difference between an active and a passive preamp?

I have a nad c272 amp and am looking for a good preamp to go with it, but I am on a very tight budget. I see lots of preamps that are acive and some passive - I have no idea of the difference? I have quad 22L speakers and listen to cd only. Any help understanding these differences would be great. I just want simple 2 channel preamp, with as tube like sound as possible. Please help, and many thanks,
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My need for an active buffer with attenuator is due to a need to run long interconnects to an amp that sits in between my speakers. I have another set-up where I just use the Lightspeed with short interconnects to the amp and long speaker cables. Quite frankly, both units are very transparent. There are slight sonic differences, but nothing to split hairs over.

As for the TAP-X, IIRC the 6 input version John Chapman made has a board where the two sets of outputs can be operated with an active buffer by the flip of a switch. Quite a nice feature.
Yea, I know about active buffer option on the Tap X. John told me the active buffer degrades the sound of the Tap X and stopped including them on his later runs of the Tap X. I think the buffer was an opamp.
If you look at the designs of a Pass B-1, Burson-160, and Horn Shoppe Truth as examples, these buffered devices are anything but band-aids.

I think we're using the term differently. I didn't intend a pejorative. I meant it the other way: something that easily mends. In fact, based on your response, I must have made myself very difficult to understand in that whole post, so I'll rephrase. I'm not trying to find out how a passive is with my system. I have an older passive and I'm hooked on the direction it's taking me. It's already pretty clear that I would benefit from a buffer. In fact, Almarg was quite patient and helpful in another thread where I was struggling with this. Now, I'm just wondering what the active preamp crowd would say remains unprovided in a merely passive or buffered preamp that a traditional active preamp provides. On other words, I'm not just learning how configure my system; I'm attempting to learn the conversation.
A very good question, After having owned some of the finest tube line stages,
and almost every type of passive, and given that I have low impedances
sources with strong analog output, short, low capacitance IC from "pre
to amp, and a sensitive (1v) amp with 100 kohm input impedance, I'm not
sure what an active, any active can do to make the sound truer to the source -
warts and all. What an active will certainly do as add a coloration (many
different flavors) that, while undoubtedly a distortion of the source signal can
be, for many people, very pleasant to listen to, and it does not matter if they
believe it is a move from "true to the source" - they like the way
their actives sound and that's all that really matters. Me, I prefer to take the
preamp (as best I can) out of the tone equation and deal with the Source,
amp, and ICs for the sound I want. The best passive I've tried? The Lightspeed
Attenuator. But I have not stopped looking......
Wow, guys,this has been really helpful and insightful. I'm learning! Actually, I should have read this before I made my purchase!!! I got the canary passive 200, and what a disaster! the sound was awful. A huge mistake! I chalk it up to a learning experience. Now, I am thinking of either a nad 165bee preamp to go with the nad 270 amp or maybe a tube pre that would be COMPATIBLE SYNERGYSTICALLY! I don't want to make another mistake. Because I don't really have an engineering background, and for that matter, don't understand the "electrical concepts" to ensure comptability, I'm going to first clear it with you guys, if that's ok. I love this hobby!
Can you guys recommend a good tube amp that would compliment nicely my nad c270 amp? Or, should I just sell the amp and go with a nice tube integrated? I prefer the former option for now. My budget is 500 to 1,000 max.
Thanks very much.