For Your Big Gig, Should You Choose Passive or Active Speakers?

If you're putting together a concert for an up-and-coming band, a group of musicians who already have something of a following, then you need to make sure that you provide them with the best platform. The people in the audience are likely to be audiophiles, and they will insist that "their heroes" come across perfectly, so this puts additional pressure on you as the organiser.

The good news is that you have plenty of choice when you select your equipment and can choose from the best in technology to keep even the most discerning ear happy. You can begin by choosing between a passive and active PA system but should first understand the key difference.

Key Differentiators

Fundamentally, the big difference is the placement of the amplifiers and how power is fed into the speaker system. In the case of an active set-up, the amplifier is built into the speaker itself, while in a passive set-up it is contained within a separate box.

Technical Superiority

An active system is technically better because it has two separate amplifiers, one each for the woofer and the tweeter. This allows the crossover to become active as it separates out the signal between the woofer and the tweeter, to more clearly define the treble and the bass.

This system uses more complex circuitry and does not suffer from signal degradation due to power wastage. The resulting sound will be much sharper as the crossover filters perform more effectively. Furthermore, the system can be more finely tuned by your sound engineer to accurately match the individual characteristics of the venue.

If you choose an active system, you won't have to worry about matching the speakers with the amplifiers, as this will already be done for you. The speakers will be able to cope with high volumes more efficiently, without any loss of purity.

Easier Setup

Finally, your backroom staff may thank you as they won't need to carry those extra amplifiers into the venue. They will also be able to run standard XLR cable without any loss for a much greater distance, as they are rigging everything up.

Making Your Choice

In your situation with so much at stake, you should probably go for an active system. At the least, you will find that there is more margin for error.

Headed to Stardom

Ultimately though, the group is much more likely to get a standing ovation at the end of their set, and you never know, this could be the start of something really big.