Here’s a question that should put a spanner in the works of the Active verses passive brigade.
How many of you active and passive promoters out there have a home cinema system that just uses passive or active speakers. (Remember the subwoofer is a speaker as well)
Centre is fully active, as are the main left and rights; no separate active sub is needed in the case of the Lab 9's, and fully active stereo bass + LFE is preferable to one mono sub handling bass + LFE, active or not IMHO & E.
Rears currently passive Tannoys, to be updated to actives to match my fronts and centre once my otherwise current separates system is sold off.
There seems to be a bit of hostility on the forum about the recommendation of active speakers. So I wonder, when should active speakers be recommended? Is it only if the OP specifically asks for an active rec?
On the one hand some of the active fans are so overzealous in their recs, that I expect to see a thread like this:
OP: I'm looking for suggestions for a £250 turntable
1st poster: Sell your setup and buy some AVI ADM9RSS for just £1400
2nd poster: Better yet save a little more and get the ADM40 for £3250
On the other hand I too often see the anti-active crowd going to the other extreme; of jumping into a thread just to complain that the OP didn't ask for actives, yet not offering any suggestions for the OP.
Just my 2 cents, but I think the active cause would be aided by more suggestions of actives other than AVI. Dynaudio, Focal ADAM and Genelec all make some well regarded pro monitors. Not to mention the XEO and the soon to be released Focal wireless speakers.
But back to the main question:
When should active speakers be recommended?
To my mind there are two main groups of AV system buyers.
Those for whom movies and music is the raison de etre for the systems purchase and existence in the home, and where the owner wants a fiddle free, high quality plug and play solution.
Active systems are likely to be in the buying sights of such consumers
Then there are those, who whilst they like music, like to tinker with the product most, if not all the time - kind of a grown up lego or Mecanno set for boys. It's a very valid hobby, and for that kind of consumer, active will never cut it, as it removes the twiddle and tweak factor.
All other things being equal, active is technically better than passive - it's an engineering fact - but nonetheless is not likely to interest the second group for the reasons mentioned, nor will it likely be promoted by current retail HiFi sales chains, as an active system cuts out a lot of repeat business, and bread and butter sales such as cables, stands, racks, 'foo' acccessories etc.
It really comes down to what you want out of a system IMHO.
I've made the car analogy before; do you want to buy an automobile finished and matched by the most highly qualified tertiary trained engineers going, as a total completed product ready for the end user, or do you want to assemble a car from a kit of high quality parts from third party suppliers, guided only by an amateur enthusiast retailer, with either lots of sales experience, or possibly even a business degree, but little, if any tertiary or other qualifications in electrical or acoustic engineering, to 'guide' you through the maze of mixing and matching that the third party retail consumer buying scene for a AV or HiFi system involves.
I'd say the home hobbyist HiFi enthusiast, loves the chase and the hunt of mixing and matching, and why not? - as I say it's a very valid hobby - but it's pretty evident from the continual barrage of queries here on these forums - kind of like an agony aunt column... Dear Auntie, what amp shall I put with XX or YY speakers - that long term musical satisfaction doesn't seem to lie down that road, unless perhaps you go through dozens of different permutations over many years, until you finally find something that seems either right, or you just get tired of the chase and settle for what you have.
I'd say, in response to the OP's query, "when should active speakers be recommended' is that when someone who loves music and movies, and wants excellent performance, but is not so much interested in the means, as in the musical end, then an active system fully matched by tertiarty trained engineers should be de riguer as an recomendation, as it is likely on technical grounds to be the only way to go in terms of system building if you want both musical satisfaction, and to be free from the merry go around of constant upgrades that seems to seemingly bedevil the majority of audiophiles, if forums such as this are anything to judge the situation by.
And just to be clear, I am not promoting AVI products here - none of which I own, and where I additionaly have zero plans to buy any AVI product, nor am I endeavouring to promote the brand of active speakers that I personally own, so much as active system building as a concept and to being an answer for those who put music and movies, and the pleasure that can bring one, first, and before any tinkering with the kit, - and most especially for music lovers and movie buffs, who literally don't want to have to tinker with the kit at all - they just want the end result re the entertainment, in stark contrast it would seem to audiophiles and the mix and match, tweak and fiddle, audio 'sound' hobby.
Though wouldn't class myself as a promoter, its just my preference. I leave the evangelism to others.
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I lived through the Linn/Naim Flat Earth/PRaT marketing thing and well remember all the Linn hype and noise and also how Ivor was famously caught out on some of his early negative claims about digital, by subjecting himself to a Blind ABX test, which he failed....
And then there was the Naim marketing machine and all it's hype and bluster... "You're nobody without a Naim" etc....
It certainly seems that the marketing of many HiFi products in an ever decreasing niche market leads to some claims that should be taken with a grain of salt when there is no supporting measurable or controlled listening test evidence.
Thanks for the thoughtful post, as usual, Jon.
I never 'got' the LP12 thing, firstly because it looked like a radiogram (and still does) and secondly because I heard it against a Gyrodec way back when and the Gyro kicked its butt.
Similarly, I never understood the fascination with Naim back in the day, because it looked as if it had been made in somebody's shed (and probably was). I think I may have heard an original Nait, but never again until the recent casework upgrade made it rather more attractive.
Things have moved on since my university days though, and anybody who claims particular 'awful' traits for any manufacturer, or generic foibles of, say, passive speakers, probably hasn't heard them in a while, since I don't really hear those traits, or see them in the response curves that many manufacturers (with some notable exceptions) provide. Further, I think that the hyperbole surrounding some equipment is just that - hyperbole - and, like the hi-res/320 debate, isn't really borne out (to my ears, importantly) by actually listening to things, which is what this stuff is for, right?
So I say again - don't get hung up on how a particular thing is designed, since theoretical advantages are often, in my experience, just that; theoretical. And in the case of PMC for example, those theoretical advantages have a cost of entry of about £2.5k (the difference between their cheapest passive and cheapest active). Check the features, the size, the practicalities, the cost. And then listen to it.
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As for any theoretical advantage of actives I'm sorry bit I don't buy that; that's all a one with the looney cable posters to this forum - the "my ears can't be wrong" brigade.
Chris, the advantages of an active crossover are very real. A bit of time with google will find you all the info you need.
This will get you off to a start. Clicky and clicky and clicky
The advantages of suspended turntable designs are very real. Any vibration picked up by the turntable will result in distortion to the sound. Suspended designs isolate the platter from this structurally borne vibration.
Yeah but! Yeah but in the LP12 the suspension plus the rubber drive belt allows the plattter to move relative to the drive motor, leading to pitch stability and resonance problems.
Active crossovers are better because the amplifiers are allowed to control the speaker drivers directly.
Yeah but! Yeah but none of the references that you linked to mentioned the effect of passing the signal through an active crossover. Active crossovers are not totally sonically transparent. You will get some detail masking transistorised hash when you pass the signal through an op amp based active crossover.
In the case of all active speakers with the amps inside the speaker cabinets, all amplification is solid state. What if you're someone that prefers the naturalness that you get from good valve amplification in the midrange? Naturalness that is most apparent on vocals?
What if you're the sort of person that doesn't like listening to the inertia based problems associated with conventional coned and domed speakers and you prefer the sound of electrostatics?
Marketing marketing marketing. Let's focus on the good aspects of whatever product we're selling or recommending and ignore the bad aspects.
It is rare that we get the voice of reason around here, thank you for your post.
I want to take your car analogy and stretch it a bit further. I have a couple of old cars. They are great fun. I fiddle with the carbs, adjust the timing, change the oil, set the points. There is an art to get them started. Two pumps on the accelerator, dont touch the choke, turn over until it fires. Keep tickover up by holding down the accelerator until the engine warms up. A real pleasure on a Sunday morning.
As a mode of transport they suck. My Wife's car has all encompassing engine / gearbox / suspension / traction management. Its as if the engine doesn't exist. You switch it on and go.
Active speakers (particularly with servo feedback like the larger subs, or with DSP crossover correction) are like modern cars. The electronics compensate for the failings of the mechanical system. It is the way of the future.
There will always be a few who want to fiddle with their carbs, but I dont pretend that my old cars are better transport.
I do apologise if my posts and or thoughts come across as being those of an evangelist - I do hope not.
I abhor arguments that are pointless, circular, rude and devisive, and prefer to deal with science and facts, whilst maintaing the utmost respect for others feelings and points of view.
I do believe though, that active systems will become more prevalent, and in the near future likely the mainstream method of system building in terms of an increasingly time poor end user market, where tech savvy professionals will neither be easily taken in by marketing pseudo science, and nor will they have the time to tinker with a hobby such as HiFi - they will just want an excellent, high quality, high performance, plug and play result IMHO.
Accordingly, my thoughts are that as time goes on, the current mix and match philosophy of HiFi system building is likely to return to the very niche DIY home hobbyist market of the1950's from whence it began, relevant as an interesting hobby for those who have the time and interest for such things, and the money to indulge - maybe a bit like vintage cars perhaps, in years to come.
There is a third group.....those who simply put the love of music first and work back from there. They don't give a fiddler's f**k about the technology that allows this, as long as the music is realistic, emotional, passionate, believable, and with the intention of the musicians coming across as intact as possible.
A box swop is never "just for the sake of it", but a very considered decision, where an immediately noticable, worthwhile improvement to the portrayal of the music is the result. This bit of kit is then likely to remain in-situ for many years.
"Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again." André Gide
Really? If so, that's brilliant and very funny indeed!
Now, do go and calm down, dear.
Formerly known as al7478...
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Music: Optical out from Asus P7H55-M Motherboard into AVI ADM 9.1 speakers.
"Music will provide the light you cannot resist"
If your post was always designed to be in favour of the recommendation of actives (this thread topic) when there was a possibility they fulfil an OP's needs, then great. Any surprise is because of the recent spate of objection to any post recommending actives, as has been the case from PP, AL and jjbomber of late. Your recent very silly isolated quote re the PMC YouTube video showed that you may be similarly biased, but glad to see that's not the case
Hey, please leave me out of your posts. I've never heard actives nor do I have any plans to.
Then perhaps keep quiet on the subject.
Yes. Science fact, innit.
I agree and certainly feel it was where I was at personally when I first got involved with HiFi, coming from a classical musician perspective as I did.
However, over many years, I also learnt that mistakes could very easily be made, as by relying upon other amateurs, - no matter how well meaning - at a consumer retail level, and where I have never personally encountered anything so basic in terms of a controlled listening test such as carefully level matching, let alone a blind test to remove expectation bias, one can then find oneself in the extremely unenviable situation of later finding something costing a tenth of what one owns, that outperforms it.
This is what precisely happened to me as a fully paid up Naim owner, who bought all his Naim kit new, and added on some 'mere' ES Sony kit, initially for AV purposes, only to find out when subjected to level matched, and where possible blind AB tests, that it outperformed the vastly more expensive Naim on musical assesment grounds. The result was that I put my money where my mouth was so to speak, and the Naim was sold off.
But I do remember upon visiting the Naim dealer, when I was shopping for a new system, and noting the Denon, Yamaha and NAD products they carried and was advised against audition, as they were "our bread and butter products, and not in the class of Naim on performance grounds, and for someone looking for the level of quality and peformance as you".
Perhaps if I had insisted upon a demo, or had enough experience at the time to insist upon carefully level matched, and preferably blind demo of the Naim, v's other kit, I could've saved myself many thousands of dollars.
So for me personally, I'm happy to leave the mix and matching to the home hobbyist/enthusiast, but where I want the closest approach to the original sound as is possible for my money, then again speaking personally, active is the system building methodology I will follow, and indeed have, for the various technical and professional reasons mentioned previously.
I would expect the home market to eventually move in the same direction.
A studio is a very different environment to our living rooms. I'm sure many studios would never choose passive purely based on the box count, although there are many studios that do use publicly available passive "hi-fi" speakers with offboard amplification - Abbey Road being one of them (among the many different systems they use in different suites).
Actives have been used in studios for decades, and if the domestic market was going to follow suit, I would've expected it to do so already. If a shift in that direction does happen, I'm sure you'll see speaker manufacturers flood the market with active alternatives. Its have to be a pretty big shift though.
David @Frank Harvey Hi-Fi, Coventry
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