Today I came across the following statement regarding the history and technology of sound equipment:

Regarding the operation of audio equipment, judge the subsequent item.

A revolution in sound systems occurred with the appearance of active loudspeakers, which have the capacity to regulate their volume gains, bass, medium and treble, in addition to allowing to feed a passive loudspeaker, the one that only receives amplification, either from an active box, or an amplifier.

It was a test question that I had to classify as right or wrong. The answer says it's wrong, but, what is wrong with this statement?


Another translation to help you to understand:

A revolution in sound systems occurred with the emergence of active speakers, which have the ability to regulate their volume, bass, medium and treble gains. They also allow you to feed a passive speaker, which is a loudspeaker that only receives amplification, either the amplification coming from an active speaker or the amplification coming from an amplifier.

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    I wouldn't consider the emergence of active loudspeakers to be a revolution, as it is only putting inside the loudspeaker an amplifier that could very well sit outside. The emergence of line arrays on the other hand seems to be a revolutionary change to live sound reinforcement.
    – audionuma
    Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 18:26
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    "ability to regulate their volume" etc. bothers me - idk whether this is supposed to be some kind of active feedback/compression system, or whether they just have volume, x-over controls at the back. [I'm a bit old school on this. I have 'active' monitors, but really the 'active' part just means they have a couple of amps in each speaker & an adjustable roll-off, not that they try to measure the room for you or apply 'consumer niceties' like Audessy to the output… which I wouldn't want anyway.]
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 19:13
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    The translation of the thing between “bass” and “treble” should be “middle”, not “medium” Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 20:57
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    @Tetsujin I think it might be alluding to line array systems with active elements that can be remote control to tune the array. But the same can be done with passive enclosures and remote controlled power amps. Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 20:59
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    @Tetsujin same here dude on the old school active monitors
    – n00dles
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 16:04

3 Answers 3


The part that says "They also allow you to feed a passive speaker" is not true. There are some consumer products that have one "active" speaker containing the amp for both channels and one passive, but I wouldn't want to see a setup like this in a pro situation, and that's not normally what we mean when we say "active speakers".

  • I'm really not remembering a passive speaker being fed by another active speaker. I imagine that the amplifier integrated into the speaker of the active box is just designed to amplify the signal for it and not for second speaker too.
    – Daniel
    Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 22:48
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    Pretty much every set of desktop computer speakers you've ever seen operate this way. I have a pair of these speakers in my house, which are nothing more than an evolved version of the same thing. Great, convenient, but not for pro work. Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 17:41

(I'll still post this answer I drafted yesterday, as it's got more on the term "revolution")

The second translation is better, but still not perfect, but ignoring the grammar and terminology issues, I'd say this line is the bit that's incorrect:

They also allow you to feed a passive speaker

The amplifier in an active speaker only feeds the enclosed speaker system. You don't feed other speakers with active speakers. They only power themselves. They are designed to be isolated systems, ideally calibrated for the included speaker system only.

Other than that, I wouldn't say the emergence of actively powered speakers was a "revolution" in sound systems. But that is debatable. To me, examples of revolutions in sound systems are A/D converters (PCM), the valve, the transistor and the DSP chip, to name a few. They are things that brought about a surge of new devices that changed the landscape, and I don't think actively powered speakers did.

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    I think this question uses the "revolution" thing as a red herring. It's a matter of opinion or debate, as you point out, and therefore irrelevant to the overall truth of the statement. Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 17:31
  • @DataProcessing Yeah you may be right there
    – n00dles
    Commented Jan 21, 2023 at 17:37

Standalone passive speakers require standardising on impedance, frequency response and some other characteristics. However, tube amplifiers are high-impedance by default (as opposed to dynamic speakers) and use output transformers. Solid-state amps, in contrast, are designed to be voltage followers (zero impedance) and speaker design has progressed to the state where speakers offer a reasonably straightforward relation between voltage and sound output.

So nowadays power amps and speakers are easy to design separately, making design and evolution of passive speakers and of power amps separately feasible. But that wasn't the state of things initially, so active systems designed while matching individual characteristics of the other components were the rule rather than the exception.

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