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Passive speakers, separate boxes...help me understand the appeal

RayDunzl

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I've had in mind a thread showing the measurements of the ills of all kinds of panel speakers and asking why do some of us still like them so.
Why?

I like mine because they can measurably play more loudly than I can listen with measurably low distortion while throwing a measurably flat phase above a measured 200Hz to the listening position, which is no doubt due to the measurably higher ratio of direct to reflected sound than the optional little wide dispersion units in my measurably untreated but livable TV/Music room.

What ills?
 

Blumlein 88

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Awesome. I've heard many ML designs over the years and enjoyed them. My friend has a pair of ML hybrids and I always have to sit down and spin some tunes.



At the time I generally had two different amps I would use: a Conrad Johnson 55W tube amp, and a Bryston 4B (then 4B ST) solid state amp.
The 63s actually sounded really wonderful on just the tube amps, and when I added the subwoofer it took some load off the panels. Sometimes I'd switch in the Bryston just to play around. I tend to gravitate back to tubes, though. (I use Conrad Johnson Premier 12 140W/side monoblocks at this point).
I owned a few different bits of C-J gear. A few tube amps, and pre's. I ditched them when I decided to try some VTL's. Man what amps. I had at one time SN-007 of the VTL 75-75 amps. Great on the 63's. I've had 57's too. I still think 57's with a woofer and a ribbon tweeter would be hard to beat. Now a close second on those were Spectrals. But when I converted my amps to triode it was a whole 'nother experience.
 

Blumlein 88

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Why?

I like mine because they can measurably play more loudly than I can listen with measurably low distortion while throwing a measurably flat phase above a measured 200Hz to the listening position, which is no doubt due to the measurably higher ratio of direct to reflected sound than the optional little wide dispersion units in my measurably untreated but livable TV/Music room.

What ills?
Quad 2912's as an example
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1549525367975.png
 

sprellemannen

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Do you have links to scientific publications (published in peer reviewed journals, of course) proving (or very strongly indicating) that active speakers are audibly superior to passive? (in general or "specifically").
Funny you should ask that because I have listed so many academic articles, or articles written by highly esteemed engineers. So let me try and make a list now:



1952: JAES wasn’t established at this time so Roy F Allison wrote in High Fidelity:



«THE BIAMPLIFIER SYSTEM

That...explains, in a nutshell, the motivation for the development of an audio system employing two amplifiers instead of the customary single unit. The audible difference may be small, but it is there. With continued listening, it becomes more and more apparent. There are sound technical reasons for achieving a noticeable improvement and, in addition, the solution of tough acoustic and matching problems is made easier through the use of a two- amplifier - or, as we shall call it -a biamplifier system».

Source: https://www.americanradiohistory.com/Archive-High-Fidelity/50s/High-Fidelity-1952-Nov-Dec.pdf



1962: JAES article on “On the Transient Response of Ideal Crossover Networks” by Robert J. Ashley, a paper leading to his 1971 papers.

Source: http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=845



1971: JAES article on “Operational Amplifier Implementation of Ideal Electronic Crossover Networks” by Ashley-Henne

“During the study of ideal crossover networks, the value of operational amplifiers became obvious. Now that integrated-circuit operational amplifiers are available at reasonable cost, an electronic crossover network employing them will be demonstrated. There will also be discussion of the optimum filter characteristics and of the power requirements of the amplifiers which follow the networks”.



From the introduction:

“. INTRODUCTION An ideal electronic crossover network was reported by Ashley [1] in 1962. This network, as shown in Fig. 1, used operational amplifiers as summers and inverters, but used inductors and capacitors in the basic frequency division network. The same network could have been synthesized using operational amplifier integrators [2], but at that time the least expensive amplifire cost some $20 and required both plus and minus 300-volt regulated power supplies. Thus a complete active filter crossover network would have cost several hundred dollars. Now integrated circuit operational amplifiers suitable for this kind of active filter cost less than $2 each and operate from 10-15-volt power supplies. This and recent interest [3] in electronic crossover networks prompted us to explore the use of low-price operational amplifiers in electronic crossover networks.”

Source: http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=2215





1971: JAES article on “Active and Passive Filters as Loudspeaker Crossover Networks” by Ashley-Kaminsky.



“This tutorial paper defines the function of a crossover network and then explores methods of meeting this function. For moderately priced two-way loudspeakers, a passive network at about 800-1600 Hz will continue to dominate the designs of the future. However, the use of active filters (electronic crossover networks) and buffer amplifiers offers the most significant means of loudspeaker improvement in the next decade. As one typical factor, crossover frequencies need to be lowered and crossover slopes increased, and the active filter is the only economical method of doing this”.

Source: http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=2160



1971: AES article on “Electronic Crossover Networks and Their Contribution to Improved Loudspeaker Transient Response” by Smith

“Tone-burst testing of loudspeakers provides a significant indication of a loudspeaker's ability to reproduce transients in program material. A comparison of several studio monitor loudspeaker systems is presented and the improvement in loudspeaker transient response is illustrated when electronic crossover networks and multiple amplifiers are used to replace conventional inductor-capacitor crossover networks (...) The results of this study have demonstrated the improvement in loudspeaker transient response possible with the use of electronic crossover networks and multiple amplifiers”.

Source: http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=2141



1980: AES article on “A Systematic Approach to Monitoring Loudspeaker Design” by Martikainen. This article may be the first written by a science based commercial application. At this time, Genelec was a start-up, making a science-informed bet on tomorrow’s technology.

"Listening tests have shown very good clarity, most obviously due to multi-amplification”.

Source: https://www.genelec.com/sites/default/files/media/About Us/Academic_Papers/3777.pdf



See also JAES article “Electronic Technology”, a broad review article capturing 50 years of audio science, by Leach W. Marshall from 1998:

http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=12174

“The past 50 years have seen the demise of the vacuum tube, the development of the transistor, and the development of the integrated circuit. There has been an explosive development of analog and digital circuits and systems. These developments have had an incredible impact on the field of audio engineering, most of which has been chronicled in the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society. The papers on electronic technology that have been published in the past 50 years in the Journal are summarized”.



I also wanted to add these popular articles by AES Fellow John Watkinson:

https://www.resolutionmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Crossovers.pdf

https://www.thebroadcastbridge.com/...dspeaker-technology-part-8-crossover-networks



Here are some notable names and producers on active vs passive:



ATC: http://atcloudspeakers.co.uk/active-amplification/



GENELEC: https://www.genelec.com/active-crossovers



BRYSTON: http://www.bryston.com/products/active/Active_System.html



LINKWITZ: http://www.linkwitzlab.com/crossovers.htm



DYNAUDIO: https://www.dynaudio.com/dynaudio-academy/2017/may/the-benefits-of-an-active-crossover



Note that some of the commercial producers have little interest in pushing one technology ahead of the other. ATC sell more passive speakers, but advocate active. Dynaudio’s flagship speakers are passive but they advocate active. Bryston is a traditional box producer, now advocating active.



I will conclude with Toole’s remark:



«Those professional loudspeakers with dedicated electronics have a huge advantage over passive loudspeakers. Consumers in general, especially high-end audiophiles, have not caught up with the advantages that technology has to offer. Good loudspeakers and amplifiers can deliver good sound, but merging them with dedicated digital crossovers, equalizers and amplifiers designed for those specific loudspeaker components, in that specific enclosure, can yield even better sound».

Source: Chapter 12.5 in Toole (2016)
My question to you was
Do you have links to scientific publications (published in peer reviewed journals, of course) proving (or very strongly indicating) that active speakers are audibly superior to passive? (in general or "specifically")

But you do post a lot a links to Genelec home page etc. and to other stuff which does not answer my question.
Your attitude regarding active VS passive seems very black (passive) and white (active).

May I ask what is your education since you obviously did not understand my question? (please be precise: degree (if any) and fields (and depth) of study).
To me it seems that you are a philosopher, and that you have no scientific background.
 

Frank Dernie

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One of my biggest surprises were the Shun Mook speakers! I was, and remain, as skeptical as anyone here would be about their mpingo speaker tuning pucks. And their speaker was designed for the cabinet to be somewhat thin and resonate - "the wood selected over hundreds of contenders for just the right sound."
This is not clever design producing a good quality hifi speaker, it is selecting a euphonic sounding radiator to "enhance" the sound to produce a sound the designer, and certain potential customers, like.
IMO a lot of people don't like the sound the engineer/artist settled on and want a system that adds a bit of their favourite colourations. There is no chance that a speaker with its box vibrating like a musical instrument is producing the sound on the recording, however "nice" it sounds.
 

andreasmaaan

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My question to you was
Do you have links to scientific publications (published in peer reviewed journals, of course) proving (or very strongly indicating) that active speakers are audibly superior to passive? (in general or "specifically")

But you do post a lot a links to Genelec home page etc. and to other stuff which does not answer my question.
Your attitude regarding active VS passive seems very black (passive) and white (active).

May I ask what is your education since you obviously did not understand my question? (please be precise: degree (if any) and fields (and depth) of study).
To me it seems that you are a philosopher, and that you have no scientific background.
Actually I’m also curious as to whether you know of any scientific studies that suggest the opposite?
 

svart-hvitt

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My question to you was
Do you have links to scientific publications (published in peer reviewed journals, of course) proving (or very strongly indicating) that active speakers are audibly superior to passive? (in general or "specifically")

But you do post a lot a links to Genelec home page etc. and to other stuff which does not answer my question.
Your attitude regarding active VS passive seems very black (passive) and white (active).

May I ask what is your education since you obviously did not understand my question? (please be precise: degree (if any) and fields (and depth) of study).
To me it seems that you are a philosopher, and that you have no scientific background.
I gave you 15 references on active speakers, some of which are JAES references. 2 out of 15 references are from Genelec. 2/15 is not a lot, is it?

Do the references give you an impression that passive design is the technology of choice among J(AES) writers and renowned speaker producers? What did Toole write on this subject?

I think the answer you’re searching for - is passive as good as active design? - is found in Toole’s statement (my underlining):

«Good loudspeakers and amplifiers can deliver good sound, but merging them with dedicated digital crossovers, equalizers and amplifiers designed for those specific loudspeaker components, in that specific enclosure, can yield even better sound».
 

sprellemannen

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Actually I’m also curious as to whether you know of any scientific studies that suggest the opposite?
I am just curious if it is any scientific studies (published in peer reviewed journals, of course) giving clear conclusions whether active is audibly better than passive or vice versa. In contrast to svart-hvitt, I have no agenda and I am open-minded regarding this hypothesis which are best.
If there is no such publications, we can not conclude that one of the principles is superior.
 

sprellemannen

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I gave you 15 references on active speakers, some of which are JAES references. 2 out of 15 references are from Genelec. 2/15 is not a lot, is it?

Do the references give you an impression that passive design is the technology of choice among J(AES) writers and renowned speaker producers? What did Toole write on this subject?

I think the answer you’re searching for - is passive as good as active design? - is found in Toole’s statement (my underlining):

«Good loudspeakers and amplifiers can deliver good sound, but merging them with dedicated digital crossovers, equalizers and amplifiers designed for those specific loudspeaker components, in that specific enclosure, can yield even better sound».
The one thing I don't understand and react to is why you feel there has to be a black and white answer to technology issues. Science raises more questions than it answers. All technological solutions have advantages and disadvantages. I find not keeping an open mind and having to pick the "right" solution to be very limiting.
I totally agree with you, levimax.
 

Bjorn

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We don't need a specific study for everything in order to know something. svart-hvitt asked me the same question when I said room correction didn't work to non-minimum phase behavior and accused med of being a subjective audiophile when not providing an exact study on it. But my answer to him, and which he did not seems to understand, actually gave the scientific answer. Something he would have known if he knew the information behind the words I used.

And the same goes for passive vs active speakers. When you look at what can be done with both technologies, there's no doubt that active is better. When we learn the details of something, that will in many cases give us a clear answer. Despite that you don't find a certain study on whether active is better than passive. There's simply no need for that because the answers are obvious when getting into to the details of both.

While active is a better technology, that doesn't automatically mean an active speaker is always better than a passive speaker. But it does mean that most passive speakers would become improved if they were built as active.
 

sprellemannen

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I gave you 15 references on active speakers, some of which are JAES references. 2 out of 15 references are from Genelec. 2/15 is not a lot, is it?

Do the references give you an impression that passive design is the technology of choice among J(AES) writers and renowned speaker producers?
I am looking for the peer-reviewed scientific publications from you answering the question.
Whether Genelec or any other manufacturer are making active or passive speakers is not answering the question.

I think the answer you’re searching for - is passive as good as active design? - is found in Toole’s statement (my underlining):
No, I am not searching for that answer. I am just curious about my original question.
You seem to have concluded without the scientific support (i.e. the scientific support on my original question).
I ask again: What is your education (degree, subjects, depth)?
 

JJB70

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I gave you 15 references on active speakers, some of which are JAES references. 2 out of 15 references are from Genelec. 2/15 is not a lot, is it?

Do the references give you an impression that passive design is the technology of choice among J(AES) writers and renowned speaker producers? What did Toole write on this subject?

I think the answer you’re searching for - is passive as good as active design? - is found in Toole’s statement (my underlining):

«Good loudspeakers and amplifiers can deliver good sound, but merging them with dedicated digital crossovers, equalizers and amplifiers designed for those specific loudspeaker components, in that specific enclosure, can yield even better sound».
I think the underlined bit is key, it says "can yield even better sound". I think it is now pretty widely accepted that dedicated digital crossovers, equalizers and amplifiers designed for those specific loudspeaker components can yield better sound, that is fundamentally a different statement from "does yield even better sound". The reason for that is that in any engineering discipline application is critical and whether or not a nominally "better" design solution will actually deliver better performance is down to how well it is implicated. And it is not only possible but very common for nominally lesser solutions to deliver better performance if well implemented.
 

svart-hvitt

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I think the underlined bit is key, it says "can yield even better sound". I think it is now pretty widely accepted that dedicated digital crossovers, equalizers and amplifiers designed for those specific loudspeaker components can yield better sound, that is fundamentally a different statement from "does yield even better sound". The reason for that is that in any engineering discipline application is critical and whether or not a nominally "better" design solution will actually deliver better performance is down to how well it is implicated. And it is not only possible but very common for nominally lesser solutions to deliver better performance if well implemented.
Yes, «can» is a key word here. «Will» would’ve been too strong of course. And he doesn’t write «can yield worse sound» for the sake of giving a «balanced» review.

Interestingly, this is about all Toole says about active vs passive in his book.

And have in mind that Toole wrote this despite his association with Harman, which use its luxury brands to push passive design. It’s a sign of integrity, isn’t it?
 
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JJB70

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Usually if you write something may be better than an alternative it's not necessary to say it may also be worse, since one is a natural corollary of the other. Which way around you write it (may be better, or may be worse) is a way of giving emphasis to which you believe to be more probable. I think Toole's integrity and expertise are both beyond question, his statement seems pretty reasonable.
 

andreasmaaan

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I am just curious if it is any scientific studies (published in peer reviewed journals, of course) giving clear conclusions whether active is audibly better than passive or vice versa. In contrast to svart-hvitt, I have no agenda and I am open-minded regarding this hypothesis which are best.
If there is no such publications, we can not conclude that one of the principles is superior.
I'm also curious as to which you think is audibly better (if either) and why?
 
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I think the underlined bit is key, it says "can yield even better sound". I think it is now pretty widely accepted that dedicated digital crossovers, equalizers and amplifiers designed for those specific loudspeaker components can yield better sound, that is fundamentally a different statement from "does yield even better sound". The reason for that is that in any engineering discipline application is critical and whether or not a nominally "better" design solution will actually deliver better performance is down to how well it is implicated. And it is not only possible but very common for nominally lesser solutions to deliver better performance if well implemented.
We don't need a specific study for everything in order to know something. svart-hvitt asked me the same question when I said room correction didn't work to non-minimum phase behavior and accused med of being a subjective audiophile when not providing an exact study on it. But my answer to him, and which he did not seems to understand, actually gave the scientific answer. Something he would have known if he knew the information behind the words I used.

And the same goes for passive vs active speakers. When you look at what can be done with both technologies, there's no doubt that active is better. When we learn the details of something, that will in many cases give us a clear answer. Despite that you don't find a certain study on whether active is better than passive. There's simply no need for that because the answers are obvious when getting into to the details of both.

While active is a better technology, that doesn't automatically mean an active speaker is always better than a passive speaker. But it does mean that most passive speakers would become improved if they were built as active.
I agree most passive speakers could be improved with an active multi amp crossover system. It is just as true that any active speaker could be improved with better mechanical components. An active systems adds a lot of costs and complication but with costs of amps and DSP coming down the cost benefits is shifting towards active. It is far from a revolutionary technology. No matter the crossover system the biggest driver of both cost and performance of a speaker is going to be mechanical.... The electrical part is just fine tuning.
 

svart-hvitt

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I have no opinion on that.
We have an ongoing thread «Does DSD sound better than PCM?» That thread is 15 pages long.

Is there a definitive proof that would stop that debate going on, for ever?

Still, I think the DSD vs PCM debate has a simple answer.

I think the active vs passive debate has some similarities. One of which is flexibility and hence cost. An audio technology is better not only if it sounds better. An audio technology is better if it’s more flexible and/or can produce same result for less effort and/or cost.
 

Ilkless

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We have an ongoing thread «Does DSD sound better than PCM?» That thread is 15 pages long.

Is there a definitive proof that would stop that debate going on, for ever?

Still, I think the DSD vs PCM debate has a simple answer.

I think the active vs passive debate has some similarities. One of which is flexibility and hence cost. An audio technology is better not only if it sounds better. An audio technology is better if it’s more flexible and/or can produce same result for less effort and/or cost.
Or vastly reduces the tradeoff typically required to pursue a given design aim - eg. time-alignment and phase linearisation. No more sloped baffles or crippled first-order passive crossovers. Just define filter parameters.
 

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