Audiophile Active Speakers?

Bracing for a flame war on this one - but are there any really seriously good sounding active floor standers? The new Dynaudio XEO 6's intrigued me.

Here's why I'm interested. I recently acquired some great Verity Audio speakers that I realized my entire cabling, amps, preamps etc were too warm for. Problem is I'm getting past the point where I see this as a hobby and am just looking for good music reproduction without tons of system matching experimentation etc.

One interesting option would be selling all my electronics, cables, etc on A-gon and just purchasing a good DAC and good sounding Active floor standers. I could therefore afford decent speakers (up to $7K or so), pocket some cash, simply the system (and save lots of time and grief shopping for matching components).

Am I expecting something that would sound as good as the Verity's with appropriately good electronics? No - not even close.

But a quality audiophile sound I could live with and possible tweak with the right sounding DAC that could make me more or less satisfied is the goal. The don't have to be magical like the Verity's. Any thoughts?
Have you checked these out? Good reviews.
There are several manufacturers of great active speakers. The best I have heard personally are the Earo active horn speakers from Sweden. I believe that there is a distributor and at least one dealer in the U.S. I recall also reading a review in Positive Feedback.

I think that full range active active speakers are a great idea that is a non-starter for most audiophiles. How many guys are willing to do away with the fancy and expensive rack 'o gear?

There are several other manufacturers of active speakers: you already mentioned Dynaudio. Meridian offers several models of active speaker. Others include Adam Audio, ATC, B&O, Grimm Audio, PMC and PTE. Finally, there is the Steinway Lyngdorf, but you may need to sell one of your Bentleys to afford it.
Meridian and now Linn as well, at least for digiphiles.

They aren't just active, they have built-in DACs and DSP that correct driver-to driver timing and also adjusts for room EQ. You can move these speakers from the middle of the room to up against the back wall and it will adjust tonal balance and retain most of their imaging as well.
With Lynn and Meridian do you need separate (expensive) controllers that work with the speakers or is it just speaker ->source?

One limitation I see with the Dynaudio XEO and Focal Easya is that being wireless they don't do hi res audio. I don't listen to hi res audio currently, but I do think hi res streaming audio is right around the corner.

Maybe I'm looking for wired active speakers. I'll try to find info on the Earo's also.
"I realized my entire cabling, amps, preamps etc were too warm ...I'm just looking for good music reproduction without tons of system matching experimentation etc"

- I would get active ATC SCM50/100/150 ASLs in a heartbeat (if I had the room and cash)! Have you heard the ATC mid? It's uniquely transparent and natural. The whole range has also been recently upgraded with the new in-house ATC tweeter. Benefits of active crossover optimized to the drivers, no more speaker cables, bullet-proof build, tons of power...go audition them!
I recently picked up a pair of Adam F7 active monitors ($898) for my desk. Laptop directly connected to speakers out the 3.5mm headphone jack via $12 cables (3.5mm connector on one end, split to balanced connectors on other). Speakers plugged into Home Depot extension cords into builder grade outlet.

This no brainer setup is so good it has me rethinking my main system (which you can see here on A'gon).
I wonder how the Emotiva Pro lines of self-powered speakers would compare to the Adams. They have a similar Heil-style folded ribbon tweeter and a broad price range--from $399/pr to $1498/pr.
Don't know Emotiva, but these Adam F7 are seriously good! Not just for a "pro monitor". Just damned fine music reproducers, period. A real joy to listen to.
+1 on ATC. Magical speakers. And most report that the actives are the ones to have from ATC.

The Meridian speakers require Meridian electronics as the wiring is proprietary. As I recall, you are restricted to digital sources unless using an older Model 565 processor. I'm sure that someone else will chime in who has more recent experience with Meridian systems than me.

I do remember hearing a room setup for Meridian's proprietary 3-channel "stereo" mode some time ago. The soundstage image presence and sense or space were probably the best I have ever heard.
Soundfield audio m1. I have heard a few adams and while quite good the soundfields to me are in a different league.
I would recommend that you listen to both the ATC and Adam speakers. Both excel at dynamics, and I love the higher end Adams' Heil midrange and tweeter units. May be tough to get them for $7K, though.
Many advantages to a active approach, especially one that let you taylor the speaker to your room and your taste.

Have made several completely active solutions using DSP programable Ice-powered amplifiers the results are extremely good. You can make a speaker that have a completely flat frequency response and one that is completely time coherent - if thats what you desire.

Good Listening

AUDIOPHILE active speakers? As opposed to REAL SOUNDING, real world active speakers? Who would want audiophile know, those are the kind that sell due to a review from a guy you never met, where there are absolutely no standards imposed on him, where the only talents have to be dogmatic about that which he believes or is induced to believe and where he can write well enough to make the editor think he adds to the magazine; where the designer says he's from NASA and he's really not; where the designer likely has little to no measuring equipment or training; that don't ever have to convince a musician that they sound anything like him (as opposed to studio speakers where musicians might hear themselves right after they play - you mean those kind of speakers?

Or do you mean great speakers that studios mastering labs might use because they are transparent and sound something like the musicians; where dynamics as close as possible to live is a goal; where exaggerated highs and lows are not considered a plus but are are actually a stopper; that won't change every year or two in order to generate more reviews; that are made by a company viable enough, dedicated enough, and professional enough to stock drivers way after they stop using that driver; that are very live yet low enough in distortion to be used all day?

If you mean the latter, don't read any more magazines, double don't read webzines, and go listen to some ATC.

Real engineers, real testing ability, and are considered at the top in the studio market.

I have nothing to do with the company, I don't use them, so there is no prejudice or home cookin' here. I just know fidelity when I hear it.
I had a pair of paradigm active studio 20's that were very nice and worked out quite well for me;worth looking at if you get a chance.
If you're really looking to simplify, I say "Lose the DAC".

Since you mention a DAC, I assume that your source is digital, so why not go digital all the way? High end pre-pros or digital preamps (ala DEQX) will take the digital signal straight out of your player/transport/server/PC and eliminate that box, too.

I use a QSonix server, an Onkyo pre-pro, a pair of powered Rythmik subs and a few different main speakers (primarily Ohm or Magnepan in this system). There's also a power amp with a 12v trigger. One touch on the Onkyo remote and the system is ready to rock n roll.

BTW, I also own Verity P/Es in a more traditional system (including LP) and the sound - as you've guessed - is quite different, but.....

Don't be surprised if you prefer the all digital system.
If you can live without some of the holographic layered imaging I've heard from Verity speakers I agree with Kiddman and Roscoe. ATC speakers are outstanding at preserving and cleanly conveying the dynamics and power of a live performance (especially in the midrange) with nothing exaggerated or highlighted to distract you from the music. If you can find a pair of active ATC 50s in your price range I'd strongly recommend considering them. Best of luck.
Is there a reason you are limiting yourself to floor standing speakers? There are quite a few stand mount active speakers that will easily fill good sized spaces. ATC, Harbeth, Neumann, JBL come to mind.

Active speakers can vary in sound just like "audiophile" speakers. But, in general active speakers are designed to not impart a sound of their own. I've owned 4 different pairs of active speakers ranging in price from $800/pair to $5000+/pair and each were very satisfying to listen to for long periods of time.
Floor standers, try,

Psi audio
Ks digital
What about Genelac? Are those more for near field?
Feed them a good source and get them out from the wall and you'll get imaging a plenty from ATC. You need to listen to them. Take off the audiophile hat about not being able to alter the sound with distorted special effect cables and all that. Think "what does music sound like?" and then listen.
I hadn't thought about the question as "audiophile", but Kiddman's point is good, and can also be applied to the Adam speakers, which are also used in studio applications. I have heard both the ATCs (the 40s, I believe) and the earlier version of the smaller Adam model in their Tensor line (believe it was the Delta). Both have the dynamic capabilities that you need to make you think that you're listening to live music. They will not sound "pretty", though. I listened to the Wilson Sasha at the same time as I did the Adams, and while the Wilson did everything "right" in audiophile terms and sounded very good, I preferred the Adams speakers because of their openness, tonal fidelity and realistic dynamics; if I'd had the cash then and knew I'd be moving to a smaller room in a few years I would have bought them. I heard the ATCs in my home (their then-distributor brought them there for an NJAS meeting) and, aside from a bit of brightness that I attribute to the preamp that the distributor brought and used, I was struck by their resolving power and incredible dynamic abilities. These speakers aren't for everyone, but they might be what you're looking for.
Has anyone mentioned the new Bamberg Series 3 yet? If not, end of discussion! ;-) It is seriously good, with imaging and design characteristics better than anything listed here.
I was part of a private demo of this speaker after hours at AXPONA this year.

Look it up and drop Philip a line.

I am unaffiliated, just very impressed by the Bamberg speakers I have heard. The Series 5 is outstanding as well!
I just ordered a pair of KRK Rokit 8 powered monitors for the bedroom TV and my computer desk in the same room. Reputation is very good but I chose a discontinued model thinking that these would be half the price of the VXT 8 and probably almost as good. They'll be here next week and I can let you know after that.
At $442.80 and free shipping for the pair, I figured the gamble was well worth it. I've never heard anything from this company but the customer reviews on line have been encouraging.
I agree with above comments about stand mount. Why is it important to buy floor standers? They usually cost much more and have about the same footprint as stands.
Wow - great responses! And yes, I'm more interested in a realistic to timbre, scale, transients, etc sound than caring as much about audiophile fetishes such as perfect instrument placement, spooky imaging, or being able to actually hear whether Diane Krall clipped her nose hairs before stepping into the studio.

I've actually always been partial to good pro-audio sound and would probably go that way it if my wife would put up with it (as if..).

I guess I'll check out the ATC's Adams and Dynaudios.

But with active speakers you all still recommend a preamp rather than a front end? No preamp/DAC combos?
What about Genelac? Are those more for near field?
Not in general. Any of the studio monitors with 6.5 - 8 inch mid/woofer will work quite well in typical living rooms.

My standard list of choices to peruse is this:

I forgot to mention Focal. The Solo 6 is a nice speaker. They have a much nicer look than the standard studio black.

You can find reviews of many studio monitors here:
But with active speakers you all still recommend a preamp rather than a front end? No preamp/DAC combos?
I don't think it makes any difference. Just be prepared to feed them a balanced analog signal. Speaking of which, Blue Jeans balanced cable based on Belden 1800F is nice and flexible with good specs.

I've been using an AV preamp (currently a Marantz AV7005) for several years as a way to get room mode correction. This has worked out well for me.

Note that some studio monitors are digital designs with builtin DACs. Thus, you can send them a digital signal directly; typically limited to 2-channel PCM. The JBL LSR4300 and Dynaudio Air are examples.
I used the KRK VXT6 in my office system for several years. The VXT line is an obvious step up above the Rokit line. Not in ideal conditions, I know, but I heard the Rokits in Best Buy. They are fine for TV or computer desktop listening. The Rokit and VXT have a different cabinet construction. The VXT 6 will easily fill a typical living room; not the last word in detail, but very smooth. They were an amazing value at $800/pair when I bought them several years ago.
Barefoot is quite good, depending on room size
Larrybou, on dedicated preamp vs dac-pre into actives, this
is totally dependent on the quality of the dac-pre in

If you don't need analogue input selection, then a dac-pre
is the best way to go for purity and transparency. IME, it
makes utterly good sense to eliminate an unncessary
active/passive stage, plus the extra interconnect and power

Then again, not all output stages in dacs are made equal,
and it will be a question of synergy as per normal system
matching. There will also always be transparent and
synergistic preamps that will work well, but the trade-off
is generally significant extra cost (which could have gone
back to improving the source component).

I don't seem to like the built-in volume controls of certain
DACs like the ESS Sabre and Wolfson chips. OTOH, the one in
my NAD M51 is heaps better with my ATC amp than the
Benchmark DAC2 HGC and also the iFi iTube buffer, which I
tried out. At a different price range, the pre section of
the AMR DP-777 is meant to be very, very good.

If you're going active like with ATCs, you'll also
absolutely want to be going with a dac-pre with balanced
outputs, also.
I run USB from my computer to Stello U3 to Benchmark DAC-1 (using DAC-1 volume control) with balanced outputs to a pair of Yamaha HS8 powered monitors.

After I heard this rig, I sold my Maggie 1.7s. They did some things better than the HS8s, but the reverse was also true.
Interesting thread as I've always liked the idea of powered monitors. I've had the KRK rokit 8's and also a mackie srm450 at one point. Both good for what they are and I've always been intrigued by self powered speakers.

Didn't know atc is so expensive... Those focal's with the berrylium tweeters look nice too.

What would be some better dac choices with good volume control (or could I continue using my lightspeed?) and balanced outs?
My KRK Expose E8Bs surprised me more than any speakers I've heard in 35+ years. More so as I have used the insight that they have given me into the rest of my system, to fine tune the upstream sound.

I've not heard the active studio monitor competition at the level that they compete, but I have heard a decent amount of equipment and systems since the late '70s and the E8Bs on the end of a decent system do right by the music.

Good luck getting a demo where the partnering equipment will do them justice.
Yes, ATC is very expensive and currently seem to be unresponsive to customer queries. I've emailed both the US distributor and the corporate office for information about the replacement for the SCM20ASL Pro, but no reply.

K+H (now Neumann) is the alternative to ATC that I chose. They used to source their dome midrange driver from ATC, but they thought they could get the same or better performance and reduce the cost by building it themselves. The K+H O300D is a special speaker.
Larrybou is a troll. Dork. Not even.
It seems like most of the active speakers (ATC included) have a reputation of being on the brighter more etched or revealing side. Is this true?

I just sold some excellent Verity speakers just because the process of getting all new well matched components, cabling etc would require too much effort and time on my part. Not only are high end dealers far and few between these days, but they don't seem to let you audition equipment, cables etc in your home before purchasing.

Though I understand the business reasons for this, it makes the task of getting an optimal system lots of work.

For quality audio to gain any traction from the tiny niche its in, manufacturers will have to focus more on all in one systems that effectively takes the excess time and grief out of the process. At least for those of us who are looking good sounding audio - and not a time consuming hobby. And of course up to dealers to promote these products.

Powered speakers seem to be a good step in this direction along with integrated amp/DAC packages like the Wadia intuition.

Crazy thing, but if you google "best speakers" you'll get far more hits for blu-tooth or wireless than conventional speakers.

But that's pretty much the choice - either stereo systems that cost more than your car or single blu-tooth speakers from Bose etc. Quality stereo systems have been around so long they should be commodities by now. Sure you'll always have to pay for new technological leaps forward. But there should be no reason you have to mortgage your home to afford technology that was high end 30 years ago. And that was pretty damned good.

Sorry for the rant - but all I want is quality audio without the tears. And if we can make products as complex as iPhones, coming up with high quality sounding systems combining amp, preamp, DAC's and speakers into a simple setup that most people could at least splurge for shouldn't be impossible.

Wouldn't surprise me that quality active speakers tend to deliver clear crisp detailed sound. THat's what should happen when speakers and amp are designed to work together optimally.
Not a floor stander and you'd have to buy used, but I've been running a pair of Quad 12L Actives for about two years and have been very pleased. They're fantastic all-arounders. I see pairs pop up for around $600 here from time to time.
Today I received my KRK Rokit8 monitors I bought through Amazon. They are internally bi-amped, have some Kevlar like material in the woofer cones ,and tone controls and adjustable gain on the back. I paid $221.40 each including shipping. I hooked them up to my fully balanced JRDG Capri preamp and lit them up. Of course, they are brand new and will need to loosen up some, I imagine, but the sound is really good.
In a 12 x 13 bedroom, they were a little bass heavy so I turned that down one click. Otherwise, they are really delightful.
Like Rockadanny above, I'm starting to wonder if I might want a more high end active monitor for my main system. Very timely thread for me.
It seems like most of the active speakers (ATC included) have a reputation of being on the brighter more etched or revealing side. Is this true?
Not in my experience. But, I've heard the same comments about Benchmark DACs and I don't find them that way. So maybe it's just me.

I have heard from two people that I respect that Genelec has a distinct sound and I gather it to be somewhat dry and clinical. I have no personal experience with Genelec.

John Marks, columnist for Stereophile, commented to me via email that ATC was the only studio monitor that he's heard that had audiophile qualities.

The lower cost studio monitors for home studios that I've heard have all been smooth and pleasant sounding to me, though not the best in resolving details.
It seems like most of the active speakers (ATC included) have a reputation of being on the brighter more etched or revealing side. Is this true?

This is absolutely not true. In fact, the older SEAS tweeters (before ATC came out with their new inhouse ones) are quite sweet sounding. Also, the amp design ATC use is AB with class A bias. It's more organic sounding to me than say Bryston.

What people are talking about is ATCs are tuned real flat with low distortion. The bass is also tuned to be clean and tight rather than boomy or sonorous. So there's no second-harmonic euphony, I suppose. On good quality recordings, this makes them incredibly transparent and natural through the midband, especially. Equally, on crappy recordings, you'll hear the crappy mix. This isn't the fault of the gear rather than the producer!

This banks a lot then on the front-end source/preamp to balance out these characteristics. In a home setting, I agree too much ruler flat gear can be brutal, but it's so easy to find well-balanced sources (say with tube outputs or high class A-biased outputs). It's not at all easy to find pure sounding speakers that don't compromize fidelity in other areas.

I would contact ATC dealers directly rather if you're not having much luck with the distributor, Brad Lund of Lonemountain Audio. Buying used is also an option to reduce the sticker shock. Another brand that works in a similar space with pro and consumer active speakers is PMC, which are also very good.
Macrojack, you mentioned a feature that I think is a real advantage of many active studio monitors -- bass and treble filters. Gain control is also nice to have.

Also, consider the value that your speakers contain 4 mono amps. What would it cost to have 4 general purpose monoblocks driving a pair of 2-ways? When viewed this way even ATC pricing isn't crazy.
I thought Lone Mountain Audio handled the ATC passive consumer models and the Las Vegas guys handled the active pro models. Is that not correct?
Monitor active speaker that has floor standing sound and more:
Bob, it's the same guy, Brad Lunde. He's the US distributor for Pro (Las Vegas Pro Audio) and Consumer (Lonemountain)
Loftarasa, thanks! Good to know.
Does anyone here have personal experience with the PMC ALM 1 speakers?
Also - can someone tell me which ATC speaker would be the direct competitor?

I'm beginning to see the wisdom in this approach.
I have no personal experience with any PMC speaker. I considered them seriously long ago when I had Bryston electronics, but cost always got in the way.

You might enjoy this review of the AML 1

As I recall, PMC has a series of what they call "activated" speakers. They are not active, i.e., no active crossover, but simply have an internal amp with passive crossovers. Misses the whole point of active designs, IMO.

If I was looking to spend AML kind of money, I'd only consider a 3-way design. I don't think the advantage of having a dedicated midrange driver can be overstated.
Thanks Bob.
As I mentioned above, I just received a pair of KRK Rokit8 active monitors, a 2 way with dome tweeter and 8 inch woofer. I'm quite surprised at how they are turning out but I can certainly see your point about going to a 3-way. Do you have any experience or knowledge about their 10 inch 3 way?

I have big horns hybrid to a 15 inch woofer in a 5 cu. ft. cabinet. They are unbelievably resolving and fast and dynamic and effortless. Hard to beat. In fact, I doubt I can surpass them, but I might be able to put together something with rival qualities, compact size and a change suitable for the old age that awaits me some day soon.

I have my doubts about the Rokit 10-3 performing even close to that level. I guess I could check out the local music stores but I doubt they deal in such exotic fare.