How To Combine Active And Passive Speakers In A Home Theater

Active speakers have a built-in amplifier and don’t need to be plugged into the receiver for your home theater system. But, how exactly do you combine active speakers and passive speakers?

As a general rule, active speakers need to be plugged into a different location to passive speakers. You plug active speakers into either the ‘pre-out ports or the Zone 2 ports because It allows a signal to pass through the receiver without amplification. The passive speakers will be in the speaker zone.

This article will cover everything you need to know about how to combine active and passive speakers, what to watch out for, and where the ports are located.

Can You Connect Active Speakers To A Home Theater System?

Active speakers are great to use as computer speakers because they don’t need a separate receiver or amp. They are also more portable and easy to move around. But, can you use active speakers with a home theater system?

As a whole, because an active speaker has a built-in amplifier if you plug it into your receiver – it will amplify the audio output twice which can blow your active speakers. You need to instead plug them into specific ports on your receiver or amp known as pre-outs.

In some receivers also have Zone 2 and Zone 3 ports that will work the same as the pre-outs. Each receiver and amplifier is slightly different but these ports are very easy to locate and are situated at the back of your receiver. 

Pre-outs are specifically designed so that you can plug active speakers into them without blowing the speakers

It also gives you the ability to add more speakers because you can plug in another amplifier to your pre-outs. With a separate amplifier comes more ports you can plug your speakers into.

However, for most home theater system setups, you won’t use both a receiver and a separate amplifier, and the pre-out ports will only get used for your active speakers.

The Ideal Active And Passive Speaker Setup For Your Home Theater

The best setup for combining active and passive speakers in your home theater system is to plug in all of the standard speakers (passive speakers) into your home theater using the user manual.

Then after that add your active speakers to the pre-outs. That way your passive speakers will be powered by the receiver and your active speakers will only be powered by their inbuilt amp.

Can You Connect Two Powered Speakers Together?

Another thing you might want to do is connect two powered speakers together so that they only take up one port and it minimizes wires. Here’s how to connect two powered speakers together…

Generally, you simply need to plug them into your receiver/amp, and they will be connected together automatically. Rewiring your powered speakers (also called active speakers) so that they both use the same power supply and line out isn’t recommended unless you have extensive electrical experience.

The reason is that speakers and electronics require a very specific voltage range and a minor error can blow your speakers. The good news is, rewiring your speakers or doing anything extra isn’t required to play the audio for a song, TV show, or movie.

And plugging them both in separately to the receiver, an amp, or a mixer (for DJ/live music purposes), is the best way to do it. 

How Do You Connect Two Passive Speakers Together?

Now that I’ve covered active speakers, you might also be wondering about how to connect two passive speakers together. The process is very similar to active speakers, and here’s how you do it.

In total, you need to plug in passive speakers to a receiver, a mixer, and an amp combo, or straight into the amp. For a home theater system, you simply plug the 2 wires individually into the correct ports. For example, the front right (Front R), or the front left (Front L). 

A good resource to help you plug them in is the user manual for your home theater system or receiver. For a DJ-type setup or for a speaker setup for a band – like a rock band, the best practice is typically to plug the passive speakers into an amplifier and a mixer.

The term ‘amplifier’ is a bit confusing because it can mean an active speaker in rock band terminology. However, the primary purpose of an amplifier is to increase the amount of power from the wall outlet. So that the speakers get enough power to play at a good volume.

Active speakers usually have a knob on them and you can adjust the volume of each individual speaker so you don’t really need a mixer. But, for DJ/live music a mixer is generally used to fine-tune the volume of individual speakers to get better sound quality overall. They also adjust more precisely the amount of bass, mid-tones, and treble.

Can You Connect Any Speakers To A Receiver?

There is a range of different kinds of speakers, subwoofers, active speakers, passive speakers, big ones, and small ones. But, can you connect any speakers to a receiver?

For the most part, any speakers will plug into a home theater receiver and the home theater receiver will have different ports that any speaker can plug into. It’s very important to distinguish between active and passive speakers though, and what impedance the speakers are.

If you plug active speakers into the standard port it can blow your active speakers. Active speakers have an inbuilt amplifier and don’t require additional power to play really loud. In fact, if you plug them into the receiver they can blow your speakers. You need to plug active speakers into the ‘pre-out ports.

How To Tell The Difference Between Active And Passive Speakers

It’s very easy to tell the difference between active and passive speakers. Passive speakers won’t have a power cable that goes from the speaker to a wall outlet. Whereas, active speakers do plug into the power outlet in the wall.

Although active speakers plug into the wall they still connect to the receiver to get the audio signal. Passive speakers by comparison don’t have a power cable and instead get their power from the receiver.

They also have a copper cable that connects the power from the receiver to the speaker. And a cable that sends the audio signal from the receiver to the speaker.

After that, the receiver has a port to plug in a device like your DVD player, Fire TV stick, or smartphone to play video and music. It then sends the signal from the receiver to the speakers.

How Do I Hook Up Old Speakers To My New Receiver?

You may have some older speakers that are still in good condition and you want to plug them into the receiver for your home theater system. Here’s what you need to know about connecting old speakers to a new receiver.

As a whole, any speakers will plug into a new receiver and you don’t need to do anything special to plug them in. You can simply plug them into the correct ports and they’ll be ready to go. It’s a good idea to read the user manual for your receiver to see exactly how to do it.

There is usually a maximum of two cables that need to go from your old speakers to your receiver, and you should already have all the wires you need. You need to connect both the power cable and the audio line cable to your receiver.

For active speakers, the power cable goes into the wall, and only the audio line goes to the receiver.

If you can’t locate the user manual for your receiver then you can usually find it online as a PDF, or you can find the manual for a similar model. The location of the ports at the back of receivers are pretty much the same across all the different makes and models of receivers. 


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