Powered speakers, also known as self-powered speakers or active speakers, offer a superior sound quality over normal speakers. Also, because they have a built-in amplifier, you do not need an external amplification system. In the past, their high price kept them out of reach for many people.

However, in recent years they have become much more affordable. Although, it is important to remember that there are a wide variety of options available on the U.S market, each offering different features and benefits.

Key Facts

  • Powered speakers, or active speakers, are speakers that do not require an external amplifier because  one is built into them. This allows the speakers to be directly connected to the audio source.
  • In general, the construction and design of the transducers (or drivers), the frequency filters, the acoustics, the insulation, and the shape of the box all influence the sound quality of the speakers.
  • Powered speakers have several uses, mainly for professionals. They are often used by sound engineers, DJ’s, and sound producers.

Ranking: The best powered speakers on the U.S. market

In this section, we have created a ranking of the top 5 powered speakers available on the market today. With so many options, it can be difficult to know which is the best option for you. To make the decision easier for you, we have selected the top 5 based on different aspects such as user reviews, prices, features, and more!

No. 1: Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers

First in our ranking is a number one best seller, so it is no surprise that these speakers come very highly rated. This speaker comes with a convenient remote control system that allows you to adjust the volume and other controls at your fingertips. The polished wood design is also a stylish addition to any home.

This speaker can connect to any device that has a 3.5mm headphone output or dual RCA output. You can even connect to two devices via AUX at the same time, no plugging and switching needed. The speaker is also able to connect to a PC, laptop, tablet, phone or record player!

No. 2: Edifier R980T 4″ Active Bookshelf Speakers

These stylish black wooden speakers are designed with the ultimate acoustics and sound quality in mind. With these speakers, you can easily connect to any device that has a 3.5mm headphone output or dual RCA output. Like the first in our ranking, you are also able to connect to two devices via AUX at the same time.

These “bookshelf” also have a compact design, made to fit in perfectly with other household decor. Control the sound of your music with volume and bass knobs that easily adjust both the audio and bass levels. At a low price of only $70, these speakers have excellent value for money.

No. 3: Audioengine A5 Plus Classic 150W Powered Bookshelf Speakers

Audioengine is a US based company that has been providing quality sound equipment for both professional and at-home speaker systems. These speakers are compatible with any computer, and come with a remote control, similar to the first in our ranking. It is also able to connect to any iPod, iPhone, and iPad.

According to the manufacturer, these A5+ powered speakers play a bass sound very near to the originally-recorded music. With an easy set up, these speakers involve no network setup, passwords to enter, or buttons to push. Simply connect your phone, computer, TV, turntable or any other audio gear for great stereo sound in any room.

No. 4: PreSonus Eris E3.5 – 3.5″ Professional Multimedia Monitors

Presonus is a well-known and trusted brand, and their studio monitors are used worldwide by audio engineers who need to hear every detail of their recordings. These speakers promise to deliver studio quality sound right in your home. This speaker may be small, but it is not at all quiet, thanks to a 50W (25W/side) class AB power amp.

For only $100, these speakers are a very affordable option in our ranking. According to the manufacturer, these speakers are the only monitors in their class with acoustic tuning. So you can be certain you are getting studio quality sound from a professional brand.

No. 5: ION Audio Powered Speaker Cabinet

Also a best seller, these ION audio powered speakers offer dynamic, powerful sound. The 8-inch woofer and wide dispersion tweeter deliver clear, lifelike sound, while the 100-watt peak power amplifier pumps up the volume and bass.

Its portable design also allows it to be easily taken to parties, or back and forth between studio and home. This speaker features wheels and two conveniently located carrying handles. Plus, it also includes a microphone, which is great for public speaking, karaoke and more.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about powered speakers

If you are considering buying a powered speaker, it is important that you consider a few key criteria. Not all speakers offer the same benefits, and they are all designed for different uses. We have created this section to help make your decision process easier and help you choose the right powered speaker.

They are recommended for professionals, since their sound quality is better than passive equipment.
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What are powered speakers exactly?

Powered speakers are speakers that do not require an external amplifier, because they already have one integrated into them. They usually have a tweeter for high frequencies, a woofer for low frequencies, and of course a built in amplifier. With all of these components, they are able to function independently.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of powered speakers?

Using a powered speaker is very easy. Simply connect to your output device, and you’re basically done! These active speakers offer better sound quality over passive speakers, and consume less power. However, they tend to be more expensive and heavier, since they have more internal elements.

Advantages Disadvantages
They do not require an amplifier. Simply connect them to your output device, and they are ready to use. Because of this, they are quicker to use than passive equipment.

They offer better sound quality over passive speakers, as well as produce a more neutral sound.

It is possible to use sharper filters. This prevents the transducers from receiving signals that are outside their operating range because they have not been sufficiently decreased.

The design of the speakers is made specifically for the characteristics of the transducer or the box.

For the same amount of power, the consumption is less than a passive speaker.

They have their own cooling system to prevent overheating and damage.

They have multiple inputs and outputs, and can connect with other amplification systems (always active).

The price is much higher than passive equipment.

They are heavier, since they have more internal parts than passive speakers.

If you use them at large events or outdoor spaces, you may have problems with electricity. This is because active devices need to be connected individually.

Who should use powered speakers?

You might be interested in buying a powered speaker if you are setting up a home studio. Powered speakers are a great option for producing in-house music. They are also great for playing music in open spaces where you need an amplifier.

Of course, powered speakers are also recommended for professionals, since they offer superior sound quality when compared to passive equipment. They are especially ideal for sound engineers, music producers, and for DJ’s.

What types of powered speakers are there?

Powered speakers or monitors can be classified into three groups: near-field, mid-field, and far-field monitors. In the following table, you can see the main features of each type, organized into different categories. This way, you can better understand the differences.

Features Near-Field Monitors Mid-Field Monitors Far-Field Monitors
Size Smaller size. Larger size and wider frequency range. Much larger size.

This equipment is usually fixed to a wall.

Primary Use Used in small or medium-sized rooms. They have different uses, both at-home and professional. They can be fixed to a wall. Designed to be used in professional studios.

They have a frequency range that can reach most of the frequencies of the human ear.

Price In general, they are very economical and do not require much investment. Their price is higher than the near-field monitors, but not as high as the far-field monitors. Their price is quite high and is meant for professionals.
Power They do not give much power. Their power is higher than that of the near-field monitors. They reach considerably high power levels.
Woofers They normally have 4 to 6-inch woofers. 7 to 10-inch woofers. They have 7 to 10-inch woofers.

What factors influence the sound quality of powered speakers?

Generally, a series of factors can influence the sound quality. The first and most important is the construction and design of the transducers, or divers. Another important factor is the frequency filters. Another key factor is the acoustic box, and more specifically the formats and materials they are made of.

Normally, medium density wood is used as material. However, low end equipment may be made out of plastic. Lastly, the internal sound insulation and shape of the box will also influence the sound quality.

Many self-powered devices have their own equalization system.
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What should you take into account when using powered speakers?

Firstly, it is important to remember to turn off the speakers when you change connections to prevent damage. You should also consider the wiring of the cables. This is often not thought about, however it is important because it can cause problems if not done right.

Ideally, you should use cables that are specifically made for speakers. Also, it is important that they are not too tight or bent. In the same way, you should not use a cable that connects to other devices besides speakers, to avoid possible electrical noise.

Shopping Criteria

Once you have decided to purchase a powered speaker, it is important to consider a few things. To make it easier for you, we have created a list of what we feel are the most important things to take into account when buying a powered speaker. We hope that this guide is useful to you and helps you make the best decision! You should consider:

  • Use
  • Power
  • Size
  • Connectivity
  • Equalization
  • Brand

Use

The first question you should ask yourself when buying a powered speaker is what you will use it for. You need different equipment for professional use than you do for listing to music at-home. For the latter, low end speakers will be sufficient.

Professionals will need higher end equipment. For this, one option may be the affordable PreSonus Eri Professional speakers. For at-home listening, we recommend the Edifier R1280T speakers. When purchasing these speakers, it is important to consider where you will use them. 

Henry BestonAmerican writer

“The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach.”

Power

Power, measured in watts (W) is that maximum pressure that a speaker can withstand before the sound begins to distort. Of the different levels of power, you should be aware of the nominal power, or RMS, as this refers to how much continuous power the speaker can handle.

If you need a speaker to use in small spaces, a device that has 300 W of power should be enough. However, for larger open spaces or concerts, you will need a speaker with at least 600 W of power. Keep in mind, the more power the speaker has, the more electricity it will use.

It is important to remember to turn off the speakers when you change connections, as this will prevent damage.
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Size

The size of speaker you will need will depend on how you plan to use it and the location you will use it in. You will normally find speakers that are between 10″ and 12″. However, for a small room, you should be able to use 8″ speakers. Large equipment can reach up to 15″.

Connectivity

When thinking about buying a powered speaker, it is important to consider what connection options the speaker has. In particular, if it has a wireless connection via bluetooth or wifi. You need to have in mind what type of connection you will need for your devices. You may also need USB ports to connect USB flash drives, hard drives, or SD card readers.

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Remember, if you are using a microphone, you will need a 6.3mm jack or XLR connection, as these are the most common.

Equalization

Many powered speakers have their own equalization system. In general, this system will be very basic and is normally located at the back of the speaker. Nevertheless, this is an option if you do not want to depend on an external system.

How you will use the speaker should determine which size you purchase.
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Brand

There is no doubt that purchasing a powered speaker from a high-end brand will guarantee the best quality and good customer service. For the best brands, we recommend Yamaha, Audioengine, PreSonus, and ION. For speaker that will be used at-home, a good option is Edifier.

Yamaha is a Japanese multinational company with a very wide range of products and services, both professional and domestic. Audioengine creates premium home Bluetooth speakers, Bluetooth receivers and powered speakers. No matter which well-known brand you choose, you can be guaranteed a good quality speaker.

Summary

Powered speakers have many uses both professionally and at-home. Their main advantages is they have their own amplification system built into the speaker itself. They also offer a better sound quality over passive speakers. Of course, this does mean the price may be higher.

When considering to purchase a powered speaker, it is important to consider what it will be used for. You should also consider certain shopping criteria such as power, size, connectivity options, and brand. Fortunately, powered speakers have become much more affordable in recent years.

Finally, if this guide has helped you choose a powered speaker, leave us a comment below and share on social media!

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