favorite music, video, or podcast in seconds.

Powered speakers are often compared to bookshelf speakers.

While they are very similar, only the former has built-in amplifiers. Bookshelf speakers will need a separate A/V receiver.

What Are the Main Advantages of Powered Speakers?

Now that you know what are powered speakers, let’s take a look at their advantages.

Compact Design

The most obvious features of powered speakers are their compactness and simplicity.

Since the amplifier is built into the unit, you don’t need a separate receiver to start using it. That said, you can save so much space in your home theater or studio.

If you live in a small apartment or don’t have much room for a complicated set of speakers, you should opt for a pair of powered speakers.

Simple Operation

Since the amplifier is built into the speaker, you skip the guesswork of deciding which amplifiers to pair with them.

The engineers have done this part for you. All that’s left for you to do is to connect the device to your media source.

Active speakers are a lot easier to use because things like crossover frequencies and equalizer curves are already pre-setup for you.

Convenient to Use

Most powered speakers have enough inputs for all playback devices.

If you choose a unit with all the inputs you need, you will only need a power source, such as an outlet.

However, if you purchase a wireless model, you will need a minimal number of cable connections, if any.

Please note that not all powered speakers come with wireless capabilities out of the box.

In some cases, you will need to set them up first or buy a Bluetooth receiver before you can make the speakers work.

what are powered speakers for

High Fidelity

A major advantage of powered speakers over passive speaker systems is that they usually have higher fidelity.

Fidelity refers to how accurately the speaker reproduces the sound from the source.

Many powered speakers have active crossovers and multiple amplifiers, including high dynamic range and greater output power.

Moreover, an active speaker typically incorporates equalization tailored to each driver, creating a flatter and more neutral sound.

Simple Installation

Powered speakers are extremely easy to set up.

Just plug the primary speaker into an outlet, connect the two speakers using the cable included in the unit, and then connect them to your favorite media.

Also, most powered speakers have a sub-out line. If you wish to use a subwoofer, you can connect it to your speakers without needing a receiver.

Stereo Separation

Unlike surround sound systems, active speakers deliver the separation between your right and left ears to mimic the sound you hear from a live concert.

For example, you will hear the guitar from the left speaker and the drums from the right speaker.

Superior Sound Quality

Since the speaker itself has a complete drive circuit, amplifier, sound division, and decoding, sound quality is guaranteed.

Plus, there’s no need for long cables between the speaker and media source, thereby reducing distortion.


Newer models of powered speakers have inputs for USB, turntables, digital optical, and RCA, so you can connect them to anything.

You can also opt for a Bluetooth bookshelf speaker that provides quality sound without messy cables.

Powered speakers can be used for all kinds of devices, from your computer to large sound systems used at live concerts.

They can also be used as monitor speakers and as parts of DJ equipment.

A smaller and more portable speaker is usually paired with computers, laptops, and smartphones.

What Are the Drawbacks of Powered Speakers?

Despite their many awesome features, powered speakers do have some disadvantages, too.


Powered speakers usually weigh more than their equivalent passive speaker systems due to the internal amplifier circuitry.

Thus, most units are heavy and difficult to transport, although powered speakers that use lightweight Class-D amplifiers have narrowed the difference.

Even though some models are lighter and more portable, active speakers are generally heavier than passive speakers due to the added amplifier’s weight.

Volume Adjustment

Some active speakers are designed in such a way that the left and right channel speakers need to be adjusted independently.

As such, adjusting the volume will be a little troublesome, and you will most likely need to fine-tune each speaker to get the right setting.

Needs Power and Audio Signal Line

While powered speakers do not require an amplifier channel, they must be connected to an additional power cord.

Also, since each speaker has an independent amplifier, electronic distributor, and other components, it requires a separate power supply.


Generally, powered speakers are more expensive than their passive counterparts.

As with all speakers, the price of active speakers varies with the unit’s quality.

Standard models that connect with a computer or a mobile device range from $10 to $99.

Meanwhile, high-end systems designed for home theater environments can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.


Repairing damaged powered speakers can be difficult. On the other hand, replacing a broken one is costly since accessibility is limited.

Also, keep in mind that overheating is a real issue when the speakers are used in outdoor locations, especially in hot weather.

User Control

Some powered speakers have internal crossovers that cannot be altered.

Thus, it may not be suitable for many engineers and system designers who want to generate their own crossover and EQ settings.

When Are Powered Speakers More Suitable?

If you live in a small house or apartment, a pair of powered speakers is a great choice.

Receivers can be bulky and heavy, so passive speakers aren’t ideal for cramped spaces.

You can add R-51 PM-powered monitors to your TV stand to transform it into a home theater without needing an external amplifier.

Despite being heavier than most passive models, powered speakers are great for outdoor entertaining where you need a fun soundtrack to lighten the mood.

With a pair of powered speakers, you only need a power source and a mobile device to kick off the party.

Units with Bluetooth allow you to set up two compact speakers on a desk, plug them in, and start enjoying music from your phone or laptop.

Powered speakers are the easiest and least obstructive solution for tight living spaces. They are also perfect for the near-field listening experience.

Whether you work from home, have a dedicated studio, or need tunes for the office, these speakers work great.

Sitting between the two speakers rewards you with an intimate monitoring experience that is accurate enough for music producers and great for casual listeners.

How Do Powered Speakers Connect to an Audio Source?

There are several ways to connect your powered speaker to your mixer or device.

Balanced/Unbalanced Lines

Powered speakers either use balanced or unbalanced lines. You will notice that they make use of line inputs instead of traditional cables to connect to your device.

If you’re connecting the speaker to a PC with no line-in jacks, you can use an adapter cable to interconnect the white and red wires of the speaker and the jack of your media source.

Digital Inputs

Some powered speakers have a built-in DAC that converts the digital sound from your media source to analog.

Wireless or Bluetooth Connection

Newer models of powered speakers feature Bluetooth connections.

As you can imagine, wireless speakers allow you to connect the speakers to any device in a quick and simple way.

They don’t just eliminate the cables but also provide better sound quality with fewer distortions.

What Should You Look for When Buying Powered Speakers?

Powered speakers come in a wide range of sizes, but the most common are eight, 10, 12, and 15 inches.

These sizes reflect the size of the woofer, which is the common term for the low-frequency driver.

Usually, the greater the size of the woofer, the greater the low-frequency response. Thus, when buying powered speakers, do not confuse size with quality.

Another thing to consider when buying powered speakers is the wattage. A higher wattage doesn’t mean a louder sound.

As you probably already know, loudness is measured in decibels.

If you’re looking for a loudspeaker, opt for a model with a higher rating of dB SPL (Decibel Sound Pressure Level).

The wattage provides the amount of power that the amplifier consumes.

Generally, the higher the wattage, the more powerful the amplifier is and the louder the sound.

However, in this day and age, you will now find amplifier technologies that consume power very efficiently.

This means powered speakers can be incredibly loud because they have very efficient power amplifiers.

Get Quality Sound from Powered Speakers

Powered speakers are the way to go if you are tight in space but hungry for quality sound.

Unlike passive units, these types of speakers are very versatile and are suitable for any kind of setup.

Since they have a built-in power amplifier, you won’t need to purchase a separate component.

When shopping for powered speakers, take into account the size, quality, wattage, and features to find the best speakers for your application.

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