Who actually uses digital speakers?

Of course, @atmasphere is about to jump in and say "no such thing as... "  so before he jumps into the fray, what I mean is, who uses active speakers with digital inputs?

The biggest brand I know of who invested in this in a big way was Meridian which I believe had not just S/PDIF but a custom digital interface as well.  With the advent of plate amps with S/PDIF inputs standard I'm wondering how many audiophiles have made the jump to active speakers using the digital inputs?

What are you using and what is your experience like?


Hey @djones51

That’s the kind of interesting feedback I was looking forward to. :-) In particular I was wondering how the ecosystem would play out. Meridian’s use of (I think) Ethernet cable enabling fully digital, active home theater systems had a tremendous amount of promise, but probably because it was entirely proprietary never really had a chance. The idea of speaker-only stereos is also potentially very appealing to the High end and to the main stream. My neighbors LOVE their in-ceiling speakers. I personally would love to get more of my living room back. :-) So the idea of high end speakers with no home server at all, no roon, no PC, no streamer sounds great.

Honestly I find myself split among too many ways to explore my audiophile hobby, but for me that also means building.

I like to play with coils and caps and have had a lot of fun with them but the next toys I sink myself into will be all active.



What are your thoughts about 'semi-active' speakers that have powered subwoofers within the same enclosure?  I've read a glowing review for SoundSpaceSystems Pirol speaker which includes 500 watt powered subwooofers and describes, at least to me, speaker nirvana. Just curious if there are different thoughts when it comes to semi-active speakers.  Also I understand that Sound Space Systems will be with Vitus Audio's booth at the Munich High End this week.

@leadcrew I think these are really interesting _especially_ if you can do DSP on the bass sections alone. The best of all worlds, IMHO.  The approach Vandersteen takes, to use a high pass filter before the main amps and compensate in the sub is outstanding.

A buddy of mine has Focal Utopia component set in his car (as do I). He went active bypassing the physical crossover with DSP and the improvement was pretty amazing. 

DSP makes all kinds of sense in a car, as that is about as sub-optimal an environment that one will ever run into.

In my experience, DSP for extreme high end home audio attempts, should look similar to a low slope crossover with some minor phase/level corrections, and then analog (LCR) zobles for the drivers.

Where..the use of digital manipulation is LIMITED in scope and range only... in such an environment - with very simple and subtle changes. No sharp changes, no complex changes all stacked on one another.

That kind of digitally based signal manipulation looks good on paper and in measuring but sounds like cack. Big time cack. Where the very subtle and intimate changes in the music, that we all seek to hear as naturally as possible are disturbed in the extreme. This would take time to explain the why of that, but it is a very real phenomena, and simply said --- don't go there.

For a car, sure, as that is horrific environment and DSP can work there. But DSP is not a panacea, not by a long shot. DSP can and does make a mess out of poorly constructed concert halls. It can make things listenable but it normally comes at a high price. DSP should be on the rack of the soundman for a traveling rock show or whatnot, and used sparingly, like the overall analog EQ in the racks. There, it can often be a show saver and a life saver. but a light hand is required, never a heavy hand.

In the same way that 'less eq' equals 'more sound quality for a performance venue.. 'less DSP' equals 'more sound quality'.

There’s the power-DAC with the digital input going all the way to the analogue conversion at the amp’s output stage, but other than that an active speaker with digital input just refers to the use of a DSP unit which can then receive a digital or analogue signal from the DAC. With an analogue input to the DSP from the DAC an A/D to D/A conversion is needed, but from all I’ve heard this extra conversion stage is of no consequence to the sound. To all of you who believe to the contrary here I might as well suspect it’s simply something it says "on paper."

Active per definition means filtration prior to amplification on signal level (as opposed to passive ditto on the output side of the amp); not necessarily that it’s a bundled package. So, as a separate component solution and per the above my own active-via-DSP setup fits the description.

My DSP unit is a Xilica XP-3060. It has no digital input, so an A/D to D/A conversion is taking place before sending the analogue output signal to three amps, one covering ~600Hz on up (Belles SA30), another ~85 to 600Hz (Lab.Gruppen FP6400) and the last one from ~85Hz on down (Crown Audio K2). Main speakers are Electro-Voice TS9040D LX pro cinema speakers, and the two subs are 15"-loaded tapped horns (20 cf. volume per cab, tuned @23Hz). Filter slopes are L-R 36dB/octave throughout, and a 36dB/octave BW high-pass on the subs @20Hz.

To me going active this way has been revelatory. I can’t relate to the negative and not least reductive remarks by poster @teo_audio above on the use of DSP in a home setting, but there are many ways to configure such a system, so if you want to make general assertions here be specific with regard to the contexts in which you’ve made your observations, or else it has no bearing to me.

As implemented in my setup I find the results to be highly satisfactory. Btw, to those who don’t believe pro cinema speakers can set a sonically high bar in a home setting, well.. have a go at it before any judgement is made (the DH1A compression driver used in my EV speakers is one of the best I’ve heard - a sledgehammer in velvet gloves). Active (via DSP) to my ears generally sounds more resolved, more transiently clean and overall less inhibited vs. a passively configured ditto (my experience, in addition to the one I've drawn from my own setup, is based in particular on passive speakers that have been converted to active config.); more immediate, yet smoother and easier on the ear.

The best systems I’ve heard have been actively configured, pretty much like my own setup. Just my $0.02.