When I think Active I think ATC..... of course there are others but I think they are the best of the type.
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There may be others as good, I’ve not auditioned all that there is obviously, but I’m confidant that none are finer than PSI Audio Active Studio Monitors. They are built in Switzerland by a company that is an offshoot of Revox, if that rings a bell, and they are to speakers what Swiss is to watches, none finer. They’re profession gear, and uncommon in the U. S., so you’ll not find them in any audio salon. But trust me, I’ve used a pair of A-21Ms in my mastering studio for several years now, and they’ve completely cured me of any "upgradeitis." They’re utterly clean, utterly neutral, utterly transparent, detailed, and as "fast" and dynamic as any speaker built, with pinpoint imaging and not at all fatiguing. They sonically disappear and one is left simply listening "down the wire" to the source; I listen to them all day. If I was ever to replace my "living room" setup (Thiel speakers, Classé amp), it would be with PSIs. As I said, none finer.
@inna Not. At. All. The first concern, by far, is sound quality. One's job depends on it. But pros are generally a no-nonsense bunch with better things to concern themselves with than pointless tweaks. Active monitors are a very well proven concept, and they generally DO offer substantially more real value for the money invested. So from that perspective, one might think that they're "cost and effort saving," but the proof is in the studio, even studios where cost is a very secondary concern. Active monitors are VERY widely accepted by professionals for the quality of their sound, regardless of cost.
I can see only one real advantage - you eliminate speaker cables from the chain. As for the best match for particular speakers - there is always a better match, including custom or customized amps. And it is hard if not completely impossible to deal with amps vibrating with speakers. This is a very flawed concept overall. The only kind of thing from pro audio world that is desirable is the source, when it is good, I mean. Audiophiles want sophisticated sound and generally are much more concerned with sound quality than pros. With some notable exceptions.
However, if the OP insists - just get top of the line ATC and call it a day.
The crossovers and every wire in your speakers already "vibrate like hell" as does the amp and everything else in a powered subwoofer or speaker...however, no problemo, and powered speakers like ATCs and others (and every powered PA box hung over yer head at live events) have garnered praise from plenty with well tuned earballs. Kinda makes the Anti Vibration Industry look silly, don't it?. I've owned tube combo guitar amps (meaning the fragile little snowflake of a tube amp is in the box with the speaker...horrors!) that were unmodified from 75 years ago that sound sublime, and my 2 el cheapo used RELs also have been doing their job well for years in spite of a hellish nightmare of self induced vibration.
If you want ATCs and are worried about built-in amps you can just order them with the remote amplifier option. They also sell passive speakers and stand-alone amps, and some active models that come with remote amps standard.
I have a decent size room so bought a pair of used dsp8000's. I heard the Kii3 at axpona and liked the modular idea. The Kef ls50 has an active version now that's supposed to sound even better than the original. It's true you're married to the amps when you go active, but i think that's a good thing.
Given that most music is mixed and mastered on powered speakers (yes, even live recordings) I would suggest that esoteric amplifier and speaker pairings might not give you any more insight than a great sounding, excellently designed pair of powered speakers. However, some people will have better ears than 'dem unsophisticated professionals and will be able to hear through their lazy, poor sounding work.
For the last 20 or so years just about every recording was done with active speakers....except those studios using Yamaha NS10M’s...then what amp did they use?....usually a pro audio amp of some sort or Bryston from what I’ve seen.
Depending on your budget go listen to
JBL LS series
Yamaha HS series
I current have a little listening set up in a bedroom with a computer, Schiit preamp and JBL LSR305. Wonderful accurate little system.
From an engineering and design standpoint powered speakers provide the ideal solution for reaching the goal of maximum control over the final results. As an established dealer and integrator with almost 40 years of experience we have migrated towards powered speakers as a solution for both our personal systems and many of our clients. Currently Meyer Sound (Berkeley California) and Genelec, out of Finland, are among our recommendations. Many professional musicians from all areas of music, producers, and casual music lovers, have found the powered speaker as an ideal solution for the temporary suspension of disbelief.
The primary reason I've preferred passive speakers for home use (and live stuff, although I do use active speakers and subs in live setups) is simply because I like the ability to try different amps from time to time. I'm addicted to my small single ended tube amp's sound which requires an efficient speaker, so there's that...but having experienced an active PA speaker dying during a show (not my show luckily, but a live gig run my a friend who owns a recording studio) and you simply can't quickly "field fix" the damn things, where you can stick another amp on a passive speaker which I've done. Otherwise powered stuff is fine, which I'm saying mainly to make others feel better as, clearly, I'm a giver.
ATC make sense to audition if you have a 20K budget. They aren’t cheap but are regarded as a reference by many golden eared folks.
ATC sound is very consistent across their professional series both in various models as well as over the years.
Other actives have more variability - so more specific model dependency and vintage/age variation to their sound.
ATC are highly consistent even when new models come out - great if you like their sound - not good if you don’t as there isn’t a lot of choice as they are all voiced in a similar way.
ATC all the way. I own the passive ATC SCM12 Pro's (simply couldn't fit any of their active designs on this desktop) and am enormously impressed. Easily the best 2-ways I ever heard.
I read a lot of info from music pros & studio types, where various powered ATC models (SCM20ASL Pro mk2, a sealed 2-way; and SCM50ASL, a ported 3-way) are extremely popular. These are quite large devices, even the 2 ways, but man, what a sound...a rather thrilling combination of great accuracy, particularly in the mids, with a lack of brightness or sonic pushiness (qualities not often found together).
I have tried using several active speakers in my home rig but they were all musically unsatisfying to me and I found, when I downsized that I much prefer pricey mini monitors used with top tier subs and just live with having to provide space for amps and additional cables that would not be required with actives.
-1 as to PSI A-17M. They are much loved by some for pro audio, but I did not like them at all for music playback and they were absolutely boring to me at low to moderate volumes. Also, I think they are very ugly. I sold them to a recording studio in Canada and they love them.
Obviously, many of the more positively reviewed powered speakers to be chosen from in the marketplace were designed for the purpose of using them for monitoring and mixing recordings in the studio by professionals. Some of them may also just happen to sound great for home audio as well, I do not know. Maybe the best ATC models are great, but definitely not the KEF for you primary system.
The lower cost actives can be okay for desktop fun but beyond that only you can decide if they are right for you for home audio.
Of course, make sure any active speakers you buy have a right of return for refund because you may wind up not liking them for home audio purposes.