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Can someone please explain active speakers to me?
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Hi. I am browsing around, thinking of where I should spend some money on a new system. I have had all-in-ones until now, but wish to get better quality. I am interested in mainly streaming as I have all(most) my music ripped to lossless WMA (lossless) files on my PC. I will need an amp and speakers and some way to stream, or maybe some active speakers? Is there a big advantage going down this path, or is it simply hype. A friend says I should try both, but it seems to be mainly music shops that stock actives and they are mainly quite ugly.

I have about £2000 to spend. I want small speakers and fuss-free control on the iPhone or Nexus tablet.

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RE: Can someone please explain active speakers to me?

Active speakers generally consist of a box containing an amplifier and speaker all in one, some are speakers connceted to a seperate subwoofer which has built in amp. Many types available from cheap pc speaker kits to very expensive hi fi versions.

I would try and audition first but think you will find seperate streamer amp and speakers the better way to go. There are some excellent streamers with amps out there too

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RE: Can someone please explain active speakers to me?

I would try variations of each, and see which you prefer. 

Disappointingly Actives aren't  exactly a living room item, but offer vfm performance. AVI speakers are more conventional looking, but auditioning might be a problem depending on where you are. 

Airport Express, Apple TV, Sonos, or Squeezebox etc straight into AVI ADM9s would be my personal choice. 

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RE: Can someone please explain active speakers to me?

Pennypot wrote:

Active speakers generally consist of a box containing an amplifier and speaker all in one

That is kind of missing what actually separates an active speaker from a passive one, namely the active crossover and a dedicated power amp for each driver.

The following links explain the technical differences and the potential benefits:

http://sound.westhost.com/biamp-vs-passive.htm

http://www.tnt-audio.com/casse/active_speakers_intro2_e.html

 

The main issue with actives, as you've noticed, is finding some that look domestically acceptable and a dealer that stocks them.  Definitely worth trying though as, imo, they can offer staggering sound per pound.

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RE: Can someone please explain active speakers to me?

Not all actives are ugly (though pro audio, tends to be)

Adam ARTist 6, Dynaudio Focus 110A, Dynaudio Xeo and Kef X300A spring to mind as convential looking/living room friendly actives...

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RE: Can someone please explain active speakers to me?

DenbyB wrote:
I have about £2000 to spend. I want small speakers and fuss-free control on the iPhone or Nexus tablet.

Dynaudio Xeo 3 + Transmitter = £1295  (wireless actives)

Connect an Apple TV (£99) in the back of the Dynaudio Xeo transmitter box with a short optical cable and then you can do AirPlay between that and your iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch.

So no cables between the two speakers and only two little black boxes (Xeo transmitter and Apple TV).

"We are currently awaiting the loading of our complement of small lemon-soaked paper napkins for your comfort, refreshment and hygiene during the journey."

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RE: Can someone please explain active speakers to me?

DenbyB wrote:
Hi. I am browsing around, thinking of where I should spend some money on a new system. I have had all-in-ones until now, but wish to get better quality. I am interested in mainly streaming as I have all(most) my music ripped to lossless WMA (lossless) files on my PC. I will need an amp and speakers and some way to stream, or maybe some active speakers? Is there a big advantage going down this path, or is it simply hype. A friend says I should try both, but it seems to be mainly music shops that stock actives and they are mainly quite ugly. I have about £2000 to spend. I want small speakers and fuss-free control on the iPhone or Nexus tablet.
Active speakers are esentially speakers with built in amplifiers, which sometimes have a built in digital to analogue converters which you can use to connect cd players or digital sources via an optical cable. Just like everything in hi-fi, its a very personal opinion whether active speakers are better than separates. I personally wouldn't go with that route because it takes away what I love about hi-fi, mainly getting to change or upgrade components and increase your musical pleasure (and decrease your walle size :p). For your needs, I would suggest AVI ADM 9T speakers and an Apple tv for streaming music from your iphone. Simple setup, should be 1500 pounds...there are loads of forumers who swear by this setup and say its good at any price level.
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RE: Can someone please explain active speakers to me?

DenbyB wrote:
Hi. I am browsing around, thinking of where I should spend some money on a new system. I have had all-in-ones until now, but wish to get better quality. I am interested in mainly streaming as I have all(most) my music ripped to lossless WMA (lossless) files on my PC. I will need an amp and speakers and some way to stream, or maybe some active speakers? Is there a big advantage going down this path, or is it simply hype. A friend says I should try both, but it seems to be mainly music shops that stock actives and they are mainly quite ugly. I have about £2000 to spend. I want small speakers and fuss-free control on the iPhone or Nexus tablet.

Active speakers definition is best answered by Craig Ms post. Hype? There's no hype really, actives have been around for a long time and their benefits are well known, but perhaps not widely in the hifi market.

Your main problem will be to find some actives that you like the look of for a reasonable price, but the ADMs, Focus 110As and Xeo 3s would be obvious choices in the traditional hifi looks stakes. That said, I don't consider all pro audio monitors ugly, but that's personal taste.

If you are going to choose a more traditional monitor, ie without integral preamp and DAC, then you would need these, either as a combined unit or separate items. It depends really on what sort of setup you require. Do you need storage for instance for a large music collection?

A CA Stream Magic 6 would be a good option for streamer, preamp and DAC, as an example, leaving £1300 for some monitors.

THESE speakers are new and worth investigating, but perhaps you might need more power. That would depend on your listening volumes and room size.

There are quite a few options that will get you very respectable sound indeed and some will come in in way under budget.

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RE: Can someone please explain active speakers to me?

shafesk wrote:

Active speakers are esentially speakers with built in amplifiers

Sorry to be pedantic but, like Pennypot above, you are describing a powered speaker rather than an active one.  The crucial difference is the active crossover, a powered speaker is just a passive with an amp bolted on and other than saving space and cost, offers no benefits over a separate amp/passive speaker.  An active crossover offers much better control of the drive units because the power amps are connected directly to the drive units, read the links I posted above for a fuller explanation.

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RE: Can someone please explain active speakers to me?

To expand on what Craig is (quite rightly) saying, in a passive speaker the power amp comes before the crossover, so has to handle the whole frequency range. In an active speaker the crossover splits out the signal into its consituent parts (bass, mid, high for a 3-way). These separate signals are then fed into separate power amplifiers. The benefits being better control, each amp dedicated to its task (hence why the amps are often different power, bass requiring more oomph).

A side benefit is reduced number of boxes, particularly as some models like the ADM9's and Meridians also include a DAC and preamp in the speaker itself. For some people this reduced clutter is a key benefit, but they also get the benefits of true active drive.

In your case, as others have pointed out the choice is limited, but the options mentioned are all good ones. If reduced box count is important there are other options, such as getting a digital amp like the Cyrus ones and feeding the signal from the PC into it. Or a streaming amp, like the Linn Sneaky DS (I think).

Bottom line is that I wouldn't get hung up on going active or staying passive. Try to listen to a few alternatives and see what takes your fancy. With £2k you should get a very nice sounding system indeed (don't forget to ask for discount!)

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Thanks for all the comments.

Thanks for all the comments. Those xeo 3 speakers look like a bargain. The wireless idea is fantastic, so I could just stream the lossless WMA files from my computer or TV? I shall try to arrange a demo.

Thanks again.

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RE: Can someone please explain active speakers to me?

I think wireless means no cables (excepted power) to the speakers. You would still have to hardwire your sources to the transmitter. I THINK. 

A pair of actives with a Sonos housed inside would be cool. (Similar to that Peachtree amp ?)

if you go for a small form streamer like Sonos or Sueezebox you can just pop it on top of the speakers ( and no racks etc). That's what I do. 

 

BTW, if I'm wrong, can somebody put me right because streaming straight to speaker would be a great feature, not forgetting a pair of Play 5s. 

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yes richard.I think you are

yes richard.I think you are right. But I looked on the website and this transmitter would fall well within my budget.

http://www.dynaudio.com/int/xeo/XEO_Transmitter.php

So I could I guess just plug it into my computer and go from there. I already have found a remote application for my tablet which I guess would mean no wires apart from the power lead to the speakers.
The computer would need to be on but it isn't a problem and it's in a different room.

I think so long as they sound good then I have a very easy decision to make in the next few days.

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RE: Can someone please explain active speakers to me?

If you like this idea, a pair of Sonos Play 5 in stereo would be an interesting demo. In fact I'm going to google for reviews now. 

 

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RE: Can someone please explain active speakers to me?

With £2000 and with leeway, why not look at the Xeo 5. They are on my radar now and unless you really need small (as in on a shelf) then they aren't that big. They will reduce the need for a sub and won't take up more floor-space assuming you are using stands.

 

This is conjecture as I haven't heard them but they have been reviewed well.

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RE: Can someone please explain active speakers to me?

richardw42 wrote:

A pair of actives with a Sonos housed inside would be cool. (Similar to that Peachtree amp ?)

 

see post 14 here http://www.whathifi.com/forum/hi-fi/the-active-speakers-club?page=5

 

to the op: see the thread "active speakers club" for some options.

actives speakers can be better performing by design. I strongly recommend you explore them properly.

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