Due to the unavailability of a full size Man Room and a sub par Living Room area I have started to seriously consider Active Studio Monitors as my listening room will be in a converted Office that are so prevalent in the newer Suburban House Floorplan. There seems to be MANY benefits in going active monitors set up in the near field to mid field. Active DSP, No passive crossovers, Plenty of room acoustic adjustments, some with onboard DACS, Some full digital domain till it reaches the drivers, Near full range And ruler flat responses. I have narrowed it down to a few that fit my needs and would greatly reduce the boxes and expense. A good streamer, optional DAC and Pre with active monitors would be the whole kit.
One Im looking at are APS Klasik which will be coming out with a HiFi model of the Klasik Studio Monitor differing by a vinyl or wood wrap of your choice, stand by power on/off, and Grill covers. This is highly regarded for Mixing and MAstering it also looks more like a hifi speaker than a monitor.
Nubert Nupro A300 which look great and is fully digital to the drivers so a high end streamer and the speakers would be the whole system.
A few from Focal and Dynaudio
Presonus Sceptre s8 has a great DSP and a Coaxial.
These are just the highly regarded less than 2K offerings and many like the EVENT OPAL, Focal Trio, neumans, ATC and Geithain would be something to look at on the high end if it really works out and even those would be bargains considering how much you would be saving in amps, high end cables, ect.
Technically, yes, powered carefully matched monitors can have some benefits.
BUT, the devil is int he implementation. And in the room acoustics. :)
Another cost saving is to go with a very good kit or custom speaker maker. You can get outstanding speakers from Selah or Taylor audio fully built, or just the cabinets and make out like a freaking bandit in terms of quality and value.
Taylor's new line of small affordable monitors are a great bargain. I haven't heard them, but he has a great ear, and I have heard a lot of the components hes putting together.
some would be total control, some will be focused dispersion, all will have woofer/tweeter control adjustments and shelf filters ect. Remember the specification is for a small converted office. This situation is different than a farfield setup.
I have done in back 10 years ago, in a 12x11 room acoustically treated. I chose dynaudio bm5 for monitors preamplified by an adcom 710. Before I must have had all sorts, martin logan aerius I, bw cdm9nt, magnepan mg 12 and mmgs, diy 2-way bookshelves and what have u. I found them good at low volumes, but limited in output and dynamics with demanding material. I felt they were underpowered to serve as mid-field speakers. I went back to separates after a year.
There are a lot of benefits to actives but the implementations are more geared to mixing, which is okay if you like analytical and cold sounding speakers. This sound to me is edgy and fatiguing, but some enjoy it.
@seanheis1 -- active speakers can sound as different as passive speakers do. I would not characterize any of the active speakers I've owned or heard as analytical or cold. All have been very musical and non-fatiguing.
@dcfis -- originally the O300 used the famous ATC dome midrange, but the K+H engineers believed they could build one that was just as good for less money. I can't comment on that having never heard ATC, but I can say that the O300 is the best sounding speaker I have ever heard.
Earlier this summer I was in our local Best Buy and I noticed that they had a Magnolia store. In the "high-end" listening room was a pair of B&W 803 driven by McIntosh monoblocks and a McIntosh preamp. The manager played an LP of Brubeck's Take Five and I was expecting to be blown away. He told me the speakers were $15K. I have no idea of the cost of the electronics and very nice looking AudioQuest cables, but I was not impressed. The system was revealing and exposed all the surface noise of the LP, but there was nothing exceptional about the presentation. My 2.2 system was, to me, better in every way for substantially less money (and less clutter). You can see my system here at audiogon. How could that be?
Moving the crossover in front of the amps reduces IMD. Split the bandwidth 3-ways will reduce IMD more than splitting it 2-ways. Use bass management to handle the subs effectively creates a 4-way reducing IMD again. My 2.2 system has 8 drivers and each one has its own amp. My system also employs room mode correction.
I've read from time to time that the music lives in the midrange. So having a dedicated driver for the midrange seems to make sense.
Look at the Quested Line, Active Speakers, I have a dealer which has given me excellent pricing on them. The Z Series though designed for Home Theatre do have a Active Remote Amplifier setup Such as the Z8s. Hanz Zimmer uses Quested Speakers in his studios.
One more comment about speakers in general... I read in an interview with Ken Kantor (MIT whiz kid, co-founder of NHT) many years ago in which he said that anyone can build a reference loudspeaker. The hard part was building a production line that created speakers that matched the reference speaker.
The Neumann monitors are built in an ISO certified factory in Ireland (same one that made K+H). In short, Neumann monitors are a true professional product.
Take a look at the Focal SM9, They use A/AB amps and have a built in EQ that can be by passed. They basically have modified utopia and electra drivers in them. They are $7500ish and crazy cheap when compared to focal's other speakers. There is a big thread on gearslutz about the SM9.
For many practical reasons, active monitors are what one will find in many project and mastering studios. Pro monitors are not designed for or marketed to the retail trade; beautiful woodwork and WAF are not a concern and marketing costs are kept minimal. Thus they have a rather narrow and utilitarian focus on sound quality and high value for the money. What one gets with an active pro monitor is a speaker that is no nonsense with a built-in amp engineered specifically for that speaker, along with sundry, often useful, options to EQ, balance and adapt their sound to the studio environment, be it near-field, mid-field or free-standing far field. Do keep in mind that active studio monitors often, but not always, accept only balanced (XLR) signal connectors, and that they also require an IEC power cord.
Because they are not commonly retailed (some cheap ones can be found at Guitar Center stores, but...), it is often difficult to directly audition and comparison shop studio monitors. Instead, Gearslutz https://www.gearslutz.com/board/ , as mentioned, has endless, and extremely detailed, discussions by pro and semi-pro sound studio people comparing all of the various brands. One can spend days...
In my studio, I worked with Focal CMS 65 monitors for a few years. Well built and designed, good sound and an excellent value @ $800 each (studio monitors are almost always sold individually). However, they make everything sound "nice," and I needed a monitor that was more detailed and precisely revealing. For me, that has been Swiss-built PSI Audio A21-M active monitors. http://www.zenproaudio.com/psi-audio-a21-m They are phenomenal; read the reviews. Absolutely flat, neutral, "fast," and utterly coherent and transparent, they "disappear" sonicly even in near-field and give me the sense that I'm listening directly to the source. They're analytical in the best sense of the word and not aggressive or fatiguing in the slightest. Carefully paired (wonderfully well) with my Focal CMS SUB http://www.zenproaudio.com/focal-cms-sub , the system is essentially flat to about 30 Hz. The downside? Not so good for background music; they're hard to ignore. See what they have to say about them at Gearslutz. The entire PSI line is remarkable and similar. There may be other monitors as good, but none at a comparable price that are notably better. (ZenPro is a joy to deal with as well.)
So if you want to simplify your system, and hear something similar to what the mastering engineer heard, get yourself a pair (or more) of pro monitors.
If it were such a great idea we all would have this arrangement. In reality almost none of us does. What does it tell you? One thought is that we are stupid, another that we are ignorant, yet another that we are arrogant, and the final one is that we know what we do. You choose.
I've used passive speakers for near field monitoring for many years because I simply have them around and can tweak the sound with outboard stuff including amps, and among the best I've had are some old KEF Q10s with front ports. Still have those. You really have to listen to recordings on various systems to tell what's what anyway (I listen to things on my main stereo rig all the time to get a different perspective). Lots of serious musicians I know like various Mackie powered monitor speakers, and I recently scored an older 500 watt Mackie HR120 95 lb (!) subwoofer (goes to 19hz) for no reason except damn, it sounds good.
@inna - The answer to your question is that *active* pro monitors are not made for or marketed to consumers. No salons and a flattened distribution chain, very limited and very specialized advertising, little or no fancy furniture and no concern about the WAF, and not much in the way of "show-off" designs (exotic drivers and/or materials, creative cabinets, etc.) that don’t demonstrably benefit the sound. For most studio people, monitors are simply tools that one develops working experience with, and not something to endlessly tweak. There are other, more productive, things to do, and often as much or more time and money is devoted to room design, treatment and acoustics. At the very top end, beyond about $10K each, some studios will sometimes have passive "consumer" models such as Duntech or B&W 802 or 805s with associated high end amps. But even then, those speakers are often in addition to rather than instead of smaller active monitors. Active monitors are hard to beat when it comes to near- or mid-field listening and sonic "bang-for-the-buck." If I ever replace my "living room system" speakers (Thiel 2 2s driven by a Classé amp), it will almost certainly be with active studio monitors such as those by PSI.
Active monitors by design definitely less compromised than passive. The issue probably is they are inflexible in the way that they need to be partnered with balanced preamps in most cases. Secondly one cannot play around with amplification for voicing (which audiophiles hate). Finally there are not as many choices in the active domain as in the passive because that is where the money lies.
Since active speakers are intended for studios they possibly assume room correction and acoustics already in place which most domestic setting would not have.
This is audiophile forum. If you want something much better than Bose get active monitors, if you want great sound don't. SS vs tube is a totally incorrect analogy, and audiophiles do have to spin cds from time to time for the obvious reason. It is clear that advocates of active speakers have no valid audiophile arguments.
Active near field monitors just another valid way to enjoy music if ones situation and preferences lean that way. Lot's of good things may not be "audiophile" approved. I wouldn't worry about it. Just do it right and all will be fine.
Even with studio monitors there are good and bad ones - in every price range! Grimm Ls1 and ATC SCM50 ASL are a must hear if you are looking for a SS amp powered speaker setup above 10k. Studio monitors give you a much better bang for the buck and even more important a much much better resale value.
You'll find the Focal Solo 6 as one of his top choices. It's a nice speaker -- looks better than the typical studio monitor and fits an in-between price point. A friend of mine uses them. They replaced his passive system: Pass Labs X1, Parasound JC-1 monoblocks, Martin Logan SL3 and Martin Logan subwoofer.
@cwlondon Not to mention obsessing over speaker wire/cable/whatever, interconnects unbalanced/balanced 10-9s OFHC, and of course the preamp. Myself, I don’t even use a preamp. Same as the fellow referenced by bob_reynolds, I have for years used a Mytek DAC, which supports 4 digital inputs and has a volume control pot built in. It directly drives my PSI, and before that Focal, monitors and sub. Balanced interconnects by Monoprice (which I compared to several others, and they’re as good as Mogami, Canare, Monster & the like). Clean!
To wit, active studio monitors are indeed less "fun." They’re no nonsense high value tools designed and built for audio professionals who usually have better and more profitable things to do than constantly tweak their monitoring system. Instead, professionals get to know what they have, thoroughly, and how best to work with it. They then get on with the job.
A note of caution. As mentioned, studio monitors tend to be holographic and attention commanding, and perhaps aren't the best for background listening. Moreover, a system like the PSI will tell you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the sound. By design, you will hear everything about your system and your source recording, the spectacular, the mediocre and the ugly. It won't put powder and lipstick on anything, but natural beauty will shine through like nothing else.
For many reasons, I've been forced to shoehorn my audio habit into my home office, which for the past 10+ years meant a 2.1 system of active desktop speakers + sub (originally NHT M-00's + S-00 sub). Early this year I decided to move up, and after a lot of searching, chose the Swan Audio HiVi M200MkIIIs (still running w/NHT S-00 sub). I am extremely happy with the Swans. No, they're not certified high-end, but they're also not cold, analytical studio monitors. They actually make music, and have shown they can scale up to match increasingly high-quality/resolution sources. In a couple months I'll complete the system upgrade by replacing the NHT sub w/an SVS SB1000 and adding a Marchand active crossover to steer signal to the Swans vs sub.
BTW, I looked at Focals & Dynaudios, but don't have the budget or space on desktop for those. I'm very interested in the Adam 7X monitors, based solely on what I've read, but that interest will likely remain academic for several years at least--the Swans are very satisfying, particularly w/low bass filled in by a competent sub.
Recently purchased JBL M2 studio monitors driven by Crown amps with built in DSP. The quality of the sound is superior to anything I have ever owned or auditioned during the 50+ years I have been in this hobby which I began in the 60's with a AR3a/Dynaco/Shure V15 setup.
I have used various active ATCs for over 10 years. With the right ancillary gear they sound fantastic, they are not over analytical or fatiguing, create an amazing sound stage and are pretty cost effective. I heard The magico Q7s ii driven by constellation monos recently at a hifi show. Apart from the fact they were in a very large room and so could go loud there was nothing I felt I was missing in my own system.
I've used Paradigm Active 40's with a Vandersteen Sub for many years (with CJ PV8). I've tried to replace them with all sorts of comparable and well known speaker/amp combos -- but always return to this system. Besides the obvious importance of interconnects, has been power cables and power conditioning.
As you can see in my system link, I use ATC SCM 7's with a pair of Crown D-75a's as monoblocks for computer speakers on my desktop.
This is in the very near nearfield and I have enjoyed them for years - in fact as much or more than any of my full systems.
Curiously, someone at ATC has suggested that their active version of the same speaker would always outperform the passive version. For example their SCM20's are available in both active and passive versions.
I would like to upgrade to a slightly bigger box (ATC SCM 11s, 19s or 20s?). But in the audiophile tradition of this forum, to maximize hardware and try very high end class A monoblocks, such as Pass Labs.
Understanding that an active amp (or two) can work beautifully or even be optimized for any particular speaker - can anyone explain why this would necessarily outperform a pair of Pass Lab amps with short runs of high quality cables?
In other words, let's say a manufacturer offers the same monitor, but one is active and one is passive.
I understand the argument that their own amp or amps (in the active version) might be matched to that speaker, voiced to that speaker or otherwise optimized for that speaker blah blah blah.
But wouldn't it also be manufactured to a price point, with some concern for the overall price (and/or weight) of the active monitor?
If so, why wouldn't the passive version - if paired with an ultra high end "audiophile" power amp or amps - potentially sound even better?
ATC makes an SCM 20 passive and an SCM 20 active and once told me at a show that their active monitors would always outperform their passive versions.
They said something about crossovers which despite > 30 years in this hobby made no sense to me, especially since they also sell external amps. I should have asked if their SCM 20 passive with their amp would under perform their SCM 20 active.
Of course, like any self respecting audiophile, I covet placebo effects, overpriced enclosures, cables and jewel like switches, meters and dials if anyone could please advise?