The title is kinda tongue in cheek even though I really do feel active crossovers can be implemented to a higher performance standard than passive... Does anyone have a similar setup to below i.e. external DAC to active monitors? Love to hear your thoughts especially if you came from the traditional hifi world.
Ok, ^^that's all this post is really about. Here come lots of words and thoughts.
This all started when I bought a dragonfly DAC & decided to return it because I couldn't get it to work with my Nexus 5, and then buying a JDS labs C5d instead (with a sweet modification to output the DAC section @ the 3.5mm jack instead of analogue in).
So, having a USB only portable DAC/C5 is making me reevaluate my desktop audio:
Versus something hopefully improved like:
Here are some of my thoughts. More specifically they highlight some of the areas I think I can improve (totally ignoring the other half of the issue: room treatment)
1) Digital Transmission: Ok, granted I assume it would be difficult to hear the difference between a TOSLINK vs asynchronous USB (I think jitter being the dominant concern)... moving on
my verdict: diminished returns either way
2) DA conversion: so many online reviews and raves about JDS Labs and their DACs, whereas not so much analysis of the Denon 988 DAC section... hmm maybe a clear phycological advantage to the C5d. But again.. might be a wash.
my verdict: diminished returns either way
3) Things in the audio chain & analogue signal: What else happens in my Denon 988? I can put it in pure direct mode which switches off the surround amps, turns off the panel lights, all DSP, & probably turns some other stuff off, versus using C5d > passive pre (like the Schiit SYS) seems much simpler and cleaner. I think in this case the C5D > Schiit SYS wins purely on signal path; it takes waaay less cabling to attenuate the line level via SYS than Denon 988.
my verdict: C5D > passive pre wins over TOSLINK > Denon 988 & over C5D > Denon 988
4) Active bookshelfs VS NHT SuperOnes: I should really break this into a few subsections
a) Crossover: Well the SuperOnes have been awesome. Can't really say how much of that is attributed to or hindered by their crossovers, but I am of firm belief that passive crossovers are inherently flawed specifically due to driver back emf; in other words, following the signal path from amplifier, through a passive crossover, to the drivers is straightforward; thumbs up. But, as we (might) all agree, an amp must have a sufficiently low output impedance in order to dampen the back emf of 1 or more drivers it's driving. Again, not a problem if we have a simple wire between drivers & amp, but less than ideal when a passive crossover is between the drivers & amp.
So going back to the beginning of my thoughts: following the signal path from driver (producing back EMF) to crossover (being driven simultaneously by amp, and in reverse by the driver), to amp & other driver(s) connected in parallel (which are also driving some back emf to the crossover) may pose a complex coloration issues due to back emf impacting the performance of the crossover. Ok, so I am not preaching at this point - I just want to share my thought process in the context of my decision making...
my verdict: ok I obviously fantasize about quitting my job and singlehandedly revolutionizing the hifi world with pro audio trickle down technology; active wins
b) Amplification: My NHT Power 5 (200W RMS/ channel all driven simultaneously) is awesome... not much else to say. Typically Active 2-way bookshelfs, which seem to only come in the Active Studio Monitor flavor, have less than 200W rms per speaker. I know I haven't named a specific active monitor (with x amount of power) to compare against my NHTs.. I'll do that later - for now I'll just blanket statement that all "decent" professional active monitors don't seem to skimp on clean power & SPL capability, which satisfies any worry I have about amplification power.
my verdict: moot
c) Coloration: I'm getting tired of writing now so I'll try to speed along - Active monitors color less; my NHTs are also supposed to be pretty transparent but likely more colored than monitors. I think because of the crossovers I prefer less coloration.
my verdict: active monitors win
I'll just lump the rest into this paragraph: other reasons for retiring the NHTs, Denon 988, and Power 5 are because they won't actually be retired - I'll put them back into my home theater setup with the other surround Superones & NHT floorstanding mains. Awesome! New desktop setup would be
Imac > C5D (DAC portion) > Schiit SYS (or other passive pre) > Active Studio monitors
Potential monitors are (all 8" drivers... gonna hit lower flat than NHTs)
Tannoy Reveal 802
M Audio BX8 D2
KRK Rokit 8
...still looking - any ideas??
Ok what are your thoughts on improving my stereo setup, what I have now vs what I propose... and thanks for reading!
Edit: adding links to the gear chain.
Edited by pixelcity - 5/20/14 at 12:11pm