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The Battle Of Powered vs. Passive Speakers For Church Sound

There are numerous reasons why nobody is wrong. In the end, it just boils down to your individual requirements.

By Mark Helms May 6, 2011

This article is provided by Church Audio Video.

One of the most common questions heard from churches is whether they should purchase powered speakers and subs, or use passive (unpowered) speakers with amplifiers.

This is, of course, entirely dependent on the situation.

Just a few of the questions we ask in return are:

“Will the system be portable or installed?”

“Will the connections on the installed speakers be easily accessible?”

“Will the people using the portable system be able to lift the speakers?”

“Where is electricity more readily available?”

“Is there an air-conditioned spot close to the where the amplifiers will be?”

…and so many more.

The long and short (or the “light and heavy”) of it is that you need to think about your application. I personally love using powered speakers for portable church systems, since there are fewer cables to lug around, and I’m strong enough to manhandle the speakers on and off poles.

I’ve seen portable setups become semi-installed setups because the people using the system were not able to move the speakers.

I tend to prefer the use of passive speakers for installation, but there are many cases where powered speakers are much more practical.

Here are some of the pros and cons of powered vs passive for your consideration:

• Predictable: the amplifier is matched to the speakers, and the factory has tested it.

• Negates the need for an additional equipment rack for amplifiers. All components are in one convenient package. They can be connected directly to a mixer or sound source.

• Greatly reduces audio quality & level loss over longer cable distances, due to the differences between balanced audio wire and speaker wire.

• Portable powered speakers require more lifting power. Installed powered speakers require additional rigging and support in the room.

• Often the amplifier is tuned to the speaker, so little to no equalization is necessary.

• In powered speaker installations, amplifier service must be done at speaker location.

• Simple setup and easier to understand for people unfamiliar with sound systems.

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