Active vs. Passive speakers
Nov 22, 2009 at 3:11 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 42

john11f

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I'd just like to find out your thoughts on comparing these two types of speakers in listening to computer audio.

I use Dynaudio BM6A MKII w/ a Benchmark DAC1 Pre and I'm looking to upgrade my system in the near future.

I just want to know if it's worth going passive given the birth of better DACs that could be paired with passive monitors/amps/preamps.

One thing I can think of is the simplicity of a system driven by active speakers & a DAC like mine w/c has a preamp and headphone amp but I feel that I'm near that point where my system is not feeding me enough.

Recommendations on where to go next....most welcome!
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Nov 22, 2009 at 3:58 PM Post #2 of 42

Phelonious Ponk

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Well-designed active systems have advantages that cannot be duplicated in any system facing the problems of passive crossovers and the limitations of amplification that is not matched, and directly coupled to, individual drivers. To even approach the clarity and control you have now would require a passive system at many times the cost of what you currently have invested, and it still wouldn't get you there.

You want to improve upon Dynas and a DAC1/pre? Start looking for a really top-notch active sub.

ON EDIT: DACs that are "better" than the DAC1 are better subjectively only. The Benchmark is as flat in frequency response and low in noise and distortion (including jitter) as human ears and brains can perceive. Any "improvement" will be a matter of coloration to taste. If there is something about the response of the Benchmark that doesn't suit you, consider equalization. IMO, you're currently listening to a system that out-performs 99% of the audiophile "high-end" equipment in existence.

P
 
Nov 22, 2009 at 4:02 PM Post #3 of 42

iriverdude

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But passives have advantage of swopping out speakers not requiring you to rebuy expensive amplifiers, for example I've changed my main speakers 3 times, but kept amps. Plus I've upgraded from lower end power amps to higher end models, then added more for biamping. Also when a poweramps went faulty I had another spare so that went into it's place, so I still had working speakers.

Actives are really for the people who don't like changing or upgrading.
 
Nov 22, 2009 at 7:07 PM Post #4 of 42

Phelonious Ponk

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Quote:

Originally Posted by iriverdude /img/forum/go_quote.gif
But passives have advantage of swopping out speakers not requiring you to rebuy expensive amplifiers, for example I've changed my main speakers 3 times, but kept amps. Plus I've upgraded from lower end power amps to higher end models, then added more for biamping. Also when a poweramps went faulty I had another spare so that went into it's place, so I still had working speakers.

Actives are really for the people who don't like changing or upgrading.



I would respectfully disagree and say that actives are for people who seek optimum performance and are willing to sacrifice the excitement of changing and upgrading to get it. You can "upgrade" amps and speakers until the end of time and never achieve the control (and subsequent clarity, speed, imaging and coherence) and synergy you'll get from a well-designed and well-implemented active system. It is, IMHO, as fundamental as deciding what your hobby is -- high fidelity music reproduction or shopping, swapping and tweaking. It does take some of the fun out of it, and the poster is a great example. He's ready to upgrade, evidently has the funds to upgrade, but there's really not much to improve without spending a LOT more money. He could add a sub or two, or he could go the next logical step and build a custom, tri-amped system like the Linkwitz Orions. But "upgrading" in the passive arena will be a waste of time and money.

And of course YMMV.

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Nov 22, 2009 at 7:25 PM Post #5 of 42

electropop

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The main disadvantage in active speakers is that the bottleneck is the amplifier in them. Meaning that if you want a cleaner signal, you can't. And the thing with most active monitors mainly designed for studio purposes, aren't musical or enjoyable in one bit.

By musicality I don't mean colorations or something like that. For example, Dynaudios, Mackies, Adams and Genelecs what I've listened to recently, do not play music. I know this might sound stupid and vain, but with my Adam A5s, I simply cannot hear notes and the sound is not natural. They lack the ability to play pitches, which is the key to musical presentation. And this is a matter of having a good source as well. If your source is musical (in these laid out terms) and you have decent active monitors, the problem that I've noticed that they truly flatten the signal in pitch-accuracy. I cannot hear the sax- or bass-line I eager for. I listened to the Adams and thought that: "damn, I couldn't draw an accurate sheet music of that bass-line". They are for monitoring. Transparency can be jaw-dropping, but it isn't listening to music but completely different sensation.

So, it all comes down to preferences and what you listen in the music. With passive speakers you have more choice, but as people said, the road can become expensive. Flat frequency-response is a good thing and a system based on that criteria is a good start; the main advantage being that it doesn't get boring and you hear almost what you are meant to hear. But pitches are a completely different matter and speak for musicality.

My recently purchased Linn system consisting of the Majik 109 bookshelf and the Classik Music integrated wasn't cheap, to me, but beats the hell out of a pair of 25,000usd Genelec 1034's in a floating and completely sealed studio-environment, in musicality and reality.

This probably derailed the subject a bit, but I hope I made sense
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You can build a reasonably priced killer desktop system with active speakers, but the first bottle neck is the amplification, I think, that doesn't let through the "musical signal".
 
Nov 22, 2009 at 7:56 PM Post #7 of 42

Phelonious Ponk

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Quote:

Originally Posted by electropop /img/forum/go_quote.gif
The main disadvantage in active speakers is that the bottleneck is the amplifier in them. Meaning that if you want a cleaner signal, you can't. And the thing with most active monitors mainly designed for studio purposes, aren't musical or enjoyable in one bit.

By musicality I don't mean colorations or something like that. For example, Dynaudios, Mackies, Adams and Genelecs what I've listened to recently, do not play music. I know this might sound stupid and vain, but with my Adam A5s, I simply cannot hear notes and the sound is not natural. They lack the ability to play pitches, which is the key to musical presentation. And this is a matter of having a good source as well. If your source is musical (in these laid out terms) and you have decent active monitors, the problem that I've noticed that they truly flatten the signal in pitch-accuracy. I cannot hear the sax- or bass-line I eager for. I listened to the Adams and thought that: "damn, I couldn't draw an accurate sheet music of that bass-line". They are for monitoring. Transparency can be jaw-dropping, but it isn't listening to music but completely different sensation.

So, it all comes down to preferences and what you listen in the music. With passive speakers you have more choice, but as people said, the road can become expensive. Flat frequency-response is a good thing and a system based on that criteria is a good start; the main advantage being that it doesn't get boring and you hear almost what you are meant to hear. But pitches are a completely different matter and speak for musicality.

My recently purchased Linn system consisting of the Majik 109 bookshelf and the Classik Music integrated wasn't cheap, to me, but beats the hell out of a pair of 25,000usd Genelec 1034's in a floating and completely sealed studio-environment, in musicality and reality.

This probably derailed the subject a bit, but I hope I made sense
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You can build a reasonably priced killer desktop system with active speakers, but the first bottle neck is the amplification, I think, that doesn't let through the "musical signal".



I am struggling with a way to respond to this that is, at least, not unkind. Here is the best I can do:

No, that didn't make sense. I have difficulty imagining what kinds of speaker or amplifier problems would change the "pitch" of the music being reproduced (that would be the job of a turntable or tape deck). Millions of musicians, myself included, learned songs by listening to very cheap, compromised systems; that would have been impossible if they hadn't reproduced pitch relatively accurately. This "problem" does not exist in active monitor systems either; ask the millions of musicians who listen to them all the time. Music is "musical." Audio systems are reproductive.

P
 
Nov 22, 2009 at 7:59 PM Post #8 of 42

Phelonious Ponk

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Quote:

Originally Posted by lh0628 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
So are you saying all the producers that use studio monitors to create records put out finished products that sound unnatural?


And that, as a result of using professional monitors, the musicians cannot hear the proper pitch of the instruments or discern a bass line when overdubbing parts. This must wreak havoc on vocal performances.

P
 
Nov 22, 2009 at 8:12 PM Post #9 of 42

leveller1642

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Quote:

I know this might sound stupid and vain, but with my Adam A5s, I simply cannot hear notes and the sound is not natural..............So, it all comes down to preferences and what you listen in the music..............


Not stupid and vain, but a highly subjective viewpoint that the vast majority of people will not share, but that certainly doesn't invalidate your opinion. As I also own the A5s I can understand some people may not like its signature.

However, I'd disagree with your assertion that "musicality" does not equal colouration. If the frequency response isn't flat, there has to be a degree of colouration.
 
Nov 22, 2009 at 8:41 PM Post #10 of 42

electropop

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Quote:

Originally Posted by lh0628 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
So are you saying all the producers that use studio monitors to create records put out finished products that sound unnatural?


Yes. Many producers think pitch accuracy is given. Some of my good friends included give little thought to pitches, which is in my opinion more important concerning naturality than transparency, for instance..
 
Nov 22, 2009 at 8:52 PM Post #11 of 42

electropop

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Quote:

Originally Posted by leveller1642 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Not stupid and vain, but a highly subjective viewpoint that the vast majority of people will not share, but that certainly doesn't invalidate your opinion. As I also own the A5s I can understand some people may not like its signature.

However, I'd disagree with your assertion that "musicality" does not equal colouration. If the frequency response isn't flat, there has to be a degree of colouration.



Many use the term "musicality" so vaguely. Almost as in "tap your feet" or "it's not good from a technical standpoint but musical". Many of these aspects go hand in hand.
I'm not sure I understand you. My point was that musicality does not equal coloration, as some suggest. At least from how I see it.. Of course if it isn't flat, it's coloured. That we can agree on in terminology. But yeah, it's not even a matter of signature. The Adams are almost good, they just don't deliver pitches.. I've owned the A5's from when they came out and from what I've tried, they don't respond well to the changes in a source. In other words, I can't make them play notes..
The music has much more dynamics and drama when you can hear every pitch and note. Try Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain, for instance. A record that sounded awfully dull to me with everything I played it on. A record that hugely relies on the complex melodic structures. With the Adams, I could hear the details, but with a proper Linn-system, for example, I could hear those same details plus the melodic structure the details possess!
To me, a while back, this was sort of a revelation. This is how it sounds in a live venue.
I may sound like a Linnie, but trust me, it's worth checking out a system that can play pitch accurate music.

Again, I apologize for derailing the thread.
 
Nov 22, 2009 at 8:56 PM Post #12 of 42

iriverdude

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Quote:

. But "upgrading" in the passive arena will be a waste of time and money.


Rubbish you can build a superb passive Hi-Fi. In fact you have far more choice with passive. You may like Kef Reference but not how a Rotel sounds with it, so you use Chord. You can also try out various pre-amps. Pretty much every Hi-Fi shop I've gone to have passive speakers, or perhaps on occasion Linn Aktivs.

Quote:

I would respectfully disagree


How can you disagree with the fact with those advantages I've given? If the amp goes down in a active speaker you're stuck. If I were to go active it wouldn't be combined unit like a typical subwoofer (integrated amp board) but seperate line level crossovers such as Linn Aktiv. That way you have the benefit of active (filtering before amp stage) plus unit is seperate so easy to replace in case of repair, and you don't have the vibration of the speaker drivers effecting amp components.
 
Nov 22, 2009 at 9:01 PM Post #13 of 42

electropop

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Phelonious Ponk /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I am struggling with a way to respond to this that is, at least, not unkind. Here is the best I can do:

No, that didn't make sense. I have difficulty imagining what kinds of speaker or amplifier problems would change the "pitch" of the music being reproduced (that would be the job of a turntable or tape deck). Millions of musicians, myself included, learned songs by listening to very cheap, compromised systems; that would have been impossible if they hadn't reproduced pitch relatively accurately. This "problem" does not exist in active monitor systems either; ask the millions of musicians who listen to them all the time. Music is "musical." Audio systems are reproductive.

P



Well, I am sort of a musician and have played a melodic instrument as well as percussive instruments. I've listened to pop music in my youth and been able to discern the melody in songs and learn the melody. But if you take the whole sound spectrum into consideration, it's not that simple. I bet that you didn't hear all of the tracks that were mastered in the song from a simple tape-deck player, not to mention the melodies they possessed?

I know I didn't. And even though I've listened to very expensive Studio as well as hifi-equipment, they do not all play (reproduce) pitches accurately. Maybe the word "note" would be better. Ahhh, I lack in technical knowledge and terminology, but if we were in a room with both my Linn 109s and Adam A5s, I could show you what I showed myself..
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Nov 22, 2009 at 9:17 PM Post #14 of 42

Phelonious Ponk

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Quote:

Originally Posted by iriverdude /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Rubbish you can build a superb passive Hi-Fi. In fact you have far more choice with passive. You may like Kef Reference but not how a Rotel sounds with it, so you use Chord. You can also try out various pre-amps. Pretty much every Hi-Fi shop I've gone to have passive speakers, or perhaps on occasion Linn Aktivs.



How can you disagree with the fact with those advantages I've given? If the amp goes down in a active speaker you're stuck. If I were to go active it wouldn't be combined unit like a typical subwoofer (integrated amp board) but seperate line level crossovers such as Linn Aktiv. That way you have the benefit of active (filtering before amp stage) plus unit is seperate so easy to replace in case of repair, and you don't have the vibration of the speaker drivers effecting amp components.



What I disagree with is that actives are for people who don't like updating. That, and I don't see that swapping out amplifiers and speakers in passive systems is upgrading at all if you once had a good active system. It is simply a bunch of small steps following one big one in the wrong direction. And yes, every hifi shop I've ever been in was full of passive speakers. And every recording studio I've ever been in was creating the music with the aid of active monitors. It is a curious contrast having to do, I suspect, with audiophiles' desire to tweak and upgrade, and the industries willingness to continue to sell them more boxes, cables, speakers, etc. What I'm certain it doesn't have to do with is more accurate reproduction of recorded sound.

P
 
Nov 22, 2009 at 9:37 PM Post #15 of 42

electropop

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Not necessarily in the wrong decision. Your point is valid. People who don't wish to upgrade or having to hassle with many boxes find it a good decision. And it's cheaper.

I'm not going to start arguing about this. But I wish you went to a Linn-dealer with your active equipment and did a comparison in my point of view between the systems and you would see what I mean.
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