This is the fifth in the series of posts on “More Than You Wanted to Know About Sound Systems.”
The newer and still evolving speaker package ACTIVE SPEAKERS, require a mic cord or instrument cable for audio input and AC power. Make sure you bring extension cords!
What’s Built In
You can get many things built into an active speaker:
- wireless mics
- Bluetooth controlling EQ
Make sure you’re going to use the options because they cost money and take away from other features you might need.
What Are the Advantages?
The first big advantage of active speakers is that they have protection. Limiters are built in to prevent you from blowing speakers. This was a problem we had a lot when we played REALLY LOUD in the old days or when a mic stand fell over.
An active speaker can be turned up until the red overload or limit light flickers, and you’re fairly safe in getting the absolute most out of your speaker without damage. (CAUTION: If it distorts, turn it down).
A second advantage is the versatility. A solo performer can get by on a two-input speaker, and any size mixer or audio source can be used with an active speaker. If you also play in a bigger band, it can be used as your monitor.
Most keyboard players and a few bass players use them for their instrument instead of floor style amps. Guitar players can use an amp simulator into an active speaker to get the real sound that comes out of PA anyway.
Don’t Buy Top of the Line
I recommend against buying the top-end active speakers. You can’t use two thousand watts of power. These high-powered speakers are made for towers and flying at very high volume a long distance from the audience. Compare max SPL, big money for a few extra dB.
You can’t use 2,000 watts of power.
Also, the smallest packages are called personal monitors, not PA speakers. Ten-inch, two-way speakers are the smallest practical size to get usable volume, even in a quiet room.
What active speakers lack are effects and monitor mixes. So they are not a whole PA, but a big building block.
Other Ways to Use Active Speakers
You should get a lot of use out of a good active speaker. Consider using it for personal rehearsal or even a home stereo!