Active Line Array V Passive Line Array

by Andrew Bishop

Many PA Companies are considering moving to an Active Line Array, but technology available to date has not always proven reliable. The jury is still out. Following meetings recently with Coda and Adamson both are insistent that passive sounds better and is easier to control.

As one customer stated "I bought 10 subs from another well known maker and I have 4 here which need repair, components are falling off the boards. “Try sticking your head in a cabinet capable of 140 dB SPL and count your teeth after 5 minutes!”

We are not going to follow the path of active line array at this stage especially as we cannot use lead in solder anymore! Many of our event companies are reporting huge failures in active speakers so are focusing on passive. I know of 3 large companies that have lost sound at important events that have resulted in great upset and lost business.

We prefer the passive route and the ability to switch in solutions fast on the ground! Stories of engineers climbing rigging to swap modules in active array cabinets  during a live gig scare me.

Typical Bishop, i am testing an active 8" and 10" line array day and night to try and break it. As you know i do not want my name on anything that fails and its not me that suffers its my customers.

My good friends in the PA industry started putting amplifiers into speaker boxes to sell more speakers. I believe that speakers should speak and amplifiers should amplify anything other is a compromise. Powered speakers work fine in small low power applications only.

Sorry to disappoint you, but at this time, the reliability of amps loaded into boxes made by others have higher failure rate than their passive and externally amplified equivalent. The technology is in its infancy and now is not the right time to play Russian Roulette with other peoples businesses.

I still prefer the sound quality I can get with class AB, H and D (in its correct application) controlled by a DBX PA2 Speaker Management System. The NEW Twin 18" chest pounding "BishopSound SuperSub" (released in March 2019) thumps out sub bass at impressive volume and are an honest 3000W capable unit. We are currently driving these with a nice Class H amp.  We are still testing these down to 27Hz, it really is truly outstanding, and its made in England!

One final thought, what do promoters say when you tell them "hey I will use my new active line array!" Will they say good, how much does that knock off the cost?
Is this Active Line Array the future or just another way of Speaker companies taking the bread off the table of specialist amplifier designers and manufacturers.


If like taking risks in your business, have deep pockets and you have plenty of spare speakers, transport and man power and are not too bothered about sound quality - Go Active.

If you want the very best sound, prefer reliability to risk, don't mind an amp rack or two, prefer a quick fix if speaker cabs or amps die and live by the motto "The Show must Go on"- Go Passive.