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Active Designs & Their Favorability

xykreinov

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#1
Why are active speaker designs so favorable?
Should space be available, why wouldn't you want to have the dac, dsp, and amplification devices be independent of the speaker? This allows for easy upgrades if so desired, as well as more control over the hardware in general; you'll likely choose higher quality components than what's in the average active speaker by default. I can't see any reason to go integrated beyond convenience and/or space saving- the latter is pertinent in studios where active speakers are popular, yet, these traits are not so special in the average home.
Is there anything beyond convenience and space saving that I'm missing? Is there something persnickety about doing active crossovers outside of the cabinet with, say, an external MiniDSP device that's going over my head?
 

Sancus

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#2
Why are active speaker designs so favorable?
Should space be available, why wouldn't you want to have the dac, dsp, and amplification devices be independent of the speaker? This allows for easy upgrades if so desired, as well as more control over the hardware in general; you'll likely choose higher quality components than what's in the average active speaker by default.
The idea that there's all this benefit to upgrading electronics is mostly an audiophile myth. Aside from power, many amplifiers and nearly all of the DACs reviewed on this site are close enough to audibly transparent that nobody is going to be able to distinguish them in double blind testing. And as far as power goes, if you're buying a competently designed active speaker, you can trust that the manufacturer put as much power in it as it can handle.

That said, there certainly ARE designs like what you're talking about, the JBL M2s for example have their electronics outside the cabinet. The majority of active speakers are small to medium sized studio monitors which are absolutely designed to save space and avoid unnecessary cable clutter.

As far as modular DSP goes, it's the only one of these things where having it be modular might be useful I agree, but given that higher-end monitors often have digital inputs, that is just as good. And in practice for the lower end ones, doing an additional ADC, while inelegant, has no audible impact on the sound.
 

Inner Space

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#3
Is there anything beyond convenience and space saving that I'm missing? Is there something persnickety about doing active crossovers outside of the cabinet with, say, an external MiniDSP device that's going over my head?
Plenty of active speakers are made with outboard electronics. But your point about easy upgrades wouldn't apply. Even if physically separated, an active speaker is an integrated design, and random parts of it can't be upgraded on a whim. Active speakers with inboard electronics are popular in studios not for space reasons, but because since software replaced soldering irons, no one knows how to fix anything, so it's great to be able to pull out a dead unit and plug in a new unit, one and done, rather than standing in the racks area trying to figure out what's connected to what.
 

jae

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#4
I think it would be neat if high-end speakers had the option (switches, alternative inputs etc) to bypass their internal dac and/or amplification if desired, or have some kind of modular system for it.

DSP/Dxo is so tightly integrated these days in the best speakers and is one of the major features/distinctions of good actives. Although in reality it has only a minor or no audible effect on overall room sound, I would guess the specs on inbuilt dacs and amps (with few exceptions) are probably inferior to all the newest performant gear in the range of $200-1000 today, even in actives costing $5,000-$10,000+ or more. I would be curious to see the measurements of what some of the top speakers are using.

That being said, the advantages gained of the DSP and active design itself will significantly outshadow any performance loss in regards to amplification or DAC specs. So obviously at that point a company is going to more dump R&D dollars into improving their proprietary DSP and a cabinet/driver design that plays well with it rather than push for extra spec from their electronics. Until those proprietary DSP implementations can beat for your particular speaker with your own DSP like miniDSP/other software solution, good actives with everything inbuilt are still going to be better, especially when you factor in the other practical benefits they have.
 

pozz

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#5
I'm sure with enough demand the electronics in active speakers will improve. Main complaint seems to be the hiss.
 

PresbyByrd

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#6
I think it would be neat if high-end speakers had the option (switches, alternative inputs etc) to bypass their internal dac and/or amplification if desired, or have some kind of modular system for it.

DSP/Dxo is so tightly integrated these days in the best speakers and is one of the major features/distinctions of good actives. Although in reality it has only a minor or no audible effect on overall room sound, I would guess the specs on inbuilt dacs and amps (with few exceptions) are probably inferior to all the newest performant gear in the range of $200-1000 today, even in actives costing $5,000-$10,000+ or more. I would be curious to see the measurements of what some of the top speakers are using.

That being said, the advantages gained of the DSP and active design itself will significantly outshadow any performance loss in regards to amplification or DAC specs. So obviously at that point a company is going to more dump R&D dollars into improving their proprietary DSP and a cabinet/driver design that plays well with it rather than push for extra spec from their electronics. Until those proprietary DSP implementations can beat for your particular speaker with your own DSP like miniDSP/other software solution, good actives with everything inbuilt are still going to be better, especially when you factor in the other practical benefits they have.
Yea, as you can see in my profile, I have decided to go the active route. I had to reduce the size of my listening area and was swayed by the advantages of active crossovers versus passive.
 

Old Listener

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#7
Why are active speaker designs so favorable?
Should space be available, why wouldn't you want to have the dac, dsp, and amplification devices be independent of the speaker? This allows for easy upgrades if so desired, as well as more control over the hardware in general; you'll likely choose higher quality components than what's in the average active speaker by default. I can't see any reason to go integrated beyond convenience and/or space saving- the latter is pertinent in studios where active speakers are popular, yet, these traits are not so special in the average home.
Is there anything beyond convenience and space saving that I'm missing? Is there something persnickety about doing active crossovers outside of the cabinet with, say, an external MiniDSP device that's going over my head?
I lived with 3 way active speakers with external crossover and 6 channel amp for almost 20 years. I really liked the sound but I hated the extra boxes, wires and complexity. The replacement was a pair of 3-way active studio monitors which have crossover and amps in the speaker. I don't think that I gave up anything on sound quality and the studio monitors are very cost effective relative to hi-end audio alternatives. The simplification was most welcome. My main system consists of an Intel NUC PC running JRiver s/w, a $ 150 DAC and the studio monitors. The PC and DAC are tucked away behind the speaker stands. I use an android tablet to select music and control the system. No rack of gear at all.

So for me, the important advantages of active studio monitors with crossovers and amps built in are

- cost savings (2x to 3x or more)
- simplicity - fewer boxes, fewer wires
- space saving
- good documentation of performance provided by the manufacturer - I know what I'm getting.
 

ttimer

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#8
Is there something persnickety about doing active crossovers outside of the cabinet with, say, an external MiniDSP device that's going over my head?
You mean apart from the certain fact that half of all buyers will screw it up royally and blame it on the manufacturer?

But yes, i'm a fan of external electronics. At least for now, while active tech is still not mature for home use (after decades) and DSP tech is progressing at a fast rate. The ability to exchange my DSP for a much better unit with more desirable features is hugely appealing to me. Especially because DSP is what really makes a difference to real world speaker performance. Active crossovers are convenient for the designer, but not necessary for great performing speakers, as we see time and again from amirs measurements and various listening tests.
 

Zvu

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#9
I'm still using my own design of passive three way loudspeakers with classic stereo diy amplifier with Khadas tone board installed in that same chassis. Eq is done in my HP laptop that serves as music server/streamer/dsp and i have app on my cellphone that i use as a remote controll. It is still the cheapest way for me to get to great sound with only two channels.

I think that electronics in speaker cabinets is a necessary evil that should be reserved only for manufacturers that really have to do it. Upgrades, vibrations, mutual interaction of electronics in such a small space isn't a good idea in my opinion. That doesn't mean that you need a bunch of cables all over the place. DSP's and D class amps are definitely evolving, it just takes some time for high quality stuff to become available a bit cheaper.

The best thing in my opinion is modular approach; good external multichannel soundcard, laptop (with suitable software in function of dsp), amplifier channels can all be in one chassis. 8 pole Neutrik for connecting amps to speakers will satisfy even most demanding users. That will be my next step, as soon as i move from flat i'm in at the moment.
 
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aac

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#10
The idea that there's all this benefit to upgrading electronics is mostly an audiophile myth.
Not really.
Many active speakers would benefit from a better electronics. Sometimes even expensive active speakers hiss.
 

Sancus

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#11
Not really.
Many active speakers would benefit from a better electronics. Sometimes even expensive active speakers hiss.
If you care about hiss, don't buy an active speaker that hisses. This is a very bad reason to attempt upgrading electronics in a complex, integrated package. Neither Neumann nor Genelec speakers audibly hiss even in the nearfield, for example.

It's definitely an audiophile myth.
 

Zvu

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#12
If there isn't any difference in sound of amplifiers, Kii Three (as prime example of a good implementation of active loudspeaker tech) would use UcD modules, not nCore. Oh, and Bruno wasted his time perfecting Purifi modules. It's all audiophile myth i guess.
 
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#13
If you care about hiss, don't buy an active speaker that hisses. This is a very bad reason to attempt upgrading electronics in a complex, integrated package. Neither Neumann nor Genelec speakers audibly hiss even in the nearfield, for example.

It's definitely an audiophile myth.
I hear it from both of my speakers
 

Ron Texas

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#14
Why are active speaker designs so favorable?
Should space be available, why wouldn't you want to have the dac, dsp, and amplification devices be independent of the speaker? This allows for easy upgrades if so desired, as well as more control over the hardware in general; you'll likely choose higher quality components than what's in the average active speaker by default. I can't see any reason to go integrated beyond convenience and/or space saving- the latter is pertinent in studios where active speakers are popular, yet, these traits are not so special in the average home.
Is there anything beyond convenience and space saving that I'm missing? Is there something persnickety about doing active crossovers outside of the cabinet with, say, an external MiniDSP device that's going over my head?
Actives can measure better if DSP is used to flatten their frequency response. However, our host has observed many of them have output limitations due to small amplifiers, small drivers, or odd designs. As for any impression you may get here, there are a few members who are extremely vocal advocates of Genelec and Neumann. Their posts may be disproportionate to reality the reality of how good passive speakers with EQ and enough power are.
 
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#15
Actives can measure better if DSP is used to flatten their frequency response. However, our host has observed many of them have output limitations due to small amplifiers, small drivers, or odd designs. As for any impression you may get here, there are a few members who are extremely vocal advocates of Genelec and Neumann. Their posts may be disproportionate to reality the reality of how good passive speakers with EQ and enough power are.
You are mixing things up. Active crossover is superior for clean output limits, driver integration, durability, and basically everything. The smaller the design the more that it is apparent. Whether that output is enough really comes down to whether the speaker is "big" enough for your room.
 

Sancus

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#16
I hear it from both of my speakers
At what distance? lol, the spec on those is 3dB at 1 meter. I can hear hiss from my KH80s if my ear is right next to the tweeter too. It's not an actual issue.
 

Lorenzo74

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#17
no question at all between active and passive crossover. who's for having inductance and caps between amp and coil? active allow even to change crossover point according to signal amplitude level (high --> high Tweeter crossover freq, low signal low Xover freq to Woofer )--> not only active speaker but also active xover (as in Kii3).
passive is the past, we have already many evidences.
Oh Bruno Putzeys,
Oh Andrew Jones,
pls come here and drop few lines. let us know your Point of view!
 

Sancus

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#18
As for any impression you may get here, there are a few members who are extremely vocal advocates of Genelec and Neumann. Their posts may be disproportionate to reality the reality of how good passive speakers with EQ and enough power are.
TBH, I would absolutely love to be able to add additional manufacturers to the "yeah these speakers are going to be perform well on every model" example list but we haven't seen anybody match up as far as actives go, IMO. The JBLs have too many flaws. For passives, I think Kef, Elac, and Revel have proven themselves easily recommendable.
 
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#19
At what distance? lol, the spec on those is 3dB at 1 meter. I can hear hiss from my KH80s if my ear is right next to the tweeter too. It's not an actual issue.
8341A at <3ft

8030C at 10+ ft

In my setup with 5-7 ft distance, it's low enough to not bother me during silence and inaudible with any content. The 8030C is pushing it a little for desktop use though.
 

Ron Texas

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#20
You are mixing things up. Active crossover is superior for clean output limits, driver integration, durability, and basically everything. The smaller the design the more that it is apparent. Whether that output is enough really comes down to whether the speaker is "big" enough for your room.
Our host has noted that most actives rum out of umph. Take it up with him not me. After all I am mixed up, LOL.
 
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