Active vs Passive Studio Monitors

Studio monitors are available in many different designs, sizes, and serve different functions. Contrary to what most people believe, all speakers are not the same and do not serve the same purpose.

So, before buying a studio monitor, you have to figure out whether you need an active or a passive one. The differences between these two shall get clearer when you go through an active vs passive studio monitors comparison.

But, before that, let us get to understand what studio monitors are.

What Are Studio Monitors?

Studio monitors are basically enclosed loudspeakers. They have been created for professional audio recording.

Also, they are used for production activities like studio recording and filmmaking. You may even use them for home studios and theater where perfect reproduction of sounds are required.

The professional studio monitors are also designed more intricately compared to the home hi-fi loudspeakers.

This is because home loudspeakers just reproduce the recorded sounds, but studio monitors need to handle high volumes and sudden sound bursts.

The two types of monitors that are used in most studios are active speakers and passive speakers. We shall now learn more about them and then proceed to a comparison.

What are Active Monitors?

An active monitor is basically a comprehensive system that powers your speakers quite like a combo amplifier that is used by bass players or guitarists. The amp is present in the speaker cabinet.

So, what you just need to do is to connect your PA speakers to power and then provide a line-level signal. This can be an MP3 player, a guitar, or even a vocal microphone.

Many active speakers also come with in-built mixers, with microphone preamps and EQ settings. This helps you directly mix sound on the speaker and enjoy professional-level results. These are a great option not only for studios but also for professional public orators, DJs, and bands.

They are even used in schools or by café owners who regularly play pre-recorded and live music.

Many portable and battery-powered active monitors are also available that are commonly used in various functions.

Pros and Cons of Active Monitors

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Let us now discover the pros and cons of active monitors.

  • Active monitor speakers are basically an all-in-one solution. You simply have to plug a line-level sound, and you are ready to use it.
  • These are easy to set up, and thus you need no experience at all.
  • Amplifiers, in most cases, are tuned to such speakers already. So, you will enjoy the best sound right after getting the device out of the box.
  • Since active monitor speakers come with a built-in amplifier, they can be a little heavy to carry.
  • If you install the device in a permanent setting and your amplifier breaks down, you may need the help of an engineer to fix it.

What are Passive Monitors?

Passive monitors are slightly different as they need separate mixers or amplifiers to power them. Also, they require speaker cables so that sound is transferred from the amplifier to your speakers.

This type of monitor is not an all-inclusive system. So, you need to ensure that your amplifier and speakers have compatibility with their respective power ratings and impedance.

If this goes wrong, then you will either not get the best sound, or there is a chance of your speakers blowing up.

If you are a professional DJ and will use the speaker system in your live events, you likely will also need to use a sub-woofer.

To make this possible, separate crossover components must be installed within the amplifier or the speakers. This crossover path will split your signal. And then, low frequencies will be directed to the bass bins or sub-woofers while the high-frequencies will reach the main speaker.

This is one of the reasons why passive monitors usually are a better choice for big live sound setups.

Pros and Cons of Passive Monitors

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Now that we have learned about passive monitors, in brief, let us also get to discover its pros and cons.

  • Since passive monitors and amplifiers are two different entities, it will be easy for you to upscale your operation.
  • You can upgrade your speakers or amplifiers separately, and there will be no need to replace the entire monitor.
  • Passive speakers do not have an amplifier inside them and are thus light in weight. So, you can easily lift and install them where needed.
  • Finding the right amplifier for your passive monitor speaker in terms of impedance and power ratings can be slightly difficult.
  • If you run too many speakers around your room, then there will be a high chance of signal loss.

Active vs Passive Studio Monitors

Now that we have a fair understanding of both active and passive monitors let us draw a comparison and learn about their differences as well as similarities.

What are their similarities?

  • Both of them are studio monitors.
  • Both of them help produce great sound.

How are they different?

  • Active speakers have in-built amplifiers that only need a power source or battery. The passive ones, on the other hand, require an external power amplifier to be able to function.
  • The in-built amplifiers of an active monitor make it heavier compared to the passive monitor.
  • Passive speakers are more versatile as far as amplifier matching is concerned. On the other hand, active monitor speakers work only on their internal amplifiers.


To conclude this active vs passive studio monitors comparison, it can only be said that both of them are beneficial and both are worthwhile. If you want to find the right one for your studio, you first need to understand your needs and decide your budget.

Also, just do not give importance to the monitor being passive or active alone. You even need to consider the technical and acoustic aspects of the system. It is only then that you will be able to find the best speaker for your studio and enjoy a recording experience like never before.

Juan Stansbury
Juan Stansbury

I'm Juan Stansbury, author and owner of Homerecordio – your ultimate destination for everything about homerecording. With hands-on experience, courses, workshops, and industry research, I offer tips on selecting the best equipment, and mixing and mastering your recordings to achieve professional-quality results at home. Join me on this journey to explore the world of homerecording and music production.

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