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Do passive speakers + integrated amp have less hiss than active speakers?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

Although I'm largely a headphone user, I've purchased active speakers for my computer system, only to be disappointed by hiss. I've bought high-end B&W MM-1 to low-end Creative speakers, and they all exhibit some form of hiss, even when no music is playing. I'm guessing it's due to the amp being housed inside the satellites.

 

Am I correct in understanding that hissing will not occur (or occur much less) with passive speakers and an integrated amp? I'm looking at the PSB Imagine Mini speakers and the Bel Canto cr7 integrated amp, with both sitting on my desk.

post #2 of 17
What is your setup that the speakers are being hooked up to? And have you tried a headphone and headphone amp to see if you get the hiss?
post #3 of 17

Hiss is usually a result of a bad source. I fought with unwanted noise until I got a HRT Music Streamer HD which is totally silent.

post #4 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by shuttleboi View Post

Am I correct in understanding that hissing will not occur (or occur much less) with passive speakers and an integrated amp? I'm looking at the PSB Imagine Mini speakers and the Bel Canto cr7 integrated amp, with both sitting on my desk.

 

If it's coming from your soundcard's analog output and that's what you've been using, I don't see how changing downstream components can help unless the old ones are of really bad quality.

 

Did you try swapping cables?

post #5 of 17

In my experience the amplifier is usually the source of ambient hiss. Good amplifiers will aim to reduce this noise as much as possible but it is rather difficult to eliminate it entirely. Class A amps sound very clean, but have quite a bit of noise to them, A/B have less noise.

 

Cheaper amplifiers in my experience have more hiss than expensive ones (I try not to use this generalisation too much, but in most part it is true), this has to do with the way the power circuit is designed and the type of transformer being used.

 

I have also found that active monitors will have more of a hiss compared to a passive + integrated amplifier setup. With a few exceptions being the highest end active monitors.

 

Sometimes the noise problem is accentuated by bad/unclean power in your home/listening room. Sometimes it comes from the attached source, or is part of the source material.

post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

What is your setup that the speakers are being hooked up to? And have you tried a headphone and headphone amp to see if you get the hiss?

 

As I've mentioned, I've tried a few active speakers, including the B&W MM-1 (via USB and via analog) to my MacBook Pro. I get hissing. I also directly plugged in my headphones into the MacBook's line-out. No hissing.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ProtegeManiac View Post

 

If it's coming from your soundcard's analog output and that's what you've been using, I don't see how changing downstream components can help unless the old ones are of really bad quality.

 

Did you try swapping cables?

 

I used USB from my laptop to the  USB input of the active speakers. Hissing.

post #7 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by shuttleboi View Post

 

I used USB from my laptop to the  USB input of the active speakers. Hissing.

 

I'm stumped then. I can't recommend getting a new speaker set-up because for all we know it might be coming from the computer. Never had any source unit produce any hiss through any gear I had before, but really I'd suspect the computer more than the amps on the active speakers. I mean, manufacturers already know they're putting the amp in the speaker chassis, chances are they've isolated it already from the magnet or even from other noise sources.

 

Did you try other gear, ie, use the speakers you have with another computer, or a different computer (laptop, etc) on the speakers in the same room?


Edited by ProtegeManiac - 5/22/13 at 1:48am
post #8 of 17

My integrated amp (Plinius 8100) emits a hiss that's barely detectable at my couch when no music is playing. I can clearly hear it when I have my ear inches away from the tweeter. Doesn't bother me when I have music playing.

 

All amps will produce hiss - it's thermal noise generated by the components. Some are more quiet than others. The NAD C350 that the Plinius replaced was pretty much dead quiet. Sames goes for an Ayre AX-5 that I auditioned a few months back.
 

post #9 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by yage View Post

 

All amps will produce hiss - it's thermal noise generated by the components. Some are more quiet than others. The NAD C350 that the Plinius replaced was pretty much dead quiet. Sames goes for an Ayre AX-5 that I auditioned a few months back.
 

 

When I had a speaker set-up, the NAD304 had zero hiss through my Pacific Pi10's unless you twist the volume knob to beyond 2:00. Using a redbook-standard source, I barely went past 10:00 anyway, so it practically had zero.

post #10 of 17

Input sensitivity must also be taken into account. To sell a product a manufacturer might say "you wont hear any noise" That's because the input sensitivity is so low  that the input music signal has to be very high to have a reasonable output[so the music signal is so large you cant hear any hiss].The same if just listening to the output without a signal. But a high sensitivity amp will show noise in itself and in the equipment that is inputting the signal to it and you will say this amp is noisy but very high quality amps have both high sensitivity and very low noise-say -100DB.

post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by ProtegeManiac View Post

 

When I had a speaker set-up, the NAD304 had zero hiss through my Pacific Pi10's unless you twist the volume knob to beyond 2:00. Using a redbook-standard source, I barely went past 10:00 anyway, so it practically had zero.

 



Yeah, some amps are just noisy at normal listening levels. The Plinius amps I've heard are like that - perhaps by accident of their design. I remember a few years ago I listened to the class A SA 250 Mk IV hooked up to a pair of Avantgarde Duos. The hiss was accentuated by a very sensitive speaker and started to intrude on the experience. The hiss from my amp is present no matter which position the volume knob is set at.

post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by ProtegeManiac View Post

 

When I had a speaker set-up, the NAD304 had zero hiss through my Pacific Pi10's unless you twist the volume knob to beyond 2:00. Using a redbook-standard source, I barely went past 10:00 anyway, so it practically had zero.

 



Yeah, some amps are just noisy at normal listening levels. The Plinius amps I've heard are like that - perhaps by accident of their design. I remember a few years ago I listened to the class A SA 250 Mk IV hooked up to a pair of Avantgarde Duos. The hiss was accentuated by a very sensitive speaker and started to intrude on the experience. The hiss from my amp is present no matter which position the volume knob is set at.

 

 

Quote:
But a high sensitivity amp will show noise in itself and in the equipment that is inputting the signal to it and you will say this amp is noisy but very high quality amps have both high sensitivity and very low noise-say -100DB.

 

What's curious is that the manual for my integrated states that noise and hum is 90 dB down from rated output. Not sure what it would be at normal listening levels...

post #13 of 17

Yage- At  90 DB down you shouldnt hear hiss even during quiet passages in the music  Something is wrong!

post #14 of 17

If the noise is constant along all volume levels it sounds like noisy power leaking onto the ground somewhere in your system. Possibly even a ground loop.

post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by duncan1 View Post

Yage- At  90 DB down you shouldnt hear hiss even during quiet passages in the music  Something is wrong!

 

Could be. But it's barely noticeable at the listening position, as in, if I sit and listen for a minute to just the output of the amp and then press the mute button, I can tell it was outputting a hiss. Otherwise, I can't really detect it when I play music - even in quiet passages.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 65535 View Post

If the noise is constant along all volume levels it sounds like noisy power leaking onto the ground somewhere in your system. Possibly even a ground loop.


Not really a possibility since I've moved three or four times since I've had the amp and it's consistently emitted a hiss. I've also plugged it into an isolation transformer (Bryston BIT-15) and into the wall socket. No change in hiss level. It really is white noise, not a hum or a buzz.

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