A receiver is a must-have component in your audio system if you expect to enjoy a solid audio performance in your media room.
However, connecting your receiver with other components in your system, e.g powered speaker can easily feel overwhelming, especially if you can’t differentiate between a powered/active speaker from a passive one.
Knowing what to connect where can be challenging for most people, but this guide will make things easier for anyone who wants to connect a powered speaker to a receiver.
So how can you connect a powered speaker to a receiver? To connect a powered speaker to a receiver, your receiver should have pre-outs or Zone 2 lines. All you need to do is to connect your speakers to the pre-outs or zone 2 outputs. You shouldn’t connect your active or powered speakers to your receiver’s regular speaker terminals because it will certainly damage your speakers.
Here is the process for connecting your powered speakers to a receiver:
- Determine the placement of your devices before you run any cables
- Identify where your pre-outs are on your receiver or the Zone 2 lines. Some brands refer to pre-outs as line out.
- Connect the pre-outs using SpeakOn cables or connect the Zone 2 lines
Below, we go into more detail about connecting your powered speaker to a receiver.
So, What’s A Powered Speaker?
Every speaker needs some sought of amplification to work. That’s why most speakers need to connect to a receiver or amplifier to give the speaker drivers enough power to vibrate and create sound. This is for example why we must connect passive speakers to an amplifier.
However, powered speakers don’t need an external amplifier since they come with an inbuilt amp, unlike passive speakers. This is why we do not connect powered speakers to an amplifier.
Today, powered speakers also boast innovative features like Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to play music wirelessly.
Most wireless powered speakers are easy to use, and the set-up is convenient, primarily when your receiver supports Bluetooth connections.
Should You Connect Your Powered Speakers To A Receiver?
While connecting your powered speakers to a receiver isn’t always the ideal solution, you can connect these components if you want.
However, that might damage your receiver and speakers. The better choice is to invest in quality passive speakers, connect them to your amplifier, or use powered speakers alone.
How Can You Connect Your Powered Speakers To The Receiver?
Unfortunately, connecting these speakers to the receiver’s normal speaker terminals won’t work as they’re designed to work with passive speakers. Even worse, that might damage both the speakers and your receiver.
While that sounds simple, most people still struggle to connect their powered speakers to the receiver.
Here’s a close look at the most direct way to connect these components using your receiver’s pre-outs. You’ll also learn about other lesser-known connection alternatives for receivers without pre-outs.
Connecting Your Powered Speakers To The Receiver through Pre-Out
With powered speakers, the inbuilt amplifier can produce full-spectrum audio signals without the need for an exterior amp.
However, a receiver comes with a built-in amplifier, making it hard to connect the home theater system with an active speaker. That’s because power plus power can result in a disaster in the audio world.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to connecting your powered speakers to the receiver without damaging your components.
1. Locate The Receiver’s Pre-Out
Before starting the connection process, identify the receiver’s pre-outs, also labeled as Line Outs in some brands.
These were created to help connect your receiver to an external amplifier, which eases your receiver’s burden. Fortunately, they also work with powered speakers.
The number of line outs/ pre-outs that your receiver provides determines the number of powered speakers you can connect.
That also expands your home theater system beyond the channels it’s designed to support. Fortunately, most receivers on the market feature pre-outs, though older models might not.
In case your receiver doesn’t support pre-outs, you’ll need to use passive speakers, which don’t include an inbuilt amp. You can also invest in a receiver model that features pre-outs.
2. Choose Where To Place Your Receiver And Speakers
Before running cables or doing anything else, think of where you want the speakers and your receiver to go in your media room.
Your receiver should be set in a well-ventilated place for durability, but the placement should also allow you to access the connection ports easily. Most people choose to set their receiver near the entertainment center.
Your speakers’ placement will depend on the number of channels available and the audio effect you want to create.
Nonetheless, identifying where you want your speakers to go will help you determine the amount of cable you need to run from your receiver to each speaker.
3. Connect Your Speakers
After determining your speakers and the receiver’s placement, you’ll need to connect these components using speaker cables.
You might want to run the cables through your wall to maintain your media room’s aesthetic appeal, although that will also depend on your placement. Nonetheless, most pre-outs require RCA connectors/cables.
Most audiophiles recommend using speaker wire connectors for connecting these components as it ensures that wires don’t touch, helping to avoid short-circuiting your receiver.
Ensure the speakers are connected to the pre-outs before switching on the receiver. A surge protector also comes in handy to protect the home theater system from being damaged if there’s a power surge.
Is There An Alternative?
While pre-out is the best way to pair powered speakers with your receiver, they’re not the only option. Other options include:
i.) Zone 2 Lines
Some receivers will feature Zone 2 lines instead of pre-outs. Zone 2 lines also allow you to connect to a pair of powered speakers, though they were designed for supporting a second audio source in your home.
For instance, you can enjoy music in your bedroom while your children enjoy a movie in the media room.
Some receivers feature a powered Zone 2 output and Zone 2 Pre-outs, allowing this dual configuration.
Regular Zone 2 outputs allow you to pair a second amplifier to assist in powering other speakers, but you can also directly connect your powered speakers.
Zone 2 helps you push beyond the channels that your receiver supports. For instance, you might buy a 5.1 channel unit and expand it to a 7.1 Channel system using Zone 2 ports. However, some manufacturers also consider Zone 2 in their final channel count.
Similar to the pre-out option, start by identifying where the powered speakers will be set. Fortunately, Zone 2 and occasionally Zone 3 use the standard RCA cables, though some receivers provide binding posts, which work with both powered and passive speakers.
ii.) Stereo Receivers
Depending on the unit you’re using, some stereo receivers support AV inputs. And although stereo speakers aren’t designed to support a home theater system, you can use them for playing both movies and music. They’ll work better than your TV’s inbuilt speakers.
iii.) Use A Mixer
Using a mixer with your receiver expands your input capabilities, allowing you to include microphones, musical instruments, and other audio sources.
Mixers offer different configurations, and they’re the central volume control and connection point for external devices.
How to connect powered speakers to a mixer
To successfully connect your mixer with powered speakers, follow these steps:
- Know Your Mixer’s Connections
Understanding your mixer’s connection options helps you to avoid noise or interference in the sound. You’ll have two main connection types – balanced and unbalanced.
- Balanced lines – They can reduce induced noise, making them ideal for running long cables. XLR and TRS jacks transmit audio signals between two balanced devices.
- Unbalanced lines – They’re more prone to induced noise issues and, therefore, ideal for short cable connections to reduce interference and noise.
For connecting powered speakers, you’ll need a mixer that has at least one balanced (not amplified) output.
Most modern consoles have an un-amplified line out for hooking active speakers, but you should check the manual to be sure. That will allow the inbuilt amp in your active speakers to amplify the low frequencies while you power the mid-range using the mixer.
- Position Your Equipment
Proper positioning of your components is crucial to get the best audio amplification. Here are a few tips:
- Place your powered speakers facing the audience, ensuring they’re in front of your microphones to avoid interference.
- Place your mixer at the back of your powered speakers and ensure the two components aren’t touching each other.
- Check Your Equipment
Check whether your speakers and mixer are working properly. Turn down all the channel buttons and turn on the power button. Check whether the buttons are working well and turn off the power button before following the same procedure for testing the speakers.
- Lay The Speaker Cable And Connect Your Components
Lay the cable and keep it short as you’ll be using an unbalanced output and ensure your components are turned off before starting the connection process. Connect the components and turn them on.
- Connect Your Receiver To The Mixer
To connect your receiver to the mixer, use the speaker out or the headphone jack on your device to connect one end of the cable and connect the other end to the Line-In connector of your mixer.
You can test your connection by playing music and using the mixer to adjust your audio output.
iii.) Use Speakon Cables
For those new to PA systems and audio speakers, you may not be familiar with a SpeakOn connector and cable or why you need them.
A SpeakOn cable is a special connection type created by Neutrik for connecting loudspeakers with amplifiers. However, this connection is only suitable for high-voltage audio equipment and hence not suitable for most home audio systems.
SpeakOn connectors are reliable and safe to use as they can have higher current levels when paired with big PA systems. Even better, you can use them with both powered and passive speakers.
However, most receivers don’t include this option, so you’ll want to pair it with an amplifier that does. Nonetheless, there’s no audio degradation while using SpeakOn connectors.
Can Powered Speakers Be Used As Passive Speakers
Technically, a powered speaker has its amplifier built into the speaker and will plug into the nearby outlet. However, powered speakers are not necessarily active. This is because the crossover components within powered speakers can be passive. Powered speakers are therefore essentially the same as passive speakers and can be used as passive.
While it’s not advisable to pair powered/active speakers with a receiver or an additional amplifier, you can use the methods mentioned above to do so.
However, powered speakers are better used on their own, especially when you’re inexperienced with audio systems, to avoid damaging your components.
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.