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Why do passive speakers still exist?

mhardy6647

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Never ZOOMED or listened to a podcast but great idea. (I am frequently with no cell signal due to being out of cell tower range too, so...)
We went to Zooming church services back in April - from mid-summer to mid-autumn (end of October) we did hybrid live (outdoor, socially distanced) and Zoom services. We had just enough technology (with some help from Markertek, as I implied above!) and expertise (using the term loosely!) to pull it off with reasonable aplomb. :)

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sigbergaudio

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I think this is important.

Pro audio has embraced DSP. Audiophiles have only recently begun to use DSP. But we have a long ways to go before there is large majority acceptance. For example, many vinyl enthusiasts are not going to like their analog signal converted to digital for processing.

Once a large enough market segment exists that want DSP, we will eventually see much less expensive, more robust DSP solutions implemented as part of standard passive speaker setups. Then much of the active speaker advantage in this regard will be negated.

Audyssey's phone app is one hint of the future. Give me a wireless measurement mic and a more robust phone app to control all EQ and other speaker tweakings, and I'm sure I'll be just as happy with a passive speaker setup vs active setup.
An external DSP would typically be used for room calibration, not speaker calibration. You need to be able to apply DSP to the individual drivers or set of drivers in the speaker to effectively EQ the speaker.
 

raistlin65

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An external DSP would typically be used for room calibration, not speaker calibration. You need to be able to apply DSP to the individual drivers or set of drivers in the speaker to effectively EQ the speaker.
Beyond using DSP in active speakers to establish the crossover, what you said does not make sense to me.

Of course you can EQ the sound coming out of a passive speaker with DSP, whether you do it to change the characteristics of the speaker, or to compensate for room influence.
 

sigbergaudio

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Beyond using DSP in active speakers to establish the crossover, what you said does not make sense to me.

Of course you can EQ the sound coming out of a passive speaker with DSP, whether you do it to change the characteristics of the speaker, or to compensate for room influence.
Theoretically yes, but correcting the speaker with an external DSP at home is something you can only do very broadly, and your measurements would be a mix of all drivers, or even both speakers, mixed up with the reflections in your room. This is pretty far from the EQ that the manufacturer can apply directly on the individual driver response. That being said, fine adjustments of the driver response don't necessarily end up as audible improvements when the loudspeaker in the end is placed in a home environment full of reflections, but that's another story. :)
 

A Surfer

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Again, I am sorry if I am being a contrary broken record here, but while all of the advantages being presented for active speakers present reasons why there may be audible benefits, as presented these are not necessarily evidence of actual practical audible improvement. You would need some pretty robust blind listening trials with a pretty solid sample size to actually have evidence. As it stands now, at least from what I understand is that what is being presented here is face validity.

My only point here is that if company a designed a speaker with identical drivers, cabinets, but with two versions, an active and a passive assuming the passive was: driven properly, placed in the room correctly for the listeners preferences, had access to corrective DSP to address room issues; that if those conditions were met I still question whether or not the theoretical improvements in sound reproduction for actives would rise to the level of audibility. This would have to be demonstrated by robust, multiple trial, multiple participant blind listening trials.

There are medications that demonstrate an effect, but the effect is so modest that it is not considered practically significant and hence the drug is not released as the benefit has not been established despite showing some effect. That is my question/concern here; how has the significant benefit in terms of audible improvement been demonstrated? We don't consider sighted listening tests of DACs and cables around here so I have to equally challenge sighted listening impressions for actives. I absolutely concur that for some, many even most users putting the electronics inside the speakers makes sense and that alone is an advantage. I just want to know where the evidence base for the claims of significant, objectively demonstrated audible advantage is.
 

A Surfer

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...That being said, fine adjustments of the driver response don't necessarily end up as audible improvements when the loudspeaker in the end is placed in a home environment full of reflections, but that's another story. :)
That is the meat of the subject right there, it may not sound any better, and while there is reward to the electronics being integrated, there is also risk. So my understanding of things is that at this point in time, we have not been able to demonstrate an actual audible case for actives beyond the need to move technology and innovation forward through commercial efforts. I get that, but when people start asking why do we have passives, it seems to require a robust response.
 

sigbergaudio

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My only point here is that if company a designed a speaker with identical drivers, cabinets, but with two versions, an active and a passive assuming the passive was: driven properly, placed in the room correctly for the listeners preferences, had access to corrective DSP to address room issues; that if those conditions were met I still question whether or not the theoretical improvements in sound reproduction would rise to the level of audibility. This would have to be demonstrated by robust, multiple trial, multiple participant blind listening trials.
As have been pointed out earlier in the thread, the point isn't to simply replace the crossovers of an existing passive design with a DSP and stuff an amp in the speaker, it's to do things that simply isn't possible to do with a passive design. I guess the most obvious example is how you can EQ/modify the response of bass drivers to get frequency response that would otherwise be impossible from a passive speaker of the same size.
 

andreasmaaan

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My only point here is that if company a designed a speaker with identical drivers, cabinets, but with two versions, an active and a passive assuming the passive was: driven properly, placed in the room correctly for the listeners preferences, had access to corrective DSP to address room issues; that if those conditions were met I still question whether or not the theoretical improvements in sound reproduction would rise to the level of audibility.
Sorry, but you’re still missing the point, which is that the active speaker does not need to be built into the same enclosure with the same drivers and the same crossover topologies in the first place!
 

A Surfer

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As have been pointed out earlier in the thread, the point isn't to simply replace the crossovers of an existing passive design with a DSP and stuff an amp in the speaker, it's to do things that simply isn't possible to do with a passive design. I guess the most obvious example is how you can EQ/modify the response of bass drivers to get frequency response that would otherwise be impossible from a passive speaker of the same size.
Impossible? I am not disputing your claims, but impossible in what sense? Perhaps identical measurements, ok, I can see that, but for the end user and in actual listening situations, have we established that a passive can't be audibly as transparent to the listener as the theoretical active twinned speaker?
 

MattHooper

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I'm very glad both active and passive speakers are being produced.

But for my music listening I've preferred various passive speakers to the active speakers I've heard. Which includes, aside from those in the pro sound industry, some nice listening sessions with the Kii 3 speakers. Excellent, competent sound, but preferred various passives. Plus, I have some atavisms, some old school quirks of for instance enjoying using tube amplifiers.
 

andreasmaaan

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My apology, I didn't realize that was the discussion premise.
Fair enough :)

FWIW, I agree with you that taking a well designed passive speaker and simply converting it into an active implementation of the same speaker is going to bring only limited advantages, and that if the passive is really well designed in the first place, and if bass is managed upstream, the differences are unlikely to be audible.
 

sigbergaudio

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Impossible? I am not disputing your claims, but impossible in what sense? Perhaps identical measurements, ok, I can see that, but for the end user and in actual listening situations, have we established that a passive can't be audibly as transparent to the listener as the theoretical active twinned speaker?
We're probably discussing different things. From my perspective the advantage of an active design is that the manufacturer gets access to advanced DSP as a design parameter, making things like the Dutch Dutch 8C or the Devialet weirdos possible. It also makes it possible to design and test alternative crossovers way quicker, etc. The point isn't to try to build "better" traditional speakers in order to compete with an equal passive version.
 

JohnYang1997

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Well. I kinda disagreed yesterday. But today with my new iLoud MTM. Holy shit are these good. They are much better than the KEF R3 we purchased for amplifier design. I kinda think there's simply no reason not to stick to these. It's both amazing and uneven feeling.
 

q3cpma

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Again, I am sorry if I am being a contrary broken record here, but while all of the advantages being presented for active speakers present reasons why there may be audible benefits, as presented these are not necessarily evidence of actual practical audible improvement. You would need some pretty robust blind listening trials with a pretty solid sample size to actually have evidence. As it stands now, at least from what I understand is that what is being presented here is face validity.

My only point here is that if company a designed a speaker with identical drivers, cabinets, but with two versions, an active and a passive assuming the passive was: driven properly, placed in the room correctly for the listeners preferences, had access to corrective DSP to address room issues; that if those conditions were met I still question whether or not the theoretical improvements in sound reproduction for actives would rise to the level of audibility. This would have to be demonstrated by robust, multiple trial, multiple participant blind listening trials.

There are medications that demonstrate an effect, but the effect is so modest that it is not considered practically significant and hence the drug is not released as the benefit has not been established despite showing some effect. That is my question/concern here; how has the significant benefit in terms of audible improvement been demonstrated? We don't consider sighted listening tests of DACs and cables around here so I have to equally challenge sighted listening impressions for actives. I absolutely concur that for some, many even most users putting the electronics inside the speakers makes sense and that alone is an advantage. I just want to know where the evidence base for the claims of significant, objectively demonstrated audible advantage is.
Isn't the LS50 and LS50 Wireless such an example? Anyway, you forget one advantage that has a tangible effect: cost reduction in the BOM and R&D of mass manufactured products. Some people also speak of greater damping factor and optimal high pass filters for ports/passive radiators.
 

q3cpma

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Well. I kinda disagreed yesterday. But today with my new iLoud MTM. Holy shit are these good. They are much better than the KEF R3 we purchased for amplifier design. I kinda think there's simply no reason not to stick to these. It's both amazing and uneven feeling.
They're supposedly amazing, but priced too near the KH80DSP for my comfort. Would still like to see extensive measurements of them.
 

AnalogSteph

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They're supposedly amazing, but priced too near the KH80DSP for my comfort. Would still like to see extensive measurements of them.
Mind you, they do come with a measurement mic and automatic room correction built-in already, that's got to be worth something as well. (There should be additional package deals when buying 2 or 5, given that nobody needs that many measurement mics.) This is a good example for thinking ahead and leveraging the advantages of new technology, as discussed previously.
 

tvrgeek

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Active speaker or class D amplifier? Anyway, preemptive "huh-huh".


I don't know where this statistic comes from and I wouldn't trust it, but you can always sell your old stuff.


Wanting to engineer the best product? Unless I misunderstand what you mean by "component".


Well, this is annoying, but there's stuff like https://www.genelec.com/accessories/1510-303b/w-hybrid-cable avaiable to solve the problem neatly. You can do it yourself simply by buying heatshrink wrap or pretty sleeves and bulk cable.

Honestly, there are some valid concerns with active speakers (main one being that reliability/attention to detail is hit-or-miss unless you buy the top brands), but these aren't it.
That hybrid cable is OK out in the room, but would be against building codes to run through the walls or attic. I am not sure I want my speaker cables to run in tight proximity of power. Probably not enough pickup to be audible, but a possibility.
 

richard12511

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Again, I am sorry if I am being a contrary broken record here, but while all of the advantages being presented for active speakers present reasons why there may be audible benefits, as presented these are not necessarily evidence of actual practical audible improvement. You would need some pretty robust blind listening trials with a pretty solid sample size to actually have evidence. As it stands now, at least from what I understand is that what is being presented here is face validity.

My only point here is that if company a designed a speaker with identical drivers, cabinets, but with two versions, an active and a passive assuming the passive was: driven properly, placed in the room correctly for the listeners preferences, had access to corrective DSP to address room issues; that if those conditions were met I still question whether or not the theoretical improvements in sound reproduction for actives would rise to the level of audibility. This would have to be demonstrated by robust, multiple trial, multiple participant blind listening trials.

There are medications that demonstrate an effect, but the effect is so modest that it is not considered practically significant and hence the drug is not released as the benefit has not been established despite showing some effect. That is my question/concern here; how has the significant benefit in terms of audible improvement been demonstrated? We don't consider sighted listening tests of DACs and cables around here so I have to equally challenge sighted listening impressions for actives. I absolutely concur that for some, many even most users putting the electronics inside the speakers makes sense and that alone is an advantage. I just want to know where the evidence base for the claims of significant, objectively demonstrated audible advantage is.
I think you may still be missing my point a little bit. I mostly agree with your second paragraph.

Also, just to be clear. I'm not saying all active speakers are necessarily audibly better than all passive speakers. I'm only saying that "all else being equal", that is the case.

My point is more about having access to the knowledge that the speaker is going to be active in the design phase. Knowing from the outset that you're going to build an active speaker gives you access to certain design choices that simply aren't available in the passive domain. These choices undoubtedly can have a huge audible benefit. You would agree that the difference between a speaker that controls directivity with a 100° beam all the way down to 50Hz is audibly different than a speaker that goes omni below 600Hz, right? How would you design a small passive bookshelf speaker that maintains a 100° horizontal beam down to 50Hz? Another example would be phase aligning drivers without affecting the speaker baffle(which changes the sound). Another example might be speakers that can switch their dispersion patterns or configurations at the press of a button. How would you design a passive speaker that can alter its dispersion pattern via a button on a remote control?

I would say it goes even further than just advantages that the speaker designers have. The driver designers that the speaker designers purchase their drivers from can actually make better sounding drivers without the balance limitations that are required by drivers destined for passive designs. The Airblade Transducer is one such example. Dennis Murphy recently tried to use it in a passive design, but came to the conclusion that it would really only be ideal in an active design. Being able to use different drivers certainly has real audible benefits.
 
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