• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required. There are many reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

Why active speakers cannot easily get rid of hiss like laptop speakers or very tiny speakers?

pablolie

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jul 8, 2021
Messages
2,085
Likes
3,503
Location
bay area, ca
I cannot say I have made the same experience, there is no reason why active speakers should have higher noise levels. They are probably just revealing some issues with the setup feeding into them, perhaps some gain mismatch? My computer setup is always PC > decent external DAC (JDS Labs Element 3 or Arcam rPAC) > headphones or humble AudioEngine A2 desktop active speakers via RCA. No hiss ever.

And why would anyone attempt to ever listen to anything meaningful through pathetic built-in latop speakers? As a rule they are a marginal improvement over cups connected by string.
 
Last edited:

AnalogSteph

Major Contributor
Joined
Nov 6, 2018
Messages
3,371
Likes
3,315
Location
.de
Umm, the 8020s definitely hiss. Probably quiet compared to the Steelseries, but not nothing.
That's actually a well-documented drawback of the smaller Genelecs (8030Cs to some degree, but 8020s and 8010s in particular). They have the same sensitivity choices as the larger models but you tend to sit closer to them. Since adjustment range is quite limited to begin with, that makes them excessively sensitive and prone to picking up source hiss if nothing else. I don't know when you even get by without the 10 dB pad on the 8010s. You also have to really pay attention since they are labeled for input sensitivity, so + is quieter and - is louder.
 

kemmler3D

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Aug 25, 2022
Messages
3,322
Likes
6,733
Location
San Francisco
Just to answer the OP's question again, directly - laptop speakers simply have lower gain and so they do have hiss, but you can't hear it because it's too quiet. (all speakers have some hiss, actually.)

The small BT speakers almost always shut off the amp when there's no audio playing, if they didn't (some older ones and some older BT headphones don't) then you hear a ton of hiss, as you would expect from a loud and cheap unit.
 

slaweks

Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Apr 24, 2022
Messages
96
Likes
51
Hmm,I wouldn't agree with that or with the price range thing.
I listened to 8351 with nothing connected and they have the same hiss when connected with XRL.
(Yes,they also have hiss up close)
Thank you. So, a good reason not to buy active speakers.
 

sigbergaudio

Major Contributor
Audio Company
Forum Donor
Joined
Aug 21, 2020
Messages
2,671
Likes
5,560
Location
Norway
Thank you. So, a good reason not to buy active speakers.

Good reason to spend time ensuring the product you buy match your needs and can deliver what is important to you, as with any product.

Silent active speakers exist.

People who sit far enough away for hiss not to be a problem also exist.
 

danadam

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Jan 20, 2017
Messages
973
Likes
1,514
I cannot say I have made the same experience, there is no reason why active speakers should have higher noise levels. They are probably just revealing some issues with the setup feeding into them, perhaps some gain mismatch?
OP already mentioned a few times, that they hiss on their own, with no input connected to them.
 

Sokel

Master Contributor
Joined
Sep 8, 2021
Messages
6,007
Likes
6,006
OP already mentioned a few times, that they hiss on their own, with no input connected to them.
Yes,Genelec names this "self generated noise" and states its level in each model.
 

bodhi

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Nov 11, 2022
Messages
990
Likes
1,422
People who sit far enough away for hiss not to be a problem also exist.
Also, it seems that vast majority of people don't have any problem at all with noise from active speakers. Which makes sense because in vast majority of cases the noise floor should make it almost impossible to hear the hiss if not listening right next to the tweeter.

What is strange is that of the many of people who have these hiss problems many don't even have listened to said active speakers at home. It almost seems like they just have read from the internet that hiss is a major problem keep repeating it. And then you get:

Thank you. So, a good reason not to buy active speakers.
 

Sokel

Master Contributor
Joined
Sep 8, 2021
Messages
6,007
Likes
6,006
Also, it seems that vast majority of people don't have any problem at all with noise from active speakers. Which makes sense because in vast majority of cases the noise floor should make it almost impossible to hear the hiss if not listening right next to the tweeter.

What is strange is that of the many of people who have these hiss problems many don't even have listened to said active speakers at home. It almost seems like they just have read from the internet that hiss is a major problem keep repeating it. And then you get:

Thank you. So, a good reason not to buy active speakers.
You're probably referring to me,so:
Does it count that I have active speakers and also hybrid ones?
Does it count that I have heard Genelecs in other houses and not mine (and I already said "up close",not at any distance) ?
Does it count that in many cases the nature of hiss is not masked by the noise floor as some freqs we can listened under it?

And finally,if a horn speaker with 100db sens can be dead silent regardless if driven by a tube amp or a purifi one,with all the sins included, (long cables,etc) what stops actives to be dead silent too?
And since when ASR offers free meals and flaws gets a pass the same time we're all for tar and feathers when a DAC for example doesn't reach the 115db SINAD mark?

Critisism is useful,evolves things.
 

dasdoing

Major Contributor
Joined
May 20, 2020
Messages
4,279
Likes
2,752
Location
Salvador-Bahia-Brasil
Manufacturers of actives leave the amp all open and then attenuate. I still don't fully understand why, but it's probably just cheaper than creating a reliable analog amp volume knob. a powerful all open amp will hiss....
 

Sokel

Master Contributor
Joined
Sep 8, 2021
Messages
6,007
Likes
6,006
Manufacturers of actives leave the amp all open and then attenuate. I still don't fully understand why, but it's probably just cheaper than creating a reliable analog amp volume knob. a powerful all open amp will hiss....
Any clasic power amp is fully open before a speaker.What's attenuated is before it but that whould be irelavent if it was noisy with nothing connected to it as is the case with some actives.
 

sigbergaudio

Major Contributor
Audio Company
Forum Donor
Joined
Aug 21, 2020
Messages
2,671
Likes
5,560
Location
Norway
You're probably referring to me,so:
Does it count that I have active speakers and also hybrid ones?
Does it count that I have heard Genelecs in other houses and not mine (and I already said "up close",not at any distance) ?
Does it count that in many cases the nature of hiss is not masked by the noise floor as some freqs we can listened under it?

And finally,if a horn speaker with 100db sens can be dead silent regardless if driven by a tube amp or a purifi one,with all the sins included, (long cables,etc) what stops actives to be dead silent too?
And since when ASR offers free meals and flaws gets a pass the same time we're all for tar and feathers when a DAC for example doesn't reach the 115db SINAD mark?

Critisism is useful,evolves things.

But you are saying "don't buy active speakers", like silent ones don't exist. That's not true. So you can criticise, but it's imprecise to throw around blanket statements like that, without even adding "for nearfield applications" or something like that. And even then it would be somewhat weird since roughly 100% of professional studios do exactly that. Some are plagued with hiss of course, many are not.
 

bodhi

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Nov 11, 2022
Messages
990
Likes
1,422
You're probably referring to me,so:
No, not specifically you. This active speaker hiss has been talked about for years and nothing has changed. For vast majority of users this is not a problem. It might be a problem for some because of uncommonly low noise floor, very good batlike hearing, faulty equipment or dislike of active speakers in general which seems to be case more often than not when complaints about hiss arise.

But good that you brought up SINAD chasing because I think the hiss problem is analogous to it in a way that neither seems to be a problem if one doesn't specifically make it a problem.

As for why active speakers are not made completely silent or why all AVRs don't have 115db SINAD? Probably because 99,9% (rounded up) of actual paying customers don't want to pay extra for something that makes no difference at all to them. Both are useless features which will not be implemented just because a few dudes who wouldn't be buying the products anyways complain on internet.

And I'm not trying to stop anyone from criticizing to their heart's content. And if you fall into the small minority that actually is bothered by the hiss then by all means, don't buy them. I'm sure there are far more people that won't buy a piece of audio equipment if isn't black but you don't see them waving pitchforks around in threads.
 

TurtlePaul

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
May 19, 2020
Messages
631
Likes
1,027
Location
New York
Any clasic power amp is fully open before a speaker.What's attenuated is before it but that whould be irelavent if it was noisy with nothing connected to it as is the case with some actives.
Most real world passive speakers have 5 to 8 dB of L-pad resistors on their tweeter to match sensitivity to the woofer. Most woofers in 2-way speakers have 4 to 6 dB of baffle-step compensation (resistive loss) above ~400 hz. Therefore, passive speakers usually benefit from 4 to 8 dB lower noise than the same drivers hooked directly to the output of the amp, except in the bass where our hearing is less sensitive.
 

Sokel

Master Contributor
Joined
Sep 8, 2021
Messages
6,007
Likes
6,006
But you are saying "don't buy active speakers", like silent ones don't exist. That's not true. So you can criticise, but it's imprecise to throw around blanket statements like that, without even adding "for nearfield applications" or something like that. And even then it would be somewhat weird since roughly 100% of professional studios do exactly that. Some are plagued with hiss of course, many are not.
Where did I say "don't buy active speakers"?
The only way I would say that is "don't buy them,leave them all for me"
WTF???

I'm sure there are far more people that won't buy a piece of audio equipment if isn't black but you don't see them waving pitchforks around in threads.

Guess again! :p
 

LTig

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Messages
5,803
Likes
9,511
Location
Europe
OP already mentioned a few times, that they hiss on their own, with no input connected to them.
This is possible if the input impedance is high (as it should be) and the amplifier amplifies the inherent Johnson noise of its own input impedance. A more realistic test is to measure noise with the input cut short, or connected to a resistor of not more than a few 100 Ohms, similar to the output impedance of the feeding source (preamp, DAC, ...).
 

sigbergaudio

Major Contributor
Audio Company
Forum Donor
Joined
Aug 21, 2020
Messages
2,671
Likes
5,560
Location
Norway
Where did I say "don't buy active speakers"?
The only way I would say that is "don't buy them,leave them all for me"
WTF???

Sorry, confused you with another user. My bad. :)
 

Salt

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Aug 7, 2023
Messages
596
Likes
323
Location
lower saxony
This is possible if the input impedance is high (as it should be) and the amplifier amplifies the inherent Johnson noise of its own input impedance..
Kind of amplifier-tinnitus?
 

pablolie

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jul 8, 2021
Messages
2,085
Likes
3,503
Location
bay area, ca
Most real world passive speakers have 5 to 8 dB of L-pad resistors on their tweeter to match sensitivity to the woofer. Most woofers in 2-way speakers have 4 to 6 dB of baffle-step compensation (resistive loss) above ~400 hz. Therefore, passive speakers usually benefit from 4 to 8 dB lower noise than the same drivers hooked directly to the output of the amp, except in the bass where our hearing is less sensitive.
I would contend there are a myriad of active speaker designs, just as there are in passive speakers.

If anyone ever hears any hiss out of a KEF LS50W or LS60, send them back, because there is none. Zero. Nada. You can superglue your ear to the speaker - there'll be no hiss. Of course they are a completely integrated design, but they are active speakers.

Even my humble, 10-year old, $200-or-so Audioengine A2 have zero hiss. I keep the volume knob at about 45% and control them via the DAC-preamp. I have never checked if there is hiss if I turn the knob full volume, because in a very near field environment it is simply a stupid thing to do - I don't need that volume level, ever. I should note most of the time I listen through headphones and not the A2 (even though they sound commendably awesome given their size and price).

I have listened to Genelecs in an extremely quiet room, but I have to admit I have never held my ear to the tweeter. But I am utterly noise allergic, hearable hiss would draw me out of my mind. My Benchmark Dac HGC started to emit a low high pitched noise, and i heard it from the other end of my listening room. When I sent it back to Benchmark, they at first said they couldn't hear anything, until I insisted, and they replaced the power supply.
 
Top Bottom