No. It is a superior design principle but one that is not easily accepted by the audiophile (or retailer) market. Powered speakers are a hard sell, unfortunately.
17 responses Add your response
Agree, It's the most perfect speaker can be.
The listed models aren't fully powered and only have a built-in subwoofer amp but in reality the fully powered speaker can sound its best. Amps will than be much harder to sell.
I'm leaning towards upgrade to Avantgarde Solo fully powered speaker that to my wonder bassed to the level of my totems having a superior dissapearance effect. You can also use the tweeter amp since it has built-in electronic x-over.
Relatively there won't be large investment if I sell my amps and speakers.
On the other side, I am not interested in powered speakers.
Personally, I desire the freedom to make my system sound the way I want. And, that can change over time or with the music I want to hear or with whom I am listening with or depending on what kind of tangent I go off on. I love having the flexibility of two pairs of speakers, each mating well with my solid state or tube amps.
I think the analogous option that many tube amplifier manufacturers give in terms of being able to go triode or ultralinear means that some of us out here want to be able to tailor our systems to our music, moods, or kicks.
I believe it would drive me crazy to not be able to adjust the sound of my system to the point where I would eventually sell this type of component.
Digital power amps, that generate little heat, may make speakers with built in amps more practical. The speakers could be fed ones and zeros via a fiber optic, (and 115vac). This could be carried to an extreme, where each driver has a couple of transistors to drive it mounted on its frame. (Don't laugh, I saw this done, but not in a production item).
A good powered speaker often cost a lot more. i.e. a ATC SCM20ATSL retailed cost $7500 yet the passive version is only $4000. If you need portability and worry free then you should get the active. That's why most of ProAudio gears are active. The passive is more for experience audiophiles who likes to mix and match with different amps and preamps ( Especially for home use.) or they already have very good amps.
There are big sonic advantages to be gain by the elimination of passive crossover components and employing active line level crossovers to dedicated amplifiers in either a biamp or triamp configuration. If your design must have a crossover, then active is the best way to go. Trelja's above comments are quite telling if he represents the typical audiophile. It strikes me as unwise to ignore superior design elements in order to pursue sonic finger painting. If you really want to change the sound of you system it's far better to get an equalizer and/or a compressor.
As always, what really is important in a product is the actual implementation not the inherent superiority of any design.
On the other hand, in the pro market, active speakers are more commonplace. I've been in several recording studios where the monitors sounded great. What they had in common was they were using Mackie HR824 actively bi-amped two-way Studio Monitors. Compared to "audiophile" prices, they are not cost prohibitive. You can find a pair for around $1,000 (used). It would seem to me that speakers such as these should be high on the list of those looking to build a system on a "budget."
They sound great, have excellent high and low extension and, if you spread them apart, they will throw a wide deep sound-stage. I'm looking for an excuse to build a 2nd or 3rd system around them. In fact, what I want to do is use my Mac G4 1.25 GHz Powerbook as the transport. I've hooked this up to an external DAC (sound card) that takes a USB digital feed from the computer and listened to CD's I ripped to the hard drive uncompressed using AIFF (These were CD's I purchased). It sounds great. I could take a R & L analogue out from the DAC, plug it into the Mackies and have a great sounding 2nd system. I can also play DVD's and the 15" widescreen monitor looks really good. Right now, I am using an M-Audio USB Audiophile DAC, which cost $175. The sound of CD's ripped uncompressed to my hard drive fed digitally to and played through the DAC is better than a lot of mid-fi CD players I've heard. I'm curious to see how much better it would sound with a higher end DAC like the Apogee. Anyway, I'm rambling. The theory behind active speakers is sound and though some inveterate tweakers (Audiophiles) may resist the advantages inherent in the design, plenty of other audio enthusiasts and professionals embrace it. I would encourage everyone to audition speakers like the Mackies, Adams, Genelecs, Behringer, etc. Active Studio Monitors.
I belive that Active speakers will limit the market for the manufacturers to those who haven't bought an amp yet or are willing to sell what they own. They do sound great,
each driver with it's own amp and no crossover losses.
My guest is that the manufacturers drop them following the trends in the market.
Before I begin, let me admit that I have been an Active speaker user for 15 years (Meridian) and a Meridian DSP speaker user for the past year. I drank the whole jar of Kool-Aid. With that disclaimer:
In fact, Monoblocks are not at all the same as powered speakers. Passive speakers receive a large electrical signal from an amp, through their crossover (single driver units, like Lowthars, being the exception). Since the signal is large (compared to the line level signal received by the amp) the crossover has to be large. Large, high quality components are expensive. Large chokes and caps, etc. must be must be used. Since it's passive, the crossover can only "throw away" power to provide proper equalization to the various drivers (can't add it). Crossovers are notorious for adding phase anomalies and can introduce a wide swing in speaker impedence versus frequency, making a speaker difficult to drive. Since the crossover must "throw away" power to equalize a speaker, power is wasted (sometimes a LOT of power).
Active speakers, on the other hand, receive a line-level signal into a small, active crossover, where impedence is a non-issue (line level impedence being 100x or more that of speaker level impedence). The signal is split actively to one amp per driver (or driver type). These amps are sized specifically for and connected directly to the drivers, which present a much more level impedence to the amplifier. Damping factor, efficiency (and usually dynamics) are improved. Because damping factor is greatly improved, cone control is improved, allowing the active speaker to control large driver excursion and reach louder volumes, frequently with smaller drivers. The distance between amp and driver, combined with the even impedence curve, make (internal) cable selection much less critical (obviously, one can not choose traditional speaker cable for an active speaker).
The next step, of course, is a DSP speaker, but I won't get into that here.
I recommend that those interested in this topic read Bob Stuart's (Meridian) white paper at http://www.meridian.co.uk/w_paper/DSP_speakers_scr.pdf. Bob has been a pioneer in active speakers since the '70s. Today, most Meridian speakers go a step further than simply active, maintaining a digital signal all the way into the speakers, but the white paper has a lot of great information about the advantages of active speakers in general. It's an interesting read.
As I see it, the real disadvantage of active speakers is that they restrict the user's choice. I, for one, am happy to have a custom-tailored amp/speaker interface, but I know that many hobbyists want to choose each system component individually (hence the seperation of DACs from transports, phono stages from preamps, etc.) certainly, active speakers remove some of the ability to "tweak" a system. As an obsessive/compulsive hobbyist with enough to obsess about already, I welcome the simplification.
Johnmcelfresh...Your write up describes the advantages of line level electronic crossovers, which I have used with biamplification for decades. Electronic crossovers and biamplification don't require that the elecrtonics be built into the speaker. Similarly, built in electronics don't have to be biamplification, although that approach does make sense.
Passive crossovers have various problems, but "throwing away" power is not one of them. If it were, they would get very warm, which they don't.
The best implementation is the Meridians, which use a proprietary interface. If the digitial interface to the speakers were standardized, seperate amps would eventually go the way of the dinosaur. Because then all the choices the audiophile craves would be available by merely replacing the speakers. Marketing and sales are to blame not technology.
I do not own Meridian speakers. Some days I wish I had bought the DSP8000's and not my huge mono block amps/speakers. John's post above summarizes things pretty well, but he dismisses the digital transport layer, which I feel is critical.
The digital transfer of data, allows the crossovers to be implemented in DSP's, and it allows a seperate DAC for each driver type. The direct coupling of the amps to each driver has everything over convential amps (single amp, bi amp, tri amp whatever). When an amp is tailored to a specific driver, and a specific wire interface, many assumptions can be made and held, that greatly improve the control of the cone.
If you have any doubts, I repeat what John asks, read Mr. Stewarts technical articles. But first, seek out a Meridian dealer, and sit infront of a 861/800/DSP8000 system, and get blown away. Go ahead, add up the cost (you only need an 861 just to listen to CD's). Yeah, eah piece is expensive, but no amps, no cables. The total system price is less than a comparable stand system.
It is rumoured that several other consumer scale mfg's are working on speaker system very similiar in concept to the DSP8000. It is hoped that HDMI or whatever digital interface that gets standardized will open the way for this.