Active vs Passive HiFi Speakers: What’s the Difference

When selecting the right speakers for your home audio, deciding between active and passive HiFi speakers is crucial. Each type has advantages and considerations catering to different preferences and uses.

Whether you're an audiophile, or simply looking to upgrade your home theatre setup, understanding the differences between these speaker types is essential when selecting a sound system for your home.
In this blog post, we'll dive into the distinctions between active and passive high-fidelity speakers, exploring their features and benefits to help you discover which option is best suited to your unique needs.

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KEF Muon, Blade Two Meta & Reference  Floorstanding speakers

What are active HiFi speakers?

Active speakers, also known as powered, wireless HiFi speakers, feature built-in amplifiers. This means the speaker system only needs a power source and doesn't require an external amplifier to produce sound. Each speaker has a dedicated amplifier in an active speaker system, providing a more streamlined and efficient audio setup.

KEF LS Wireless Collection

At KEF, we offer a selection of active HiFi speakers for you to choose from, including LSX II LT, LSX II, LS50 Wireless II, and LS60 Wireless.

Honing years of acoustic knowledge, KEF has carefully crafted a selection of wireless audio systems tailored to bring you music the way it was intended.

This bespoke collection allows you to indulge in the seamless convenience of digital technology, where every chord struck and note played is rich with the realism of genuine high-fidelity sound.

KEF Muon, Blade Two Meta & Reference  Floorstanding speakers

What are the main advantages of active HiFi speakers?

One of the primary advantages of active HiFi speakers is their ease of use. Since the amplifier is built into the speaker, users don't need to worry about matching amplifiers with speakers or dealing with complex wiring during setup. This results in a more convenient, user-friendly experience, making active HiFi speakers an excellent choice.

Plus, with the freedom to position your speakers wherever works best in your room, you can enjoy a hassle-free audio solution with matching accessories, such as the B1 Wall Bracket for LSX II, or dedicated stands like the S2 Floor Stand for LS50 Wireless II.

Another key benefit is the potential for optimised speaker performance. With dedicated amplifiers for each speaker, your sound system can be fine-tuned for optimal performance, delivering a more precise and controlled audio experience.

And, of course, active HiFi speakers, such as the speaker systems in our LS Wireless Collection, have extensive connectivity options that allow you to listen from any compatible device or source. From accessing your entire music library as you connect to your preferred streaming service or seamlessly switching to an optical input for immersive TV viewing or gaming, active HiFi speakers allow you to enjoy your music however you choose

KEF Muon, Blade Two Meta & Reference  Floorstanding speakers

How do active HiFi speakers work?

Active HiFi speakers feature built-in DACs, DSP, and amplifiers, all in one package, that directly power the speaker's drivers. The speaker system receives the audio stream from the source, either digital or analogue, processes it, and then sends it to the amplifier to drive the speaker drivers, producing sound.

The result? An undeniably immersive sound as authentic as the artist intended. 

Can active HiFi speakers be used for both audio and home theatre systems?

Yes, active speakers are versatile and can be used for various audio applications, including stereo setups, home theatres, and even professional studios. Their all-in-one design simplifies the setup process for both beginners and audio enthusiasts.

KEF Muon, Blade Two Meta & Reference  Floorstanding speakers

What are passive HiFi speakers?

In contrast, passive HiFi speakers, also known as wired speakers, do not have built-in amplifiers. Instead, they rely on external amplifiers to power the speakers and produce sound, taking a more traditional approach to audio systems.

KEF HiFi Collection

In our HiFi Collection, we have a range of state-of-the-art speakers that will transform any space, filling it with crystal-clear sound quality, including Muon, Blade, The Reference and LS50 Meta.

Each is unique in design but uniform in innovation, delivering world-class sound.

KEF Muon, Blade Two Meta & Reference  Floorstanding speakers

What are the benefits of using passive HiFi speakers in a sound system?

Passive HiFi speakers offer flexibility in terms of amplifier choice. Users can select amplifiers that match their preferences and system requirements, allowing for more customisation in building a sound setup.

Do passive HiFi speakers require external amplifiers?

Yes, passive HiFi speakers need external amplifiers to function. The amplifier is responsible for receiving the audio signal, amplifying it, and then sending it to the speakers.

Comparing sound quality

When it comes to choosing speakers for your home audio or professional sound system, the decision between active and passive speakers is entirely personal. Each type has its distinctive application, so the choice is entirely yours.  

It is always wise to speak with an authorised KEF dealer about which model is right for you.  The in-store experts can advise on the best model for your space and budget, and offer guidance on any matching components needed for your setup. Plus, many stores are also able to host in-store demonstrations of your preferred KEF model in their listening rooms. If you are ready to book a KEF demo, our simple online booking form makes it easy to arrange your listening session.

KEF Muon, Blade Two Meta & Reference  Floorstanding speakers

Which type of speakers typically offer better sound quality?

The debate over sound quality between active and passive speakers is subjective and depends on various factors, including the quality of components, design, and engineering.

Some argue that active wireless HiFi speakers, with their dedicated amplifiers and optimised systems, can offer superior sound quality. However, high-end HiFi speakers paired with a quality accompanying sound system and a wired connection can also deliver exceptional audio experiences.

Overall, with the application of cutting-edge audio technologies in today’s wireless speakers, such as KEF’s Music Integrity Engine, the difference in sound quality is becoming less and both wired and wireless speakers can deliver high-resolution performances.


Do active speakers require more setup and configuration compared to passive speakers?

When it comes to setup and configuration, active speakers often offer a more straightforward experience. Since the amplifiers are built-in, users don't need to worry about matching amplifiers with speakers or dealing with complex wiring setups. This simplicity can save time and effort during the initial setup process.

Can passive speakers be converted into active speakers?

While it's technically possible to convert passive speakers into active speakers by adding external amplifiers and other components, it's not a common practice.

The design and engineering of active speakers are specifically tailored to work with their built-in amplifiers, and attempting to convert passive speakers may lead to compatibility issues and compromised performance.

Are active speakers generally more expensive than passive speakers?

The cost of speakers varies widely based on brand, features, and overall quality. While some high-end active speakers can be expensive, budget-friendly options are also available.

Similarly, passive speakers come in a range of price points. When comparing prices, considering the overall system cost, including amplifiers and other components, is essential.

What additional costs should be considered when choosing between active and passive speakers?

When considering costs, buyers should account for any additional equipment needed. Keep in mind that active speaker models in the LS Wireless Collection each include an array of sophisticated built-in components, including dedicated power amps and DACs per channel, plus a streaming pre-amp so you may only need to consider adding accessories such as speaker stands or perhaps an optional subwoofer if desired.

For passive speakers, external amplifiers and other components are necessary. Users should also consider potential upgrades or replacements when planning their audio systems.

Are there any long-term cost implications to be aware of?

The long-term cost implications depend on factors such as system maintenance, potential upgrades, and the durability of components.

Active speakers with built-in amplifiers may have fewer components to maintain, potentially reducing long-term costs. On the other hand, passive speakers with separate amplifiers provide more flexibility for upgrades and replacements.

Explore KEF’s active and passive speakers

The choice between active and passive speakers ultimately depends on individual preferences, specific uses, and budget considerations. Both types have many advantages; the decision should align with the intentions for your audio system.

Whether you prioritise simplicity, customisation, or specific sound characteristics, there's a speaker solution that fits your needs within our extensive state-of-the-art collection.

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