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The market responds to demand and not necessarily to objective analysis. As is demonstrated by Hifitimes' response, most audiophiles reject active loudspeakers and, thus, the majority of speaker manufacturers accommodate that. OTOH, it is interesting to see that some, e.g., Focal and Dynaudio, do offer active speakers in their professional lines.
IMHO, audiophiles are hobbyists who like the mix/match and playing with all the variables. Active loudspeakers, regardless of their advantages, deprive them of the fun.
I agree with Kal. Part of this hobby is "cooking" - making your own sound and individually unique system - for many people that is where the fun and pride is generated.
The problem with high end active speakers is that you get a reference sound. The entire amplifier speaker system has been matched and calibrated for optimal sound production at ultra low levels of distortion. For professionals this is great - they can acquire an ATC SCM 150ASL, PMC, Meyer or other suitable system and hear the music in the same way as many other professionals and artists (Pink Floyd, Mark Knopfler, Telarc etc.) Professionals are often worried about how the sound of their recordings will "translate" - so a reference sound is actually desirable. Active speakers still differ but not nearly as much as what you can achieve with mix and match with passive systems.
A few audiophiles may want to hear the music as closely as to how it sounds to their favorite artists but the majority are interested in creating a unique sound that appeals just to themselves. So active speakers will never be as popular as passive speakers unless attitudes change.
The worst place for your amps is in your loudspeaker cabinet. I have own costly active models they can sound very good. But this is a weakness having to house amps in speaker. External crossovers are proven to sound better than same design mounted in cabinets this is true with higher voltage amps housed in cabinets. OK for subs but to me thats about it. Now active with external amps that is interesting.
Now active with external amps that is interesting.
Good point. That is how active speakers originated - I believe Westlake and ATC and others still use this approach on large models especially where severe heating from high levels of amplification can be an issue. In order to place amps inside a speaker cabinet there are definitely additional design considerations and limitations. Nothing "microphonic" like tubes, some caps and some pots could be used - the use of cheaper surface mounted components may be an issue also. Of course electronics works in airplanes, cars and countless other environments with severe vibration or heat but John is right that this will be the toughest environment. It would probably be advisable to stick with companies that have been using active designs for at least 10 years - as design limitations from a tough enviroment might not be expected to show up immediately but through extended use.
not if you want sweet tube sound... the myth that one sound will eventually be available that all will find pleasing is what drives some.... but as noted, people at this site are hobbyists who want to fine tune sound to suit an ALWAYS subjective ear and environment. as a voice over artist, my active mini monitors are great but if i want to listen to a musical performance i want tubes and a soundstage that seems organic to MY tastes.
We of the curmudgeon and proud of it persuasion probably will not give up our separates in our stereos, but HT is the area that really matters for most folks. I too cain't wait to get rid of the wires and the mess and the bother in my own HT. Soon we will simply set the stuff down and it will adjust itself (or yell to be moved to a better location). No Wires no bother. You bet!
In one respect, they are the present. Check out the speakers hooked to your PC or Mac. However, I'm assuming that this isn't the part of the speaker market to which you refer:
Active, digitally corrected speakers from companies like B&O and Lyngdorff probably represent one of the few opportunities to get measurable benefits (i.e. flat in-room FR) from a big dollar speaker purchase. In this respect, they are IMHO actually a better mousetrap. However, it seems that most people spending this kind of $ on speakers (or at least the ones w/virtual systems posted on Audiogon) aren't convinced by this type of measureable benefit. It's just not the main focus for most audio hobbyists. Since I suspect that big $ purchases will come disproportionately from hobbyists, the answer to your question is no, it is unlikely that active speakers are the future.
They may be - in certain ways - measurably better, but for most people they're simply less fun.
I was very interested in active pro speakers and got a pair of Mackie ($1200 for the pair) . It is not that bad but could not beat an Arcam reciever biamping Harbeth M30. It did play louder with good control but transparency was poor. It was missing a lot of texture and subtle spatial clues. I could not hear the benefit of this approach. It is an uneven match up in terms of cost, ATC 20 would be more on even ground
Glai wrote: "I could not hear the benefit of this approach. "It would be hard to attribute any audible differences to the difference between active and passive speakers since the speakers, themselves are so different. A better test would be with a pairs of PMC or ATC speakers where the identical speaker is available in both configurations.
Q: "Meridian are well known for source but not well known for amp and speakers."
That is news to me. With Meridain, I would not call the speakers active, rather the D/A converter and amps are built into the speakers and they are fed a digital line signal. With Meridian, you kind of need to buy their whole system (your current amps and pre will not be needed). Meridain's system is about the best I have ever listened to and it really is world class, imo.
On another note, would you consider electrostats to be active since you need to plug them in?