Passive vs Active Speakers for Turntable: A Quick Guide

turntable

Several criteria can influence your choice of new speakers, such as tower vs bookshelf, in-wall/in-ceiling vs cabinet, and so on.

A criterion that comes up frequently when you need the new set of speakers for your turntable is passive vs active speakers.

First of all, you need to decide whether you’re going to go with passive or active speakers and you may want to ask which of the two speaker types is better for your turntable.

This quick guide will explain what the passive and active speakers are, which of the speakers is good for a turntable, and how to set up both for your turntable.

What are Passive and Active Speakers?

Simply put, an active speaker has an inbuilt amplifier within its cabinet and only needs a power source (or battery) to operate. A passive speaker, on the other hand, requires an external power amplifier to operate.

A passive speaker must be connected to an external amplifier via speaker wire to draw its power. In short, you need an amplifier for passive speakers, but you don’t need an amplifier for active speakers.

Most times, passive speakers are meant for home use while active speakers are often seen in pro audio for pa systems and monitors but also are used in some consumer audio systems like subwoofers, smart speakers, home audio speakers, Bluetooth speakers, and so on.

Passive and active speakers also differ in their crossover configurations but that is beyond the scope of this guide.

Passive and Active Speakers: Which is better?

Deciding on which is better between passive and active speakers depends on several factors, which include your specific needs and what you’ll be using the speaker for.

Hence, the answer to the question of which speaker type is better is subjective and we can say it depends.

To help you properly decide on which of the speaker type would be better for you, here is a brief look at the pros and cons of both passive and active speakers.    

Active Speakers – Pros

  • The amp and speaker go together in active speakers as an all-in-one solution. This makes the system more compact and portable. All you have to do is power on your device and plug in your sound.
  • Since the amplifier is already wired to the speaker, they are easy to set up and you don’t need any technical experience to use one.
  • Most active speakers are battery-powered, making them a great portable solution.
  • Active speakers allow for wireless applications

Active Speakers – Cons

  • The active speaker is a single inseparable unit, which may be heavier to carry.
  • If either the speaker or the amp breaks down, you’ll have to take the entire unit to an engineer for repair rather than just replacing only the broken element.
  • They are usually less powerful than having the amplifier and speaker as separate units.

Passive Speakers – Pros

  • Scalability: Since the speaker is not fixed permanently to the amp, you can easily upscale/upgrade your speaker. You can easily replace your speaker with a more powerful one add more speakers to the setup without replacing the entire PA system.
  • Lightweight: Passive speakers are usually lightweight than active speakers of the same size because they don’t have amplifiers inside them. This means they can be easily lifted and carried about.
  • Easy Maintenance: Maintenance is a lot easier with a passive speaker. You can service the speakers independently of the amp.
  • Flexibility: If you’ve hardwired your speaker system into your venue, you’ll be able to change audio settings from a central control rather than going from one speaker to the other to change settings.

How to Set Up Passive Speakers with A Turntable

A standard turntable system setup requires these major components – the turntable, a phono preamp, an amplifier (receiver), speakers, some cables, and wires needed to connect these components.

To set up your passive speakers properly, you’ll need all the components listed above in place. Follow the guide below to properly set up passive speakers for the turntable:

  • Connect the turntable to the preamp using the RCA cables (note that some turntables require grounding.)
  • Connect the preamp to the amplifier using RCA cables
  • Connect the amplifier to the speakers
  • Drop the needle on the vinyl and enjoy

How to Set Up Powered Speakers with a Turntable

Remember, a powered speaker already has an inbuilt amplifier in it – internal amplification.

Some powered speakers may also have inbuilt phono preamp but most powered speakers still require a separate phono preamp. However, some turntables already have an inbuilt phono preamp.

Whichever the case is, internal amplification and the inbuilt phono preamp eliminate the need for two separate components, which are a receiver and a phono preamp. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to connect powered speakers to your turntable:

  • Connect the RCA and ground cables from the turntable to the powered speaker
  • Ensure the switch on the back of the speaker is set to “Phono”
  • Plug in the turntable and powered speaker into power outlets
  • Drop the needle on the vinyl and enjoy

Those are the easy ways to setup your turntable with quality passive or active speakers.

Summary

To wrap up this section either the passive or active speakers can be used with a turntable. If you want an easy-to-place speaker and want to be able to choose your own amplifier or upgrade it, then a passive speaker is the better option for you.

However, if you want a speaker that can play loud with lots of bass or you want to be able to stream wirelessly to it, then an active speaker is better.

Best Active and Passive Speakers

There are lots of different active and passive speakers out there, so choosing the best one can be a bit daunting. However, here are a few options of the best speakers to get you started:

Bose L1 Compact Active PA System

The Bose L1 Compact Active PA System is a portable, super lightweight active speaker designed for smaller audiences of about 100 people. This speaker is an ideal option for public speakers, acoustic performers, and house bands.

Using this speaker doesn’t require any speaker cables, stands, or bass modules. Simply insert your turntable or any other device. This speaker features six 2in. line-array tweeters with integrated 8in. subwoofer that provides a wide frequency range.

It also has one microphone input on channel 1; one instrument input on channel 2, one RCA stereo input, and one 0.31cm stereo input.

RCF ART 712-A Mk4 Digital Active Loudspeaker

This speaker is ultra-reliable and one of the best options on the market today. It is lightweight and has excellent power usage – it uses 1400W of power to play with and a maximum SPL of 129dB.

The RCF ART 712-A active speaker features a 12in. speaker, 1in. RCF driver, a balanced XLR input, XLR link output, and three LED indicators to enable you to see the power status, signal indication, and whether or not the inbuilt limiter is active.

Yamaha Stagepas 600BT Bluetooth Portable PA System

This passive speaker is a great option for those in need of a budget-friendly PA system. It is easy to set up, install, and pack down, and it also offers the ability to control the speakers remotely.

You can either use this speaker as a fold-back speaker or mount it on the speaker stands. It features two 10in. full-range speakers with 1.4in. Compression drivers. It has a detachable 10-channel mixer that gives you a wide range of inputs.

The Yamaha Stagepas Speaker and 600BT Mixer System have Bluetooth connectivity and a dedicated Bluetooth channel that enables you to connect Bluetooth-enabled devices.

QSC E15 15in. Passive Loudspeaker

This passive speaker is capable of acting like a complete sound system when you need a loudspeaker and subwoofer in one simple package. It is very rugged and perfectly designed to work with the QSC GXD and PLD amplifiers, or any other compatible amplifier.

This speaker has impressive 75° coverage to ensure that your audience can hear everything perfectly. It fills the room with sound via a compact, two-way loudspeaker with a 15in. die-cast frame woofer with a 3.5in. voice-coil.

You can also mount this speaker vertically on a pole using the dual-angle 35mm socket.

The speaker will angle down by 10° to improve audience coverage and reduce rear wall reflections. You can also mount this speaker for permanent installation using E Series Yoke or M8 eyebolts.

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