Personally, I wouldn't want to have to upgrade everything at the same time. With separate pieces, I can update piecemeal any time I find something interesting.
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I've always thought that'd be ideal, especially for music in multiple locations throughout a house... pair of active speakers + Squeezebox in each room, and that way the longest runs of cable are just ethernet.
But aren't most active monitors designed for very near-field? This would seem to limit their appropriateness for home listening.
It's always been a curious thing -- the lack of active speaker systems in the high-end audiophile world. My personal take on it is that active speakers have all the technical advantages, but limit the tweak factor. I hope by the end of the year to have settled on an active system. Top of the list now is the JBL LSR4328 monitors and LSR4312 subwoofer.
What about vibration between amp and speaker? It's a little hard to keep the vibration out of the amp when it's in the speaker cabinet. Then you have to run power cables to the speakers. maybe not as much an issues if you are already using mono blocks next to your speakers.
I think there intended use in inexpensive home studio's in the near-field where you will not be listening to them an any level that will severely interfere with the amp.
Powered sub woofers have gained some acceptance so we will see what powered speakers does in the future.
I have no interest in them, if that's of any use to you.
Hooking up an amp to a speaker doesn't make the speaker active. That's a fairly absurd statement.
Vibration is also not that big an issue. If it were, powered subwoofers wouldn't work. Also, the amp doesn't have to be housed in the speaker, it could be housed separately.
If you can build an excellent speaker, then you can build an excellent power amplifier. For any real audio company designing and building a high quality power amp is a trivial task. There are any number of first rate audio designers who could be hired for the design and there are literally hundreds of electronic manufacturers who can build the product.
As a group audiophiles just don't see a need for active speakers. Based upon some of the above responses I don't believe this bias is based upon any rational reason.
You forgot another really popular option (not on this forum) but Squeezebox into Meridian digital speakers. This is the simplist system.
Most people shy away from the high price of admission for active speakers. They think it is really high but when you look at the expensive speaker cable, amplifier, interconnects, stands/shelfs/isolation/powerconditioning, power cables, and even preamp. Those components will be more expensive than an active system typically, as you move toward a full range system then the two options equal out as the choices get smaller.
The Big ATC's and the active Pass Labs Speakers are pretty impressive.
i run linn espek speakers that are active, but with outboard amps. you get the active advantage, but can upgrade within linn system or use other amps with the proper equipment. the portability factor you like is not there tho. however, the linn system removes the crossover in the speaker making for a truly superior sound.
I've used Dynaudio, PMC, Tannoy, Paradigm, misc. other active and passive monitors in the studio and for hifi listening. At one time I thought they were a decent idea -- pre-packaged, simple connections, etc.
But... they are in very many cases significantly more expensive when compared to buying separates -- that is, the same speakers in a passive cabinet with high quality outboard amp and cables.
And there is the sound:
Almost always the active speakers are noisy. And I mean quite noticeable hiss and hum, even with no signal being applied. It smacks of cheap electronics and wiring.
Disperson can sometimes be pretty focused, intended for close inspection rather than spread for imaging.
The sound is what it is. Sometimes there will be removable foam port plugs. Or 'tone adjustments' for treble reduction. These are typically a necessary requirement, for many of the ones I have used have often been 'detailed' in the treble to the point of being hyped, and almost unusable in hifi rooms. And the bass can sometimes be unsuitable when trying to drive them to farfield listening levels rather than nearfield mixing levels. At least for my tastes.
Having separate components allows me to make the tonal adjustments through selection rather than being stuck with the pre-packaged sound.
And I don't like being gouged for high prices for possibly 'questionable' quality of electronics that are hidden in a black box.
I had a pair of ATC active 150's (half again the volume of the large 100's). they were spectacular, but I bought them used unheard, unseen, and they were too large for my room (and my room ain't small....15.25 x 23 x 10). My room doubles as a HD-based 110" home theater, and the sheer size of the 150's was too much for the scale of the room.
ATC active speakers are absolutely audiophile-grade transducers. Their midrange is legendary and they produce microdetail, harmonics and imaging that are out of this world. If I hadn't found great passive speakers in the meantime I would have gone with ATC SCM100ASL's for my mains (and Active 50's for surrounds). One problem: finding large ATC actives used is a pain, but new they are huge$$, even taking into account they cover both amp and speaker budget. The advantages of actives have been discussed here, but are clearly the near-perfect amp-driver integration, the dedicated crossover-amp synergy, and the convenience factors afforded by lack of speaker cables, etc. The results are quite evident; the linearity and "wholeness" of sound is astounding.
I HIGHLY recommend anyone searching for active speakers to go listen to ATC's big boys, the 50's on up. You will have an opinion, no doubt.
Just a general comment. I can see the advantages of a speaker being designed with a particular amp in mind. However, I fail to see any advantage of housing them in the same cabinet.
So the case to be made is not for the amp and the speakers to come glued together, :-) but for the manufacturers to offer matching sets. In a way, that's what Quad has been doing for a long time.
You need to go bsck earlier in the thread - I list the pros.
Active speakers is not the same as putting a single passive amp in a box. For example the Woofer will be driven by a separate amp of say 275 watts, the mid range is driven with a separate amp of 100 watts and the tweeter is driven by a separate amp of 50 watts.
There is no power loss in a crossover (these get hot).
There is way less IMD distortion (the worst kind of distortion and most audible) because different frequency ranges are driven by completely separate circuits instead of one amp connected to as many as three drivers and two crossovers covering 20 to 20,000 Hz (which all interact and feedback into eachother). You can precisely control phase and driver integration way better than using passive cross overs.
There is a difference - it ain't simple moving the external power amp and placing it in the box.
I've asked this question before and several months ago Bob Stuart (Meridian) explained it in a way that made the most technical sense. I'm having too much fun tweaking now but I really could see myself one day buying a pair of DSP active speakers and what's done is done.
Anyhow this is why:
1) You need a wall outlet for each speaker - any active speaker.
2) As someone mentioned I think, most are voiced to be listened to in the direct field as near or close-field monitors. I do not know how much the designers takes into account reverberant field which makes up 50% or more of the sound you hear.
3) Most are voiced for studio monitoring not home listening. That means they are voiced harsh or bright to hear into the mix. Maybe some people like this voicing, but I don't and I don' think it is a natural sound.
A perfect example is Tannoy. The rep told me their active monitors are voiced with an elevated "presence region" ( I think that is what it is called) in the 3khz region. This is so you can hear into the mix. Tannoy voices the identical home speaker to be flat or recessed in this region. Different voicing for different intended use.
4) I did not say ATC's were poorly implemented. I said
"Good concept / bad implementation is the usual problem."
the most common problem is how they are implemented, not the basic concept.
5) Cheap amps that are bright and lack harmonics, delicacy, or natural sound as this is unnecessary for studio monitoring. A perfect, and surprising, example were ATC active 20's. The dealer also had the identical passive version. He *did not* want me to hear the passive run with ATC's 300 wpc integrated. He did agree but used lamp cord and whatever to make them worse. But the passives beat the actives because of the better amp. The ATC dealer in Canada verified the same thing. Customers preferred the passive version.
I think active speakers are great and the ATC 100's one of the best speakers I have heard. I even asked the big wheels at Stereophile show in NYC years ago. They thought active was good only for home theater since you don't have to make shelf space for 5+ amps.
This is another reason why I like single driver. One driver / one amp = "active speaker". Especially with no x-over or baffle step correction.
I have also heard KRK, Genelec, Dynaudio, Mackie, Truth, Tannoy, and maybe more. The Genelec was the best as far as neutral. the Dynaudio BM5 where spectacular, especially for the price - they blow away the comparable passive and are cheaper all things considered but dark. KRK V6 were nice for the price but I do not like woven cones like kevlar.
One thing they all had in common was amazing bass depth (for the size) punch and impact that hardly any passive monitor can match.
Ok,this is gonna be a long post ,so i split it in two parts. Part one: Fundamentals:Most people forget,that the only one ,who has clear perception of what real instruments or performers sound alike ,are the Talented musicians/performers + mixing/mastering eingeneers.The professional field has the advantage of comparing ,what is the real instrument/performer sound alike ,right in the next room? Or on the stage...Most of the recordings we hear,are done via expensive equipment(and some Grammy Award recordings have been mixed via generic equipment or headphones).The professionals are not easy to fool.They are looking to price/performance ratio and how the recording translate via the monitors they use.Using active monitors,at some point you will reach the point of diminishing return.For me,that comes at +$3000 (see my second part for comments).Some brands release monitors,that have a lot more to do with their :house sound: that they are ready to admit.Dynaudio,Focal,Adam,Jbl come to mind...
They dont use the latest audiophile valve/digital amps,but what they give you, is a:look inside:in the mix/recording.Some people like that,some dont.I,ve seen reports,that active monitors are designed for near field.With over 105 db spl ,i dont see how is that a problem.Move your listening position back,or raise the volume knob(is there for you to use it).Active monitors are used for mixing purpose(in general)on or near mixing console.Mastering usualy is done via fullrange speakers(and some use monitors+sub for that purpose).Do not confuse your room (my included) with professional studios.They employ a lot of bass traping or acoustical treatment in general.Products like Tact,Deqx, are being employed in active monitors like Focal,Genelec,Jbl(different RMC at a price).I,ve always kept my ears and eyes open toward professional field.Many products have come from them.Analog stages,AD/DA converters,monitor controlers,they all come from people,who use them every day.Personal evaluation is very important(for speakers/monitors).The closest Guitar center has some monitors for you to evaluate(not perfect conditions,but is a start).If you prefer :euphonic:sound (as are most of passive monitors/speakers voiced:) you will be better off with passive monitors/towers(at a price).Active monitors are not fullrange capable, but they can work (provided your room permits) with subwoofers.I mentioned certain price/point and after that,you may prefer passive/monitors/speakers.Digital domain.com. Here is Bob Katz(mastering )using Lipinski 707 with Velodyne DD subwoofers(Pass Lab amps on the monitors).Even if you are not critical/audiophile listener,you may become one(using active monitors) if that is your thing. Cons: Yes, they are black boxes,but there are exeptions..Power cords/interconnects- not a problem,unless you are audiophile willing to spend $1000 on them. Part 2:For the last 5 months i,ve been lucky to audition some active monitors in my room 15/24/12.Arcam C-30 sterteo preamp/laptop/Dac-1(loan) Rme Adi-2(loan)/Hag USB.Monitors : Event ASP-8/Dynaudio BM-6 mk2/Yamaha dsp-7.Events are very engaging monitors.Good midrange,strong bass response,wiil work with classical recordings(extension bellow 40 hz),Dynaudios are worthed well above their price range(all speakers are $1000-$1200).Dynudio: loses lower extension to the Events,but has clear midrange and top(compare to Dynaudios at $2000+).Yamaha:strong midrange And top(even via Arcam).I,ve also auditioned Adam-7,in different set up(studio),very good ribbon extension(top),upper midrange very good,lows not prominent.In my room, monitors where at 12 feet+ from my listening position.Best position was at roughly 15 feet,there goes the nearfield design for active monitors...I mentioned my price/performance ratio in the first part... $3ooo.That is the price of what i consider good professional monitors.I was looking to audition the Focal Solo6 monitors, but by pure sheer of luck i,ve heard the Focal Twin6(home set up/Arcam Av-8) and thats why the price/performance figure.They come at $2800 with 2 /150w + 1/100w amps + BE top. Perfect...? No... but i,ve not heard better at that price and no I,m not audiophile.Due to my room set up I think that Focal Solo6 might be even better(2 way at $1800) but I,m going for the Twins. In the end,lets not forget, that all the equipment we use is just that-a tool to REPRODUCE music. I,m sold on the price/performance ratio found in the quality studio monitors... YMMV.It is awlays funny to me to see systems in the :all as sault:thread,housing thousands of dollars of equipment in room without any clear conception of what the limits of your rooms are.Adress your room acoustics first,music will come later.On a different note,if you dont like MUSIC itself(THE LANGUAGE OF THE GODS), no amount of :audiophile: equipment will make it better. Sorry for the long rant, its been a long day(week/month),but i,ll say this:give me quality professional tools(heads up-Cranesong Avocet monitor controller/DAC) + active monitors above certain price and i,ll be happy man. Good luck.
Thanks for the brief post Niki (haha), I appreciate the time it took and the thought that went into it. I have spent the last week casually demoing a number of monitors (luckily I live in Southern California and LA has its share of pro audio dealers. None of them have ideal rooms or associated equipment but they are friendly and appear truly interested in helping, albeit the over/under on body piercings apears to be 10.
At the end of the day, i will try a few pair at home to see what's up. I really liked the Genelecs and the Dynaudios but I cant believe the sound coming out of the small enclosures. I will post my findings and will likely be burned at the stake as a witch but there seems to be EXTREME value to be found. Peace.
there is a simple answer to this question. a dedicated amp limits freedom of choice. most active speakers use ss amps. i prefer tube amps.
just because a spaeker is designed with an amp does not mean the amp is the "best" match for the speaker.
it may be a "good" match, but not suited to a buyer's taste.
Interesting article. I knew that IMD distortion was much lower in active speakers but I did not know that the difference was HUGE (for those who do not know ....IMD or intermodulation distortion is the worst kind of distortion and it has absolutely no relation to the music at all)
Because the amplifiers in an active loudspeaker system are only required to operate over reduced frequency bands the intermodulation distortion products present in a passive system will be dramatically reduced, by typically 20dB, in an active system.
This might be a bit of marketing hype (from ATC). However, the fact that the biggest market in audio, by far, is in passive speakers and separate amps (and ATC sell these to) would suggest this kind of marketing would go against greater sales volumes.
What does IMD sound like? Could this be what everyone describes they hear through passive crossovers? Apparently, having an active crossover feeding an amplifier for each driver could provide advantages over the amplifier feeding a passive crossover and then the driver?
Maybe this absence of IMD is what everyone in the ZU Druid/Definition camp describe as being missing from their listening experience. Comments.
IMD just does not sound at all like music. It is the complete opposite to harmonic distortion such as you get from mechanical drivers and clipping of tube amps (which can sound pleasant and may be totally indistinguishable from actual music...in short a matter of taste)
IMD happens when you have two signals intermodulating...say for example you have a woofer which is playing a kick drum or bass guitar playing with copious amounts of energy required at 85 Hz. Inevitably any transducer has inertia or mass (recall damping factor) and the amplifier is always fighting to keep the cone in the correct position. The effort placed on the amplifier is taken up by the power supply. Slight variations in power supply voltages due to an over demanding draw on current in the LF may affect reproduction of higher frequencies by the amplifier. (Typical challenges for an amp would be a reflex port designed to increase bass extension that causes a huge and sudden drop in impedance at a specific frequency...worse case might be a port at 85Hz on a small monitor with amazing bass sound or that reviewers describe as sounding like a bigger box speaker!)
The net result is that the simulataneous reproduction of the 85 Hz signal and a 1000 Hz signal (with natural harmonics of 2000 Hz etc and up) may cause the amp to output 1000-85, 1000+85, 1000-(2*85), 1000+(2*85) Hz etc. These sounds are totally unrelated to anything musical and sill stick out like a sore thumb (even if they are 20 db or more below the main signal levels)... at the very least they raise the noise floor but more often then not it means the mid range lacks clarity or sounds positively distorted in extreme cases. Simply turn up your amp until it clips heavily and you get the idea (in the extreme of course).
Better mid-range clarity, less harshness and an effortless sound is how I would describe a reduction in IMD distortion. (It is probably the reason that huge amps with massive power supplies are so popular even with modest speakers. It may also explain why horns are popular and known for dynamics and clarity - as they are generally an easier load on the amp. It may also explain why active subs are popular....by taking the heaviest load away from the main speakers' amplifier you get better clarity in the mids and there is a tendency to play music louder because it sounds sweeter or less harsh even at higher levels.)
Unfortunately, a single driver also suffers from amplifier induced IMD as the amp is still driving the sound across a broad range of frequencies and therefore difficulties caused by an impedance drop or difficult load at some frequencies may cause amplifier strain and IMD distortion in higher, more critical frequencies of the mid range.
However, any speaker that presents a very easy load to the amp such as a compression horn will likely benefit from less IMD.
Speakers with extreme bass extension (tuned reflex ports for bass enhancement) usually provide a difficult amplifier load and simply trade off great bass performance for less mid range clarity. This may explain why some veterans in the audiophile world will shun passive speakers with amazing bass extension down to 20 Hz in favor of a better mid range sound with less bass...there are two camps it seems on this particular point and a single driver limited range speaker is definitely in the camp of prefering better mid range sound at the expense of extremes in sound reproduction. An active three way is essentially like having three single driver speakers except that each of the three drivers operate over a very much narrower frequency range where reproduction may be optimized and where amp stress in music reproduction at certain frequencies (especially LF) will remain constained (through active filters and physical separation from other drivers) in a much narrower band; the end result is that it is much less audible (none of this is rocket science and this has been well known for decades, however, active speakers remain mostly relegated to professional applications so the "cons" continue to out weigh the "pros" in the audiophile world)
Thanks for the reply and I appreciate the answer. Its all beginning to make some sense and the case for actives at least dictates further exploration.
I must admit I'm afraid to ask you the time for fear of discovering how a watch works. For instance, where is the one guy in the world with the absolute reference gear that measures a true and accurate second? Do you think we can get THAT guy to fix IMD and Jitter? LOL. Peace.
I must admit I'm afraid to ask you the time for fear of discovering how a watch works.
I am an Engineer and also studied heavily Physics at College ...fortunately I took a great job rather than the PHD scholarship in my final year....I might never have escaped academia and probably would never have been able to afford a hi-fi hobby if I had stayed there!
Opening things up, reading text books, and trying to understand how things work in every detail is what Engineers and Physicists tend to do. Of course, understandably, it makes most people YAWN and turn away. So go ahead and YAWN!
Thomas Dolby "She Blinded me with Science" seems to capture the Jekyl and Hyde personality that Engineer's must struggle with all the time; on one hand deeply feeling the emotion (in this case music) yet on the flip side (get pencils and calculator out) it is all just tubes and wires, biology, geometry, machinery...
I hope you realize i was just giving you a hard time. i for one appreciate the time people like you take to educate all of us. Just like college, it is absorbed by some, not by others. There is so much snake oil in our hobby that is can be truly aggravating. Thanks for attaching some true science to what it is we are hearing.
As far as actives go, no one on this thread has been able shoot any valid holes in the science of why an active monitor is not a better solution. I have read some answers on this thread that basically refer to tone controls. In other words, if an active monitor of very high quality is inherently more accurate, with less distortion and more lifelike dynamics than a similarly priced seperates setup, then what would I get to change. Others appear to want to adjust the tone to suit their tastes. All of this is fine and well but then why not just get tone controls? Kind of humorous. I like tubes, I like solid state, I like digital and I like analog. But those who are certain their approach is absolute are absolutely wrong.
I think the following quote explains a lot:
"During a recent trip to an audiophile club meeting in the Pacific Northwest, AVRev.coms resident speaker setup guru Bob Hodas did a demo with Meyer's [active] X10 system that left many (if not all) of the audiophiles drooling and proclaiming it to produce the best sound they have ever heard. At the end of the night, one of the members who has the money and the system to easily purchase X10s asked, If I bought a pair, could I use my own amps? This is inherently the audiophile problem. To say something was the best you ever heard at the ultimate price point and then want to somehow change what makes its successful describes the definition of the sickness known as audiophilia."
i think active panel speakers might be interesting. there was an acoustat design years ago which was active, and perhaps a beveridge as well.
accuracy is an ideal which cannot be attained. one can speak of reducing inaccuracy, but then how do you measure inaccuracy. it is more than frequency response.
i mention this because so called "accurate" active monitors, may be more inaccurate than one believes.
it would be useful to arrive at al algorithm for measuring inaccuracy and then claims about active monitors would be more objective.
if one wants to stay in the realm of subjectivity, what about the concept of virtual accuracy, that is, an inability to observe coloration.
let some active monitor speaker be compared to another speaker with one's favorite amp.
at this point, the idea of active monitors being superior in any way is hypothetical.
i mention this because so called "accurate" active monitors, may be more inaccurate than one believes.
Absolutely! Active monitors and all speakers are almost always the least accurate component in most high end systems. Speaker accuracy is orders of magnitude worse than most electronics and digital sources. Electronic signals can travel through 100's of amps in mixing boards etc. and hundres of feet of wires on teh way to the end user and yet the accuracy can be very well preserved....speakers are simply not in the same league....good point!
Only headphones come close to the accuracy of modern electronics...but then the sound is inside your head and how realistic is that???
the issue seems to be panels vs cones rather than active vs non active speakers.
Ah yes that could be a whole other thread. A two camp battle I suspect.
My comments are restricted to the advantages of active acoustic suspension speakers over conventional passive two way, three way and four way acoustic suspension designs or basically any system where the amp is working all the way from 20 to 20Khz to drive a transducer...that is all.
"As far as actives go, no one on this thread has been able shoot any valid holes in the science of why an active monitor is not a better solution."
It is not strictly about science or engineering, or humor.
Remember receivers? Another pre-packaged idea that supposedly would simplify and optimize the whole chain. Do they typically sound as good as separates? Are the parts as high of quality?
What is the next logical step for active speakers? Of course, package the DA inside the housing as well. Think those DAs are on the quality level of Lavry or Weiss? I know the little switching amps most use are not equivalent to Bel Canto or McIntosh, etc. from my experience.
Some studio microphones are heading this way as well. Integrated preamps and AD converters, so just plug it straight to a computer. Again, it is self limiting. Buy that stagnant system for a huge premium, and hope it can compete against the inevitable separate component advancements....
As I've already mentioned, to me the sound of the several active speakers I have owned and used *was not* an improvement over passive separates. And were considerably more expensive. What is the advantage in that?
Steve, I would never argue that you are right or wrong, the fun part of the hobby is the debate.
As far as the d/a converter being built into active monitors being the future.....well, the future must be here then. Dynaudio already has that in their Air monitor series...24 bit, 192 d/a conversion. Meridian has done it for years, Genelec has it. Meridian offers upgrades so in their case, you are actually provided an upgrade path. I haven't heard any of these other than Meridian and they were out of my price range at the time so I paid little attention.
Your example of receivers and your knowledge of "the little switching amps most use" is based on assumption. I'm not saying some manufacturers don't use poor quality amplification, that happens in every market where a price point is targeted but PMC uses Bryston at a certain price point and Flying Mole at their entry level. I haven't heard either so I will remain open minded. McIntosh made some pretty nice receivers in their day and their integrateds today are as well. ALOT of integrated amps are thrilling their owners every day and they require 1 less set of interconnects, 1 less power cable, etc. Bel Canto has gone completely to the switching amp camp and their d/a converter and integrated has a usb input.
I'm not saying any active monitor sounds better than any seperates. I am saying that I will be open minded and check them out because I love the music and thoroughly enjoy the quest. Many posters however would benefit from objectively considering that the possibility exists that there might be a different approach that could achieve a very pleasing audio experience. Please post the active speakers you have owned so I will not waste my time listening to those. I do not necessarily agree that a high quality active monitor/speaker is more expensive than seperates. I heard some that, although not of the level I would consider for my own setup, were $499 and just add a Red Wine Audio modded iPod would kick some serious backside for very little money.
There are MANY technologies that us audiophiles have collectively dismissed prior to truly evaluating the benefits. Professional audio tends to be more open minded as they require incremental sound improvements but, if it delivers, they will embrace it. Room treatments? Room correction? Compact D/A converters? Hard disk based music storage and playback? Gordon Rankin at Wavelength and Steve at Empirical have some pretty ingenious solutions that have closed the gap for computer based audio to meet and exceed cd based solutions. Take a look at the new iMac.....$1799 with 320 gig and a fabulous 24 inch screen, feed that into a high quality usb dac into a nice amplification/speaker chain and there you go. EXTREMELY low jitter digital playback. The earth is NOT flat and I believe we should always check out options to see if it offers a better alternative....it may or may not but to not look is surely an incorrect approach.