Speakers are primarily divided into two categories – passive and active speakers. Active speakers are powered with an in-built amplifier but passive speakers are not powered and require an external. However, can you power a passive speaker without an amplifier?
You can power passive speakers without an amplifier by using a powered mixer or an AV receiver. This is because passive speakers do not use a direct power source and rely on an amplifier, AV receiver, active subwoofer, or powered mixer to work. However, you need to be careful and consider the power demands of the sub.
Let’s get into more detail about how you can power passive speakers without an amplifier. Before we continue, we should point out that the best route would be to get a separate amp to power the sub and not connect the sub directly to the receiver.
Passive Speakers Without An Amplifier
In order to explain how to power passive speakers without an amp, there are several factors we need to understand.
Generally, amplifiers are devices that are designed to intensify audio signals. They are therefore meant to make weak audio signals sound much stronger. Because passive speakers do not have an internal amplifier, they require an external amplifier for power.
Because passive speakers do not have internal amplification, they will sound rather poor or not produce sound at all when connected directly to a power source.
However, you can still make your passive speakers louder by connecting them to other source components other than the amplifier such as mixers or AV receivers.
Here are the options:
1. Powering Passive Speakers With A Powered Mixer
Some powered mixers have built in amplifiers that can drive passive speakers directly. If your mixer doesn’t have a built in amplifier, you will still need an external amplifier to power your passible speakers with a mixer.
Now a powered mixer sends both audio and electricity to your passive speakers. As such, powered mixers tend to be larger than standard passive mixers. They also have 1/4″ outputs for the main channel as opposed to XLR.
As we already mentioned, you will be able to drive a passive speaker only with a “powered mixer.” A “powered mixer” is one that has an in-built amplifier.
Mixers are designed to process audio signals to produce good sound. Here’s what you need:
- 1 passive speaker
- 1 mixing Desk
- 1 XLR Lead
- 2 female XLR – 1/4” Jack Lead
- 13.5mm Jack – RCA Lead
- 1 microphone or audio source such as a DVD
Before you can connect passive speakers to the mixer, prepare the mixing desk. Follow the procedure below to connect your passive speaker to the mixer successfully.
- Connect the Main out jacks speaker inputs
- Turn on the mixer
Here is an illustration:
Once you have connected the speaker to the mixer, set the mixer levels to unity before you can fine-tune the audio output. Follow the procedure below:
- Turn up the Main mix fader level to unity (0).
- Set up the channel’s gain knob and play audio using any of the available channels such as a DVD player or microphone.
- Turn on the level knob of the speaker to the desired volume. You can turn it to maximum if you enjoy listening to loud music.
2. Powering Passive Speakers With An AV Receiver
A quick and easy way to connect passive speakers to your AV receiver is to use the zone 2 ports on the receiver. Here is an illustration of zone 2 ports:
In the above, you would replace the speakers with your sub. Here is the process:
- Loopback the sub’s PreOut to phono (analog line) in.
- Activate the Zone 2 port
- Enter the AVR’s setting and configure the receiver to play the phono input. This would now become the sub via Zone 2.
- Set the Zone 2 midrange (and up) frequency attenuated down. This way, you will be using the AVR itself as a crossover.
Now, this may not always work, because zone 2 typically has no crossover and the above may not work for all receivers.
This is a common setup for ceiling speakers. In many cases, passive ceiling speakers are connected directly to a receiver. To learn more, check out our article on how to connect and power passive speakers with a receiver.
3. Powering Passive Speakers Using An Active Subwoofer
Powered subwoofers have built-in amplifiers and so you can connect your passive speakers to your powered sub and connect the sub to a receiver.
Here is an illustration:
If you want to learn more, we have an article on how to connect passive speakers to connect an active subwoofer to speaker line level outputs and connect passive speakers to the subwoofer.
In any case, if you decide to go with an amplifier, we have a separate guide on how to connect passive speakers to an amplifier.
Since subwoofers are powered, they are therefore in a position to drive passive speakers as you see in a 5.1 channel Home Theater or higher. These speaker systems have one subwoofer, which is powered, and the other five or more passive speakers connected separately but may be connected to the sub.
4. Powering Passive Speakers With A PC
You can power very small bookshelf passive speakers using a PC. Many of these small speakers require little power and can be connected directly o a computer.
Follow the steps below to power your passive speaker with a PC.
- Assemble the speaker, PC, and connecting cords. If you don’t have the right cables, you can easily buy them from a local electronics store.
- Position the components correctly and conveniently on a table or stable ground. Proper positioning helps you by making the connection easier to execute within a shorter time.
- Confirm the speaker impedance and ensure your speaker is either 6 ohms or 8 ohms rated.
- Plug the PC into the power socket using an adapter where necessary.
- Plug the 3.5mm RCA jack available at the back of the PC into the speaker. Some of the speakers use USB as well.
- Turn on the PC and adjust the volume.
- Play any song and test the quality of sound. You can adjust the volume and tone and check its loudness.
- Depending on the type of music player your computer uses and the size of your speaker, you may get different levels of loudness from your passive speaker.
What To Consider When Powering A Passive Speaker Without An Amp
Passive speakers require an external amplifier to be able to produce sound. However, if you have a passive speaker to run without an amp, you will need to connect it to a power source component that can power it to produce adequate sounds such as a powered mixer or receiver.
However, there are a few things to consider before attempting to wire your speaker to the other source components. Get the details below.
The Size and Power Of The Speaker
If you are about to set up a PA, you probably have some large loudspeakers.
Generally, the size of your speaker directly impacts its sound loudness. Larger speakers are known to produce louder sounds than smaller speakers.
Because you do not intend to power the speaker using an amplifier, it is recommended that you choose speakers of the power rating that your power source can support.
If you intend to power your speaker with a low power device PC for example, consider the ohm rating of the speaker first.
Speaker impedance is the resistance a speaker will give to the applied current. If the impedance rating is high, it draws less current from the source. If the rating is low, the speaker draws much more current from the source component.
It is advisable to use speakers rated 8 or 16 ohms for better audio results. If you use a 4-ohm speaker with your PC, there is a higher chance that the speaker will damage the headphone jack of the computer.
In addition, if you match the speaker properly with the source components at the correct impedance ratio, the power transfer to the speaker is definitely maximized.
On the other hand, if the components are not correctly matched, the speaker will be underpowered and will produce very low sound as a result.
Powered Source Component
Connecting a passive speaker to a non-powered source component will not make any difference.
Therefore, if you do not have an amplifier, it is important that you only connect passive speakers to powered audio signal sources such as PC or a powered mixer.
A powered mixer is built to power passive speakers. Similarly, you can use powered computers to drive passive speakers.
You will therefore not be in a position to run passive speakers if you only have standard mixers. Also, you cannot power passive speakers with your android phones or iPhone because they do not have in-built amplifiers.
Check your speaker manual for more information. The descriptions we have provided are meant to guide you when connecting passive speakers to powered source components – AV receiver, PC and mixer.
The power rating of your components is another element to consider before powering your passive speakers.
Usually, the power ratings of your components will be clearly indicated in Watts on the component. To ensure you do not blow your speaker, always ensure the source has a lower power rating than your speaker system.
Some sellers promote a more expensive set of wires with a promise that your speakers will sound much better with them than when wired with standard wires.
Stick to the wires that come with your speakers as these claims lack scientific backing and will only increase your budget.
Also, ensure that your wires are short and steady. Long wavy wiring increases impedance and will result in sound distortion or greatly lower the sound output.
Can Power Passive Speakers Produce Loud Sound Without An Amp?
Passive speakers require an external amplifier to be able to produce a loud sound. However, from the discussion, it is now very clear that powering a passive speaker without an external amplifier is a possibility.
However, the source component must be “powered” or have an in-built amplifier.
If you complete the connection with a DVD for instance and the DVD is not powered, you will not be able to get good sound output or any output for that matter.
How Can I Turn My Passive Speakers into Powered Speakers?
If you want to turn your passive speaker into a powered or active speaker, run it through an external source and amp. You can consider the amp as a pedal activated on a pedalboard to provide more power. Many audiophiles activate it for their instruments to improve the quality of sound they get.
Wiring passive speakers without an amp is possible. However, the safety of your source components and even that of the speaker is not guaranteed if you are not careful. Keep in mind that passive speakers require amplifiers for proper operation and so you need to keep things like impedance matching and power in mind.