Should You Leave Powered Speakers On When Not In Use?

  • Do you leave your studio monitors on all the time?
  • Ever wondered whether it’s ok to leave powered speakers on when not in use?
  • Do speakers use electricity even when turned off? (The answer might surprise you)

do speakers use power when not in use?

Someone asked me this question the other day:

“Is it okay to leave my speakers on when not in use?”

The answer, while seemingly obvious, made me think that it would serve as a good topic to be included in our blog.

And to be honest, while researching the topic — there were a couple of things which definitely took me by surprise.

I’m sure you just want to get to the answer, so let’s deep dive into the topic.


Does Leaving Your Monitor Speakers On When Not In Use Damage Them?

Long story short — yes, leaving your speakers on will damage them when not in use.

Have you ever felt the rear of your speakers after they’ve been on for a couple of hours? They feel warm to the touch right?

Heat is the enemy of all electronics — the longer your monitor speakers are left in a state of heat, the more problems you are introducing to the circuits and components.

As much as a dream it would be to imagine that electronics have an infinite life span, this simply is not the case.

 

If you were to look at the product specifications of any resistor or capacitor in the market, you’ll find details on the datasheet about its MBTF (Mean Time Before Failures). As a benchmark, most of these components are set at a capacity of 2,000-2,500 hours.

With that in mind, why exhaust the lifespan of your expensive monitors for the sake of convenience? It simply isn’t worth it, if you ask me.

What is MBTF (Mean Time Between Failure)?
Mean time between failures is the predicted elapsed time between inherent failures of a mechanical or electronic system, during normal system operation. MTBF can be calculated as the arithmetic mean time between failures of a system.

On top of that, degrading the very tools you use to monitor your mixes is not ideal for any self-respecting producer, musician or engineer.

Will leaving speakers on pose a fire and safety hazard?

I’m glad you asked.

I don’t mean to be ‘that guy’, but you’d be surprised at how many house fires are started by electrical equipment that has been left on or on standby.

Sure, you might have read that the chances of explosions, fire etc are indeed slim, and there are a whole load of electrical safety measures that are put in place to stop such events occuring.

But at the end of the day. why would you take the risk?

You don’t get anything out of leaving your gear powered on. There’s no sonic benefit. You waste electricity, and you shorten the lifespan of your hard-earned music equipment. Why? What do you get out of that?

Do speakers use power when not in use?

A Reddit user in r/askscience used a Kill-A-Watt meter to measure the power consumption of a set of speakers in 4 states:

  1. Completely off
  2. On but with no sound coming out (in standby)
  3. Normal volume music playing
  4. Loud volume music playing

Here’s what the user found through empirical testing of a powered speaker set (Harman/Kardon HK 695 2.1-CH PC Multimedia Speakers):

When the speakers were off, they use 0 W. When they are on with no sound coming out, they used 8 W. When they were playing normal volume music, they used 9 W. When the music was really loud, they used 10-12 W.

So what can we deduce from this little experiment? That switching your monitors consumes 0 electricity and the consumption increases with higher volume. Simple enough, right?

But I’ve also heard that appliances can even draw power when they are switched off?

Yeah, so here’s where it gets confusing.

Alan Meier, a senior scientist at the Department of Energy’s Berkeley lab, state that roughly 50 devices and appliances in the typical American household are always drawing power, even when they are turned off.

In a study of Northern California conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council, they found that about a quarter of all residential energy consumption is inadvertently being used by devices that are on standby or even switched off.

The Cost Of 'Always-On' Energy
This always-on energy use by inactive devices translates to approximately $19 billion a year—about $165 per U.S. household on average—and 50 large (500-megawatt) power plants’ worth of electricity.

So, do speakers use power when not in use?

With a Reddit ‘scientist’ saying one thing, and the Natural Resources Defense Council saying another, I’m more inclined to believe the published studies from the NRDC.

If you want to take the safest measures to protect your gear, reduce your electricity bill and your carbon footprint, flipping the switch on your speakers is not enough. You’ll want to also switch them off at the mains/power outlets, too.

Yep, it’s probably not the convenient answer you were hoping for, unfortunately.

But then again, it’s not really that much extra effort is it?

 


Final thoughts

If the thought of turning every single piece of gear off in your studio injects fear into your heart, you could always group pieces of relevant gear together on a single power strip/board. That way you can switch off multiple bits of gear in one go, as opposed to having to go around the room manually turning each and every one of them off.

So, to end this article. Should you turn your speakers off when not in use?

Yes.