Sound System Training: How to Connect Powered Speakers to Mixers

Sound System Training How to Connect Powered Speakers to Mixers
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Powered speakers are becoming popular with many audio setups and venues, but not everyone is familiar with how they can work into a typical audio setup. Are you working with your first mixer or first set of powered speakers? You may be in need of some training how to make this connection work!

If so, this article is for you. Learn how to connect powered speakers to mixers in under 10 minutes with our simple advice.

What are Powered Speakers?

Powered speakers, also known as active speakers, are those that have the speaker, power amplifier, and all other components in the same cabinet. This means that rather than having separate devices and bulky equipment that all needs to be hooked up, all of this is contained in one singular unit.

One reason that powered speakers are becoming more popular is how easy they are to transport and that they tend to eliminate some of the cost of owning a speaker system. Another reason is that they give you an economical way of getting the right sound since the included amp would be matched to the speaker more precisely.

Active or powered speakers come in a number of different varieties. Some systems have a woofer and tweeter installed as well as the necessary electronic crossover to route the sounds as necessary through the proper amplifiers and transducers; a system like this is called bi-amplified. There are also tri-amp systems that separate lows, mids, and highs in this way.

What is the Difference between Hooking Up a Powered Speaker and a Passive One?

A typical audio system looks something like this:

  • Mixer sends a signal to speakers, amplifiers, and other equipment.
  • The signal is not amplified, so you choose the amplification that you want to use with it.
  • To send audio to a passive speaker, it needs to be amplified to be effective.

With powered speakers, the amplification is already built in. So, you can simply directly hook the mixer to the speakers without the need to route through an amplifier or other equipment.

Sound System Training How to Connect Powered Speakers to Mixers 1

How to Connect Powered Speakers to Mixers

When moving to a new system such as a powered speaker, you might not know how to make the proper connections. These systems are different from passive speakers, which need to be powered by the mixer, so you need to be careful about how you are connecting them to avoid damaging any of your equipment.

Note: Do Not Use Speaker Out Cables

The first big no-no that needs to be mentioned is that you should never attach a powered speaker to your mixer using a speaker out cable. These cables transmit more than just audio, they also transmit significant electrical power! This means that hooking up this cable to your powered speaker can and probably will damage the equipment inside.

The Right Connection

The proper way to hook up a powered speaker to a mixer is to use a balanced or unbalanced line. Most powered speakers are equipped with one of the following:

  • XLR jack
  • TRS jack
  • Both

Similarly, most mixers have balanced output jacks, which are:

  • XLR jack
  • TRS jack
  • Both

These are the lines that you want to hook up. By using a balanced line between the mixers and speakers, you can prevent interference or noise.

If your mixer does not have a balanced line output for some reason, using an unbalanced line is possible. This method is not preferred because anything longer than 20 or 30 feet in cable length will be susceptible to interference, but it is an option if you are stuck in this rare situation.

Other Notes

  • Most modern powered speakers have the ability to convert digital audio to analog before it goes into the crossover. Check that your speakers have this DAC (D/A converter).
  • Some speakers only take S/PDIF signals. If this is the case, you need to limit your speaker setup to 30 feet or less to prevent loss of sound quality.
  • If your setup has AES/EBU signals, these are balanced. They can travel farther than 30 feet with ease and without interference.
  • Remember to keep the power off while setting up your speakers until you’re sure you have the right connections. Putting power through the wrong lines can fry expensive equipment, so triple-check before powering up.
  • If you are also working with subs and monitors, you need to think about the order of connections to make sure you’re getting the right crossovers and inputs where they are needed. Refer to your user manuals to ensure you get this right.
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While this guide should help you figure out the right way to connect powered speakers to mixers, you must remember that every setup is different. Check your user manuals for both the speakers and your mixers to be sure that the two will match up properly with a balanced line. If they do, you should be good to go in a matter of minutes!

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