Are active speakers the best upgrade

I have recently heard Brentworth (single driver, no crossover) and ATC active 100's. They were both vey revealing speakers and it occurred to me that we're chasing better electronics while maybe the speaker crossover is putting all this distortion back into the system.
Is the fact that these speakers are active what makes them so clear? Has anyone compared the active vs. passsive versions of ATC?
It's interesting that ATC focuses on accuracy in the drivers by eliminating hysteresis effects and 1st and 3rd order harmonics while B&W focuses more on the enclosure. I wonder how good B&W could sound if they made their Nautilus speakers active. Maybe they use such good crossovers that its as good as ATC's external crossover. Any thoughts?
I recently purchased a used active system (bi-amped with speakers) and can testify that the changes I hear are stunning. The biggest improvement is the entire system is less source-critical. This has allowed me to enjoy much more of my vinyl library without disappointment. The surface noise of generic vinyl pressings is greatly diminished. Music takes on a wonderful 3-D effect with a much wider and deeper sound stage. Any awareness that the speakers are the source of the sound is gone. The bass extension is almost frightening coming from such small drivers and enclosures. The last benefit is a feeling that the reproduction process is effortless.

Manufacturers such as Naim and Linn have been promoting the benefits of going active for quite some time. This is an interesting subject. I look forward to following the thread.

Happy listening, Patrick
Active eliminates alot of intermodulation distortion that happens in passive crossovers. Not to mention, with large woofers as the voice coil temperature rises the inductance changes, which in turn causes some phase shift, another advantage of active designs. Its amazing how few speakers companies are doing them since the advantages are so great. I suspect part of it is the marketability aspect-alot of audiophile's want to choose their amps and even more so if they are set on tube amps they won't even bother with an active system-since all the ones I've seen use ss (not that it has to be ss, but its for the better)
Have a listen to a Linn Aktiv system. 'Going aktiv', once you've got a good source, is the big upgrade that Linn advocates, and that Linn freaks swear by. Meridian takes it even further - straight from the digital source to the active speaker with built-in dac.
An active crossover system should offer much better amplitude control then a passive system. The active crossover design is speaker specific and will not transfer to different speakers. This is what the now defunct Waveform speaker line used. The tweaks hated these speakers. One question for them: If the Waveforms sucked then why aren't there any used speakers for sale?
First, thanks to the people here, I found out about ATC.
Many things were impressive. I don't listen to $15,000 speakers much so everything impresses me (not Wilson's) compared to what I own (Nautilus):
- I could hear 4-5 layers of tonality change a triangle being struck in an orchestra piece. I hear 1-2 on B&W. This happened with lots of instruments.
- My girlfriend didn't complain about the volume level. That's because there was virtually no distortion. I was shocked when she said she was fine with the volume. This has never happened before. The bass was big but highly damped. So the bass reverb did not hurt her chest. Neither one of us complained about the high's being harsh. Even on "hot" recordings. It was clear but not bright. I have become suspicious of Paradigm (for example) who may be using bright tweeters to give the perception of detail but on "hot" recordings, the trick becomes all too obvious.

So my gut reaction to this was the typical stereo enthusiast or audiophile is going crazy after wires, CDP, and DAC's which improve sound a few percent. All the while active designs go begging. But I would estimate they can give, like 10-30% improvements.

Also I believe the preamp can color the sound so one could use a tube pre or a tube DAC even if the amps are S.S. Or records too.

I don't need speakers which play 118 dB continuous. But on some level in this crazy hobby, I could see the $15,500 ATC 100's actually being worth it. The crystal clarity, lack of distortion, and effortless dynamics were awesome. ATC did have problems with soundstaging, naturalness in piano, playing at low volumes, and the open, expansive sound B&W does on vocals and the high freq's.

Bottom line: I want this in my system.

And I don't think it is possible in passive systems. If it is, please tell me how. Would a Triangle Celius on SET or JM Labs Micro Utopia do this? I can't think of anything else that might.

I read the Nautilus review online at and it was informative on the lengths that B&W goes to. Their $40,000 Nautilus is active. Stereophile's article describes why they went passive and the problems it created on the 801's. People might want to check this review out.
I've been around the high end audio scene since about 1982, in one way or another, and have hands on dealt with so so so many speaker desings and technologies. I would personally like to see the new trend in loudspeaker manufacturing go towards "active" designs. The benefits and potential improvements in speaker performance fundamentally, from what we can all obviously pick up on, are ready to be realized! We've been through just about all the possible improvements we're every likely going to realize from the basic "passive" loudspeaker designs, that have been done over and over and over again, throughout the years, with variations here and there of course. Active speaker pottentially offer much better dynamic realism and transparency, less distortion, better spead, detail, etc. A number of speaker manufacturers have displayed what is possible, and the dramatic improvements that good active designs offer. From here, UP IS ACTIVE, my oppinion.
A couple of years ago, I was at Dunlavy Audio for a factory tour. I spent considerable time with John Dunlavy, and one of the questions I asked him was why more loudspeaker manufacturers don't make "active" designs? His reply was, he personally didn't think it was necessary, and that it was rather cost prohibitive and difficult to do well. Putting amps inside speakers, he said, was difficult to deal with, and most people didn't want to have to buy an external amp/crossover/speaker set-up, but rather wanted to pick their own gear anyway!..I've heard similar from many speaker designers. Bottom line, "passive" speakers are easier and cheeper to design.
We've since embraced the "powered/active" built in subwoofer thing in a lot of speaker designs as of the last few years. I think it's just a matter of time before we see more manufactures doing completely active speakers.
At the very least,I would like to see more higher end speaker using active woofers. This still increases dynamics and such on it's own.
The surgence of home theater, benefits of active subwoofers, crossing over to speakers at higher frequencies is of vital importance for passive monitor design in that arena at the very least. But for purrist high end sound reproduction or music, this scenario has it's limitations. No "passive" full range loudspeakers that I'm awar of can do justic to full range Dolby digital or DTS soundtracks, that is CERTAIN! The dynamics are just too great, and do best reproduced by "active" powered woofers down lower. I've heard first hand, that active monitors with active powered subs is even better!!!!
Now what we need is for more and more people to jump on that bandwaggon, and start creating more offerings of "full range" active's that will be adequate for music listening.
Lynn, Meridian, ATC, and active's with some obvious benefits over passive's. Horn speakers offer some decided advantages with increased dynamic effeciency...but horns have some serious dissadvantages, as we all know.
We've largely embraced traditional Piston driver design speakers, and the only way up from here is going to be going active. All the electrnic upgrades isn't going to improve things any more. We need more dirrect interaction fro amps and drivers if we want to see some improvement.
It's amazing that passive speakers sound as descent as they do, considering all the dissadvantages that passive crossovers induce. Going active is the next logical step really. Hey, the pro audio industry has realized this long's time for mainstream home audio to realize the same.

If we're going to
With regard to Lthkeeper's point, Paradigm had nice active speakers now discontinued. They are very good at marketing and my understanding is that they just could not sell them. People will not accept that package. Anyone else heard anything on why their active line was discontinued.

Unfortunately, do not hold your breath if you expect audio to be marketed in anything but separate little boxes as it is now.

I remain
TacT might lead us into the future.

I suspect that the fetish factor of amps, cables, crossovers made with air core inductors blah blah...etc. is just too great. An active system makes everything just too plain and simple for the obsessive compulsive audiophile.
How are Meridian active speakers? I've never heard the DSP 5000's (or any of their speakers for that matter), nor have I heard many audiophiles talk about them. Are they good? How do they compare to Linn's active speakers or other makers passive designs.
There are many active biamped 2-ways on the market. They're marketed as "studio monitors".

And of course powered subwoofers are all the rage.

What we don't see are a lot of active full-range tower speakers.
For me, a big YES. I sold my Tylers and Egglestons and purchased one of the last fifty pairs of Paradigm V2.Active 40s. On Osiris stands, JPS, HT and Luminous ICs and a Rogue 99 Magnum with Sylvania GTAs the sound is glorious.

Bass is awesome, this is the most enjoyable system I have owned. According to Paradigm plans were for active 20s, through 100s, due to lagging sales and combined with a higher cost factor the 20s and 40s have been discontinued.

As to the 40s, 2k and you get 4 amps, what a sweet deal, yet audiophiles did not respond. I think one review said it best " Audiophiles don't buy 2k speakers and 2k was to pricy for the rest"
As far as i can reason, active is more/very cost effective for what it offers. Has anyone ever priced metal cases for amps-$100 a piece starting on up? Making a speaker cabinet a little bigger to compensate for the amps volume is alot cheaper-MDF costs less then metal. Not to mention it cleans up alot of listening room clutter of equipment and gets the speaker cable runs down to a few feet (two feet of good 14g cable is probably as good as 12 or 14 feet of high-performance wire). It also eliminates the needs for zobels in many cases and allows the designer to design the amp with a specific driver in mind, increasing performance more.
And with the active crossover, all it needs is a volume nob to become a preamp. The performance gains are just too great to be ignored. And its shocking that you find pieces of crap $70,000 speaker using passive networks. People pay obscene amounts of money for crap. The best active crossover would smoke the best passive crossover for less money. Burmester has an $80,000 pr of speaker using a $300 raven r-2 ribbon tweet and two seas excel aluminum cones (<$200 each) per side plus the lf section and passive crossover, all for $80,000. Its obvious that the best products for the money don't always win in a free market economy, which I though was one of the underlying ideas/virtues behind such. Company images and ideologies sell better.
I am no expert, but I can't help thinking that keeping the electronics away from the vibrations, magnetic fields and limted heat dissipation that come with most speakers might be a better idea. I do agree that putting the amps before the crossover seems like a superior method.
I'm glad to see this topic is receiving so much attention. Those that are interested should check out these sites:, and
This technology may indeed become the driving force for huge performance increases in home audio.
Happy listening,