Informational Guide

How To Connect Powered Speakers To A Mixer

This easy, step-by-step guide will show you how to set up the smartest, most dynamic, & scalable connection between your mixing console & your powered speakers.

by AndrewJHW

Whether you are a live events manager, a touring musician, or simply a home-based audiophile, getting the most out of your carefully chosen sound system setup is key.

Many people don't realize that even with the best sound equipment, the bottom line of your audio quality usually comes down to how well you have it all connected together. The most important connection is between the mixer and your main speakers.

This easy, step-by-step guide will show you how to set up the smartest, most dynamic, and scalable connection between your mixing console and your powered speakers.

You may have also heard powered speakers referred to as active speakers or self-powered speakers.

All of these names simply describe a speaker unit that contains both the speaker and its amplifier, alongside all of the other relevant accessories such as crossovers and subwoofers.

These units are often the staple speaker systems used in concert and clubbing spaces, as well as for other events. Thanks to their excellent level of convenience, they also make a great choice for home stereo and computer setups.

The Advantages of Selecting Powered Speakers

We know you have a lot of choices when it comes to selecting which speaker setup to go with. That's why we thought we'd include a handy guide to the advantages of choosing powered speakers.

  • Power consumption  
    A powered speaker setup will use less power than other setups, making it ideal for a serious PA system that will be running for a long time.
  • Simplicity 
    Powered speakers are both simple to use and intuitive; this makes them the perfect choice for those who value efficiency and convenience or those looking for a user-friendly piece of beginner's equipment alike.
  • Direct connection  
    A powered speaker will connect directly to whatever source component equipment you are using, whether it be musical instruments, effects processors, or DJing equipment.
  • Safe & silent  
    Powered speakers usually contain built-in limiters, so you won't have to worry about burning out your equipment, nor will you be plagued by those infuriating hums and buzzes that can spoil the clean fidelity of other speaker systems.
  • Compactness 
    With the amplifier, subwoofer, and crossovers all contained within one unit, that's a lot less equipment to worry about transporting or potentially forgetting. This makes them the perfect choice for the on-the-road musician.
  • Optimized sound 
    As the amplifier inside your powered speakers has been specifically designed to work with that unit, the sound will be optimized to match it precisely. The same is true of the preset EQs. Furthermore, the shorter distance between each component works to increase your overall fidelity by decreasing the chances of external interference.
two male vocalist singing

Mixers: What Exactly Are They

An audio mixer, also known as a mixing board or mixing console, is basically the main control panel for your audio output.

A mixer allows the user to combine and control incoming audio signals and to route these out to either speakers, headphones, or pieces of recording equipment - or a combination of the three - through the input jacks.

Different mixers will allow a different range of changes to be executed on the incoming audio signals. Most commonly, they are used to adjust the levels of the volume, bass, mid-range and treble levels and to filter, mix and optimize sound. Many also allow the user to add special effects and to record the stereo file as it is being produced.

Mixers are a staple piece of kit for DJs, producers, events organizers, and radio/television shows alike.

What exactly is the difference between active, powered speaker units and passive speaker units?

To put it in the simplest terms possible, the difference between powered speakers and passive speakers is the presence of an external amplifier.

Active speakers, as we have mentioned, have their own amplifier that is built into the actual cabinet of the speaker - meaning inside the self-contained unit.

A passive speaker, by contrast, relies on the process of drawing power from an external amplifier unit. This external amplifier is connected to the passive speaker using a speaker wire.

Passive speakers tend to be more common in a casual home entertainment setup, whereas powered speakers are more regularly used in professional sound system setups. Active speakers are usually also the speaker of choice for audio enthusiasts, even in the home environment, and encompass most Bluetooth speakers and subwoofer products.

Passive speakers are easier to upgrade and modify to your particular needs, whereas powered speakers are difficult to modify - and sometimes actually impossible to modify. However, with active speakers, this difficulty of modification is compensated for in other ways. Powered speakers are less likely to need modification, as the amplifier they contain is built and optimized for the speaker.

Step-by-Step Guide To Connecting Powered Speakers to Your Mixer

Now that we have defined both powered speakers and mixers, it is time to see how the two come together.

Luckily, as powered speakers are a convenient all-in-one product, this is not a difficult or complicated process to get correct.

1. Identifying Your Mixer’s Connection

As there are a huge range of different mixers out there, you will need to identify whether your mixer utilizes a balanced connection or an imbalanced connection.

You will be able to tell which of these connections your mixer utilizes by looking at the port. If your mixer has three separate contact points, then it will be balanced. If not, your connection will most likely be unbalanced.

So what is the difference between a balanced and an unbalanced connection?

  • Balanced connections   
    these are the more preferable of the two connection types, as they can be used for long runs of cable without your sound suffering from any unwanted distortion. The most common balanced connection cables are the XLR and TRS cables.
  • Unbalanced connections   
    unbalanced connections are still viable for professional use. However, you will need to ensure that your cables only cover short distances to avoid the induced noise that these connections are more prone to.Luckily, if you value your audio quality but your mixer is sporting unbalanced connections, there are many ways of converting your unbalanced connection to a balanced one, allowing longer runs of cabling.

2. Considering the Position of Your Speakers

The next step to optimizing your sound quality is to consider the position of your powered speaker units themselves. Obviously, this will depend on whether they are being used as the main speakers, in-booth monitor speakers, or if they have a different function (for example, for use in a radio or television show production.)

However, the key things to ensure in almost all situations are:

  • That your speakers are positioned in front of any microphones you are using in order to avoid interference. Unwanted inference of this type can lead to humming, buzzing or your microphone phasing out.
  • The same is true of your mixer, which should be positioned behind the speakers. You should also ensure that the mixer is not touching the speaker in any place.
  • If there is going to be an audience present, ensure that the speakers are facing directly towards them. Try to find a position where the speakers will be neither too close nor too far from the audience - you will be able to test this for yourself once your setup is fully connected.
  • Ensure that the surface on which you are placing your speakers is flat, strong, safe, and stable.
three red speakers

3. Connect The Speakers To The Mixer

Now it is time to connect the mixer to the speakers using your choice of cable (either balanced or unbalanced).

To do this, connect the output cable from the speakers into the input port on your mixing console. When it comes to surround-sound systems, most connections will allow multiple speakers to be connected.

Thanks to the simple design of powered speakers and the lack of multiple pieces of equipment, such as adding high-powered subwoofers, this step is self-explanatory and should not present any difficulties or complications.

To save your expensive equipment from any unexpected disasters, ensure that the volume on your active speaker is set to low before turning it on. Once your setup is connected, you can increase this volume in increment to your desired level.

4. Test Your Setup

The best way to be safe in the knowledge that your setup is optimized to your preferences is to test it out yourself and make any tweaks necessary.

You will want to test each individual feature of your mixing console, including each element of the EQ and the volume controls. You should also check that everything is coming through your headphones and/or recording equipment as required.

As mentioned earlier, it could be a good idea to check how the sound reaches various areas of the venue or space in question. We would advise moving around the room while the sound is playing at the level it will be during the actual event and seeing for yourself. You can make any adjustments to the positioning of your powered speakers based on what you can hear.

two black speakers

Troubleshooting: What To do if there is no sound

If there is no sound coming from your powered speakers after you have connected them to the mixer, you should follow a methodical troubleshooting process. Try not to check things at random, as you may make the problem worse or forget what you have already tried.

You should work your way along the path of the electronic signal, testing and eliminating each possible reason for failure along the way. Check the source of electricity, the equipment itself, and the connections of the wires in an organized manner.

If you have any spare parts, you can use these to find the problem part by substitution.

The most important thing to remember is that electricity can easily kill you if handled unsafely. Never attempt to take the covers off or fiddle with equipment while it is still plugged into the mains.

Common problems that can lead to your mixer not producing sound from your powered speakers include:

  • The lead carrying your signal may not be plugged incorrectly or may have come loose.
  • Something along the signal's path is not receiving power, perhaps because of flat batteries or power leads becoming disconnected.
  • A fuse may have blown. If this is the case, you should investigate the reason why the fuse has blown - as this only rarely happens for no reason.
  • Perhaps some of your equipment (it could be the speakers or the mixer) is on mute without you realizing it.
  • One of the cables or connectors may be faulty.
  • There may be a hardware problem with one of your pieces of equipment.

Unfortunately, there is no single fix-all when it comes to powered speakers not producing sound when connected to a mixer. The important thing is to remain calm, methodical and to ensure that all of your equipment is disconnected from mains power before you begin fiddling with it.

Congratulations, You’re Now All Set!

After following this simple guide, you should be all set to begin whatever task you bought your powered speakers for in the first place.

This is the beauty of these types of speaker setups; they are quick, easy, and convenient to get an optimized sound from once you know what you're doing.

We hope this guide was helpful, and you can now enjoy the highest quality of sound from your setup, free from any unnecessary noise, interference, or disturbances of any kind.