Active vs Passive Studio Monitors (Complete Guide)

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If you’re a home music producer, you know the importance of a good listening experience. Studio monitors are an essential tool for any music producer, whether you’re just starting or you’re a seasoned pro. When it comes to choosing between active and passive studio monitors, there are a few factors to consider.

Active monitors have a built-in amplifier, which means they can be plugged directly into your mixer or audio interface without the need for an external power amplifier. On the other hand, passive monitors require an external power source, usually an amplifier.

active studio monitors vs passive studio monitors

While active monitors may be more convenient, passive monitors are often less expensive and offer more flexibility in terms of customization and upgrading. This article will explore the differences between active and passive monitors and help you decide which type is best for your home studio setup.

Active vs Passive Monitors

When it comes to choosing between active and passive monitors for your home music studio, there are a few key differences to consider. Both types of monitors have pros and cons; ultimately, the decision comes down to your personal preferences and needs.

RELATED: Are Most Studio Monitors Passive or Active? (Let’s Find Out)

Active Monitors

Active monitors, also known as powered monitors, come with a built-in amplifier, so all you need to do is to hook it up to a power source or a battery. They are self-contained and do not require an external amplifier or crossover network. This makes them a popular choice for home studios and music production.

Built-in amplifiers make them easier to use and set upGenerally more expensive than passive monitors
Often have more accurate frequency response and better sound qualityIf the amplifier fails, you’ll need to replace the entire speaker
Can be more compact and space-saving than passive monitors with separate amplifiers

Built-in Amplifier

The built-in amplifier in active monitors is designed to match the speaker drivers and crossover network, providing optimal performance and sound quality. The amplifier is usually a Class D amplifier, which is highly efficient and produces less heat than other types of amplifiers.

Speaker Drivers

Active monitors come with different types of speaker drivers, including woofers, mid-range drivers, and tweeters. The size and quality of the drivers determine the frequency response and overall sound quality of the monitor. Most active monitors come with a two-way or three-way speaker system, which means they have two or three drivers, respectively.

Crossover Network

Active monitors have a built-in crossover network, which separates the audio signal into different frequency bands and sends them to the appropriate driver. The crossover network is usually an active crossover, which means it uses electronic circuits to filter and amplify the audio signal.

EQ Settings

Some active monitors come with EQ settings that allow you to adjust the frequency response to your liking. This can be useful if you want to compensate for room acoustics or personal preferences.

However, it’s important to note that EQ settings should be used sparingly and only when necessary, as they can affect the accuracy and neutrality of the monitor.

In summary, active monitors are popular for home studios and music production due to their self-contained design and built-in amplifier. They come with different types of speaker drivers, a built-in crossover network, and sometimes EQ settings.

When choosing an active monitor, it’s important to consider the size and quality of the drivers, the efficiency and type of amplifier, and the accuracy and neutrality of the monitor.

Bestseller No. 1
PreSonus Eris E3.5-3.5″ Near Field Studio Monitors (Pair) – Powered Desktop Speakers for Music Production, Studio-Quality Recording, and Active Media Reference
  • The reviews speak for themselves!.Waterproof : No
  • The only true studio monitor for multimedia, gaming, watching movies, or producing your next hit.
  • Now comes included with Studio One Prime and Studio Magic plug-in suite, over $1000 USD worth of music production software.
  • 3.5-inch woven composite drivers produce a more powerful bass response with a more accurate overall sound.
  • 1″ ultra-low-mass silk-dome tweeters eliminate harshness and provide balanced high-frequency sound.
Bestseller No. 2
M-Audio BX5 – 5″ Studio Monitor Speaker for Music Production & Mixing with Acoustic Space Control, 100W 2 Way Active Speaker, Single,Black
  • Professional class A/B bi-amplified design with 100 watts of distributed power for studio-grade cohesive, accurate sound and ultra-wide range 52-35kHz frequency response covers full musical spectrum
  • Superior transparent sound quality: 5” low-frequency drivers with Kevlar cones for rich, defined lows and 1” high-frequency drivers with natural silk domes and computer optimised waveguides for smooth, clear highs
  • Versatile, conveniently located XLR balanced and 1/4” balanced/unbalanced inputs for connecting mixers, audio interfaces, instruments, DJ gear and more
  • Acoustic Space Control customises the sound output to the listening environment for sonically-true, reassuringly-accurate sound reproduction
  • Extended low-frequency response down to 52Hz courtesy of optimized rear ports that minimize air turbulence and acoustic distortion
Bestseller No. 3
Pioneer DJ DM-50D-BT 5-inch Desktop Active Monitor Speaker Pair with Bluetooth – Black
  • 50-watt Powered Studio Monit with 5″ Woofer
  • Bluetooth (pair) – Black
  • 0.75″ Tweeter
  • 2 DSP Modes
SaleBestseller No. 4
Rockville DPM5B 5.25″ 2-Way 150W Black Active/Powered Studio Monitor Speaker
  • ​Rockville DPM5B 5.25″ 2-Way 150W Active/Powered Studio Monitor Speakers in black. Peak Power: 150 Watt. RMS Power: 75 Watt. Bi-Amped:  25​ Watts for highs, and 50​ watts for the lows. Enclosure is made of top quality MDF wood.. The enclosure is built with the perfect amount of air space to maximize sound quality for a studio. The port is built to the perfect spec to enhance the sound. Auto-Switching Power Supply.
  • Ferro Fluid Enhanced 1″ Neodymium Silk Dome Tweeter With Metal Grill Protection. Tweeter has 1” voice coil diameter. Curved Front Bezel Design Eliminates Standing Wave Distortion. Injection Molded Polypropylene Cone Woofer. Rubber woofer surrounds increases sound quality and eliminates unwanted distortions. Computer Optimized Electronic Crossover Network Supplies Amazing Sounding Highs, Lows, and Mids. Specially Wound Voice Coils Produce Accurate Responses along Entire Frequency Spectrum.
  • Distortion-Free Playback Even at Max Volume Listening! Very Clean Sound! 110 Volt compatible with SMPS technology – Normally most items have a transformer. Our SMPS technology switches voltage more efficiently and adheres to all international efficiency standards! Every Speaker in Production Undergoes a Computer Generated Sound Check Test to Ensure it Upholds to our Specifications and Standards. Transducer Production Line to Make the SPL Performance Stable.
  • Certification: CE and RoHS Compliant. Amplifier: Class D, very efficient amplifier with top components! (ADI–ADAU1701 DSP, TI–TPA3116, SMPS). System Impedance: Tweeter 6 Ω; Woofer 4 Ω. Signal to noise ratio: 80dB (Maximum output with THD+1<1%, A-weight). Max SPL: 100dB @ 1w/1m. THD: 0.10%. Frequency Response: 55Hz - 20kHz. 150 Watts peak output. 75 Watt RMS output. Input voltage: 120V. Components: 1" neodymium silk dome tweeter and 5.25" woofer with rubber surrounds and polypropylene cone.
  • Product Dimensions in Inches (Single): (W*H*D) 7.4” x 10.2” x 9.8”. Shipping Dimensions in Inches (For pair boxed): (W*H*D) 13.1” x 13.5” x 10.7”. Net Weight: 11.03 LBS. Shipping Weight: 13.24 LBS. Includes signal cable and power cord. Input Impedance (Ohms): 10 K Ohm Balanced. System Volume: (-30dB to +6dB). Inputs / Outputs / Controls:. Volume control. Independent High (–2dB – +1dB) and Low (–2dB – +2dB) frequency level controls. One each ¼” TRS and XLR balanced input jacks. RCA input.
Bestseller No. 5
Headliner HD3 3.5” Active Multimedia Reference Monitors, Limited Edition Red, HL90002
  • Handmade MDF cabinet for superior acoustics compared to plastic designs
  • Built-in protections include RF interference, output current limiting, over-temperature, on/off transient, and subsonic filter
  • Great for recording musicians, content creators, DJ’s, producers, audio engineers and music enthusiasts
  • Hear all the details with smooth and even frequency response thanks to custom fitted 3.5” woofer and 0.75” silk-domed tweeter
  • Convenient volume control on front panel for quick access

Passive Monitors

Passive monitors are a type of studio monitor that requires an external power amplifier to function. They are often less costly than active monitors but require more effort to set up and use. In this section, we will explore the different components that make up passive monitors.

Often less expensive than active monitorsRequires an external amplifier, which can be time-consuming to research and select
Can be paired with a wider range of amplifiers, giving you more flexibilityMay require more cables and connections than active monitors
If the amplifier fails, you only need to replace the amplifier, not the entire speaker

External Power Amplifier

One of the main differences between active and passive monitors is that passive monitors require an external power amplifier to function. This means that you need to choose and purchase an amplifier separately, which can be time-consuming and require research.

However, once you have a good amplifier, you can use it with multiple sets of passive monitors.

Speaker Drivers

The speaker drivers in a passive monitor are responsible for converting the electrical signals from the amplifier into sound. Passive monitors typically have two or more drivers, including a woofer for low frequencies and a tweeter for high frequencies.

The quality and size of the drivers can greatly affect the sound quality of the monitor.

Crossover Components

The crossover components in a passive monitor are responsible for dividing the audio signal into different frequency ranges and sending them to the appropriate drivers. Crossover components can include capacitors, inductors, and resistors. The quality of the crossover components can greatly affect the accuracy and clarity of the sound.

Speaker Cable

Passive monitors require a speaker cable to connect to the amplifier. The speaker cable’s quality can affect the monitor’s sound quality. Choosing a cable with the appropriate length and gauge for your setup is important to ensure optimal performance.

In summary, passive monitors require an external power amplifier with several components affecting their sound quality, including speaker drivers, crossover components, and speaker cables. While they may require more effort to set up and use, they can be cost-effective for home music production.

Bestseller No. 1
Behringer MONITOR1 Premium Passive Stereo Monitor and Volume Controller
  • Premium passive stereo volume controller and attenuator
  • Active-free circuitry guarantees purest signal path
  • Large Volume knob for extremely precise level adjustments
  • 2 high-quality XLR combo inputs and 3.5 mm (1/8”) stereo input perfectly connect to your DAW
  • 2 high-quality XLR outputs and 3.5 mm (1/8”) stereo output to connect to your studio monitors
Bestseller No. 2
Avantone Pro CLA10 Passive Studio Monitor – Pair
  • A re-creation of the iconic “white cone” speakers, trusted by engineers for decades
  • Physically and sonically identical to the original design
  • The exact frequency voicing ensures a mix that translates across all speakers
  • Higher-grade components ensure a longer lifespan
  • Passive, Full-Range Two-Way Stereo Pair
Bestseller No. 3
DYNASTY PROAUDIO PMC-2 Premium Passive 2 x 2 Studio Monitor Volume Controller
  • ✅ [Volume Control] It is designed for a precise volume control of analog audio signals and is inserted between analog signal sources and active speakers or amplifiers, also can be connected between a PC sound card or audio interface and monitor speakers, ideal for quick and easy level control by using your fingngertips with a large rotary control knob.
  • ✅ [Balanced Ins and Outs] The PMC-2 features the balanced combo XLR / Phone Jack, RCA Audio Line and Mini Jack TRS 3.5mm inputs, DIM & Mute/Mono switches, XLR Balanced/Phone Jack/Mini Jack output, and a large rotary volume control.
  • ✅ [Easy Setup] It is completely passive and does not require power supply, you can keep your software masters at unity and attenuate the audio to your active monitor speakers precisely with the PMC-2 while maintaining maximum audio resolution. Simply delivers an attenuated signal for pure transparent, without compromising your audio which is one of the man benefits of passive volume attenuation.
  • ✅ [Metal Enclosure Design] The PMC-2 is constructed with a solid build metal chassis that will withstand the rigors of the road, as well as the occasional accidents of home use.
Bestseller No. 4
Avantone Pro Passive MixCube (Pair) Black
  • General
  • Size: Near-field
  • System type: Passive
  • Configuration: Single driver
  • Drivers
Bestseller No. 5
Seismic Audio – Passive 12 Inch Floor Wedge Style Monitor – Studio, Stage, or Floor use – PA/DJ Speakers – Bar, Band, Karaoke, Church, Drummer use
  • Model # – SA-12M – Passive 12 Inch Floor Wedge Style Monitor | Requires External Amplifier
  • Woofer – 12” 2 way crossover w/ a 40 oz magnet & 2” voice coil.  150 Watts RMS – 300 Peak.
  • Wired at 8 ohms.  45Hz –20KHz  Sensitivity: 97 db .  Piezo Tweeter – 4×10
  • 5/8 plywood front panel.  Black carpet with black metal corners.  Recessed handles
  • Full Metal Grill.  Input terminal with two 1/4″ inputs.  Dual ports.  One year warranty | Dimensions: 21” tall – 15” wide – 24” deep

RELATED: Are Passive Studio Monitors Good? (Beginner Friendly Guide)

Choosing Between Active and Passive Monitors

When it comes to choosing between active and passive monitors, there are several factors you need to consider. Here, we will discuss some of the most important factors to help you make an informed decision.

Room Acoustics

The acoustics of your room play a crucial role in determining the sound quality of your monitors. If your room is not properly treated, it can lead to issues such as standing waves, reflections, and other acoustic problems that can affect your monitoring accuracy.

Active monitors are often designed to compensate for some of these issues, with built-in EQ and other features that can help optimize the sound of your room. On the other hand, passive monitors require more careful consideration of your room’s acoustics, as they do not have these built-in features.

RELATED: Do I need a passive or active stage monitor?


Impedance is a measure of the resistance that a speaker presents to an electrical signal. When choosing between active and passive monitors, it is important to consider, as it can affect your system’s overall sound quality and performance.

Active monitors typically have a lower impedance than passive monitors, which means they require less power to drive. This can make them more efficient and easier to use in some cases.

However, it also means that they may be more susceptible to noise and interference from other electrical devices.

On the other hand, passive monitors require a separate amplifier to drive them, which can provide more power and control over the sound. However, this also means that you need to choose an amplifier that is matched to the impedance of your monitors, which can be more complicated.

Line Level Signal

Another important factor to consider when choosing between active and passive monitors is the line-level signal. This is the signal that is sent from your audio interface or mixer to your monitors, and it can affect the overall sound quality and performance of your system.

Active monitors typically have a built-in amplifier that can boost the line-level signal, which can provide more headroom and better performance. On the other hand, passive monitors require a separate amplifier to boost the line-level signal, which can introduce more noise and distortion.

Monitor Speaker

Finally, you must consider the monitor speaker when choosing between active and passive monitors. Many different types of speakers are available, each with its unique sound and characteristics.

Active monitors often have a more consistent and predictable sound, as they are designed to work together as a system. On the other hand, passive monitors can be paired with a wide range of different amplifiers and speakers, allowing for more customization and flexibility.

Ultimately, the choice between active and passive monitors depends on your specific needs and preferences. By considering factors such as room acoustics, impedance, line level signal, and monitor speaker, you can make an informed decision that will help you achieve the best possible sound quality in your home studio.


Choosing between active and passive studio monitors depends on your specific needs and preferences. Both types of monitors have their advantages and disadvantages.

Passive monitors are more versatile as far as amplifier matching is concerned. They also tend to be more affordable and can be easily upgraded. However, they require more setup and calibration, and you need to make sure that your amplifier is powerful enough to drive them.

On the other hand, active monitors are more convenient and self-contained. They have built-in amplifiers that match the drivers well, which results in better sound quality. They also require less setup and calibration; you don’t need to worry about matching amplifiers and speakers.

Both types of monitors can be used effectively when it comes to mixing and recording. However, active monitors tend to be more popular in professional studios because they are more accurate and reliable.

In terms of power rating, both active and passive monitors come in various wattage levels. Choosing a monitor that matches your room size and listening volume is important.

For mastering, using mid-range speakers or headphones with a flat frequency response that can reveal subtle details in your mix is recommended.

Finally, it’s important to consider the acoustics of your room when choosing studio monitors. You may need to treat your room with acoustic panels or bass traps to minimize reflections and standing waves.

RELATED: How Do I Use Passive Speakers as Studio Monitors? (Solved)

Choosing the right studio monitors is crucial for producing high-quality music at home. We hope this guide has helped you understand the differences between active and passive monitors and which one is the best fit for your needs.

Jacob Miller

Hi, I'm Jacob Miller, and welcome to AudioOver, a platform designed to help aspiring music producers create music from home. With a musical background inspired by my award-winning father, I've been passionate about music since I was young.

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