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Difference Between Active vs Passive Subwoofer 2024: Which is Better?

Owning your own home entertainment system is exciting and intimidating at the same time. Because there are so many various factors to take into account. I had a lot of questions when I first started constructing my home entertainment system. This is particularly true now that I understand the value of a subwoofer in a home theater setup. If you are anything like me, you are probably unaware of the various subwoofer varieties available today. The two most common subwoofers for a home theater, however, are passive and active.

So what distinguishes an active subwoofer from a passive one? A receiver or amplifier must be used as an extra power source for passive subwoofers. Active subwoofers just require an audio source because they already have an amplifier and power source built in. Let’s examine the key distinctions between the two subwoofer types and how they could affect your design choice.

What is a Passive Subwoofer?

A passive subwoofer is one that needs to be powered by an additional device, like an amplifier or receiver. Home theater designers like passive subwoofers because they are perfect for huge spaces that may require several speakers.

Both speakers and subwoofers require power from a source in order to produce sound, despite the fact that they are primarily different in terms of frequency range as we described in our guide. It’s crucial to choose an amplifier or receiver for passive subwoofers that can output enough power to maintain the deep tones your speaker system produces. If you plan to use your speakers in combination with the rest of your home theater sound system, you need also think about how much power they will use.

When it comes to connecting the various components, a passive subwoofer could seem more difficult. This is so that you have both the additional amplifier and the source components. You will therefore require more cabling.

The majority of people who have bespoke home entertainment system installs use passive subwoofers. In reality, as part of a unique installation, many passive subwoofers are mounted in or on a wall. Although passive subwoofers on their own are frequently less expensive than active subwoofers, specialized installations and a more potent receiver may increase this cost.

You can connect many passive subwoofers together to create larger or more dynamic home theater spaces. As a result, you may distribute the bass across the space without worrying about muddying the sound or uneven distribution.

What is an Active Subwoofer?

Active subwoofers, also referred to as powered subwoofers, have a built-in amplifier as their own power source. Active subwoofers work best when utilized in a single subwoofer setup and are simple to set up. Because of this, active subwoofer placement is more crucial. The built-in components are often optimized in active subwoofer configurations. Active subwoofers are a one-stop shop for many home theater owners and designers since the integrated amplifier is ideally tuned to the speaker’s power requirements.

There are fewer cords needed for active subwoofers than for passive ones. This implies that setup is frequently simpler as well. Consequently, an active subwoofer needs more power (watts) to operate. Even though some people’s electricity bills may make this seem insignificant, it is nevertheless important to highlight it here.

Active subwoofers are often more expensive than passive subwoofers since they come equipped with everything you need for the best bass sound. But more importantly, when Dolby Digital 5.1 was adopted as the DVD standard, a new standard was created. Dolby Digital 5.1 provided the foundation for a dedicated bass channel with its five primary channels and Low-Frequency Effects (LFE) channel. (This channel is still available on DVD, Blu-ray, and other formats!) Active subwoofers often take use of this dedicated channel and are able to deliver high-quality sound from a single unit without the need for additional ones.

Passive vs Active Subwoofers: Which is Better?

The frequency response, construction quality, or general performance of a subwoofer are independent of whether it is passive or active. Keep in mind that your subwoofer must meet the requirements of your amplifier and receiver. Your sound system’s components must all work together harmoniously for a satisfying listening experience; even the wiring is crucial.

With regard to each subwoofer type, there are benefits and drawbacks. You should examine each of these factors to determine which subwoofer is ideal for the application you have in mind. An obvious consideration when looking for the ideal subwoofer is sound quality. Quality is more dependent on the precise brand and model you select for subwoofers than on the type of subwoofer you use.

Pros and cons of passive subwoofers

Keep in mind that, similar to conventional speakers, passive subwoofers require additional power because they lack an internal amplifier. The crucial factor is that an amplifier or receiver must be able to output enough power to drive your subwoofer without depleting the amplifier’s or receiver’s power supply and leaving insufficient power for your other speakers. Subwoofers require more power to reproduce low-frequency sounds.

Pros of passive subwoofers:

Cost: Compared to active subwoofers, passive subwoofers are frequently less expensive. because they include fewer components inside.

Power: Less power (watts) is used, so a nearby power outlet is not necessary.

Setup: Multiple subwoofers are possible, which is important for large rooms.

Cons of passive subwoofers

Receiver: In order to prevent the issue of insufficient power, you must match your receiver’s or amplifier’s specifications.

Cost of the receiver: The amount of overall power you require will significantly affect how much your receiver or amplifier will cost.

Cost of wiring: The cables will transport both the audio signal and the power. As a result, you’ll require wires of higher grade.

Installation: Additional wires are needed to connect your receiver to your subwoofer. It will be harder to conceal them.

Pros and cons of active subwoofers

The characteristics of the amplifier and subwoofer speaker are ideally matched and housed in the same enclosure in this single unit’s speaker/amplifier arrangement.

Active subwoofers Pros

Installation: To connect your receiver’s output (Pre out or LFE output) to your subwoofer input, all you need is a single cable (s).

Cost of wiring: Because there is no need for elaborate or specialized wiring, setup is incredibly simple.

Cost of the receiver: Since your subwoofer already includes an amplifier, a strong receiver is not necessary.

Design: Typically, they are small and can be readily moved around the room.

Active subwoofers Cons

Observing the back of an active subwoofer for the first time may be intimidating due to the buttons, switches, and knobs. Your closest companion will be the manual.

Cost: In general, they are more expensive than passive subwoofers.

Power: They need a nearby electricity outlet and use more power (watts).

Requires a subwoofer pre-out port on your receiver or amplifier to be compatible.

Due to the usage of only one subwoofer, placement becomes more crucial.