Pros & Cons of Powered, Passive Speakers
A look at the pros and cons of powered and passive loudspeakers in church audio.


August 17, 2011 By Mark Helms

One of the most common questions from church clients is whether they should purchase powered or passive loudspeakers. This is, of course, entirely dependent on the situation.

The long and short of it is that CIs need to think about the application. I love using powered loudspeakers for portable church systems since there are fewer cables to lug around, and I’m strong enough to manhandle them on and off poles.

I’ve seen portable setups become semi-installed setups because the people using the system were not able to move the speakers. I tend to prefer the use of passive loudspeakers for installations, but there are many cases where powered models are much more practical.

Here is a look at the pros and cons of powered and passive loudspeakers in church audio.

Powered Loudspeakers

Predictable. The amplifier is matched to the loudspeakers, and the factory has tested it.

Negates the need for an additional equipment rack for amplifiers. All components are in one convenient package. They can be connected directly to a mixer or sound source.

Reduces audio quality loss and level loss over longer cable distances, due to the differences between balanced audio wire and loudspeaker wire.

Often the amplifier is tuned to the loudspeaker, so little to no equalization is necessary.

Setup can be more simple and easier to understand for people unfamiliar with sound systems.

Portable powered loudspeakers require more lifting power. Installed powered loudspeakers usually require additional rigging and support in the room.

In installed situations, amplifier service must be done at the loudspeaker location.

Passive Loudspeakers

Flexible. Allows for potential upgrades without replacing both the amplifier and loudspeaker.

Gets signal from standard loudspeaker wire rather than needing both XLR and power cable.

Lighter weight. Generally simpler to rig in an installation and easier to lift for portable systems.

Service of the amplifier and loudspeaker is more straightforward. The amplifier is easily accessible, and either component can be exchanged for a temporary one.

More gear to keep up with, and the amplifier(s) must be located relatively close to the loudspeaker.

More potential for signal loss over long distance.

The amplifier needs to be matched to the loudspeaker for proper sound quality and volume.

This article was republished with permission from ProSoundWeb.

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About the author

Mark Helms is a systems designer at Church Audio Video, a company that specializes in the design, installation and support of high-quality and affordable custom audio, video, lighting, broadcast and control systems for worship facilities.
View all posts by Mark Helms
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