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wilfredcp's picture
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try active speakers

2 months ago I decided to upgrade my speakers and amp. Budget was about £1000-2000. After trying more than a dozen speakers from kef, monitor audio, q acoustics, mordant short, b&w, Dali, rega and tannoy, and not being completely convinced by any of them, I almost gave up. Then I decided to follow a friend’s advice and look at active speakers.

 

I went to absolute music in Bournemouth where they have a circular rack with dozens of speakers set up and ready to use, and after trying models from Adam, genelec, event, Dynaudio, sonodyne and krk, I walked away with a pair of focal cms 65s.

 

I've had these for a week now and have been repeatedly blown away. Their sound is different from any passives I've heard. They're certainly the most engaging speakers I know. Detailed yet powerful, with deep bass, lifelike midrange and sweet controlled highs, they’re almost everything I was looking for. They're incredibly dynamic too: I've always been used to hifis sounding a bit weak when the music picks up, like when a verse goes into chorus, but that’s never the case with these. If the music steps up a level, these take you with it. In short they have a very big sound when needed. Perhaps that’s another general characteristic of actives. They are also very rhythmic and have a great soundstage.

 

They're not without their faults of course. Either other speakers I've heard tend to have a hump around the upper/mid bass or these speakers are lacking in this area. Either way bass drums occasionally sound a bit weak, which can contribute to them sounding a bit hard and bright with rock. They are never sibilant though: for anyone worried about active speakers being like this I can assure you that its something I'm very aware of. One of the first tests I do when trying new speakers is play some James brown songs and see if it hurts my ears. That’s not the case with these speakers, which seem to be in complete control of their highs at all times. They can also be a bit too analytical.

 

Most importantly these speakers are always musical and fun so I can happily put up with their flaws. I think the biggest compliment I can pay them is that they make me listen to whole albums from start to finish. They simply make the music very enjoyable. 

 

I hope this helps anyone in the situation I was in a few months ago. All I'm saying is give actives a listen, otherwise you'll never know.

 

 

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An interesting review. Thanks

An interesting review. Thanks for posting. Smile

Your experience pretty much mirrors my experience when comparing active and passive speakers.

Now if only they'd start making more active speakers that have veneers and grills rather than the industrial looking stuff that's available in the pro-audio shops.

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It is likely you are used to

It is likely you are used to boomy bass. If so, you will soon adjust and start to appreciate more accurate bass.

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RE: It is likely you are used to

Which events did you hear, the opals or one of the cheaper ones? How did they compare? And also which KRKs? I've heard the budget 3 way the Rokit 10.3 which sound huge and very attacking but a little crude and lacking in detail for a monitor. They sounded a bit like rich kid speakers to me.

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RE: RE: It is likely you are used to

i heard the cheaper events (BAS 20/20), so yeah not really comparable to the focals. they didnt have the detailed 'hifi' sound which the focals had, just big bruisers really. the krks i actually tried in a different shop, and straight from my iphone so not really a fair comparison but they also lacked detail, massive bass though. think it was the vxt6s.

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RE: try active speakers

I too went to Absolute Music (their previous premises at fleetbridge estate) once to listen to actives. Fascinating it was.

Although far from a perfect lay-out to audition it was nevertheless possible to make some comparisons. My impressions then were that I disliked most of the cheaper offerings for different reasons and only really liked some Adam's, the ones with the ribbon tweeter. The smaller Genelec's left me feel wanting too. Look-wise none are especially nice but then the same goes for many other, domestic, speakers.

regards

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RE: It is likely you are used to

bluedroog wrote:

Which events did you hear, the opals or one of the cheaper ones? How did they compare? And also which KRKs? I've heard the budget 3 way the Rokit 10.3 which sound huge and very attacking but a little crude and lacking in detail for a monitor. They sounded a bit like rich kid speakers to me.

I've heard some of KRK's two way speakers and thought they sounded a bit rough. I haven't heard their three way speakers though.

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I feel it is important to

I feel it is important to make the point that there are plenty of active speakers that really are not very good or in some cases made for markets very different from the hi-fi market that we are all used to.

The better products are, naturally enough, from the more serious manufacturers and are not cheap, brands like Genelec or Adam have large ranges and in the main their cheaper models are very much entry level, often pretty small and therefore quite limited.

On the other hand we have a lot of 'prosumer' product built for home use where power, punch and presence are emphasised above neutrality and refinement, I'm thinking brands like Samson, M-Audio and KRK from the US and Behringer in europe.

In my experience the best value comes from products that sit somewhere between these extremes, the best known being the latest Yamahas, but better examples can be found from the likes of Presonus, Equator, RCF among others.

The other area worth looking at is some of the OEM designs that sometimes appear at the lower end of the market, often as 'own brand' products. Care is needed but there are some excellent bargains to be had at near beer budget prices such as the Studiospares/Seiwin models.

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RE: It is likely you are used to

Thanks for sharing your experience.

I'm too contemplating actives... was thinking of Adam's A8X. I like the sound of AVI 9's but not being able to connect headphones? can't have everything... so Adam's with dac/ preamp/ headphones amp... need some audition... haven't deicided on dac/ preamp yet.. any ideas?

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RE: It is likely you are used to

lpv wrote:

Thanks for sharing your experience.

I'm too contemplating actives... was thinking of Adam's A8X. I like the sound of AVI 9's but not being able to connect headphones? can't have everything... so Adam's with dac/ preamp/ headphones amp... need some audition... haven't deicided on dac/ preamp yet.. any ideas?

 

You can either get a headphone amp, not expensive around £100 or so. Or you could wait for AVI new DM5s which will be out at end of October, for those you will need a pre-amp/dac, they cost £699 I believe.

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RE: It is likely you are used to

BigH wrote:

lpv wrote:

Thanks for sharing your experience.

I'm too contemplating actives... was thinking of Adam's A8X. I like the sound of AVI 9's but not being able to connect headphones? can't have everything... so Adam's with dac/ preamp/ headphones amp... need some audition... haven't deicided on dac/ preamp yet.. any ideas?

 

You can either get a headphone amp, not expensive around £100 or so. Or you could wait for AVI new DM5s which will be out at end of October, for those you will need a pre-amp/dac, they cost £699 I believe.

ok.. thanks BigH.. will I benefit from AVI 9 dac built into the speaker when using external headphone amp?

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RE: It is likely you are used to

lpv wrote:

BigH wrote:

lpv wrote:

Thanks for sharing your experience.

I'm too contemplating actives... was thinking of Adam's A8X. I like the sound of AVI 9's but not being able to connect headphones? can't have everything... so Adam's with dac/ preamp/ headphones amp... need some audition... haven't deicided on dac/ preamp yet.. any ideas?

 

You can either get a headphone amp, not expensive around £100 or so. Or you could wait for AVI new DM5s which will be out at end of October, for those you will need a pre-amp/dac, they cost £699 I believe.

ok.. thanks BigH.. will I benefit from AVI 9 dac built into the speaker when using external headphone amp?

No, as the hp amp will be after the source, maybe the DM5s would be better but not so much bass.

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RE: It is likely you are used to

BigH wrote:

lpv wrote:

BigH wrote:

lpv wrote:

Thanks for sharing your experience.

I'm too contemplating actives... was thinking of Adam's A8X. I like the sound of AVI 9's but not being able to connect headphones? can't have everything... so Adam's with dac/ preamp/ headphones amp... need some audition... haven't deicided on dac/ preamp yet.. any ideas?

 

You can either get a headphone amp, not expensive around £100 or so. Or you could wait for AVI new DM5s which will be out at end of October, for those you will need a pre-amp/dac, they cost £699 I believe.

ok.. thanks BigH.. will I benefit from AVI 9 dac built into the speaker when using external headphone amp?

No, as the hp amp will be after the source, maybe the DM5s would be better but not so much bass.

that's what I was thinking... Adam's then and Cyrus pre dac or Naim Dac V1... want to spend £2k on new main system and AVI audition gave me so much to think.. 

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lpv.What are you planning as

lpv.

What are you planning as your sources, might be important.

The difference between ADM9s and Adam A8xs will be massive, try and get to listen to both as much as you can, it should be pretty obvious which is to your taste.

Edited to remove stupid emoticon.

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RE: lpv.What are you planning as

davedotco wrote:
lpv. What are you planning as your sources, might be important. The difference between ADM9s and Adam A8xs will be massive, try and get to listen to both as much as you can, it should be pretty obvious which is to your taste. Edited to remove stupid emoticon.

thanks davedotco. mac mini or macbook pro as a source. 

never heard Adam's.. do these guys really sound THAT different? 

when I first get into 'hi fi world' I knew what sound I was looking for.. I like Q300.. but AVI 9 I've heard recently is kind of sound I want.

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RE: lpv.What are you planning as

lpv wrote:

davedotco wrote:
lpv. What are you planning as your sources, might be important. The difference between ADM9s and Adam A8xs will be massive, try and get to listen to both as much as you can, it should be pretty obvious which is to your taste. Edited to remove stupid emoticon.

thanks davedotco. mac mini or macbook pro as a source. 

never heard Adam's.. do these guys really sound THAT different? 

when I first get into 'hi fi world' I knew what sound I was looking for.. I like Q300.. but AVI 9 I've heard recently is kind of sound I want.

Yes they do, in some respects at least. Active hi-fi speakers are fairly rare, AVI and Kef being the most obvious, after that I am struggling, at this price level anyway, most actives are aimed at the pro market and the prime requirements are rather different.

For home use I would be tempted to look at the Adam S series, the S1x (£1500) is more powerful amplifier wise but more refined than the A series but at a price, but then the Quested S7R is a fantastic speaker for similar money. Combine either of these with, say, a Beresford Bushmaster DAC/phone amplifier and you have a system with some serious potential.

The alternative is to use the ADM9 directly from the optical outs on your mac, this should leave a usb output available for a headphone amplifier. This does mean that you will have to 'reconfigure' the Mac for different outputs, something of a pain, particularly if your system is to be used by others.

One way around this is to use a Cambridge Dacmagic (or similar) as a headphone amp, the digital signal passes straight through and is available via an optical out to drive the ADM9s.

 

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