A powered speaker, also called an active or self-powered speaker, is a component in which the speaker and the amplifier are held in the same unit. It also includes other components, such as subwoofers and built-in crossovers. This eliminates the need for external amplifiers, separate crossovers, heavy speaker wires, and associated costs. A question we hear a lot is whether you can connect a powered speaker to a mixer.
We are here to answer that question, but first, let’s review a few things.
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Powered Speaker Basics
A powered speaker can serve many sound functions, such as:
- Sound reinforcement systems (for example, at live music concerts)
- Used by DJs performing at various events
- In private homes, as part of a hi-fi audio system
- Computer speakers.
Different brands of powered speakers have unique sounds, with some being more advanced than others. Some will have inbuilt EQ presets, Wi-Fi, and limiters. When deciding which one to buy, always go for what sounds best.
Powered speakers have many advantages over normal speakers, the obvious being their simplicity and compactness. They make it easy for anyone who wants to set up a sound system, as there are only a few things you need to collect and connect.
Also, with a powered speaker, the amp is designed to match precisely with the powered speakers, thus ensuring more optimized sound. Besides, the amplifier’s capabilities can match driver characteristics such as impedance and frequency response. Also, the EQ presets are tailored to each driver characteristic in the enclosure.
Active speakers often incorporate limiters that are carefully matched with driver characteristics to help increase the likelihood of the unit surviving a stretched SPL use. This yields a more neutral sound, resulting in a more dependable unit.
Other than that, it is believed that the shorter distance between components can increase fidelity by decreasing external interference. The short cables inside the enclosure ensure that very little voltage and control are lost, as with long cables due to higher resistance.
However, powered speakers weigh more than equivalent normal speakers because of the internal amplifier circuitry. Regarding cabling, active speakers require an AC power cable and an audio signal cable, unlike passive speakers, where only one cable is required. However, improvement in technology has seen manufacturers incorporate UHF and Wi-Fi receivers for audio signals so that only the AC cable is required.
Some powered speakers are designed to use an onboard mixer which enables various inputs to be connected directly to the speaker.
The Mixer Explained
A mixer, mixing console, or mixing board is an electronic device that combines different audio signals in different settings, such as sound reproduction and recording. This signal is routed out to speakers, headphones or recording equipment via the input jacks.
A good mixer varies the sound in individual channels, i.e., treble, bass, and mid-range, to yield better sound for the sum of the initial channels. An audio mixer filters and optimizes sound by adjusting the levels of two or more audio signals. It also uses equalization and effects to enhance the sound and create monitor feeds.
Key Components of a Mixer
The board is the layout of various controls. There are two different arrangements on the board:
- In-line layout- this arrangement has both the input and monitoring sections contained in one section.
- Split layout-have these same sections situated in different halves of the mixing board.
Inputs are the entry points for various audio sources into the mixing console. The most common inputs are:
- 5 mm jack
This allows you to adjust and control each channel’s high and low frequencies.
They are also known as aux channels. They allow you to extract signals from the mixer and send them to a secondary device for processing and monitoring before sending them back to the mixer.
This section allows you to raise and lower the audible audio in each channel as it goes into the final mix. The final output is then directed to one or two stereo outputs.
That said, it is essential to remember that all mixers share a similar signal path design. They combine signals from their sources, process them to the accepted quality and pass the final mix onto a PA system, recorder, or broadcast chain. A good mixture provides more than just a single output signal.
So, Can You Connect a Powered Speaker to a Mixer?
As mentioned earlier, a mixer provides a consistent audio signal that can be directed to PA systems, headphones, and recording equipment. This signal is not usually amplified, so you can decide whatever amplification you want with the signal. As such, sending audio from a mixer to a PA system requires amplification.
However, you only need to connect the mixer directly to the speakers when it comes to powered speakers since the speakers have an inbuilt amplifier. The first consideration before you connect powered speaker to a mixer is establishing the connection of the mixer. A mixer will either have a balance connection or an imbalanced connection.
The balanced option allows long cable runs between the speakers and the mixer without noise or interference. This is made possible by balanced TRS and XLR jacks on the speakers.
On the other hand, the unbalanced option allows you to have long runs of up to 30 feet, but it is susceptible to noise and interference. Most mixers will provide ways of converting the unbalanced signal to a balanced one.
Most powered speaker digital inputs allow easy installation. Older models have output cables for the same. As a general rule of thumb, the output cable of the speakers should be connected to the input of the mixer. This connection should allow you to connect multiple speakers simultaneously, enabling every surround sound detail.
We hope this run-down has helped and you can confidently answer whether you can connect a powered speaker to a mixer. Have fun!