I Was Considering Active, Then I Watched This ...

teo_audio1,702 posts01-13-2021 11:13am"Good enough" (a plateau by any measure): active

Inveterate tweaker looking for the best (’peak audio’): passive

It’s a really simple equation, in the end (with all the data points on the analysis table).

Good Enough: Passive
Capable of performance no passive speaker will ever be able to achieve due to the inability in a passive speaker to have immediate feedback from the driver itself, nor intimate knowledge of said driver and any number of other factors:  Active

Active speakers are quite threatening both to the speaker community and the amplifier community. Similar to good Class-D with amplifiers, very few speaker companies will have the technical wherewithal to extract the maximum performance out of active speakers and we are just getting started. There are things that can be done in an active system that are virtually impossible in a passive system. Not just simple things like perfect phase alignment even with higher order crossovers,   but applying closed loop position feedback to higher and higher frequencies, compensating for thermal and magnetic compression (and other magnetic factors) on all drivers, and even some concepts for reducing the impacts of doppler distortion.  Add in multiple similar drivers and you start to get into controlled dispersion, etc.

If you apply old thinking to new ideas, you end up with obsolete opinions.
It’s a compromise to have active speakers and is technology mostly embraced by the professional audio sound people. They listen for frequencies, not tonal shadings or micro dynamics...certainly not for the differences in instrument voicing or spatial imaging.

I cannot find who posted this, but this is a complete inaccuracy. Pros listen for frequencies? I’ve worked in pro my entire life and I have yet to meet someone who "listens for frequencies". The tonal shadings and micro dynamics is exactly what pros listen to. Instrument voicing and spatial imaging is exactly what a real engineer in a real studio listens to for hours and hours, days upon days. It is not exaggeration to say that someone like Al Schmitt can listen to one track a thousand times before he’s tweaked everything to his and the artists satisfaction. The exact harmonic presentation of the piano with this mic or that one? The position of the mic and how it changes the way the piano sounds. Fixing the small error in a vibration of a snare when one particular tom tom was struck. Building an image out of separately tracked instruments. Using a specific type of compressor on the orchestra that gives it a sexier presentation than a simple full band compressor. This absolutely blows my mind that someone would think pros [specifically recording engineers] don’t understand the details or are ignorant of the very details that audiophiles value. They are obsessed with it!

A comment I read in this thread that recording engineers gave us loudness wars- complete BS. RADIO gave us loudness wars, and Record companies responded as records had to compete to be popular on the radio. Fletcher Munson curves say the loudest song wins and Record companies who controlled everything told their Mastering Engineer to make it louder. The mastering guy absolutely hates this as much as you do! Fortunately record companies do not have the level of control they used to and now artists are creating, funding, recording their own record.
This absolutely blows my mind that someone would think pros [specifically recording engineers] don’t understand the details or are ignorant of the very details that audiophiles value. They are obsessed with it!

Meh, you should see the scorn they heap on electrical engineers :-)

The passive only crowd is heavy on condescension and light on knowledge or understanding.  Almost everybody is looking for the best they can afford.  Sure, there are people who don't care about the difference between $300 and 3 million but I doubt any of them hang around here. 

If you care so much about the difference between amps why not care about the difference between passive and active.  There are some distinctive, irrefutable advantages.  Learn to appreciate the advantages that active designs provide and decide whether you prefer those advantages to the ones of passive.  What would be a good list of advantages of active?

1.  amps chosen to suit the driver.  No need to spend more for an amp that can drive anything.

2.  No lossy passive crossover feeding multiple drivers that wastes amplifier power and creates much more complex load than an amp in an active design will ever see.  Far less total amplifier power required.

3.  Active crossovers can deal with phase better than passive ones.  (I don't understand the technical explanation but I assume it's true)

4.  Don't have to deal with active crossover heating up and changing behavior.

What are the advantages of passive?

1.  Can choose amplification that suites your taste.

I'm sure there are others...
@jon_5912 --

Ad 1: Indeed, agreed. Seeing the somewhat easier load presented to an amp when coupled directly to a driver without the interference of a passive cross-over, the "impedance matching" of amps to drivers that is often heralded as an advantage with active speaking in effect is mostly about scaling down/specifying the amp to its intended (and easier load) usage. That's not that to say it's really an advantage in absolute sonic terms; if one were to use more "all out," non-tailored amps to each driver section instead it wouldn't be detrimental to the sound, just more expensive overall. That is to say: the claimed "advantage" earlier mentioned with tailored amps comes down to cost savings, most of all. The one true advantage in sonic terms is the active configuration itself with all that implies. 

Ad 2: Again, agree, and this ties into what I've written above.

Ad 3: Agree. 

Ad 4: Certainly; having the XO prior to amplification on signal level naturally leaves it impervious to load variations on the power side.

With regard to mentioned advantage with passive and the choice of amplification: to my mind this is in part a forced choice and mostly comes down to the disadvantage of passive: its cross-over and the greater importance and stress it puts on the amp(s), and thereby the rather varying results that may come of using different amps. While amps are also consciously chosen to active speakers as pre-build and all-in-one solutions and one would not be able to exchange them for a more tailored sonic result to each individual, I'd argue the sonic differences would also be somewhat less outspoken here compared to swapping amps with passive speakers. 

You can however also use an active configuration as a solution of separate components and choose your amps. That's what I do myself, and that also involves and element of tailoring; pure Class A amp to the compression driver handling the mids on up, and even more powerful Class D variants for the midbass section and the subs.