Tips to Hook Up Passive and Powered Speakers Together

So you’ve started working in the music industry, and you realize that there’s more to it than just arranging music and getting your vocals straight. Whether you’re a singer, a songwriter, or an amateur DJ, what you need is for the world first to hear what you have to offer. They won’t, though, if you don’t know how to set up your speakers.

There are two kinds of speakers, the passive speakers, and the powered speakers (active speakers). While all of them are designed to amplify music and sounds, each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses.

Before sharing the tips on how you can combine active and passive speakers together, let us briefly discuss the differences between the two.


What are Passive Speakers?

A passive speaker is the type of speaker that consists of crossover components that split the audio signal and sends those signals directly to the loudspeakers. These audio signals are driven by separate, individual amplifiers that help in sending the full audio signal towards the speakers. This article gives you more details about powering passive speakers without an amplifier.

The highlight of passive speakers is that they do not have an internal power source. Instead, passive speakers are to be latched onto another component (mixers, subwoofers, etc.) from which they can draw power from. However, you can’t just plug them onto an iPod.

Passive speakers cannot be powered by 3.5mm jacks; they would need to be connected to an external power source using speaker wires.

What are Powered ( Active ) Speakers?

Powered speakers are the most popular choice of speakers for its compactness and portability. It is often manufactured for use with home theater systems, computers, Bluetooth-enabled devices, and many more.

Unlike the passive speakers that do not have their own internal power source, powered speakers have built-in amplifiers that can be powered by simply plugging the speakers into a power outlet.

If you’re wondering which of these two speakers is more complicated to set up, the answer would probably be the passive speakers. Since it needs an external power source, you’ll have to look for an external amplifier, or a powered speaker to connect it to.

The Steps to Hook Up Passive and Powered Speakers Together ( Combine active and passive speakers )

We share the steps that’ll help you connect passive and powered speakers together. This is done so as not to overwhelm the power supply with multiple powered speakers.

STEP ONE: Knowing Your Speakers

It’s important to learn the technical makeup of the speakers to know how it’ll function and how much power you’ll need to get it working. Usually, speakers have their manuals where it’s written how much voltage is needed to power them up.

STEP TWO: Know How Much Wire You’ll Need

Get a generous amount of speaker wire and start measuring how long you’ll need for the connection. Connect one end of the wire to the power source, and the other end to the exact location you plan to put the passive speaker. Note that you need to make room for any unforeseen changes in the placement of the speakers.

STEP THREE: Preparing the Speaker Wires

The first step here is to scrape off the plastic covering the wire until the wire beneath shows. Most would just use regular cutters or scissors; others use a wire stripper that’s specifically designed for this purpose. To determine the exact gauge of the wire, you can either ask the salesman at the hardware store before buying or look for it printed somewhere on the spool.

To use the wire stripper, insert the wire through the matching slot. Gently pull the stripper towards the nearest end until the plastic coating comes off. If you’re using scissors, carefully cut the plastic covering, carefully avoiding the wire itself.

STEP FOUR: Make the Connection

Start connecting the speaker wires to the terminals, which you can find behind the speakers. There are two types of wire terminals, namely the tabs and the circular connections.

Tabs have small pieces of colored plastic under it, with holes designed to accommodate the wires. These red or black plastic, when pressed, will cause the tab to open for the wires to pass.

Circular connections also have wire terminals, but the only way to access these terminals is if you rotate the colored connectors in a counter-clockwise motion.

The guide below is a pretty good summary explaining how to connect passive speakers to a powered speaker. Basically, there are two ways you can connect the passive speakers to the powered speakers: standard, and bi-wiring.

  • For standard connection:
    Take the RED (+) terminal of the LEFT passive speaker and connect it to the RED (+) terminal located on the LEFT of the powered speaker. Now do the same with the BLACK (-) terminal of the passive speaker, connecting it to the BLACK (-) terminal on the RIGHT powered speaker. 



  • For Bi-Wiring:
    Here, you will have to connect the bass and treble networks of the speaker to an amplifier for the added richness of bass and dynamic range.
    Start by preparing two twin cables, one for each speaker. Unscrew or open all terminals, and remove the links afterward. The next step is to connect the bass and treble terminals using the same method laid out in Standard Connection. 



Note that most speaker wires have some label or identification on the spool to help you determine which wire is which. Usually, some wires are manufactured with red stripes on one side so you can tell them apart.

More Tips

After connecting passive speakers to powered speakers, don’t jump right into playing music yet. Here are a few more tips to make sure there’ll be nothing but the crisp sound coming out of your speakers.

  • Fine-tune your music by listening to it on medium volume, and start making adjustments from there. Make sure that the bass doesn’t overpower the treble too much, or all your audience will herr is rhythmic pounding.

    • Ensure that all connections are tight and sturdy to avoid technical interruptions. This includes checking the power supply connection, and whether or not there is enough to continuously power all the speakers connected to it.

1 thought on “Tips to Hook Up Passive and Powered Speakers Together”

  1. I have been using passive speakers for years and I have just bought a Vonyx active 15″ 400rms active speaker. I only bought 1 so I am trying to make sure I get the connections correct.
    My passive setup was easy: Amp to the mixer using RCA cables for the left and right into the mixer. Speakon cables to the left and right speakers from the amp. Laptop into the mixer for the music/karaoke.
    All the video I find including yours are not helpful since what I want to make sure is this:
    I want to run the one active speaker and one passive speaker(Left/Right), it seems I can not daisy chain the passive and active together.So this is what I think I should do but not 100% sure.
    Set up my gear like normal(as if I was using 2 passive) but only have one RCA cable for the left speaker(amp channel A to mixer left side)then Speakon in channel A of the amp to the passive speaker.Basically the same as I used to do but do it only for one speaker then (and this is what I am not 100% sure about)
    XLR on the active speaker to mixer right side.
    I then would have my passive playing the left channel and the active playing the right channel.
    My mixer only have 1/4 inch mixer out and no XLR(other than the 8 XLR used for microphones) and all the video I have seen show the speakers going into the mixer out.
    So is this the way to go ?


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