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Ask Joe: Passive vs. Active?

In this post of our "Ask Joe" series from Home Studio Corner, he tackles discusses active.

By Joe Gilder October 5, 2010

Photo: takomabibelot.
This article is provided by Home Studio Corner.

I love answering questions from people about recording, especially one like todays on such an interesting topic.

If you have a question you’d like me to cover, click here.

Hello Joe,

I’m looking for a good pair of monitors based on what I’ve been reading.

However, as I was searching for a good brand and reviews and all that, I found out about passive and active monitors.

I read that with passive I would need an amp but actives do not need that since they supply their own power.

Multiple sites mentioned that both are the “schnitzel” and I just gave up researching. Joe, what is your recommendation?

Krem Osle

Thanks Krem,

Originally, all studio monitors were passive.

You would buy a nice power amp, and run cable from the back of that into a pair of passive monitors.

Now, you’ll only find a handful of passive monitors.

The overwhelming majority of studio monitors out there today are active, meaning (like you said) they have the power amp built in.

I prefer active monitors for three reasons:

1. Since almost all of the studio monitors are active, you have plenty of choices.

2. Since the amp is built-in, you know that it is matched perfectly with that speaker. You don’t have to worry about matching a power amp to a set of speakers.

3. They’re just easier to use – no need for an amp, speakers, and all the cables to connect them all to your recording equipment.

There’s nothing wrong with passive monitors. Pair them up with a good amp, and you’re in great shape.

However, there just aren’t as many options. I can count on one hand the various passive models out there that I am aware of.

However, I could go on for days listing out all the different active monitors.

Good luck, Krem!

Joe Gilder is a Nashville based engineer, musician, and producer who also provides training and advice at the Home Studio Corner.

About Joe

Joe Gilder
Joe Gilder

Sound Engineer
Joe Gilder is a Nashville based engineer, musician, and producer who also provides training and advice at the Home Studio Corner.


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Razvan Manole says

Also, most of the Active Monitors have Bi-Amp amplifiers in them, meaning a separate amp for the tweeter and a separate amp for the speaker.
This also means they have a better crossover in them.
Bi-amp is the way you get the best performance out of your speakers, monitors or stage-speakers.

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