Sound systems, both in and out of the home, have become increasingly sophisticated and complicated. With the ever-increasing popularity of powered speakers, it’s got a lot of audio enthusiasts asking, “Can you connect a power amp to active speakers?“
It’s a fair question. So, let’s take a look at the difference between active and passive speakers. Then, I’ll give you a better idea of when to use them before considering how to connect them. So, let’s get started with…
What are Active Speakers?
Active speakers, also referred to as powered speakers, have become increasingly popular over the last decade. There are plenty of reasons for this, but more on that later. So, what are they, and how do they work?
Essentially, they have the same components as passive speakers but with a built-in amplifier. This means that the speakers have their own power supply.
So, when connecting to an input source, there are no additional connections. Therefore, the system is powered by simply plugging in your speakers to your domestic power supply.
The big advantage of these kinds of speakers…
You cut out the need for extra wired connections, which generally makes them easier to set up and less expensive.
Another significant advantage is that the calculations of matching up the ideal power output between speakers and an amplifier have already been done. Even better, active speakers cut down on the need for extra equipment, thereby saving space.
Although they are referred to as active speakers…
It’s worth pointing out that the powered element is usually confined to the cabinet of just one of the speakers. If you have more than two speakers, for example, the speaker with the amp and power source will be connected to the non-powered speaker with a conventional speaker cable.
What Are Passive Speakers?
Passive speakers rely on an external source to send an amplified audio signal. On their own, you can’t use them to listen to music or sound of any kind. They must be hooked up to a receiver using some kind of speaker cables.
The advantage of passive speakers over active speakers is that they are significantly lighter. Additionally, you can connect a series of speakers to a single receiver. This is very common in home theatres and surround-sound home entertainment systems.
People who are seriously into their music generally prefer to use passive speakers. That’s because they can get the kind of sound they’re trying to achieve. However, this is not without its difficulties. It requires some knowledge to match up the right amplifier and speakers.
When setting up any home entertainment system, you have to be careful to get the right balance. Specifically, between the power of your amplifier and the ability of your speakers to handle it.
Too powerful an amp, and you run the risk of blowing your speakers. A potentially very expensive mistake. Not enough power from your amp, and you won’t get the full potential from the speakers. Frankly, this is likely to be an underwhelming listening experience.
For any musicians reading this…
Another advantage of passive speakers is that they can easily and safely be hooked up to a mixer. That’s not to say it’s impossible to link active speakers to a mixer.
However, generally, it’s unwise to do so without a good level of technical knowledge. That is something I’ll deal with later when I get around to answering more fully the question of… “Can you connect a power amp to active speakers?”
Types of Active Speakers
Outside of the house, one of the most popular uses for active speakers is PA systems. These can range from a huge PA system used in a large promotional event down to a Small Portable PA System that you routinely see at the mall or a small sporting event.
The use of these kinds of PA systems has been fairly steady over the last ten years. In contrast, their use in the home has undoubtedly seen a dramatic increase. To a large extent, this has been down to the development and refinement of Bluetooth.
Let me explain…
In the past, we would consume music by either listening to it directly from a powered source such as the TV or radio. Alternatively, we would listen to music or maybe watch movies, but from a system that relied on a series of sometimes complicated wired connections.
These days things are much simpler…
We can listen to music without having to have a complex spaghetti of wires. And we can stream our music from one device to another without any physical connection. This is great not only for listening to music but also for those fun times we want to party and pull out an easy-to-use Bluetooth Karaoke Machine.
Bluetooth speakers are also convenient and easy to hook up to your laptop or TV. Alternatively, a Bluetooth Soundbar is another great way to improve the quality of your TV’s audio.
Type of Passive Speakers
As we’ve discussed, a passive speaker is essentially just a cabinet or box that contains a driver that vibrates and moves the cone-shaped membrane. Although not the only determining factor, there’s a strong correlation between the size of the drivers and the membrane to the power they omit.
A passive speaker may have multiple drivers and multiple cone-shaped membranes. All of these serve different frequencies for a better-quality listening experience.
Why Would You Connect Active Speakers to a Power Amp?
Why indeed! It could be because you want to hook up a set of existing speakers to a new home theatre. It could be because you think you’ll get a better sound out of them. Or maybe, it’s a Sunday afternoon, and you’re bored, so you want to do it for a laugh.
Whatever the reason, I’d strongly recommend that you NEVER connect active speakers to a power amp. Go for a long walk, take the engine out of your car or repaint the spare room. If you’re still itching to try it, then maybe it’s time to get some beers in and watch the sports channel before some more quiet contemplation.
So, can you connect an amp to your active speakers? Well, although it’s perfectly possible, it’s honestly not a good idea. Unless you’re very technically minded, it could well all end in tears.
It’s important to remember…
An active speaker has already been designed to work optimally with an integrated amplifier. If you upset this balance, you run the risk of damaging your speakers.
Moreover, just about every manufacturer will warn against this because of this potential damage to not only your speaker but your receiver too. So, you have been warned.
Connecting a Power Amp to your Active Speakers
If you’re still reading at this point, there’s no doubt that you’re braver than most. I’ll give you a few pointers on how to do it, but by no means take it as a guide on how you should. I’m still of the opinion that you most definitely shouldn’t.
The first thing to keep in mind is that you can’t connect an active speaker straight into an amplifier’s normal speaker terminal. Make no mistake; this is a surefire way to blow your speakers and make you cry.
The only way you can do it safely is by running the cables from your receiver pre-out channels. Be aware that it could be that your receiver refers to these as “line-out” channels. Alternatively, on some cheaper or older amplifiers, you won’t have this at all. In which case, just go for that walk.
Need More Help With Your Speaker or Audio System?
If so, take a look at our detailed articles on How to Connect Speakers to your TV, How To Connect A CD Player To Speakers, Can you Connect a Soundbar to a Receiver, Which Speaker Cable Wire Is Positive, And Which Is Negative, and Why are My Speakers Buzzing for more tips and tricks.
Also, you might enjoy our in-depth reviews of the Best Powered Speakers, the Best Bookshelf Speakers, the Best Floor Standing Speakers, the Best Smart Speakers, the Best Sonos Speakers, and the Best High-End Home Theater Speakers you can buy in 2023.
Can You Connect A Power Amp To Active Speakers – Final Thoughts
So, there you have it. If you’ve been scratching your head and wondering about connecting a power amp to active speakers, now you know why it’s not the best of ideas. I’m hoping that going through this article has put you off that idea. But, good luck if you still decide to go ahead.
Until next time, happy listening.