Powered vs Unpowered Speakers: 3 Reasons Why We Love Powered PA Speakers

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Powered vs Unpowered SpeakersMany people argue about whether Powered PA Speakers are better, or whether Passive speakers are the way to go in live music performances.

Seeing as though we live in a world of audiophiles, I’m going to bet that the argument will never end (people like to be meticulous about this stuff).

For the rest of us who don’t have ridiculous knowledge about the tiny intricacies in sound, we need to consider an easy answer as to whether we will invest in powered, or non-powered speakers, we simply don’t have time to wait around for someone to figure out which is “technically” better.

I’m not meaning to sound ignorant, but rather I make the assertion that it’s the major, not the subtle differences between these two that will make or break either choice. Leave the sound micromanagement to the audiophiles.

So here’s 3 reasons why you should use powered pa speakers instead of passive ones!

 

Powered VS Unpowered (Passive) Speakers

1

Powered PA Speakers Advantage #1: No Additional Power Amps Required

Although buying powered speakers is obviously going to run you more money than their passive counterparts, this also saves you money on buying power amps.

I always recommend having as little equipment as you need to do the job; if powered speakers can do just as good of a job as passive speakers/power amps, then why use twice the equipment just to get the same job done?

If you are using more equipment, you are putting yourself at risk of more equipment failure, and that is never a good thing.

Bush Makes me Cry

If you have 4 powered speakers that you are using for a show, and 1 speaker blows out, your show will not be ruined. Sure, you will lose a bit of your sound, but you could continue on without even having a backup.

But if you have 4 passive speakers and your power amp blows, then your whole show is shot.

At the very best, you will interrupt someone’s song, have a 15 minute intermission, change out your spare power amp, and start the show again.

At the very worst you will have to stop the show entirely because you don’t have a backup.

That’s not really a risk that I’m willing to take.

 

2

Powered PA Speakers Advantage #2: Won’t Burn Out Your Mixer

If you are trying to use a powered mixer (I highly recommend that you don’t do this) then you are putting yourself at twice the risk of a failure.

Not only is there the possibility of the mixer failing, but the power amps inside the mixer could fail as well.

But if you are using an unpowered mixer, and powered speakers, then the chances of your mixer blowing are much, much less.

And reliability is key, yes?

But I’m sure that you aren’t only looking for reliability, right? You want it to sound good to!

Well what do you know…that’s my next point!

 

3

Powered PA Speakers Advantage #3: Matching Power = Better Sound!

When you use powered speakers, the manufacturer has perfectly matched the power amps to that specific speaker.

That means that you are getting the absolute perfect amount of power to your speakers.

This leads to your speakers producing better, cleaner power; and you can hear it in the mix!

When you use power amps, you need to do your best to match your amp to the speaker. Most sound technicians can do a good job of this, but why take the risk?

You won’t have to worry about power amps, and your speakers produce better sound!

That’s an amazing benefit if I ever saw one…

 

2 Caveats!

If powered speakers are so good then, why doesn’t every single musician and sound engineer in the world use them?

Well there are 2 reasons.

First of all, because the power amps are inside the speakers, powered speakers are heavier than their unpowered adversaries.

Now this isn’t a big deal in some cases, but when you get to the point where you have 113 pound Unity U215 Speakers, it can become a bit overwhelming. If you just have a set of bookshelf speakers set up at home – this is not going to be an issue!

Of course, if you have big guys to help set up the show it’s not a problem, but it just means that you might end up having to use hydraulic stands to get them up in the air!

cardboard-terrorist

The 2nd reason that not everyone uses them, is that they are more expensive.

Now, keep in mind that you no longer have to buy power amps, but even with that in consideration, you usually spend a bit more money on the powered speakers.

Regardless, I find them much more reliable and I think it will save you money in the long run. Why?

Your mixes will sound better, so if you are a sound man you will get a better name for yourself (Garnering yourself more business, and more money).

And if you are a musician, then your live music performances will sound much better and you’ll gain more attention for you band (Which helps to pad your wallet as you gain more fans).

All around, even with these negatives, I find that powered speakers are much better to use.

And they also reduce the stress! So take that, passive speakers!

Andrew 'The Real Musician' Muller

I love creative art, music, television shows, movies, video games, and a good story. If you had to find me somewhere, you would probably find me down at O’Neil’s home cooking and eating an organic sweet-potato bun breakfast sandwich with ham. Among my friends, it's a "Muller Classic Move" to eat McDonald’s at 2am because it's cheap and open 24/7. The joke here is that I'm an idiot. I play drums, guitar, piano, and I write & perform music for My Goal Is Telepathy.