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The best powered speakers are a minimalist’s dream: because they have built-in amplification, there is no power matching, no component racks, and cable clutter is essentially non-existent: simply plug the speakers into wall power, connect your power source, and you’re in business.
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Increasingly, powered speakers are marketed as all-in-one sound centers, combining the convenience of integrated power with wireless connectivity and intelligent assistants. But powered speakers aren’t just designed to bring joy to your less-is-more living space; They often offer sonic advantages over passive models. Because the amplification is built into the speaker, it is perfectly optimized for the specific needs of the speaker driver(s). Amps sit right inside the cabinet, so there is no need to connect long lengths of wire between the drivers and amplifiers, which removes cable-induced distortion and signal loss out of the picture. Additionally, an integrated crossover design gives the designer more control over the frequency response.
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Note that not every speaker manufacturer designs their own amplifiers, sometimes relying on OEM parts. It’s not a deal-breaker, but make sure these technologies are properly implemented for the best sonic performance.
If you’re looking for a sweet new sound system, start your journey with our roundup of the best powered speakers of 2022.
We explored hundreds of products in our pursuit of the best powered speakers: we concentrated mainly on companies with a lot of experience in designing powered models and, while considering a range of applications listening, we prioritized speakers that offer convenience and connectivity features but Focus on loyalty first. Our in-house hi-fi heads and active producers discussed our favorite models, solicited input from experts, and gathered user impressions, performing listening tests whenever possible as it reduced the contenders.
Buying powered speakers is a personal process, weighing subjective factors such as sonic preferences alongside objective benchmarks such as power output, number of inputs and outputs, and convenience features. Many factors influence the sound of a powered speaker, including driver and cabinet size, amplification type and build quality; The size of your listening room also plays a major role. Your sound sources will also inform your decision: if you plan to hook up a turntable, for example, you’ll need phono inputs. If you want to stream music, you need Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. One disadvantage of powered speakers is the inability to mix and match or upgrade components, such as receivers.
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Powered speakers are available in a wide range of sizes, from smart speakers that can fit in the palm of your hand to towers that are up to 6 feet tall. In general, the bigger the speaker, the more power it can put out, and the deeper the bass it can produce. But this does not necessarily mean that more is better. The speakers should be small enough to efficiently produce space-filling sound; If they are too loud for the size of the room, they cannot be operated at their ideal performance levels and can end up sounding boomy. On the other hand, they must be powerful enough to easily reproduce the most dynamic music, movie and game content. Generally, bookshelf speakers with 5- or 6-inch drivers are good matches for offices, dens and other small rooms, while larger bookshelf speakers and floor models with 8-inch drivers are more appropriate for larger rooms, such as home theaters.
Increasingly, powered speakers offer more features than their passive counterparts, evolving into all-in-one entertainment centers for minimalists who don’t want to navigate a sea of components and cables. If you’re in the less is more camp, you’ll appreciate features like digital and analog inputs and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi streaming, in addition to integrated amplification.
You should add a subwoofer if you want to extend the low-end power of your system and bring more visceral impact to your listening experience, whether you’re watching the latest action flick, crushing your favorite video game or transforming the living room in Dance floor. You can mix and match speakers and subs, but most of the products profiled here are designed to pair perfectly with available companion subwoofers. Remember you can always start small and add a sub later if you’re not feeling enough room thunder.
As more speaker makers add powered models to their lineups, the aisle of options can become quite overwhelming. We’ve made things a little easier with our top picks for a range of listening scenarios, from best-loved bookshelf speakers to all-in-one PA systems to power the pool party or jam sesh that your next With models here starting under $200, you’re sure to land on the best powered speakers for your budget and lifestyle.
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Why it made the cut: Advanced transducer designs, hi-res streaming and prosumer connectivity make this powerful speaker well suited for pro monitoring and casual listening.
JBL is not new to powered speakers, introducing some of the first models since the 1960s. The company’s brand new compact bookshelf speaker 4305P ($2,200/pair), which debuted last January at CES 2022, is the first powered model in the consumer studio monitor series . The fully loaded speaker has built-in Class D amplification, 24-bit/192kHz converters and six audio inputs that can connect to a wide range of digital and analog sources to provide comprehensive, hi-res wired and wireless connectivity .
The 4305P aims to deliver the punch and power of a floor speaker, using patented JBL transducer technologies: each speaker has a 1-inch 2410H-2 compression driver with high definition image horn for crystal clear peaks and light dynamics. A 5.25-inch die-cast frame, fiber composite cone woofer operates in a bass-reflex configuration with dual front-tuned ports.
A Class D amp on board delivers 25W to each compression driver and 125W to each woofer for a total system power of 300W RMS. Other features include a bass contour control to compensate for acoustic issues introduced by speaker placement, and a line-level subwoofer output that senses the signal.
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When it comes to hi-res streaming, the 4305P takes quality to the next level thanks to an integrated streaming engine that provides wired and wireless network audio capabilities via Ethernet, Google Chromecast Built-in, Apple AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth 5.1.
A high-resolution 24-bit/192 kHz digital-to-analog converter preserves high-resolution streaming; When the speakers are attached to the included 2m digital link cable, the resolution can be extended to 192kHz. The 4305P can create MQA files (the musical equivalent of a ZIP file, a way to encode and distribute full-spectrum audio in a compressed container) and is Roon Ready, giving you access to a compatible music server on the your local network. As a bonus, JBL has thrown in a 90-day Kobuz trial membership that includes a curated playlist of songs that showcase the speaker’s audio capabilities.
Analog inputs include ¼-inch combo XLR and TRS phono connectors and a selectable input sensitivity switch. This configuration provides the choice of balanced XLR and ¼-inch TRS (tip/ring/sleeve) or unbalanced TS (tip/sleeve) connections, covering both pro and consumer equipment. Other I/Os include asynchronous USB and optical digital inputs and 3.5mm analog in. In addition to the front panel controls, the 4305P includes a Bluetooth handheld remote and can be controlled as part of a Google Home or Apple AirPlay ecosystem.
The 4305P enclosure is constructed of 3⁄4-inch MDF with internal bracing and is finished in wood veneer, styled in natural walnut with blue grill or black walnut with black grill. With its arrangement and presence, the 4305P could look as at home on the mixing console as it is facing your most listening chair.
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Why it made the cut: Built-in amplification, hi-res audio support, acoustic enhancements and future-proof connectivity add up to a full-featured audiophile wireless hub.
In 2016, KEF debuted the LS50 Wireless, a successor to its classic LS50 bookshelf speaker that added built-in amplification and streaming. The next-generation LS50 Wireless II boasts refinements in acoustics, connectivity and the KEF Connect control app.
Inside each speaker, custom amps deliver 280 watts of power to each woofer and 100 watts to each tweeter for big, clean, distortion-free sound at any volume. Digital processing allows you to fine-tune the sound to suit your space, either on the speaker or via the free KEF Connect app.
The LS50 Wireless II is available in KEF Carbon Black, Titanium Grey, Mineral White and Crimson Red finishes, with optional matching stands. KEF’s striking, copper-hued Uni-Q driver directs a 1-inch vented aluminum dome tweeter into the acoustic center of a magnesium-aluminum alloy woofer cone of 5 ¼ inches to create a wide listening sweet spot; A bass-reflex cabinet with elliptical rear ports is designed to maximize precise and musical low-end. And Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT) behind the drivers takes unwanted reflections and reduces distortion. Just like the JBL 4305P (above) is precise and dynamic, the LS50 Wireless II is spacious and punchy.
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The LS50 Wireless II supports Hi-Res audio; Network file support is 24-bit/384kHz; A wireless setup supports 24-bit/96kHz audio resolution, or connect the speakers with the supplied CAT 6 cable for 24-bit/192kHz support. Stream music directly over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast, or via the KEF Connect app, which supports Spotify Connect, Tidal, Qobuz, Amazon Music and Deezer. In addition, you can use the LS50 Wireless II as a
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