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High-end Active HiFi vs. Mid-tier Passive HiFi

danielmiessler

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Hey all,

I'm getting ready to build my first real system and have decided to go active instead of passive—largely because of you all here, so thank you. (Btw, you can listen to my recent interview with Amir here).

What I'm looking at is the following:
  • 2 x Genelec 8351B Monitors for Highs
  • 2 x W371A's Monitor Woofer Towers for Mids
  • 2 x JTR RS1 18" Subwoofers for Lows
  • dCS Bartók DAC
  • Roon for all music management (running dedicated on a Mac Mini M1!)
  • Storm Audio MkII (Digital Version) for AV Preprocessor
This will all be equalized and managed by a Storm Audio MkII (Digital Version) with DIRAC. The room is 15x24 with an open back and windows on one long side.

My question is…for those who have experience in this game—in both passive and active systems—how good of a system is this really going to be? Specifically, how will it compare to a quality passive system?

I originally planned on a D'Agostino Momentum Integrated AMP and some Focal Sopra No.2's. But after looking at this forum I learned that the active stuff is just phenomenal these days, and that I could spend that AMP money elsewhere.

Here's what I'm specifically wondering:
  1. How good of an overall 2-channel HiFi system do you think this will end up being? Like, what would it be comparable to in the traditional world?
  2. How much quality am I losing from my high-end DAC by going into active speakers which have their own DACs?
Thanks for the conversation. This place truly rocks.

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JustJones

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Is there a reason you decided against Genelec subwoofers and GLM ?
 
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danielmiessler

danielmiessler

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Is there a reason you decided against Genelec subwoofers and GLM ?
Basically a whole bunch of smart people here saying the Genelec ones are way overpriced and aren't even as good as JTRs.
 

Chrispy

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You have a lot of sub options, diy another as you have some good management tools. Not sure about your "direction" of audio in your diagram, tho :)
 

JustJones

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They probably are overpriced but I use 2x 7350a with my 8351b for ease of integration with GLM. I could never get as smooth of response with Dirac or REW, with GLM it's like they're not seperate speakers. I'm sure those more experienced can do better I went for easy. Good luck.
 
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danielmiessler

danielmiessler

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Not sure about your "direction" of audio in your diagram, tho :)
That's for a non-technical viewer. It just means the HiFi/HT is long-way in the room vs. how the room was designed, which is the short-way.
 

jhaider

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Why the Storm processor if only 2.1 ch? (I assume the Gennies form a synthetic speaker). You could use a miniDSP SHD Studio and lose only Dirac Live Bass Control.

If the speakers have digital in then a separate DAC cannot have an advantage, so IMO don’t buy it, or sell it.

I would personally start without the separate subs, too. See what the variable pattern bass bins and GLM can do. Add subs later if you feel like it.
 

alont

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How good of an overall 2-channel HiFi system do you think this will end up being? Like, what would it be comparable to in the traditional world?
Dude, what a killer setup. With the right room treatment and integration you will have a stellar, first-class audio reproduction system.
What's the planned listening distance? You forgot to place the listening position in the chart.

Why did you end up going with a JTR RS1 and not with the JTR RS2, JTR 4000ULF or Rythmik G25HP? Also, if you have the room for it, I strongly suggest using more than 2 subwoofers. 6 decent subwoofers strategically spread around the room would probably give you a better result than any two subwoofers, no matter how good their performance may be.

How much quality am I losing from my high-end DAC by going into active speakers which have their own DACs?
AFAIK no one has measured the quality of the DACs used in the 8351Bs, but it's probably a non-issue. Any half-decent DAC nowadays is clean enough for even the best-performing transducers out there. The only thing you'll be "losing" if you use dCS DAC is a bunch of money you could instead spend on improved room treatment and subwoofers :)
 

rdenney

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Were I building a dream system, I would stay passive, because I like amps and tend to trade out amps for fun more often than speakers.

Look up Floyd Toole’s listening room.

With lottery winnings, I’d probably be shopping for Revel Salon2’s, a couple of Benchmark amps used as bridged monoblocs, and digital sources, say a Mola Mola Tambaqui.

Rick “I mean, if you just need to spend money...” Denney
 

stevenswall

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Basically a whole bunch of smart people here saying the Genelec ones are way overpriced and aren't even as good as JTRs.

Haven't tried JTRs, and maybe Dirac Live Bass Control would be better than the experience JustJones had, but adding my two cents, I've spent a few days trying to integrate two sealed 15" PSA subwoofers with REW. Multiple positions, EQs, auto EQ, etc. They always sounded different compared to the Genelecs.

A couple of months later I tried a SWARM licensed quad woofer system called the DEBRA. The best sound I heard from it was getting rid of all but two of the units and putting them behind my seating position. Even then, it sounded like two separate systems.

Now I have a Genelec 7271 subwoofer. Sure, it was $2500 used, and I could have gotten a couple of Rythmic woofers, but damn: It's so satisfying to be able to run GLM, and start listening to music: Everything sounds like one system. A roommate who sits upstairs and listened to my Kali IN5 nearfield setup when I'm away from my desk even asked me when I was going to turn on the subwoofer. He couldn't tell that it was on and playing, he though it just sounded like the 8260 monitors were playing everything it was integrated so perfectly. I took him downstairs, moved the futon, and had him put his head near the woofer to prove it was on and working... Then played "Mountains" from Interstellar... He felt the different then, and the audible portion just sound like it's coming from the air/the entire room. It's beyond my ability to tell it's audibly another speaker or where the crossover is.

If you have a large budget though, you could look at multiple subs and a $4000+ surround processor with Dirac Live Bass Control, but at that point if you're spending the money, maybe ease of use plus amazing sound is worth it? Yes, it costs more, but as far as "not being as good as JTR" I don't think that applies when you're no longer concerned about price unless you're looking for max SPL beyond the ~115-120dB reference level peaks the 7380 would produce, not to mention a pair of them.
 

FeddyLost

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With such equip investment, I'd call for good acoustical engineer for optimisation.
Non-treated asymmetrical room with kitchen behind your back might make more damage than integrated ADC/DAC conversion in speakers ...
 

BluesDaddy

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With such equip investment, I'd call for good acoustical engineer for optimisation.
Non-treated asymmetrical room with kitchen behind your back might make more damage than integrated ADC/DAC conversion in speakers ...
This!! Also, it's going to make it harder to pressurize the room with the bass. For the subs, you need to treat that whole space, including kitchen, as the volume of the room you're trying to pressurize. Then there are the reflections off the hard surfaces in the kitchen. May not make THAT much of an audible difference depending on the distance of your MLP to your LR speakers, but measurements/optimization will tell.
 

FeddyLost

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Also, it's going to make it harder to pressurize the room with the bass
With 2xRS1 I'd not worry about pressurizing, but such severe L-R asymmetry might deform 2.0 tracks a lot through all frequency ranges.
Room is a significant system component, and if one trying to achieve best performance available, ignoring room issues would be ... mismanaged, maybe.
For cinema processing it's barely an issue, but there was mentioned "pure stereo solution" and I think 2.0 is important for TS...
 

richard12511

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Basically a whole bunch of smart people here saying the Genelec ones are way overpriced and aren't even as good as JTRs.

I don't own the RS1s but their performance should be very predictable from my RS2s. I initially tried 2x 7370 with the 8351b, but they just couldn't keep up. Upgrading from 2x 7370 to 2x RS2 was a huge upgrade. RS2s were better in every way for music, movies, and games. I still own the 7370s and use them with 7350s in my much smaller office, where they handle fairly well.

What will you be using to integrate the RS1s with the Mains? I used Dirac Live and it worked really well.
 
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richard12511

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They probably are overpriced but I use 2x 7350a with my 8351b for ease of integration with GLM. I could never get as smooth of response with Dirac or REW, with GLM it's like they're not seperate speakers. I'm sure those more experienced can do better I went for easy. Good luck.

Dirac took some work, but you can get really good results.

@danielmiessler , below is 8351+RS2(aligned with miniDSP), after GLM calibration, but before Dirac Live(DDRC88A)

PreDirac-min.png


Then after Dirac(to 200Hz, then GLM above that)


Dirac2-min.png


The key was getting that phase aligned at the crossover via REW's new alignment tool(then you store it in the miniDSP). This is something new to me. Before I figured that out, I had some nulls in the bass response that Dirac refused to touch. Pulling them up manually via a Roon EQ filter worked, but sounded weird. Removing the nulls via phase alignment measures the same, but sounds better(imo).

Look on youtube for "REW Alignment tool miniDSP". I followed one of those videos and it worked fantastic. Once aligning them, I use Dirac to EQ the sum.

Honestly think something like Audiolense would be much better actually, as it does the crossover for you. I unfortunately could never get it to work via HDMI and ASIO4All(needed for 11 channel). Audiolense is what I would try first in your situation, though, as it will do the crossovers and crossover slopes for you. You can do a trial for free.
 
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richard12511

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Yes, it costs more, but as far as "not being as good as JTR" I don't think that applies when you're no longer concerned about price unless you're looking for max SPL beyond the ~115-120dB reference level peaks the 7380 would produce, not to mention a pair of them.

I've never tried the 7380, as it just seemed too much to pay for a single 15" driver with not very much power. In my case the two RS2s were noticeably better than the 7370s at all volumes. It wasn't just reference levels where they fell short. Even tried just a single RS2, and it alone outdid the 2 7370s.

Setting up the DDRC88a + miniDSP2x4HD was super time consuming to dial in, but I'm glad I did in the end.

On the other hand, doing everything through GLM was super convenient, and the 7370s still sounded fantastic with the 8351s.
 

eboleyn

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You're talking about using 2 different kinds of "Active" here, IMO:
  • Active Crossovers - or their equivalent (by overlapping multiple speakers' frequency ranges)
  • Room equalization/reflection management - which I consider as another type of "Active" system. There are 2 subcategories here:
    • Bass management
    • Non-bass management
These have very different results, and frankly I think their usage depends on what you're trying to achieve.

If you have a lot of speaker channels and want the best home theater multichannel effect, then room equalization/management is going to get you there. Well-done amps and passive crossover speakers work pretty well for this. In particular, you might note that with home theater multichannel setups like the one you have with a center channel, it doesn't really rely on our ears' sound localization capabilities and mostly just outputs the sound from each speaker where it's supposed to be closest to.

If you want the very best 2-channel system that gives you the full sound localization "holographic" effect that our ears can generate, I've had good results with both passive and active crossover systems, but the best results definitely came from active crossovers and separate amps per channel. Having said that, the non-bass management blurs out the sound localization a bit. Also, if you want to get the best 2-channel sound localization results, then you need to not overlap the frequency ranges of your speakers which you're using for the lows/mids/highs. My experience is that from a tonality perspective, high quality speakers/amps will be good enough to sound awesome when they overlap, but it can blur out the sound localization somewhat. YMMV of course.

Bass management (due to not being localizable if kept at 80 Hz or below) seems to be good to use regardless, though I have noted the difference in using tightly controlled bass systems like Rythmik subs vs ones that are not when playing detailed bass tracks.
 
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