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Ajani's picture
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When should actives be recommended?

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?

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RE: When should actives be recommended?

Ajani wrote:

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

But back to the main question:

When should active speakers be recommended?

Hmm, those examples are a little bit silly, but I get your point. To answer your question directly, anyone can recomend any product on any thread. This is an open forum.

From my point of view I'd recommend them over passives and usually always offer them as a suggestion.

The reason for suggesting that the OPs maybe sell some of their existing equipment, is to fund the new purchase and in any case, if making an active speaker recommendation, then the existing amplifier arrangement would be surplus. With a product like the ADMs and Xeo range, the entire system would be redundant with the exception of the sources.

If one is to embark upon an upgrade, the surplus equipment needs to be disposed of somehow, usually selling it. I see no difference in swapping/selling a pair of speakers or an entire system if the brief is met, ie a real terms upgrade and within budget.

 

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RE: When should actives be recommended?

I would say that (suitable) active speakers could reasonably be recommended in most cases where the OP has a suitable budget (this may include selling existing gear) and has asked for suggestions for a SQ upgrade.

The only exceptions would be where the OP is looking for turntable suggestions (there are no active speakers that can replace that) or where the OP has specifically excluded actives (but even here I might try sometimes).

The reason AVI are recommended so often is the massive SQ upgrade so many people have obtained with them, and if you believe the goal of HiFi is high fidelity and not fiddling and swapping boxes, then why should they not be? Also, AVI speakers look like home-audio speakers whereas most actives don't (yet).

Edit: I notice OD has beaten me to it and replied in a similar way. Great minds ...  :grin:

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RE: When should actives be recommended?

Also, it's impossible to predict if the OP is going to be one of those people who don't like the "active sound", i.e. who likes a bit of "boom and tizz".

Additionally, many people don't even realise there are such things as active speakers or why (all other things being equal) they are technically superior.

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RE: When should actives be recommended?

Any time, it's a freeish country, but the spamming for one brand (if that's the word) without bothering to read what the OP wants is a pain

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RE: When should actives be recommended?

Phileas wrote:

Also, it's impossible to predict if the OP is going to be one of those people who don't like the "active sound", i.e. who likes a bit of "boom and tizz".

Additionally, many people don't even realise there are such things as active speakers or why (all other things being equal) they are technically superior.

If OP likes his sound to be clinical, cold and disconnected from music then an AVI made active sound can be recommended

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RE: When should actives be recommended?

Rightly or wrongly many here regard hifi as a hobby where additional.elements can be added or updated in order to make a perceived improvement often as funds allow. Actives give less options in this respect. Actives are also less suitable in a 5.1 or 7.1 setup unless you have a bery large budget. That said, I have no idea if pound for pound activea are 'better'. I would therefore suggest if u.want to go out and buy a system then consider all options but if u intend to join the loony hobbyist enthusiasts then join the club. No controversy intended. I would love to hear an equivelent active system to my own but probably never will.

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RE: When should actives be recommended?

Ajani wrote:

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?

...

But back to the main question:

When should active speakers be recommended?

 

In my mind there are 3 definitive use cases for active speaker configurations at home:

 1.           Home theatres.

2a.         Hi-Fi - constrained space setups.

2b.         Hi-Fi - Build from scratch super-premium.

 

Now, before I go on to explain why, let me correct a common misconception that active speakers are always powered speakers. No, they need not be. The difference is as follows:

 

Passive Configuration:

In this configuration the amplification of the line-level signal happens before the frequency isolation (high-pass/band-pass/low-pass). So a passive chain looks somewhat like this:

Digital source -> DAC -> Analogue Pre-amp -> Amplifier -> Passive Cross-over -> Drivers (Low/Mid/High)

OR

Digital source -> Digital Pre-amp -> DAC -> Amplifier -> Passive Cross-over -> Drivers (Low/Mid/High)

OR

Analogue source -> Pre-amp -> Amplifier -> Passive Cross-over -> Drivers (Low/Mid/High)

The important aspect in all the above variations is that the amplification stage always precedes the cross over stage.

 

Active Configurations:

In this configuration the amplification is applied after the frequency isolation (high-pass/band-pass/low-pass). So each driver has its own amplification. Hence the active chain looks one of the following:

Digital source -> Digital Pre-amp -> DAC -> Active Cross-over -> Amplifier (Low/Mid/High) ->  Drivers (Low/Mid/High)

OR

Digital source -> Digital Pre-amp -> Active Cross-over -> DAC(Low/Mid/High) -> Amplifier (Low/Mid/High) ->  Drivers (Low/Mid/High)

Again the important aspect is in all the above variations the amplification stage is applied after the frequency isolation stage. In some configuration the active crossovers, the amplifiers, and occasionally the DACS (as in Meridian DSP products) are installed within the speakers, thereby requiring the speaker to be powered. But these components can as well be externalized as in the case in Linn Active configs, in which case the speakers need to be powered.

 

Performance implications:

1. Passive cross-overs introduce more noise and distortions than active ones. Removal of these need masking circuitry which as a side-effect introduce coloration. Hence a passive speaker can never be as accurate in rendition as the active ones.

2. Passive cross-overs are inherently less efficient in terms of voltage and current losses. Hence a passive speaker can never be as loud as an active speaker for the same degree of amplification.

3. Passive speakers need the amplified signals to travel between the amplification stage and frequency isolation stage. Amplified signals create a larger electromagnetic field around the conductor and so are more susceptible to inductive interference. Therefore amplified signals cannot be made to run efficiently over large lengths as is required in home-theatre setups. Drivers in actives configurations can therefore be installed much further away from the source provided the amplification takes place within the speaker itself. It’s even better if only the pure digital signal is carried right up to the speakers and the DA conversion takes place within it.

Coming to the justifications for the ideal use-cases of active speakers:

1. Home-theatres: predominantly implications 2 & 3

2a. Constrained space hi-fi: predominantly implication-1; lower noise allow better near field listening as the rendition is sans minute distortions which are noticeable when one sits closer

2b. Super premium hi-fi: predominantly implication 1 & 2; because at stratospheric levels of audiophile equipment, the most important objective is to make the sound as accurate and as loud as possible.

As a matter of fact, many passive speaker design geniuses are now appreciating the benefits of active loudspeaker design and have started offering such options for their flagship offerings. Take a look at this article:

Cheers AVEX

 

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RE: When should actives be recommended?

avexplorer wrote:
many passive speaker design geniuses are now appreciating the benefits of active loudspeaker design 

If they're such geniuses, why has it taken them so long to appreciate the benefits?  :wall:

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RE: When should actives be recommended?

For some reason the topic of actives and AVI actives in particular attracts a lot of hysteria.  Some people find the very mention of them provocative, which seems a little irrational. Some active (and in particular AVI) owners probably haven't helped this situation by being rather relentless and indiscriminate in their recommendation of actives as a 'panacea' for all needs.

The bottom line is that most people on forum recommend the kit that they own, or have experienced and there' s no reason why active speaker owners should be expected to behave any differently.  If AVIs are recommended disproportionately to other types of active speakers then it's probably not a conspiracy or anything untoward, the simplest and therefore most likely reason is that they have more advocates, because a lot of people have chosen them on their merits.

To avoid handbags at dawn I think everyone just has to try to be more tolerant and not take an irrational personal stake in what other people recommend or the opinions they express.

 

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RE: When should actives be recommended?

Ignore how the speakers are powered, just go along to your local dealer and listen to a few (Passive and Active) and purchase the combination that suits you, it’s as simple as that. (Don’t forget to try out your local music store as well)

The reason actives pop up is that 90% of live sound, studio and film production is done via active speakers, (Virtually everything you hear on your Hi Fi will have been mastered via active speakers) however unless you are building a home studio there is no need to go for exactly the same that they use, unless you find that sound combination suits you better.

Hope this helps

Bill

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RE: When should actives be recommended?

altruistic.lemon wrote:
read what the OP wants

As I said, the OP, if for example a newbie, may be unaware of the existence and benefits of active speakers.

It's a more intelligent approach to read between the lines and try to see what the OP is really looking for. Not everyone aspires to be a box-swapper.

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RE: When should actives be recommended?

I swore I wouldn't comment on this thread.....

Go with whatever you want 

Don't be too easily suckered by anyone

Informed decisions often aren't 

Informed opinions often aren't 

There is a large industry built up around the sale of multiple box systems

Repeat sales are difficult to achieve if you sell a product that 'does everything and does it very well'

The process can be fun, but it is often too easy to lose sight of where you were heading in the first place. Unless it is actually the process itself that you enjoy.

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RE: When should actives be recommended?

Dan Turner wrote:

For some reason the topic of actives and AVI actives in particular attracts a lot of hysteria.  Some people find the very mention of them provocative, which seems a little irrational. Some active (and in particular AVI) owners probably haven't helped this situation by being rather relentless and indiscriminate in their recommendation of actives as a 'panacea' for all needs.

The bottom line is that most people on forum recommend the kit that they own, or have experienced and there' s no reason why active speaker owners should be expected to behave any differently.  If AVIs are recommended disproportionately to other types of active speakers then it's probably not a conspiracy or anything untoward, the simplest and therefore most likely reason is that they have more advocates, because a lot of people have chosen them on their merits.

To avoid handbags at dawn I think everyone just has to try to be more tolerant and not take an irrational personal stake in what other people recommend or the opinions they express.

 

 

Well said that man .

 

  Nice speakers you've got there , by the way . I hope to audition some soon !

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RE: When should actives be recommended?

Phileas wrote:

avexplorer wrote:
many passive speaker design geniuses are now appreciating the benefits of active loudspeaker design 

If they're such geniuses, why has it taken them so long to appreciate the benefits?  :wall:

That is because these geniuses have to run their business as well which requires them to generate revenue. Offering passive speakers simply makes better business sense for a speaker manufacturer at the moment. If you as a Hi-Fi home audiophile speaker manufacturer, offer active speakers, you are essentially putting a whole lot of analog electronics manufacturers out of business. Naturally, the entire community would gang up against you and irrespective of the sound quality delivered would brand you as 'COLD', 'ANALYTICAL' 'UNENGAGING' and paint you with many more just negative adjectives that would make a customer really wonder if they are indeed buying the right speaker. How can a nascent company when starting out a business, take on the wrath of an entire industry. The obvious safer bet is to start with passive design and blend into the band wagon. 

However, when the same designers have made a name and credibility of their own, can take calculated measures to offer select active variants. This is simple risk hedging. The other reason is it takes quite a bit of investment and maturity to get into manufacturing active configurations. Only large corporates can typically afford to have such multi-disciplinary engineering teams. Typically, many hi-fi speaker manufacturer are as tiny as a cottage industry when compared to their active counter parts. That's why you see only very few companies like Linn, Meridian, ATC etc taking that path. The smaller manufacturers just cannot assemble a team balanced in cabinetry design, amplifier design, digital cross-over design and worst of all, software!!! DSP code writing is complex and much sought after. When you are hiring a software developer potentially employable by the electronic industry behemoths, you need to be competitive with respect to remunerations. That increases cost. I guess that is asking a bit too much when your market is so small.

The Pro audio industry is not that way. There is a huge B2B market out there which can give you your volumes and hence the revenues. Therefore a manufacturer can scale quickly allowing you to offer actives. It's all business my friend

 

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RE: When should actives be recommended?

Active speakers should be recommended if the OP is looking for objective high performance and speakers that change the sound the least.

By design, higher objective performance can be achieved in active configuration. Good active will always perform better than a good passive other things being equal.

If the OP is looking for a particular character of sound then recommendations can only be for something that has that character (active or passive).

Now, importantly, often when someone recommends actives what they really say is "you should not look for coloured sound, you should look for neutral sound and actives are best for that" and this is where the disconnect starts.

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