If you're part of an aspiring group and have been practising hard together, you may finally be ready for your first big gig. This is going to take place in a local park, and you expect great attendance, so you've got to prepare carefully from a technical perspective as well. You'll be learning a lot about public address systems as you proceed and may have come across the terms 'active' and 'passive' in relation to your speakers. What is the primary difference here and which should you choose?
Powered Versus Non-powered
These two terms refer to the difference between non-powered and powered speakers, in essence. The latter category includes a variety of features in addition to built-in powered amps, and they are the most flexible option of all. Non-powered speakers, on the other hand, are passive and require an independent amplifier or mixing console in order to function. These can be more effective at building a more complicated rig, however, and they may be an option for you to consider.
An active speaker is a feat of engineering in its own right. In addition to the built-in power amps, you will find a variety of other controls that will allow you to fine-tune the equaliser, crossover frequency, signal filtering, limiter, peak signal and handling levels. These are quite popular because they can often control much of the hard work in-house without you having to worry too much about it. If you use several, however, you will need to patch them to a mixing desk to control all the levels. These days, you may even be able to connect similar instruments using wireless connectivity when working with the latest equipment.
Passive systems can be used in medium to large venues, but they must be correctly configured with all of the other equipment. You need to ensure that component parts like the mixer, amplifier and instruments 'talk' properly to each other, as otherwise, you could encounter signal distortion and a generally bad experience.
Finally, remember that you may need simple but well-configured monitor speakers so that you can hear your output at close range and not be confused by any system distortion.
Making Your Choice
In your case, you may be better off choosing an active system and getting used to that type of equipment. You can always trade up to something else for your next big gig.
Contact a local speaker system hire company to learn more about what type of speaker would suit your needs.