What are the passive and active monitors? Well, simply, monitors that run in a passive or an active system are called passive and active monitors, respectively.
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A passive monitor needs an external amplifier that will amplify the input signal before it enters the monitor. This amplified signal is sent through a range of electronic components that can be found within the monitor that is called the crossover network.
What the crossover network does is, it acts like a filter that separates the input signal into multiple signals that is based on frequency. With studio monitors that have only one tweeter and one woofer, the crossover network will create two signals, one with higher frequencies, and another with lower frequencies. The ones with the higher frequencies are sent to the tweeter while those with lower frequencies are sent to the woofer.
This is what is referred to as the single-amp system. The output of an amplifier is split by the crossover network, and they are sent to the relevant drivers.
An active monitor really does not require an external amplifier, since amplifiers are encased within the cabinet. The input signals that enter into the monitor pass through the crossover network first, after which each band is amplified separately before they each are send to their relevant drivers.
With a studio monitor that has one tweeter and one woofer, the signals would be split into two bands, and each band would have a dedicated amplifier. This is what is referred to as the bi-amp system.
Some systems come with a third speaker, that would split the signals into low, mid, and high frequencies. Each of these bands can be amplified, resulting in what is called the tri-amp system.
Drivers typically give more accurate and more defined sound when they are individually powered; so, the bi-amp and the tri-amp configurations sound better than the single-amp ones at a similar price point.
Active speakers are very much convenient in a home studio setting, you will not need to get an external amplifier, and you would not need to worry about modifying the crossover network. And if budget and space are factors for you to consider, this will be especially beneficial.
In addition, passive systems require modifying your amplifier to your monitors’ drivers. Active monitors are made so that the built-in amplifiers are a match for the drivers.
When it comes to which is better or more superior to the other, neither system is considered superior in principal, because there is a wide range of quality in both the active and the passive systems.