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maxmelvin19's picture
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Budget active/powered speakers vs. traditional separates

Hi, 

I thought it was correct to start a new topic since my question no longer fit under the previous post's heading. I want to get a smooth and detailed setup going in a small room for under £300. After some research (whathifi, stereophile, audiostream, etc.) it is still not clear whether a good powered desktop speaker like the Audioengine A5+s or the PSB Alpha 1s compare to the best traditional sub-£300 passive and amp set-ups. I think my choices are as follows (any input from whathifi's staff would obviously be much appreciated):

1. Q acoustics 2010i + Marantz PM5004                  £260                

2. Tannoy Mercury V1 + Marantz PM5004               £279                

3. Audioengine A5+                                                  £295                

In a small room and sitting 6-8 feet from the speakers, what is going to give me the most hi fidelity sound? 

Thank you in advance,

Max

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RE: Budget active/powered speakers vs. traditional separates

You may wish to broaden your search a little and look at some of the professional active speakers. You will find them on pro-audio websites and dealers (although finding one nearby may be problematical).

At a recent video screening, I heard a pair of small-ish M-Audio active loudspeakers which filled a large room with music and sounded very clean, fed directly from a laptop. Yamaha and Behringer are other popular makes.

In theory, the cost benefits are with these pro actives as they are built in greater numbers and you're not paying for extras. It is then up to you to see if the sound suits what you are looking for and whether the facilities (input switching and so on) match your requirements. A good passive preamp would be an ideal addition and shouldn't cost too much.

I think these were the ones I heard

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Avid-M-Audio-BX5-D2-Monitors/dp/B005OOSZR2

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RE: Budget active/powered speakers vs. traditional separates

lecson wrote:

You may wish to broaden your search a little and look at some of the professional active speakers. You will find them on pro-audio websites and dealers (although finding one nearby may be problematical).

At a recent video screening, I heard a pair of small-ish M-Audio active loudspeakers which filled a large room with music and sounded very clean, fed directly from a laptop. Yamaha and Behringer are other popular makes.

In theory, the cost benefits are with these pro actives as they are built in greater numbers and you're not paying for extras. It is then up to you to see if the sound suits what you are looking for and whether the facilities (input switching and so on) match your requirements. A good passive preamp would be an ideal addition and shouldn't cost too much.

I think these were the ones I heard

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Avid-M-Audio-BX5-D2-Monitors/dp/B005OOSZR2

There are plenty of active options available and a lot will depend on how you plan to drive them. My own setup is very simple, an AEX digital out into a cheap Fiio dac to a small pair of active monitors.

The single biggest reason I went down this route was to avoid the excessive bloom that I find endemic in modern low cost speakers (Dali Zensor 1 was an honourable exception), I find it pretty much unlistenable. 

By choosing the active route I managed to get the tight, punchy sound that I prefer at a lower cost than I could hope for with conventional passive components.

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RE: Budget active/powered speakers vs. traditional separates

This also depends on sources. If you have more than one - CD player, and turntable, for example - you need a preamp to use most active speakers, and that pushes the price up to the point where the passive route is better vfm. It's also worth bearing in mind some pro active speakers sound pretty horrible - forward, coarse treble etc.

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RE: Budget active/powered speakers vs. traditional separates

As Lemon said, it depends on your source. If you're using a Mac/PC source and want little clutter, I recently heard a pair of M-Audio BX8's and for the price, they really were very good. Bear in mind that these are for professionals and generally used more for near-field listening. Neutral balance is paramount this kind of speaker. Keep your eyes and ears open, don't be afraid to explore the second hand market either, given your budget.

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RE: Budget active/powered speakers vs. traditional separates

altruistic.lemon wrote:

This also depends on sources. If you have more than one - CD player, and turntable, for example - you need a preamp to use most active speakers, and that pushes the price up to the point where the passive route is better vfm. It's also worth bearing in mind some pro active speakers sound pretty horrible - forward, coarse treble etc.

Clearly most active speakers are single input with a choice of connector, for simple systems such as my own a very basic dac will do the job, more digital inputs are easily catered for and it is only really when analogue sources need to be included that a full pre-amp is required.

You could of course turn that statement around, why buy a fully featured pre or integrated amplifier if you are only going to use a single input, poor vfm there too.

That there are some really poor passive speakers masquerading as hi-fi too, you can not judge a a whole genre of equipment on one or two poor examples. Personally it is my experience that the classic, forward and 'in your face' style of presentation is largely a thing in the past, modern designs are simply not like that.

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RE: Budget active/powered speakers vs. traditional separates

The statement is correct as you've agreed, why do you want to turn it around?

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RE: Budget active/powered speakers vs. traditional separates

altruistic.lemon wrote:

The statement is correct as you've agreed, why do you want to turn it around?

To offer a different view, apologies if you don't see the point.

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RE: Budget active/powered speakers vs. traditional separates

Thank you all,

My only source, for the next few years at least, will be my mac. I hope to get a USB DAC in the not too distant future. As I said, I won't spend too much time listening near field but about 6 feet away sitting on a sofa. So I guess I'm asking, if anyone has listened to/knows about the list of options I gave above (I know whathifi have reviewed the Audioengine A5+s, Tannoy Mercury V1s  and the Q Acoustics 2010is) could give me some advice about which setup is likely to sound best.

Max.

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RE: Budget active/powered speakers vs. traditional separates

With a £300 budget my choice would be a Behringer UCA202 DAC (£24) and a pair of Yamaha HS5 active monitors (£264 per pair).

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RE: Budget active/powered speakers vs. traditional separates

maxmelvin19 wrote:

Thank you all,

My only source, for the next few years at least, will be my mac. I hope to get a USB DAC in the not too distant future. As I said, I won't spend too much time listening near field but about 6 feet away sitting on a sofa. So I guess I'm asking, if anyone has listened to/knows about the list of options I gave above (I know whathifi have reviewed the Audioengine A5+s, Tannoy Mercury V1s  and the Q Acoustics 2010is) could give me some advice about which setup is likely to sound best.

Max.

If we are keeping to budget I would suggest the Behringer UCA202 usb dac which costs a miserly £25, driving a pair of Presonus Eris E5 at £230 or a pair of Yamaha HS5 at £270.

Both combinations would be in budget and I think the Eris E5 is better value, leaves you a few pounds for cables and stands.

In my opinion far better than any passive solution for similar money, but should you choose to go town the traditional route, I am sure there are plenty on here who can help.

http://www.presonus.com/products/Eris

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RE: Budget active/powered speakers vs. traditional separates

steve_1979 wrote:

With a £300 budget my choice would be a Behringer UCA202 DAC (£24) and a pair of Yamaha HS5 active monitors (£264 per pair).

As you can see, I agree, though I am very taken with the new Eris E5.

Presonus as a brand is less well known in the uk, much more prominent in germany.

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RE: Budget active/powered speakers vs. traditional separates

davedotco wrote:

steve_1979 wrote:

With a £300 budget my choice would be a Behringer UCA202 DAC (£24) and a pair of Yamaha HS5 active monitors (£264 per pair).

As you can see, I agree, though I am very taken with the new Eris E5.

Presonus as a brand is less well known in the uk, much more prominent in germany.

I've never seen those ones before but I'll keep an eye out for them. I've heard that the Studio spares motitors are good for the price too.

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RE: Budget active/powered speakers vs. traditional separates

davedotco wrote:

altruistic.lemon wrote:

The statement is correct as you've agreed, why do you want to turn it around?

To offer a different view, apologies if you don't see the point.

Because there was no point.

Anyway, I'd definitely avoid the Yamahas. Their treble is almost grating. I thought the Adam Audio speakers far better. However, it is important to audition any of the speakers mentioned here. Tastes differ so much.

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RE: Budget active/powered speakers vs. traditional separates

Am I right in thinking that studio monitors are designed for a different application than audiophile hifi? It's just that whilst I do want transparency and timing, smooth and warm musicality is at the top of my list, not hearing every problem in the mix as glaringly obvious. I want the speakers to be forgiving of radio, mp3 and tv sound whilst making the most of cd quality and HD music (once I get a dac) from my laptop. 

Thanks,

Max

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RE: Budget active/powered speakers vs. traditional separates

steve_1979 wrote:

davedotco wrote:

steve_1979 wrote:

With a £300 budget my choice would be a Behringer UCA202 DAC (£24) and a pair of Yamaha HS5 active monitors (£264 per pair).

As you can see, I agree, though I am very taken with the new Eris E5.

Presonus as a brand is less well known in the uk, much more prominent in germany.

I've never seen those ones before but I'll keep an eye out for them. I've heard that the Studio spares motitors are good for the price too.

Their basic models are excellent for little more than beer money. They are built in China by Seiwin  http://www.seiwin.com/product_y.php

Studiospares bring in the ST5a and ST6a, £120 and £140 respectively. I have the smaller PM4a, called SN4a by Studiospares, probably the best desktop monitors I have seen. Cost me just £100 (small promo discount), sat on a pair of Audio Engine desktop stands.

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