A factor not always considered within the variety of speakers is whether you should get a powered speaker or a passive speaker. If you’re short on space, perhaps thinking of cleaning up all the clutter, or want to simplify wiring, then maybe you should lean towards the powered speaker direction. Join us in discovering the best powered speakers for you, from budget-entry systems to high-end models that will have audiophiles considering an overhaul of their current setup.
With a sleek design, complimented by its subtle wood tone and removable light-gray grill. Whether it’s vocals, acoustics, or bass-heavy songs, the R1280T has you covered.
Quick Pick – Our Awards!
What is a Powered Speaker?
If you’re a newbie to the audio industry, you might be asking yourself, aren’t all speakers powered by electricity or batteries? Well, yes, you aren’t wrong, but what separates a powered (also known as ‘Active’) speaker from your average stereo speaker? In short, every set of speakers needs amplification to function correctly. Generally, for speaker drivers to have power, vibrate and produce sound, they need to be connected to a separate amplifier or receiver. These types of speakers are called ‘passive speakers.’
Powered speakers (or Active speakers) are designed with built-in amplification; therefore, a receiver isn’t necessary. How does this affect the ordinary person? You can connect your powered speaker directly into sources such as a CD player, turntable, or smartphone via Bluetooth or other connectivity options. Powered speakers are considered easier and more convenient, while passive speakers are made for complex systems requiring more power.
1. Edifier R1280T
5” x 9” x 7″
It’s difficult to find the perfect powered speaker, but the Edifier R1280T comes pretty close. It manages to bring the affordability of the Edifier R980T and the sound quality of the R2000DB all into one glorious bookshelf speaker. Therefore, it’s our choice for the best overall powered speaker on our list. At around $100, you cannot match the price and value.
When unboxing the R1280T for the first time, you’ll immediately notice that these are a beautiful pair of speakers. Everything about the design is sleek and classy, from the subtle wood tone to the light-gray grille. There’s also a thin metallic accent line that runs down the middle, and the same material is used for the Edifier logo at the bottom. The speakers just look so premium you’d think the entire budget went into the design. If you haven’t noticed already, we are big fans of a natural tanned look with a 70s undertone.
The Edifier R1280T is the perfect size in regards to bookshelf speakers. Each unit measures 5.7 x 9.5 x 7 inches and can fit onto most desks/shelves. Under the hood, you’ll find a 13mm silk tweeter, a 4-inch woofer, and a calibrated, flared bass reflex port. The Edifier R1280T might not have the biggest drivers, but they sure found a way to effectively use them (but more on that below). The R1280T also works with most devices, including computers, tablets, smartphones, and record players. We found that the only shortfall was that it did not have Bluetooth, but that’s a small sacrifice for a great speaker under a hundred dollars.
The Edifier R1280T offers a neutral, detailed sound signature with enough power to fill an entire room. Unexpectedly, the speakers provide better bass than some of its 5-inch woofer competitors. At just 50% volume and without the need for an additional subwoofer, these speakers punch well above their weight. In the high frequencies, treble is well-balanced, and unlike its budget Edifier R980T brother, you won’t find any ear-piercing discomfort even at maximum volume. Instead, the high-end remains bright but extremely textured at the same time.
The midrange is where the R1280T shines and separates itself from the competition in this price range. Vocals and acoustics are smooth and refined, with genres like jazz and indie music sounding incredible. While watching movies and playing video games, we liked that the bass never overpowered vocals, even at low levels, so you could theoretically enjoy the speakers late at night and still hear what the characters are saying. However, if you’re looking to rattle the windows a bit, you can adjust the bass/treble on the knobs found on the side of the right speaker. With its excellent sound and design quality, you just can’t go wrong with the Edifier R1280T.
2. Kanto YU6
AUX, Bluetooth, RCA
6” x 8” x 10″
A powered speakers list wouldn’t be complete without something thunderous, and that’s where the Kanto YU6 comes in. With a Class D amplifier that pumps out 200W of peak power, the YU6 will let you (and your neighbors!) enjoy your favorite tracks as if you were at a live performance.
The Kanto YU6 powered speakers are beautiful with various finishes and color schemes. You can choose between bamboo, gloss red, gloss white, gloss black, matte black, matte white, and walnut. The elegant design has soft rounded edges, woven Kevlar drivers, and silk dome tweeters. The construction is sturdy, and when ramping up the volume, we were happy to find that the YU6 doesn’t shake uncontrollably.
The YU6 also has all the features you’d find on higher-end powered speakers. It has a built-in phono amp that connects it directly into a turntable. Users will be able to change between Phono and Line inputs with a single switch. If you’re a fan of vinyl, you’re going to love the YU6. Regarding connectivity, the speaker has Bluetooth, RCA/AUX inputs, Optical inputs, a subwoofer output, and a USB charge port. The YU6 is quite interesting because it’s the only powered speaker on our list with a dedicated USB charging feature. This sounds cool, keeping your phone battery from dying, but it would have been even better if the USB could connect to the PC.
Right off the bat, the first apparent aspect of the Kanto YU6 is power. Lots of manufacturers advertise ‘loudspeakers’, but Kanto delivered. There’s a lot of headroom, with vocals carrying their full weight accompanied by a neutral low and high range. Some brands get power wrong and overemphasize the bass, which tends to drown out the artist, but Kanto has managed to strike the right balance without any tuning required.
Instruments always sounded clean and authentic. We listened to tracks involving pianos, guitars, and the violin and really enjoyed the accuracy of the Kevlar woofers and silk dome tweeters intertwining. It’s one thing to get the vocals right, but maintaining the same standard through all ranges is even more impressive. One downside we did notice, though, was the Bluetooth connectivity. It did tend to drop and stutter sometimes, and we have yet to determine the reason.
Nevertheless, the Kanto YU6 is still an excellent powered ‘loudspeaker’ with so many alternative connectivity options. If you want to go big and rock out in your living room, these won’t leave you disappointed.
3. Yamaha HS5
11” x 6” x 8″
What do most people look for in a studio monitor? Perhaps amazing stereo imaging, neutral sound, high volume levels, a wide frequency response, or minimal distortion. It could be all of the above, and for that reason, our best studio monitor award goes to the Yamaha HS5. As the smallest speaker in the Yamaha HS series, the Yamaha HS5 with newly developed transducers aims to provide quality sound for both professionals and amateurs.
To ensure your speakers are studio level, a manufacturer must ensure that the design and build quality are durable and efficient. Yamaha has always been regarded as a brand associated with value, and the HS5 is no different. The speakers are constructed with a sturdy MDF board that minimizes unwelcome resonance. Available in both classic white and black, the speakers look great in almost any environment. They have the minimalistic appeal to fit any studio.
Customization and placement are everything in a studio to create new music, and that’s where the new HS Install Versions come in. You can mount the speakers on ceilings or walls (the brackets are sold separately). The HS5 is also small in dimension at a budget price at only 11.2 inches high, 6.7 inches wide, and 8.7 inches deep. The HS5 weighs around 11.7 lbs, so we advise putting it on a stand or isolation pad if you aren’t ready for a wall or ceiling mount.
Finally, there are two connectivity options, a balanced XLR input and a TRS input. It’s somewhat disappointing that these cables are not included. Sure, you can add them to the cart, but it can be frustrating if you want them to work right out of the box.
Looking at the inside of the Yamaha HS5, you’ll find a 5-inch woofer and 1-inch tweeter. 5-inches are generally recommended for small/medium studios. As mentioned in the introduction, the HS5 comes with the newly developed transducers with an amazing frequency response of 54Hz – 30kHz, covering the lows to highs very nicely. The tweeter and woofer have a dedicated amp that ensures a clear, flat, but neutral sound that producers favor with its bi-amp design.
If you’re an ordinary listener or new to the industry, you might be confused about all the praise surrounding the HS5 when you first use the monitor. A neutral flat response allows producers to listen to music in its purest state to highlight and remove faults. Unlike general Hi-Fi systems you may be used to, the HS5 is not overly colorful or vibrant. It doesn’t ramp up the bass or exaggerate the mids/highs. That’s not to say the sound quality isn’t brilliant, but it isn’t enhanced for dramatic effect. But if you’re someone looking for the best studio monitors, that probably sounds ideal.
4. Edifier R980T
5” x 8” x 7″
If it’s your first time heading into the powered speaker’s world, maybe you don’t want to break the bank. Perhaps you’re looking for a computer speaker on a budget, with decent sound and a low price to match. Well, if this sounds about right, then you’re going to like the Edifier R980T bookshelf speaker. It’s affordable and provides good audio with all the necessary features you might want in a powered speaker.
The Edifier R980 is on the smaller side, measuring 5.5 x 8.9 x 7.75 inches. Each speaker weighs approximately 4 pounds, so they’re pretty easy to move around and adjust. The design itself is very basic. The outside has an all-black wooden finish, with a cloth grille that you can remove. There are also four rubber feet, which prevent sliding and unnecessary vibrations. It’s not the prettiest of speakers around, but it still looks modern and neat.
There are two auxiliary inputs, a 3.5mm jack, and a dual RCA output to connect your computer and other sources. There are knobs to control the volume and bass found on the same panel as the ports. Again, we were impressed that the manufacturers included the RCA and 3.5mm cables together with a speaker wire, making it a plug-and-play system immediately upon unboxing.
Going into a budget speaker, you never know what to expect. Did the manufacturers spend the entire budget on the design, or did they somehow manage to balance everything? In this case, it’s the latter. Edifier has somehow managed to pull off a decent-sounding powered speaker. We wouldn’t say great, but for under $100, you can’t expect premium quality.
Inside the R980T, you’ll find a small 4-inch woofer accompanied by a 13mm silk dome tweeter. The overall sound signature is warm. The mids are accurate, and the highs are fairly detailed. The speakers only have 24W of power, but we wouldn’t advise turning the volume outrageously loud. As the volume cranks to the max, the bass will begin to crackle, and the highs will screech. There is a bass reflex port, so perhaps you can improve the lows with the addition of a subwoofer. Whatever you decide, the R980T has a lot of value for money. If it’s your first time buying powered speakers, and money is tight, these are a good option.
5. Edifier R2000DB
11” x 7” x 9″
The Edifier R2000DB powered bookshelf speakers are branded as “versatile while maintaining an authentic listening experience”. Founded in 1996 under Beijing Edifier Technology Company Ltd, there’s a lot of hype around these speakers as they’re made for computers, gaming consoles, and mini home theatre systems. With such a range of capabilities, can the R2000DB still deliver great audio throughout various genres?
The Edifier R2000DB design is modern and sleek available in two finishes. The front panel is textured, while the sides are either high-gloss piano black or woodgrain. The speakers are angled in a way that they almost lean upwards, so they deliver music straight to your ears without needing to position them at head height. Regarding dimensions, the R2000DB will take up a decent amount of space, and we’d advise that you measure the depth beforehand if you’re looking to place them on your desk. The tuning controls are also situated at the back, so you’ll need to consider that if you want regular easy access.
The cabinet feels premium with the paneled MFD design, and so do the speakers include covers that help protect against dust and small objects. Connectivity-wise, you’ll be able to connect two devices through the dual RCA, link your smartphone via Bluetooth, and connect your television via the optical output. Finally, you can also connect other media devices via optical, 3.5mm to RCA, and dual RCA cable. Our only criticism is that we would have liked to see a dedicated sub-out option for subwoofers.
As advertised, the Edifier R2000DB is being marketed for just about anything audio-related. There is a high-quality 5-inch woofer that outputs respectable bass and a 1-inch silk ‘eagle eye’ tweeter that delivers clear mids and highs. The frequency response is 55Hz to 20kHz, so there’s plenty of room to rumble in those deep lows while maintaining a balanced sound signature. Is it professional studio quality? Yes, the reproduction is very accurate. Will it be good for video games and movies? Again, yes, thanks to the 85dBA, there is plenty of power to go around, whether that means hearing enemy footsteps behind you or getting that immersive movie experience.
You can also alter the sound via the two EQ settings. Dynamic Mode will give you a boost in the lows which is great for fans of EDM music. Secondly, you can choose Classic Mode, which soothes things out with a neutral signature. We found this best for watching YouTube videos or instrumental/vocal music. You can also find treble/bass controls on the speaker’s back if you want further customization. Hence why you’ll need plenty of space if they’re being fitted on your desk. Overall, the Edifier R2000DB offers a great all-around experience at a middle-to-high end price tag. There’s enough power, smoothness, and customization for just about anyone.
6. Audioengine A5+ Wireless
AUX, RCA L/R
10” x 7” x 9″
Audioengine has been around for over 15 years and has made waves in the audio industry, popular throughout Europe and the United States. With years of experience, they are always willing to try new things, and one of their latest projects is the Audioengine A5+ Bluetooth speaker.
The Audioengine A5+ is available in three finishes: matte black, natural bamboo, and high-gloss white. It measures 10.8 inches high, 7 inches wide, and 7.8/9 inches deep. The reason behind the second speaker’s depth is that it houses the controls and connections and the heat sink located at the back panel. The corners have also been rounded to give it a soft but classic bookshelf look to fit into any setup.
The left front speaker of the Audioengine A5+ includes a LED power indicator, volume knob, and remote receiver. The remote has four buttons, volume up, down, mute, and sleep mode. Each speaker has a 5-inch Kevlar woofer and a 0.75-inch silk dome tweeter. One drawback of the design is that the drivers aren’t angled upward, so if you’re using them on your desktop, you will need to try to match the height of the tweeters with your ears. However, if the speakers are positioned in a larger room, you shouldn’t have any issues.
You’ll find the connections on the back of the left speaker: a Bluetooth antenna, pairing button, RCA inputs and outputs, 3.5mm aux input, and a banana plug cable that links the left speaker to the right. You will also find a voltage select switch, a fuse, a power button, and a connection for the power supply.
Before we dive into the sound, how easy does the Audioengine A5+ pair to your smartphone? Well, pretty effortlessly. Simply turn on the system, and the device should immediately appear in your Bluetooth menu. So, your powered Bluetooth speakers are now ready, and we’ll start with the bass. They have some power to them but are not thunderous in any way. There’s great depth while still maintaining control before distortion occurs.
Less bass-intensive tracks better indicate the overall sound signature, which is full, warm, and natural. Vocals especially are clear and crisp; even with the addition of drums, the lows remain rich without being overbearing. Mids-to-Highs are therefore also balanced, with no frequency range favored over the other. Some may view this as a flat-style frequency, but it could accommodate all listening types.
That’s not to say the A5+ does not have power. Orchestral tracks sound amazing and robust. String and brass instruments are bright but always stay accurately rue to the intended recording. If you’re looking for a neutral-sounding well-balanced pair of powered speakers, then the A5+ has lots to offer.
7. Klipsch R-15PM
AUX, Bluetooth, USB
12” x 7” x 8″
Klipsch is known for its excellent quality. It is often recommended by audiophiles, home theatre enthusiasts, and those working inside studios. The R-15PM Bluetooth-powered monitor aims at offering the connectivity and stereo separation of a receiver-speaker combo while maintaining the simplicity of a soundbar. In terms of sound, it’s up there with the Audioengine A5+ Wireless, but this time, it’s a hundred dollars less.
The Klipsch R-15PM has a nice retro appeal with a black polymer veneer finish complemented by orange woofers. Although the powered speakers can fill a room with sound, they won’t take up much space at just 12.5 inches high, 7 inches wide, and a depth of 8.11 inches. Inside the speaker, you’ll find a 5.25-inch copper spun magnetically shielded IMG woofer and the innovative 1-inch aluminum diaphragm compression driver mated to 90° x 90° square Tractrix Horn.
Why is the tweeter cavity horn shape cool? It completes the task of sound collection and diffusion, which avoids possible resonance during output sound and harmful reflects. At the back of the speaker, you’ll find a volume knob and a signal source button. You’ll also be able to connect via RCA, USB, Digital optical, 3.5mm mini-jack, and Bluetooth. Additionally, a bass output interface strengthens low frequencies through a subwoofer.
Klipsch has included a remote that comes with all the basic features and more: volume control, bass increase/decrease, input channels, forward/backtrack control, play/pause, and source selection.
The Klipsch R-15PM might be a small powered speaker, but its output is relatively bright. The midrange is clear and colorful, giving life to various vocal genres. Treble is controlled nicely while maintaining enough detail in the higher frequencies. When we ramped up the volume, it was also great to see that there wasn’t any piercing sound or overwhelming instruments that overpower the vocals. Similar to the Audioengine A5+, the sound signature was very natural. With that being said, the lows were somewhat lacking. Perhaps Klipsch didn’t want to risk the bass sounding muddy, but if you’re a bass-enthusiast, you may find the lows underwhelming. As always, a simple fix would be adding a subwoofer.
We are also glad that Klipsch has gone with a modern connectivity route. Having the ability to connect the speakers directly to your PC and then effortlessly switch to your mobile phone via Bluetooth is a game-changer. For the casual listener, movies and music will perform great. There’s enough here to impress those who are used to basic stereo sound. If you are an audiophile or sensitive listener, the bass can be a drawback, especially in studio recordings where accuracy is everything.
8. Klipsch R-51PM
Bluetooth, AUX, USB
11” x 7” x 9″
Our best-powered speaker’s list has many speakers, which include Bluetooth connectivity, but none match the performance of the Klipsch R-51PM. When trying to distinguish the differences between wired and wireless, none were found. The Klipsch R-51PM might be your smartphone’s new favorite companion with its warm sound signature.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Klipsch R-51PM is that it looks similar to the Klipsch R-15PM, but there are some differences. For starters, it has a larger horn opening, with an improved radiation angle, resulting in better bass coverage and consequently extending the medium to high frequencies. The Klipsch R-51PM is available in black and includes the popular horn tweeters and copper-colored woofers. These are protected by a magnetic cloth cover that can be removed or replaced. Covers can sometimes diminish sound, but Klipsch has managed to make these sound perfect, whatever your preference may be, so hats off to them.
The speakers are sold as a set, with the right being the master and the left connected by wire. In other words, all your inputs and controls are found on the right. Although this is our favorite Bluetooth-powered speaker, it doesn’t fall short on connectivity options. There’s optical for TV, 3.5mm for AUX, USB for PC, and a phono or line input for a turntable. You will also find an LED on the right speaker that shows you which input is currently selected, but you can also turn this off to avoid distraction.
We wouldn’t label the Klipsch R-51PM as a party speaker, but it does lean towards a warm sound signature that is rich and vibrant. Rock and pop music will sound great, so perhaps the R-51PM was intended for larger spaces. Thanks to the Dynamic Bass EQ, this also makes sense, which delivers deep clear bass, no matter the volume level. Emphasis should be placed on ‘clear bass’ as there isn’t distortion when you ramp things up. Sure, you could keep these in your bedroom, but they do have enough power to get the party thumping.
The R-51PM is also a clear winner if you’re looking for the best powered Bluetooth speaker. Connectivity-wise, the quality never drops, even when venturing 500 feet from the source with your phone in hand. Additionally, the included remote can control your music while connected to Bluetooth. This might come as a surprise, but you can only control the music via the Bluetooth device in most cases. Friends can therefore skip tracks or adjust the volume on the remote while you have iTunes playing in the background of your smartphone. Consequently, you don’t have to hand your phone over to select music, yay for privacy!
9. Audioengine HD6
Bluetooth, AUX, USB
11” x 7” x 10″
The Audioengine HD6 is designed primarily for audiophiles looking for high-fidelity sound. It’s a highly versatile speaker with various Bluetooth options, making it perfect for Hi-Fi systems, computers, televisions, record players, and gaming consoles. The HD6 is also the most expensive powered speaker on our list, with realistic and detailed sound complimented by the premium build quality. Let’s find out if it’s worth the money.
The design and construction of the HD6 are first-class. The speakers include custom 5.5-inch Kevlar woofers with die-cast aluminum baskets, in addition to a custom 1-inch silk tweeter that has neodymium magnets and ferrofluid-cooled voice coils. The cabinet itself has been hand-built with black, walnut, or white finishes. You’ll find detachable magnetic speaker grills and threaded inserts to fasten the speakers to stands on the outside.
The Audioengine HD6 has plenty of connectivity options. Smartphones and tablets can be connected via Bluetooth, while CD players, tape decks, turntables, televisions, and gaming consoles can be linked through the RCA and 3.5mm jack inputs. The speaker also includes a basic aluminum remote, input/output cables, and microfiber/cable bags. You won’t also have to take our word for the sturdy construction. Audioengine included a 3-year warranty with the HD6, which is quite the upgrade compared to your standard 1-year powered speaker return policies.
Audiophiles can be difficult to please, but we’re certain these will meet expectations and more. The Audioengine HD6 speakers are one of the best sounding powered speakers available. Depth is otherworldly, having heard sounds I have never noticed in music before. Vocal performances are clear, natural, and amplified as if the artist is standing in the room with you. The treble is well-articulated, while the mid-bass remains balanced without distortion. Out of all the powered speakers on this list, we can reassure you that this is the one monitor that won’t require an additional subwoofer for all you bass lovers.
The speakers are a great choice for entertainment or professional use. Movies were engaging, and video games had great audio separation. If you went into the studio to focus on classical or instrumental music, the experience would also be satisfying. We’d advise using a turntable together with the HD6 to truly appreciate the sound quality and detail. Artists like Mozart sound remarkable with amazing precision. The HD6 is somewhat expensive, but it’s worth every penny if you have the budget.
10. JBL 305P MKII
Balanced XLR & TRS
11” x 7” x 9″
The JBL 305P MKII features next-generation JBL transducers, new boundary EQ, and a refreshing blacked-out design. Marketed at both casual listeners and audiophiles, can the 5-inch woofer pack enough power to please everyone?
JBL has built a reputation around a brand that prioritizes quality and innovation while keeping most products within the average consumer’s price range. The new 3rd generation MKII series comes in a smooth, shiny finish. It looks bold, with some reminiscing of 90’s flashy speakers, but without being over-the-top with RGB lighting. Shiny finishes tend to look great until dust and fingerprints arrive. We would have preferred it in a matte finish, but hey, if you put them on your desk and wipe them every so often with a microfiber cloth, it should be perfectly fine.
The JBL 305P weighs around 10lbs and measures 11.75 x 7.3 x 9.1 inches in actual size. The monitor isn’t notably bulky or heavy but rather balances quality and portability. You should note that since the 5-inch monitor has a rear-facing bass port, a low-end build-up can occur if placed against a wall. Therefore, if you want the best possible listening experience, you should keep these at head height and ideally as far away from your wall as possible.
The 305P MKII is designed for nearfield listening. If you sit far away from your desk or wherever you plan to mount the speakers, well, you might be disappointed. The 5-inch woofers are ideal for small-to-medium-sized studios, and since its powered, you won’t have to plug in an external amplifier. Frequency-wise, JBL advertises the 305P MKII to range between 43 Hz to 24 kHz and has a 49 Hz to 20 kHz response. There’s plenty of leeway to work with here and enough detail for a pleasant listening experience for genres of all kinds. The 305P can reach 108 dB in terms of raw power, but it can always be improved by an additional subwoofer.
The05P MKII offers some unique features, looking at the actual sound quality. JBL uses Image Control Waveguide, which gives its speakers a wider sound stage. In other words, you’ll find greater depth and ambiance during recordings. The speaker shines most in its lows with enough bass for all genres while maintaining control without distortion. The medium to high range is also relatively good, with a warm soundstage that is crisp during vocal tracks and clean during instruments. The 305P MKII also gives you the option to tune your output and adjust the speaker to your needs; therefore, you’ll be able to configure the device to your personal needs and environmental elements.
What are the Reasons to Get a Powered Speaker?
What to Consider When Purchasing the Best Powered Speakers for You
Low-Frequency Driver / Speaker Cone Size
When deciding on the size of the speaker you require, there are four main categories to consider. 8-inches; 10-inches; 12-inches; and 15-inches. Now hold up; these category sizes are not relaying the actual size of the cabinet. These dimensions relate to the size of the woofer within the speaker, also known as the low-frequency driver. Low-frequency drivers produce bass, and more often than not, the larger the woofer, the louder the low-frequency response. But if you’re not a bass-head enthusiast, what does this mean for mid to high frequencies?
Smaller 8-inch powered speakers are great for audio sources that are not bass emphasized. This can mean most string instruments and female/male vocals. If you’re a band/group (or general music enjoyer) looking for more bass, but not overwhelming to the extent of an EDM festival, then 10 to 12-inches is the way to go. These sizes are perfect for drums, keyboards, and bass guitars.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re a DJ (let’s say EDM is your genre), then you’ll probably steer towards the larger 15-inch woofer department. At 15-inches, you’ll get that extra low thunderous effect that will get the windows rattling and the ground thumping. Still not satisfied with the bass? Well, add in a subwoofer and tape your brain down because things are about to get shaky.
A watt is defined as a measurement of power consumption. When an amplifier processes sound, the output is measured in watts and consequently details the amount of power that the amplifier consumes. In the past, it was believed that ‘the greater the wattage, the more powerful the amplifier, and the louder the sound.’
However, as technology has evolved and emphasis has been placed on energy efficiency, a powered speaker with a low wattage can still be incredibly loud because the amplifier is efficient. This can have the reverse, where a powered speaker with high wattage utilizes its power incorrectly and has poor audio output. What can you take from this? If a speaker manufacturer boasts about high wattage and power, it doesn’t always mean you’re getting better and bigger sound.
Output Power Rating: RMS vs. Peak
Staying within the subject of wattage, it is also important to consider the two types of power output ratings commonly stated by powered speaker manufacturers, namely RMS and Peak wattage. RMS wattage, also known as Continuous wattage, refers to the average power an amplifier can produce over an extended period of time. On the other hand, peak wattage is the maximum power an amplifier can produce in rapid bursts.
Some brands attempt to advertise their Peak wattage as their average power, so be mindful to always look at the RMS rating for true accuracy. Generally, 150 to 500 watts of RMS/Continuous power should be enough for small venues, bedrooms, and homes. Anything upwards of 600 watts will lean towards medium to large-sized areas such as clubs, outdoor events, and shopping centers.
Digital Signal Processor vs. Unprocessed Audio
Most powered speakers nowadays come with built-in Digital Signal Processors (DSP). These specialized microprocessor chips take audio that has been digitized and manipulates them to improve sound quality. DSP is regarded as far more precise and accurate than raw or unprocessed audio and will usually perform better overall in comparison.
Digital Signal Processors also provide improvements, including smart limiters that shield the speaker from clipping or overloading. How does this help the average listener? Well, you’ll be able to tweak the audio to match the acoustics of rooms, therefore tolerating versatile placements.
If you’re looking at a high-end powered speaker, you’ll likely need one that can handle two or more inputs, with dedicated volume/gain controls like a mixer. Powered speakers with a built-in mixer can also be used as a public address system for solo artists or songwriters who wish to play in smaller locations. This can especially be useful to have easy access to adjusting the EQ. The only drawback to this is price, as more accessories/features integrated inside a powered speaker tend to push up these values.
One feature that is often overlooked on powered speakers is portability. Sure, the advertised picture may look small and compact, but when the speaker arrives, you’ll realize the built-in amplifier adds a lot of weight and volume. If you’re an artist who changes location often, then handle-location and cabinet size can play a large role in how portable your speaker will be.
You don’t want to be in a situation when your new fancy speaker can’t fit in your car or requires a lot of effort to move. If there’s no way around the weight and size, keep an eye out for stands and wheels that may be included to assist with transport. Also, don’t forget speaker covers; they’re a lifesaver for protecting your valuable speaker cones during transit.
An amplifier is an electronic device that produces an increased version of its input signal. For power speakers, it is important to remember that the power output is the product of the current and voltage, while the power input is the product of DC voltage and current. These circuits are not all the same and are therefore classified according to their configurations and modes of operation.
When looking at the class of amplifier your powered speaker may have, you should pay close attention to the following: ‘Class A’ amps produce high amplification while sacrificing the efficiency of the conversion from DC to AC. ‘Class B’ amps are the opposite, as they convert more efficiently but at the cost of distortion of the output signals. ‘Class AB’ is a blend of the two and therefore combines the low distortion of ‘Class A’, and the high efficiency of ‘Class B’.
With that being said, the best amp, in our opinion, would be a ‘Class D’, which is a digital switching amp. These switches are either fully on/off, which significantly decreases the power losses in the output devices and allows for an 85-97% efficiency rate.
Loudness does not correlate to a great-sounding speaker. If a manufacturer claims their powered speaker can reach high volumes, you should proceed with caution considering the Total Harmonic Distortion. Total Harmonic Distortion, also known as THD, measures how well a speaker can interpret your music and then reproduce it without distortion. A THD level below 0.5 – 1% is considered good, while anything above 5% will sound audibly bad to most people. In other words, the lower the figure, the less distortion, and therefore a better quality of sound.
Local Audio Stores
Online stores can offer the best prices when it comes to powered speakers, but the best way to know for certain that you’re getting exactly what you want is to listen in-store. Head over to your local audio shop and ask for the powered speakers you’re interested in. Online reviews and YouTube videos can only give you so much information. Your perception of sound may be very different from another’s. In many cases, bass-heavy speakers are a must for some but ruin sound clarity for others. If all else fails, check that your powered speaker has a return policy so you can refund it if you’re not satisfied.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Powered Speakers?
What some may deem as a benefit might be a drawback for others. Below we weigh the most common advantages and disadvantages when comparing powered speakers to passive speakers:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Does my Powered Speaker Need a Subwoofer?
As previously mentioned in our buyer’s guide, a subwoofer is only necessary if you want louder audio with increased bass. With the addition of a subwoofer, your speakers can focus on the medium to high range, while the sub concentrates on lower frequencies. Music will sound rich, vibrant, and punchy, with better sound overall. If you’re planning to watch movies/podcasts, though, you can probably give it a skip.
Do Powered Speakers Sound Better Over Time?
Like many speakers, powered speakers tend to sound better after the initial break-in period. To do this, you should let your speakers play for around 50-70 hours at medium volume before making a final decision on whether you like them or not. During the break-in period, materials loosen up, especially the components making up the suspension. Results may vary from a marginal change to a dramatic overall clarity and quality shift.
Can you Daisy Chain Powered Speakers?
Yes, the easiest way to do this is by connecting the first powered speaker to the source component and then linking the rest by matching plus to plus and minus to minus. This technique is known as speakers in parallel but is commonly called a daisy chain. The answer is limitless regarding how many powered speakers you can daisy chain. As long as you have the input and output connections, you can connect as many as you want.
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