11 Best Bookshelf Speakers (2024): Active, Passive, and Hi-Fi

Active (also called “powered”) speakers does not require a separate amplifier or receiver. Instead, they have a built-in amplifier (which makes the sound loud enough to play through speakers). These amplifiers are often customized for specific drivers and enclosures, which can provide performance benefits. Modern powered speakers also have other perks, like a completely wireless design (aside from the power cable) and wireless support for source devices via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Typically, they will provide physical connections for CD players, turntables, subwoofers, and TVs.

Passive speakers are wired speakers that require a separate amplifier or receiver and speaker cable for playback. This creates more steps because you’ll need to find an amplifier with the right power specifications (see more on this below). The benefit is that passive speakers are more flexible and reliable, allowing you to combine them in a variety of systems and configurations. When treated properly, passive speakers can last for decades.

Impedance is a specification measured in ohms that refers to a speaker’s ability to resist electrical current. The nominal impedance rating of most passive speakers (basically the average impedance) is rated at 4, 6, or 8 ohms; The lower the number, the smaller the resistance. You can think of it like water pipes: the wider the pipe, the less pressure you’ll have to deal with, and the more current or current you’ll need. The end result is that 4 ohm speakers are the most difficult speakers to drive, requiring the most power. There’s a lot of talk about impedance in audiophile circles, but most good amplifiers and receivers are rated for both 8 ohm and 4 ohm speakers, with appropriate power levels to match. For 6 ohm speakers, you will typically need an amplifier with 6 ohm or 4 ohm impedance and enough power to suit the speaker’s requirements (found in the manual or website).

Speaker power requirements: Passive speakers include specifications for minimum and maximum power requirements, measured in watts. Without getting too deep into amplifier types and power efficiency, a good rule of thumb is to choose an amplifier with a power level per channel that best matches the speaker’s power requirements for its nominal impedance level. . If you’re having trouble finding a match, you’ll typically want an amplifier that meets your speaker’s minimum power requirements for its nominal impedance level.

Wired connection options: Most modern amplifiers and active speakers offer a variety of wired connections such as analog inputs (RCA or 3.5 mm), digital optical inputs for CD players or TVs, and super speaker outputs. bass to connect a powered subwoofer. Many new systems also connect to the TV via HDMI ARC, allowing you to control basics like power and volume with the TV’s remote. They can also provide phono inputs to turntables, although there are many Our favorite turntable comes with a built-in phono preamp (or you can buy one Separate phono preamplifier when necessary).

Wireless connection options: Nearly all active speakers—and many modern amplifiers—support Bluetooth. Wi-Fi connectivity is also increasingly the standard for accessing services like Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, AirPlay and Google Cast. Wi-Fi is often preferred over Bluetooth because of improved audio quality and conveniences like uninterrupted streaming and extended wireless range.


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