Well, FWIW YES! I already have as I run a fully active Linn HT system. Just to set the record straight, there are some downsides.
1) Cost. I run 14 channels of amplification for a 5 speaker set up (OK the sub has another, but most do so I left this out). That's a lot of amps, wires, power cords, power lines, conditioning etc....
2) Set up is markedly more complicated, as is breaking down the system or moving it. This will AGAIN be done as Linn has officially recalled ALL my amps and Subwoofer amp as well!!!!! ARGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!
3) Upgrading becomes very difficult. For me, I can't just change out an amp, I'd ideally change out all 7 amps! Let's face it, who can afford 7 Linn Klimax twins at once??? More power to you if you can, but I'm not in that league!!
All this said, I love my Active speakers, and would have to sell them before I would convert them back to passive. The difference was that dramatic! I had these speakers single-amped, bi-amped, and ultimately tri-amped before getting the active cards and going active, while each step offered some improvement in sound, NOTHING was even close to the change I heard when I finally went active! The speakers just completely opened up and the definition was better, and the bass, WOW! I didnt think these speakers could have that much bass!!!
I guess to answer your question
YES, I would buy active speakers (again)!
..."NOTHING was even close to the change I heard when I finally went active! The speakers just completely opened up and the definition was better, and the bass, WOW! I didn’t think these speakers could have that much bass!!!"...
Sounds like a happy customer to me, even with all the added cabling and amps.
Ok, now what if the above mentioned scenario included AMPS AND CROSSOVERS ALREADY BUILT INTO THE SPEAKERS!?! Wouldn't that even more simple than having to run both speaker wire to the speakers AND INTERCONNECTS TO THE AMPS BOTH!!!!!
Not only should having traditional active speakers(like Meridians) be simpler, you'd have all the advantages of simply running some interconnects(although balanced IC's better to cancel noise interference) to the speakers from the preamp, EVEN LONG DISTANCES WITH NO SIGNAL DEGRDATION, like you get with speaker wire!!!!!!!!
Really, I personally see nothing but possitives for active speakers! I also see this as the only possible option if someone ever does come out with "wireless speakers" that actually sound good...if applicable.
Still, for now, I think the advantages for home audio regarding active speakers is tremendous! Yes, it should be expected to cost more, but then you're saving elsewhere! And, the sound is potentially going to be that much more stellar(A strong reason dynamically challenged passive's are held back in potential, sorry), so it should be WAY WORTH IT!
What do ya think speaker makers?...Bobby Palcovic?...Jim Thiel?...DanDAugustino?...Bowers and Wilkerson?...Martin and Logan?...others?..anyone?....anyone?....Bueller?...Bueller?...Bueller?
Umm, its "Bowers and Wilkins".. also "Martin Logan"..
Bueller? Im sure Matthew Broderick would be proud.
As for active vs passive. Both can sound great! Both can sound horrid! Digital amplification in its various forms will drive active speaker development if there is indeed a road for them to be driven down. How many speaker manufacturers would you trust to incorporate a genuine top rank amplifier in their speakers? What about upgrades? Obviously a modular design approach is needed. What compromises would be made in speaker design to accomodate the amp in such a way? Interesting subject but im not going to jump up and down one way or the other.
If they'll sell, they'll make them. I think these speaker manufacturers did their homework in this regard and determined it's not in THEIR interests to pursue this product line. The last major shift the mainstream and high end audio manufacturers went through was home theater - they found out very quickly that survival depended on jumping into that market. Some dealers dropped Thiel, for example, for not reacting to home theater quick enough. Imagine what would have happened if Thiel went active instead of home theater. Resources (and dealer floorspaces) are not infinite, they must be allocated wisely to ensure profitability.
Actually, If I'm not mistaken (probabably forgot on B&W), Martin Logan is a summation of two names! I think it's the last name of two individuals....not Martin Logan, as a single peron's name. I could be wrong..dont' think so however.
Anyway, I'm sure there's lots of logistics involved with all this. Marketing and demand I'm sure play the major parts, as well as R&D, finance, whatever.
I'd still like to see some of these at least "delve" a little and perhaps offer a piece or two, as some have tried, like paradigm (never cared for the tonality of Ref 20 actives, nore the rest of their line in the past...too warm). Still, I'd like to see it. I think if marketed right, promoted right, and displayed right, these products could excell. Put a world class active next to a supposed world class passive, and I bet you'd sell a lot of active!
Immagine, active Wilson WATT Puppies next to active versios of the same thing! If done correctly, I seriously doubt any would consider sticking with the passives at that price range. I'm sure you'd be hearing a lot similar (probably better) of what John Atkinson of Stereophile mag responded when here heard the $90K active ATC system, proclaining that system as probably the best he's ever heard!..and that's saying something. I'm sure Wilson and others could pull of similar feats with better results if they put the time into it....Dare to dream..
I have a pair of active speakers I just bought for fun. Mackie HR824's. They are bi-amped. They sound great. When the manufactuer knows what speakers the amps will be powering, it gives them a nice advantage. Intsead of having to design the amp for general use, they can design them specifically for the speaker they will be powering. Plus the signal path from amp to speaker is as short as can be -- eliminating speaker cables! I would LOVE to see what Wilson, Thiel, Sonus, and the gang could come up with in an active bi-or-tri amped speaker. I'd be in line to demo them. Having said that, knowing my audiophile buddies, I wonder how many they'd sell. Audiophiles tend to be tweakers, upgraders, mix and matchers -- and I think some would
miss their "magic" speaker cables!
The problem with active speakers is that they are a 'packaged sound'. Denying the end-user the flexibility of selecting the amp that they want. Just as an integrated amp chooses the power amp/pre amp combo. 'Packaged sound' is fine if you don't have particular tastes, or if you luckily just happen to like the end sound, or if you think all amps sound the same.
So if someone made active speakers that tickled my fancy I would probably consider them for purchase but getting the sound of active speakers right for my tastes would be much harder than just building the right speakers.
Yes, I am happy, I loved going active with the fronts in my HT so much that I ultimately went active all around and can't look back! Full size speakers for surrounds, active might seem like overkill, and I know the wiring is a nightmare, but it's maazing how much better surround effects are!!! I'm still sorting out a multichannel pre/pro and when I do, expect that DVD-A and SACD's will be equally intense!!!
Long live active speakers!!!!
I'd add this. Look at the quality of included crossovers in most speakers. Are they mediocre or SOTA? Would you trust the company provide you with a SOTA amp in an active speaker? I wouldn't. I would like to know what amp(s) and source(s) the speaker designer used to voice his speakers, though. That info would be helpful in and of itself.
going active isn't necessarily a nightmare for wiring at all. i use an all ATC active setup (50's in front, 10's for center and surround) and the wiring is simpler, because the amps are attached to the speakers, which means you only need to run interconnect cables. all of the speaker cabling is done internally.
as for aroc's question - atc's crossovers (and amplification) are absolutely top notch, so no problem there.
Dyns have active ones for pro-audio.
BTW they sound damn great even for home but expencive as hell.
But where would the tubes go?
jazzdude - such is the beauty of ATC active speakers - they have no real sound-type. they are, by far, the most neutral, uncolored speakers i have ever heard, period. their amps are world class, just like their drivers and enclosures.
Exertflutter, actually it is as follows for Martin-Logan:
Gayle Martin Sanders
Ronald Logan Sutherland
Not sure about B & W
..."But where would the tubes go? (Nrenter)"...
Actually, the tubes would go in your "pre/amp", where they belong (see CAT's world class pre's)!
As for Aroc's comments, I wholey trust that a high end speaker who's proficient at either building drivers, crossovers, cabinets, or whatever (Like Theil/Wilson) makes their finished product as superb as they are for passive designs, could keep their quality control high for their reputation! I'm very sure these companies wouldn't turn out a "compromised" product mostly (however I balk here at the Thiel PCM's!). They would most assuredly want to release products that keept the same traditional high quality sound they're known for, ya think.
This is the whole reason I mentioned "high end companies", for their rep for building quality high end sounding premium products.
I'd gladely give up tubes as an option for the benefits a good active speaker could offer, I'm certain.
Like I said, leave the tubes for the preamp, if you still need that "tube magic"...
A lot of these speaker manufacturers don't already have or wouldn't want the extra burden of developing an amplification system for their speakers.
Also, the issue of which amplifier manufacturer's technology to use comes under consideration. Some amp makers might not want to reconfigure or in their minds compromise their designs in order to work with a speaker, and vice versa. Using another maker's amp technology or tuner section in a receiver is a lot easier than incorporating speakers and amps. Then, there's the decision as to which active crossover design to incorporate. The speaker builder and the amp maker may have different ideas on this as well. My guess is these might be some of the main reasons we don't see more active arrangements of this type.
I'd love to see what might be if certain players could get together, but I'm sure there are some big obstacles preventing it.
Some players are already "together." Levinson and Revel are "together" under the Madrigal/Harmon unbrella. Paradigm and Anthem are "together" -- I forget the name of the umbrella company. The problem is -- when someone designs an amplifier, they must design it for general use so it will sound good in lots of different applications. The designer is "shooting in the dark." If the amplifier designer knew exactly which speaker he was designing his amp for and could bi-or-tri-amp the speakers with different spec'd amps for each driver, I think you'd see more synergy -- and the elimination of speaker cables would reduce the signal path considerably ensuring the integrity of the signal. There's no doubt in my mind that this approach would produce incredible results. Imagine your favorite speaker spec'd and tri-amped connected directly to your favorite amplifers! Now, whether the audiophile community would embrace this, making it commercially viable -- that's another question.
Not sure about B & W
Two blokes - Bowers and Wilkins.
I also see no reason(not fully understanding driver matching/integration/mating with amps or whatever) why speaker makers couldn't produce active speakers, find or develop a perfectly matching electronic external crossover box, and then either simply recommend matching amp's or let you chose your own!!!
Avalar makes this, and they're like $12k to $30k/pr depending on models. They happend to be using the Krell crossover ($5k) and amps(forgot which) on their speakers, and it sounded glorious from what I breifly heard!
Not sure, but I presume you could chose, say, a Bryston 10b and your own amp choices if you chose, or any other combo! To me, this makes more sense for "high end" applications.
I'd much rather go that route, and take advantage of the active thing. This would allow you to use potentially tubes on top if you chose, or just SS all the way through. You could also fine tune the sound to taste, as normal.
Now unless there's A LOT MORE TOO IT THAT THAT, I see know reason other more established high end companies couldn't or wouldn't follow suit!...and maybe make some smaller monitor versions, and offer options for crossover or amps, whatever if they so wished.
Heck with this route, all the speaker maker would be doign is doing all their tweaking in the electronic crossover! OTherwise, they wouldn't do that at all, and they'd let someone else make the cross or amps for them. Or they could just do the cross and not the amps, etc, etc.
Either way, I'm sure it's not that big of a deal.
I remember years back when I first was exposed to high end audio, and my Mom's friend's boyfriend was a high end audio store owner and tweek. I remember going to his house and hearing his system, which was comprised of some custom active speakers, with some weird amps and pre, with a cool turn table setup. MAN THIS GUY'S SYSTEM ROCKED! it not only sounded so increadibly real, but the dynamics were so viserally powerful it actually hurt! Now that was some power and dynamic ability!
I think I was affraid of the system If I remember correcctly. Not really, but I remember how awesome it was...just can't remember any of his gear brands, as I was too young at the time. Oh well.
Pass Labs new speaker is active and they obviously designed the amplification for that model.
One of the nice things about a design like that is that the builder knows exactly what is going into the cabinet, and therefore does not have to design for eventualities that can never take place. The money can be spent where needed rather than to cover any bases.
I don't know if speaker design is that difficult. There are so many studies and papers out there already for a person to use as a reference, that a builder does not ahve to redesign the wheel, so to speak. It would be interesting to hear this setup, but where I live that ain't gonna happen!
If anyone has the chance to hear the Pass Labs or the newer Meridian active speakers, let the rest of us know how they sounded.
A high quality solid state power amplifier is probably the easiest high fidelity component to design. It's a very well worn path. Active speakers are a marvelous engineering concept, but the market reality is that audiophiles are resistant. Regardless of their merit, some of the above comments about "trusting" a speaker manufacturer are illuminating. Powered subwoofers seems to be the only area where audiophiles are embracing the active concept.
"Wilson and others could pull of similar feats with better results "
Compared to ATC? Doubt it. Wilson is focused on marketing not design. That's why recording studios use ATC, not Wilson.