Last Updated on December 4, 2022 by Norvan Martin
Can you connect powered speakers to an amplifier or can you use active speakers with an amplifier?
Technically yes, you can connect powered speakers to an amplifier. However, it would be ill-advised to do so because you may damage your equipment. A better choice is to connect passive speakers to your amplifier or just using powered speakers alone.
After answering your question, it is important we give you a brief rundown of what amplifiers, XLR cables, active and passive speakers mean. This will help you better understand the intricacies that perplexes the connection of an active speaker to an amplifier.
This article will also show you much easier and safer alternatives by which speakers can be connected to an amplifier.
This promises to be an interesting read. So, sit back and relax while we give you an elaborate rundown of the world of audio speakers.
Before you continue, you can also check out our guide on the best amps and speakers for record players.
Can You Connect an Amplifier to A Powered Speaker?
While this is generally inadvisable due to the fact you may likely end up damaging your equipment, you can actually connect an amplifier to powered speakers. A better option is to connect your powered speaker to a receiver.
To do this you need to connect the powered speakers and the amp using XRL cords (more on this in a moment). It’s important to remember that for this to work the line which is fed into the powered speakers must be level with the line going into the amp, so no amplification of signal occurs.
Anything more than this will possess too much power and poses a serious risk to your equipment.
Some manufacturers create bass amplifiers that can be connected to active speakers through a patch cord or XLR cable, which is a much safer alternative.
It’s important you understand some of the key terms in the above explanation, so you can understand why there are safer alternatives to this.
Let’s discuss briefly on passive speakers, their pros and cons, and what are XLR cables and how they are better than RCA cables (the standard red, white and yellow cables we all grew up with).
What Happens If You Plug Powered Speakers Into An Amp?
It’s possible to connect an amplifier to powered speakers. However, we don’t recommend this practice as it can ruin your speakers and the amp. Experts say that power plus power equals disaster. So, if you want to plug active speakers into your amp, you should do due diligence to avoid a catastrophe.
Do I Need A Preamp If I Have Powered Speakers?
Yes, most active speakers still need a separate phono pre-amp. At the same time, a receiver and the built-in phono pre-amp remove the requirement for two separate components.
How to Connect Active Speakers to Amplifier?
Can you actually connect your powered speaker to your amplifier? Yes, this can be done if the inbuilt amplifier in the speaker is bypassed. Some of the ways to achieve that are explicitly stated below
RCA Cables with XRL Adapters
You can make use of analog RCA cables. RCA cables are used to connect devices like VCRs and DVD players to TV sets or CD players to stereo receivers. For example, this is a common way to connect a smart TV to an amplifier.
The RCA should be connected to the XLR male adapters on the active speakers. It is recommended that you get the short cables and not the solid one-piece as they might cause grounding issues and won’t fit in the back of the receiver.
So What Are XRL Cables?
Designed by James H. Cannon in the mid-’90’s, these are a special type of connection cables used mainly in audio and video technology.
Common designs now have pins ranging from as few as three to as many as ten. The original design had three pins, with an “earth” pin, a “hot” or “live” pin and a “cold” pin.
Though there have been numerous modifications over the years both in design and production material, most XRL cables still maintain this basic pattern to some extent.
The main benefit of using XLR cables is their ability to send sound over longer distances without signal loss than the traditional RCA cables.
What Are Amplifiers And How Do Amplifiers Work?
An amplifier (or more correctly a sound amplifier) is an electronic device used to convert electronic or low-level audible signals from instruments into much larger electrical signals which are fed into a loudspeaker (typically a passive speaker).
As stated above, amplifiers simply take in a small amount of electrical input and give out a much larger electrical output signal that is then passed to your loudspeaker.
This may sound a little bit technical, but it’s easy once you grab the basics. A direct current is sent from the power source into the amplifier.
It passes through a variable resistor (also known as a transistor), which is kind of like a one-way valve. This transistor opens and closes at a certain number of times per second (called the frequency) depending on the amount of charge flowing from the input source.
A larger input current means a larger amplitude and frequency of opening of the transistor, allowing it to act as the amplifier.
Throw in a potentiometer (which controls the amount of current reaching the speakers themselves) and you have an amplifier.
Why Do We Use Amplifiers?
Most of the sound coming from our electronic musical instruments (such as the electric guitar, speakers or keyboard) a low-level and is not audible enough to be heard on a large scale, such as at a concert.
Another instance is when the signals we receive are purely electrical, such as when we connect to a mixer, mobile phone, TV, and so on.
The function of an amplifier is to boost that signal to such a level that it can be carried by the loudspeakers and the sound greatly increased.
What Are Powered Speakers?
This means they can be used directly with low-level audio signal instruments or mixers without the need for an external amplifier.
In most set-ups, the subwoofer is the only powered (active) speaker, with the rest of the loudspeakers being passive speakers.
Some of the best stereos of 2020 in This category are the Elac Debut B5.2, B&W 606, Fyne Audio F302, Ruark Audio MR 1 Mk 2 and of course the Dali Spektor 2 to mention a few.
Advantages of Powered Speakers
There are several advantages to using a powered speaker, some of which include:
- It’s easier to set up than the traditional passive speaker plus amplifier set-up. Therefore, it requires less technical experience to use and can be assembled by almost anyone.
- The set-up is more compact, as the extra baggage of carrying amplifier racks has been eliminated.
- Powered speakers typically have a higher sound quality than passive speakers. They have been pre-set by their respective manufacturers. Therefore, you get the best sound straight out of the box without having to worry about tweaking it yourself.
- They can be used over a wider area of space because multiple active speakers can be linked by a single cable or the signal sent wirelessly to each individual speaker.
Disadvantages of Powered Speakers
- They require extra cables because each unit has to be powered by a power cable and a signal cable, requiring twice the length of wire.
- The second disadvantage of active speakers is when running lots of them daisy-chained together. Due to certain electrical effects, the higher frequencies may be lost. There are special microphones designed to combat this, but that means incurring extra costs.
- One disadvantage of using wireless powered speakers is a reduction in sound quality. A lot of information can be carried by a wire or cable, the bandwidth of wireless powered speakers won’t be able to keep up. It is possible to notice a drop in the sound quality to or the richness of the music.
- Another problem peculiar to wireless powered speakers is that of interference. In our world today a lot of devices emit radio waves.
- If these are at the same frequency as your wireless powered speakers it’s bound to create interference, which can really be a nuisance.
- They are much heavier than their passive cousins due to the extra components. After a while carrying around all that heavy equipment becomes tedious.
Passive speakers are getting more and more outdated by the day. More powered speakers are being produced churned out daily by the music industry.
Passive speakers are produced without an in-built amplifier and have to be connected to an external amplifier. Active speakers are built with an in-built amplifier and normally do not need an external amplifier. They might also come with an inbuilt mixer.
You might want to connect your active speakers to external amplifiers. This can be a complex procedure and might damage your active speakers and amplifiers but if it is done can generate high-quality sounds.
Can you actually connect your powered speaker to your amplifier? Yes. This can be done if the inbuilt amplifier in the speaker is bypassed.
What Are Passive Speakers?
These are a type of loudspeaker that requires an external amplifier to function. Unlike powered (active) speakers, passive speakers need to be connected to an audio amplifier so that the speaker level signal can be boosted enough to sufficiently power the speaker.
Advantages of Passive Speakers
- Passive speakers allow for a great deal of flexibility and the chance of possible upgrades in the future. You can upgrade the amplifiers or speakers separately without having to change the entire system.
- They are typically less expensive and much lighter than their active alternatives for obvious reasons.
Disadvantages of Passive Speakers
- The set-up is less compact than that of active speakers because in addition to the speakers themselves you need an amplifier plus all the accessories which go with it.
- Though the design quality of passive speakers has improved tremendously over the years, there are some problems with modern physics we cannot avoid.
- One particularly pesky issue is that of interference. The laws of physics dictate that the longer a signal carrying wire is, the more chance that it will have interference and mess up the sound quality coming from the speakers.
What Are Mixers?
So far in this article, we have discussed the amplifier as well as mentioned that there exist two types of speakers, the powered speakers and the passive speakers.
It’s not surprising to know that there also two classes of amplifiers in the subject of audio engineering, the preamps popularly known as mixers and the powered amplifiers.
The following illustration shows how you could connect a passive speaker to an amplifier which is in turn connected to a mixer.
A mixer is a device for combining multiple signals to a single input, or a group of outputs. When used together with a power amp, the work of the mixer(preamp) is to take the signal from one of several inputs or audio source, condition the input, and send to a power amp.
The power amp then takes the output from the mixer and delivers the signal with enough power to drive the active and passive speakers alike. However, you can connect a powered speaker directly to a mixer, you don’t need an amplifier.
Other times, the mixer has a built-in power amp of its own, so that the output from the mixer is just enough to drive the speakers.
Perhaps you are wondering how the mixer mixes all the inputs that go into it? The mixer achieves this by picking one out of the multiple inputs, turns down the volume of the rest, and produces a single input with better acoustic qualities
A mixer is used in a variety of applications and environments which range from indoor usage to recording studios, concerts, televisions, and broadcasting.
Using A Crossover
Another option is to make use of a crossover. A crossover works by creating a single input signal and creates multiple output signals consisting of separate bands of high, mid, and low range frequencies.
A crossover works the same way you would set crossover on a receiver or a sub. Just, in this case, it is a separate device.
It is a good choice especially when the speaker has more than one inbuilt amplifier. Stick the crossover device into the speaker and connect it between the inbuilt amplifiers and the powered speaker.
This would create an input for the external amplifier. The cross over creates an obstruction to prevent certain signals from reaching the amplifiers. it should be noted that some active speakers have equalizing hardware or software which may affect the resulting sound.
If you need to get some real power out of your speakers, but your current speaker cannot handle the load, one alternative is to connect multiple speakers to the amplifier. In fact, you can even connect four speakers to a 2 channel amp. In fact, you can even make your speaker louder without an amplifier.
In conclusion, while you can connect a powered speaker to an amplifier, it’s not the most advisable thing to do.
There are safer alternatives such as using passive speakers or just using powered speakers alone. This will help you avoid endangering both yourself and your equipment and may save you the cost of repairing or replacing it in the future.
Norvan Martin is the founder of BoomSpeaker.com. He is a professional Electronics Engineer and is passionate about home theater systems and AV electronics. BoomSpeaker was created as an online hub to share his knowledge and experiences as it relates to home theaters and home audio electronics.