Active Speakers Better? No, per Michael Borresen

The best sounding speaker I have had the pleasure to hear is made by Borresen.

I recently spent time with Michael Borresen in Seattle at a show. It was slow so

I was able to speak with him for a time. I asked him if he plans an active speaker. 

His answer was a definitive and immediate "No". He said separates sound better.


His statement flies in the face of what passes in most audio corners as commonly recognized facts. 


Sadly I am too technically challenged to convey any of his further explanation.


I invite all intelligent commentary on this question. Theoretical or not.


@onhwy61 , +1, I agree with all of the advantages you mention about active speakers as well as the space and savings on separate amplifiers and speaker cables. Each of these speakers are internally biamped and I have a lot of speakers. It wouldn't have been practical to biamp 13 speakers with external amps and the long runs of speaker wire.

The additional wire and type of wire should NOT be passed over, there are many measurements to indicate the issues there.  Dampening factor losses, power losses, capacitance added with length, etc are the simple issues.   There are more complex ones as well.  There is a long list of differences detailed by so many in cables, how can these differences suddenly not matter when discussing active vs passive?  

In addition to the issues of wire and which ones sounds "right" or wrong, there are even more issues/problems:

1) phase: you cannot adjust driver phase in passive.  A phase linear speaker system is very important to best possible sound.

2) Changes with heat and temperature of drivers: as drivers heat up, they change properties and interact with a passive crossover in a way that can change the crossover point, the sensitivity, etc.  The long and short of this is that the speaker sounds different "hot" (on for 5 hours straight) vs. "cold".  Not true in the same way with an active system.  Most passives are NOT phase linear because you cannot have precision in adjusting this phase via passive components.  With active, its easy.

3)The driver never "sees" the amp: there is a significant amount of stuff audio is traveling through (wires, inductors, coils, connectors, etc) permanently between all the speaker drivers and the amp.  How can this be said to actually improve transparency?  The obvious answer is it doesn't improve anything.  It also makes it difficult if you replace drivers that have ever so slight difference in sensitivity: this is not adjustable unless you reengineer the entire crossover.   

4) Adding a bunch additional circuitry seems to be a negative in almost all situations, many electronics companies talk about reducing the circuitry to improve performance.  Why here, in this amp to speaker location, is it pitched as BETTER to add bunch of extra parts ?      

5) If you are a speaker designer, that doesn't mean you are also an amp designer and vice versa.  So most speaker companies must go elsewhere for amp designs, making the entire project more complex and involving more engineers.  Few have both disciplines in the same house.  (Genelec and ATC were the pioneering companies in active and their founders could do both).




Remember, Borresen is also Ansuz cables and power supplies and Aavik amplifiers, so if he's really taking that stance, it's worthy of note.

In contrast, YG Acoustics just teamed up with Bel Canto and Cambridge Acoustic Sciences to produce the Vantage Live line of fully active speakers.

It doesn’t matter. It all depends and people go round and round.

The active speaker argument holds up really well in professional environments which need lots of power. Thats the only place where active is 100% better.

I have made passive 2-way speakers for my mains and planning a fully active 3-way for the center. In each case there are pro’s and cons and I know I’m trading off.

I think asking a manufacturer why don’t you make an active version, or why don’t you make a passive always elicits this kind of response, that what they are selling is best, and that’s the way of the world.

The consumer should go with what sounds best and what complexity levels of wiring and amplifiers they want to live with and fuss with as audiophiles, but anyone who tries to sell me that "technology x is always better than technology y" is not going to get an active engagement from me, it’s not worth it.

A shout out to many audiophile tinkerers who enjoy configuring drivers and horns and multiple types of amplifiers and are constantly switching out to try something new.  There is nothing wrong with that at all and you should enjoy it. 

PS - this kind of arm-chair tech discussions are exactly why I feel our community is served when more audiophiles build something themselves vs. rely 100% on marketting and media.

I second the spirit of Eric's post. In fact, I am waiting for glue to set as I type, on a set of passive loudspeakers in the shop. 

  It has been several years since I experienced the active loudspeaker idea. I was working with an engineer in Tucson who is brilliant with the technology of an active design, yet, in my application or use of such speakers, I still preferred the passive design that originally complimented these speakers (also designed by him).

 The active crossover chosen was made by a company that was popular but not impressive in build quality IMO. Bryston amps were used for power to all drivers. Balanced interconnects were used throughout, and I forget which AudioQuest speaker cable we chose.

 In a word, I found the result too dry for my taste. Again, the passive crossover was my preference, even though as stated before, they are rough in comparison of what can be accomplished with an active line level device.