Passive speakers, this type of speaker consists of a cabinet, drivers and depending on how many drivers are present a crossover network. They are un-powered and so only need to be fed with the signal coming from your amplifier/s. Most higher end PA speakers work in this way as the presence of any circuitry or power transformers inside a speaker cabinet makes getting a good sound all the more difficult. It is also important to remember that you will need to match the output power of your amplifier/s with the input power of your speakers. Some amplifiers will be more suited to certain speakers than others. 

Active speakers, this type of speaker consists of a cabinet, drivers, crossovers and an amplifier unit housed inside the cabinet. These speakers will have both a line level signal wire coming from your interface or mixer and also a power lead that powers the amplifier. While the presence of electronics within the speaker cabinet can be detrimental to the sound quality clever engineering and mathematics can get rid of this effect and make a high end active speaker sound just as good as a passive. It is for this reason that active speakers tend to be much more expensive than passive ones. Their advantage is that you don’t need to carry round heavy amplifier racks and they are great for musicians and DJ’s who have to transport their own PA system. 

Speaker Power

You may have heard of super cheap 1000W speakers, this is a false claim as wattage can be measured in a few different ways. Peak power may be quoted, meaning how much power the speakers can handle for very brief moments in time when a loud kick drum or sound effect if played through the system. Continuous or RMS power ratings are much more realistic and are a measure of how much power the speaker can handle for hours on end.  RMS powers should be quoted in all our listings, if not please ask as this is important information for when you are trying to match a pair of speakers to an amplifier. If these “1000W” speakers were driven with a 1000W RMS amplifier they would almost certainly melt within the first few seconds of operation and the chances are they will sound horrible even at low volumes. We really do recommend investing some money into your PA system; it’s worth it in the end for both reliability and performance. 

Here we will make some recommendations regarding power ratings for different size PA systems and their suitability for different purposes. If you are a small disco DJ who wants to play music to up to 150 people, a 300W RMS system would be more than adequate. You also have to remember that your total RMS wattage is all your speakers or amplifiers combined, so a 300W RMS system may consist of 2 x 150W RMS speakers. 

For larger venues of up to 400 people a larger 1000W RMS system is recommended, consisting of two mid/tops and at least one subwoofer.