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.
At the end of the day they, studio monitors, are just speakers. Some of the better hi-fi speakers by the likes of Tannoy, B&W, PMC etc are used in studios but many are not.
This is not normally a quality issue but more to do with the way they are used, they are generally required to play very loud by hi-fi standards, so need to be capable of this without compression and without losing control, by extension they need to be pretty robust too.
Specifically we are talking about budget home studio monitors here, that doesn't sound great so the marketing guys refer to them as 'Near field monitors' because they are usually used up close in a small room.
They are not highly thought of by conventional enthusiasts who usually dismiss them as 'bright', 'upfront' or similar. Much in the same way that pro users refer to budget hi-fi speakers as being wooly and all 'boom and tizz'.
It can be quite difficult auditioning pro style monitors, some music shops are happy to play them to you, though the environment tends not to be particularly domestic and they do tend to play quite loud.
Even should you be able to get a pair home for a proper audition you can get into trouble, active speakers do not sound loud in the way that passive speakers do, the audible clues (as to loudness) are different and it is very easy to play them much louder than you think you are.
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Conventional enthusiasts?? If a speaker sounds bright and upfront it is just that, irrespective of whether it is active or passive. Why try to dismiss what is a failing in many speakers by blaming the listener?
If a speaker sounds "woolly and all boom and tizz" it is just that, irrespective of whether it is active or passive. Why try to dismiss what is a failing in many speakers by blaming the listener?
But you know what, I am not going to go there.
I was attempting to answer the OP's question about the difference between hi-fi speakers and active monitors and illustrating my answer with typical (overblown) comments from both sides of the divide.
There's not all that much difference in the sound quality between active and passive speakers to be honest. Generally I prefer active speakers because they tend to have slightly better clarity and offer better value for money.
But as I said there isn't all that much difference and of course you get good and bad examples of both types so it's worth shopping around to see what sounds the best to you.
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Absolutely, most hifi speakers are designed to play in absolute terms pretty low listening levels. Because of the ears sensitivity at low listening levels most hifi speakers have the 'smile' frequency response or as others like to put the boom and tizz, to give a balanced sound at these levels.
This has absolutely nothing to do with whether the speaker is active or passive, but the way the speaker was designed to sound.
You can easily design a ruler flat frequency response from a passive speaker by using critically damped bass alignment, and correct tweeter attenuation but it will sound very thin and forward at low levels but give you plenty of detail into the music.
Pro active speakers on the other hand, are designed for high listening levels and are not usually balanced the same as hifi speakers because your hearing frequency response flattens the louder you listen. So active pro speakers tend to have a flat frequency responce so they do not have the boom and tizz sound of hifi speakers, but again can sound thin and forward at low listening levels.
Active or passive crossovers has nothing to do with whether the speaker booms and tizz or not. An active speaker with a underdamped bass alignment and too high a tweeter level can boom and tizz the same as a passive speaker.
At the end of the day you have to choose the sound you like best, at the volume you most listen to.
If you do like to listen REALLY loud most of the time then active is the way to go.
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This is a hi-fi forum and the bulk of the contributors are enthusiasts who own, use and discuss 'conventional' passive hi-fi systems.
Hence the phrase 'conventional enthusiasts', it was really just a shorthand way to describe that group.
It was not meant to be disparaging in any way and to be honest I didn't think it was.
Yes people do hear what they hear, how they 'reference' what they hear depends very much on their experience which was the point I was making.
There is some truth in what you say but other factors also come into play. Some passive hi-fi speakers are diliberately balanced to produce the 'bass driven sound' that is very popular for certain music styles, it is often balanced with a slightly 'hot' treble and these are the real culprits when it comes to what is sometimes described as 'boom and tizz'.
My experience of modern, inexpensive, nearfield monitors is that the loudness effect you describe so well is much less pronounced than it used to be but it is still there and needs to be born in mind. Many models now have simple yet effective controls for optimising bass level and treble output and that can take a lot of the balance issues out of the equation.
Most active monitors of the type we are dicussing are targeted at the home studio and simple production facilities, rarely do these rooms have much in the way of 'treatment' so this is taken into account by the manufacturer and your suggestion that you have to play REALLY loud is perhaps overstating things.
One final thought, direct connection of the power amp to the bass driver appears to give greater control, particularly in regard to 'overhang', giving a cleaner, tighter bass at any level. This is disputed, I have seen technical articles both for and against this effect though from experience I believe it to be the case.
Agreed. I think the competence of the designer is far more important than whether the speaker is active or passive.
While I also generally prefer actives, I think the passive vs active debate tends to be blown out of proportion, based largely on exaggerated differences.
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Do actives offer better value for money? Aside from the limited source issue, anyone know how much they cost to run compared with the cost of running an amp? I mean, there are four amplifiers powered up and running, rather than just the one. I'm assuming like for like here, as in digital amps in speaker vs digital amp.
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,
To your list I'd add Yamaha and M-Audio. I owned a pair of M-Audio BX-5As that were very nice as a dektop system. My brother still uses that setup. The M-Audios were also very good at around 6- 8 feet away.
Interesting question. I suppose it might depend on what you are actually comparing.
For example: Dynaudio BM5A Actives have 50 watts per tweeter and 50 watts per woofer. So each speaker basically uses a 50 watt stereo amp to drive tweeter and woofer. So it wouldn't be fair to compare the BM5A to a pair of passive speakers driven by a single 50 watt stereo amp. You'd either have to bi-amp with two 50 watt stereo amps OR compare the BM5A to a 100 watt stereo amp.
So the question becomes whether two 50 watt stereo amps are more expensive to run than one 100 watt stereo amp.
4 50W amps - 2 speakers, remember!
Do you mean are they better value for money in terms of how much electricity they use?
Unless you're running hot to the touch class A amplifiers or several kilowatts worth of PA amplification it's pretty irrelevant IMO because amplifiers generally don't use all that much power. I think that active speakers are usually a bit more efficient than passive speakers though. I've read that passive speakers usually need roughly double the amount of power to reach the same volume level as a similar sized active speaker (or so I've been told on 'another' forum). Either way I doubt that you'd notice much difference on your quarterly electric bill.
In terms of value for money when you buy them I think that actives usually (but not always) offer slightly better performance over passive speaker/amp combos at the same price (IMO, IME etc etc...)
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