Powered speakers are used in a wide range of live sound reinforcement applications, including musical performances, lectures, presentations and more. They're also known as self-powered speakers or active speakers because they have power amplifiers built in. JBL powered speakers were one of the first to market in the form of monitor speakers, and many professional speaker manufacturers have followed.
Powered vs. Unpowered
The main difference between a powered speaker and an unpowered one is the location of the power amplifier used to deliver power to the drivers. With a powered speaker, the amplifier is internal to the speaker; with unpowered, the amplifier is a separate piece of equipment.
You can consider a powered speaker as an all-in-one solution, comparable to a guitar amplifier. Everything needed to use the speaker is built into the device's cabinet. This includes a power amplifier to power the speaker, a crossover to tell each driver which frequency range to reproduce, and a signal processor including equalization. Most powered PA speakers also consist of a mixer module with microphone preamps so you can plug a microphone or instrument directly into it. You'll also need live sound speaker stands and mounts to get the speaker to the correct height for optimal sound.
An unpowered speaker requires an external power amplifier to function. You'll also need other audio system components, including a mixer, to get a signal to the speaker. In this scenario, you'll need to match the power amplifier to the speaker, being cognizant of impedance and power ratings. These live-sound speakers are a great choice for permanent installations where you can customize all the components, giving you greater versatility for expanding the system when needed.
Advantages of Using Powered Speakers
Powered speakers are a simple solution for live sound. The setup is quick and easy, and perfect if you need one speaker for a basic public address or multiple speakers for a musical performance. It's important to know that all the internal components are compatible and expertly tuned by the manufacturer, giving you the best possible sound. Some are even battery-operated models, so you don't even need to plug them into an electrical outlet. With integrated digital signal processing, you can control most with your smartphone, letting you fine-tune your setup. Powered speaker enclosures are designed with an angled back, so you can use them as mains for the audience or as monitors on the floor facing back toward the band. Consider speaker cases and covers as a smart investment for protecting your gear when you're on your way to the next gig.
Whether you're looking for live sound speaker accessories, a complete speaker system, or PA speakers and accessories, B&H Photo and Video has you covered with a wide selection of professional audio equipment.