Purchasing powered speakers will save you money from buying an expensive extra amp but how is the sound quality?
Well, that depends entirely on the speakers that you choose.
In this review, we have selected the best powered speakers that sound every bit as good (or better) than non-powered passive speakers.
Top 5 Best Powered Speakers
Best Powered Bookshelf Speakers - Klipsch R-15PM
These speakers are amazing!
Through all ranges of the spectrum, they are bright and crisp and offer plenty of thump.
Technically these are considered “monitor” speakers. Professional grade studio equipment used by sound engineers to create consumer music and movie scores where accuracy is essential.
While these can be used in a professional studio, they are perfect for home use because of their small compact size and multiple connection options.
You can connect them to Bluetooth, RCA, optical, aux, USB, or standard stereo. In other words, you can use them for anything from hooking it up to a turntable to connecting them to your home computer.
The only downside is the price. They are a bit on the higher side for these types of speakers, but you do get a lot for your money.
If you want to kick it up a notch, you can also invest in a Klipsch subwoofer to go with your setup. I want to emphasize that you will get more than enough bass out of these speakers alone but if you’re a bass head (like me), you will appreciate the additional ground and pound.[/expand]
Best Budget Powered Speakers - Edifier R1280T
While not as overpoweringly awesome as the Klipsch R-15PM, the Edifier R128OT is a fine, respectable set of powered speakers for around one-fifth of the price.
They offer a robust, warm sound with enough bass for the occasional classic rap album.
These speakers are a bit limited on the connection side. They don’t have the many options available with higher-end systems.
They do have granular control knobs on the side of the unit that allows you to easily set the bass and treble which is nice.
Overall they are a great looking stylish speaker at a reasonable price with a rich, warm sound.[/expand]
Best Powered Smart Home Speaker - Sonos PLAY:3
The PLAY:3 from Sonos is the simplest and easiest solution for a Sonos-capable powered speaker. It will connect quickly and efficiently to any compatible device.
It has three drivers and three small amps, one for each driver. The PLAY:3 has an enjoyable response that is heavier on the bass. The seamless streaming is the biggest draw here, and its accessibility and ease of use make it easy to tap into its abilities.
Sonos and other wifi connected speakers are not yet as popular as Bluetooth as a wireless connection codec, but its adoption is growing.[/expand]
The Edifier R1700BT Bluetooth powered speakers are a 66 watt mega monster with excellent sound.
Let me qualify that for a minute...
Most Bluetooth speakers at this price point operate in the 20-watt range. While watts aren’t the whole story when it comes to audio sound, it is the lead indicator of how much power a speaker can output.
More power = more sound.
Again here there are limited connection options like the budget Edifier speaker on this list, but I would recommend using these as Bluetooth speakers.
Put them in a convenient place that is difficult to hook a traditional stereo up like the kitchen or (covered) patio.[/expand]
Back in the ages when I was a kid we had to listen to music by candlelight and all that was available were transistor radios and turntables.
I must say that I was shocked that anyone would want to listen to a record player when so many more convenient options are available.
That was until I went to my brother's house and he played an orchestral version of the Legend of Zelda on vinyl and my mind... blown.
Okay let me get back on track here…
The Kanto YU4 powered speakers are a fantastic choice for all your turntable listening needs.
It comes equipped with a phono preamp so you can hook these up to any modern or vintage record deck. It also comes with Bluetooth and other connection technologies so you can listen to your Apple music or Spotify… no problem.
It comes with a class D amp and outputs plenty of power. The sound is absolutely excellent for its compact size.
They also come in many different colors and textures so they will fit in with any turntable that you might have (or want to purchase).[/expand]
How to Evaluate Powered Speakers
Unpowered vs. Powered Speakers
The difference between powered and unpowered speakers is simple. Powered speakers, also called active speakers, have their power source built into them. Unpowered speakers, or passive speakers, do not. Passive models must connect to an amp, a receiver, or some other power source or they will not work at all. Active ones can stand alone. There are great products among both categories, and one is not necessarily better than the other.
Different speakers are suited for different roles. For example, some people want a large set to use as part of a surround-sound system for a home theater. Others require smaller speakers that can fit onto a desk for use with a computer. Another possible role is having speakers placed strategically inside and outside the home and networking them together into a smart home system. Each of these functions calls for somewhat different feature sets in the speaker, such as connectivity options, power, sound profile, and appearance.
Size and Power
There are two main ways of measuring how loud a speaker can be. The first is power, usually measured in watts. The second is the size of the drivers on the front of the unit. More power and bigger speakers mean higher peak volume and more detail at a lower volume. However, these both also tend to increase the amount of space the speaker takes up. It is a tradeoff between output and convenience. For example, small powered speakers might be the right size to sit on an entertainment console while big ones need their separate stand.
Powered Speakers in a Smart Home
Speakers vary in how much they can connect to a smart home hub. Some are built to be smart from the beginning. Others won't have any smart connectivity. Often you will find that smart-friendly speakers are smaller, but this is not always the case.
Smart homes are excellent for central control because they can, for example, divide the house into multiple zones and send different sound to the speakers in each zone. That means that you can say "play the Beatles in the living room" and it will beam the song to your family room.
Speaker Connections Explained
Speakers can be a little complicated in their wiring and connectivity. Modern speakers often have Bluetooth or some other wireless option, but this is relatively recent. Many speakers need speaker wire or another kind of cable to connect. Wired connections usually have better reliability and higher quality, but are less convenient than wireless. Wireless standards and practices are improving each year, though, so the gap is closing.
Connecting Self Powered Speakers to Your Smart Home
The two primary technologies for hooking a speaker to a smart hub are Bluetooth and Sonos. Note that you generally cannot connect speakers to both the smart hub and another device at the same time, like a TV or a phone, so you should plan out your optimal arrangement.
Connecting Self Powered Speakers to Your Desktop
A desktop computer has a few possible connectors for speakers between USB, line in, and Bluetooth. You may need a converter or dongle to get the right wired interface, so pay close attention to the wiring that the speaker uses. Most powered speakers are plug and play with no software or drivers required.
Connecting Self Powered Speakers to your AV Receiver
A home audio speaker should have no trouble with speaker wire. Bluetooth and alternative wired connections may be available depending on the make and model. Make sure that the receiver has enough channels to incorporate all the speakers you want to connect to it. The receiver should be able to let you control the equalizer, add effects, and otherwise alter the sound somewhat before it hits the speakers.
Best Placement for Self Powered Speakers
The question of placement is closely related to the role you plan for the speakers. A home theater system usually has a specific arrangement of center speakers under the TV, side speakers at a 45-degree angle, and secondary side or rear speakers arranged behind where you sit. Other speaker roles are not as strict. A speaker rated for outside use can go on a deck or hang from a wall under an awning. Most speakers are designed to be placed at approximately ear level while free-standing. A small number of them are built for placement on or inside walls.
If you want to spend the money, the Klipsch R-15PM powered monitors are an amazing set of speakers. They are crystal clear and offer more than enough bass.
They sound great no matter what style of music you are listening to. From hard rock to classical to bass bumping rap.
If you’d like to go with a less expensive option (or want to purchase multiple sets for different rooms without having to skip the kid's college fund), then you can’t go wrong with the Edifier R128OT.