I Was Considering Active, Then I Watched This ...

I wouldn't worry to much this guy has no idea what he's blabbering about. The amp doesn't "rattle" around in the speaker, dsp is upgraded all the time with software. Not all active speakers have the electronics in the speaker, Genelec has been making actives for a long time and still service 20 year old speakers,  most studios use active for a reason, they're more accurate and less trouble. 

Point well taken.
There seems to be a flurry of interest in active speakers of late, especially with all the reviews of the Buchardt A400. The industry seems to be changing and people don't like change. 

ATC, Dynaudio, Dutch & Dutch 8c, Kii Audio, Focal, Genelec, PMC, Meridian, Grimm, Avantgarde, Devialet, KEF...

The difference between dinosaur audiophiles like Guttenberg and tomorrows audiophiles is that Guttenberg would take a more expensive passive ls50 setup that has more gear than a better sounding active ls50 wireless for less $ just because he put it together.  90% of people out there can and do make strong cases why the LS50W’s are better than the passive ls50’s.  

Its funny that he thinks a company that pours theIr heart and soul out to build speakers, like ATC, is then going to skimp on the amplification or that there won’t be oversight in that area.  I think that most of the time, the people actually engineering and building the speaker can pair the amplification better than you can.  Also, opposite of what Steve said, the speaker designer can put out a finished product that achieves the sound they were actually trying to achieve.

I believe that active speakers with dsp are the future.  True audiophiles are first and foremost after exceptional sound.  People who make gear a priority over sound are not tomorrows audiophiles.  Once this technology is a little more ironed out, I don’t think there will be a question as to which way things will go.

Oh, and even though MBL (my favorite that I’ve heard) doesn’t do active (yet) they make all of the front end components too. So there ya go Steve, some of the if not the most incredible speaker manufacturer actually does know about amps and dacs too.  

And about amps failing... I do agree that the original ls50w’s had a horrible app and electronics (ie amp, dac...) that weren’t the most reliable.  The dynaudio xeos that I had felt like they’d last for a long time.

How many of us are using old amps that we bought used?  I bet quite a few.

People are selling 30 year old Classe or Bryston amps...  I’ve owned at least 15 different amps, all bought used, all of them anywhere between 5-15 years old whenI bought them.  I’ve not had one fail on me.

And dacs are to the point now where improvements from here are going to be minimal.  The Schiit gungir multibit I use is 4-5 years old I believe.  
So give me a dsp speaker or even analogue and give me well built, solid, reliable electronics...

I’d take any class amplifier with any amount of dsp with electronics inside the speaker IF it sounds better... wouldn’t you?

A person whose livelihood relies on reviewing systems/components done the traditional way certainly has a conflict of interest. Many are willing to adjust the sound of their system with a different amp, preamp, cable, etc. Doing all of that in the digital domain, plus controlling phase and driver out of band behavior before the signal gets to the amplifier makes perfect sense. You want a little more midbass, dial it in, without messing up phase. The biggest plus is getting rid of the crappy passive crossover, which is without a doubt the worst component in any system.
Didn't miss Steve's points at all. He actually said there were things he liked better about the LS-50 wireless sound wise, but wanted the passives instead so he can choose his own amp. He said he liked the Elacs, but would not buy them because they are active. He is completely dismissing them because of preconceived notions about them and not how they perform against the competition within their price range. Keep in mind, comparable price for passive includes preamp, amp, and cables in addition to the speakers. I have a treated listening room and the sound is hands down better with room correction engaged. I have had many combinations of passive systems and the active one I have now is better.
Steve is a veteran and is to be respected.  For monitoring applications, active is fine.  For ultimate results, outboard amplification is preferred...because you choose the amp!!  It’s that simple.
One damning truth for me is that in 15 years of shows I don’t recall any active speaker (Legacy audio being the exception; hybrid) making my top 3 of show, ever. Until they actually DO outperform they are for me a waste of my time.

The AXPONA 2019 demo of active/passive did nothing to change that opinion. It was actually a fairly good demo of why one does NOT have to go active. :(

I will add this; In order to confirm or falsify my impressions from the show, I sought a set of larger active/passive speakers from a big name company, high profile. They were on board - until they saw the shipping cost. They balked, and the community lost a potentially very insightful article about pro/con of active/passive.

It seems people can’t interpret "reviewer speak" all that well, so I will for you. Steve said the active did a few things better; translated, UNIMPRESSIVE. Precisely. My conclusion as well.

Active speakers in use for smallish rigs, space constrained, budget constrained. Sure. For more serious, big rigs? I’ll leave that to someone else. :)

IMHO, the development of active speakers, particularly high-end actives, has resulted in the single greatest advance in speaker technology, design, and sound reproduction quality since the advent [sic] of the acoustic suspension speaker design some six and a half decades ago. Sorry if it spoils the "fun" of the gearheads who are more into trying to listen to an amp or some interconnects or whatever than to the music, but the quality of the sound reproduced — the music — is ALL I or any listener should care about. In my experience actives in the home, the studio, and in sound reinforcement have a very clear and very audible advantage over almost any passive setup at any given price point.

I should note that I'm agnostic when it come to pure analog vs. DSP controlled speakers. I've used pure analog Swiss-built active PSI Audio monitors for mastering for the last ten years and I've no reason whatsoever to "upgrade." The PSIs disappear sonically; they add or subtract nothing perceptible of their own and have pinpoint imaging, speed, and transparency. They give me the sense that I'm listening past them down the wire to the source, to the original performance. And isn't THAT what anyone who is listening to the music wants? OTOH, I've heard (expensive!) DSP driven speakers in sound reinforcement settings that were likewise breathtakingly clean and transparent at high volumes with no perceptible fault or latency. I've no doubt it's the same in the studio or the home. Take your pick.
Steve is a veteran and is to be respected.
Does that mean his motives can't be questioned? That someone can't disagree with him? He had a conclusion already developed and created his arguments to fit his conclusion. His conclusion was not based on his observation, but more on his reluctance to change. 
For ultimate results, outboard amplification is preferred.
For ultimate performance, we are talking many tens of thousands of dollars, this is probably true. In the range of prices more people can afford, it is not true any more. The control and flexibility of the active systems as well as the ability to tailor the sound to my preference places the active system above any passive system I have owned. I didn't choose the amps and the sound is excellent.
A good compromise is what many Von Schweikert speakers do. They have many models with high quality 500 watt+ plate amps designed for them by by Chanel D. This allows the sound of the main amps to come through untouched and allows one to adjust base to the room +-6 db and allows one to use for example lower watt tube amps if desired.
Here’s some active speakers for the budget constrained.
Insightful ramblings not needed.


There’s active speakers at all price points from very modest excellent monitors from JBL and Adam to systems in the 6 figures.
I have had passives in past and now use ATC Active 50 towers with upgraded anniversary amp pack. I agree that if you are interested in tweaking your system to get a particular sound then having separate amps seem to make sense. I immensely enjoy my active system and have tweaked it by having professionally designed acoustic wall treatment, buying the best power supplies and isolation transformers along with hi quality sources and electronics. I can’t see how anyone can say that having an active crossover designed specifically for the drivers is a great if not the best way to handle the speakers. I can’t speak for other speaker companies amps, but the ATC line are top notch and once again fully optimized for their drivers.
Gutenberg has lots of opinions but small amounts of understanding of current advances in speaker/amp designs, in my opinion...which may not be completely accurate either.  Such is the nature of opinions.

But, my ATC 50's, active, blow the socks off all the separates I have used over the last 50 years.  And that wasn't junk either.  

The smoothness top to bottom, the realism, the dead-black background, the clean sound all sold me and continues to this day.  As an extra, ATC does manufacture its own electronics as well as the drivers.  It makes one hell of an active speaker.  

A few years ago when Steve Gutenburg began his dailies, I even joined his Patron (sp) program to support the effort.  In a month I dropped out.  I was learning very little.  Couldn't justify the time.  

This is a bizarre thread for an "audiophile" forum, or did I wander into the recording studio? Think I will take a pass on sitting with boxes aimed at my head. Seems to be popular around here. All that's missing is active Moabs.
Lest we forget the JBL SE 401 Energizer?  My Dorian S12 pair have the knockout for it. A few other JBL speaker models, too.
In Munich I was surprised how poor the Kii room sounded.  They claimed that with DSP on board they were able to get them sounding room-perfect.  But to my ears it was very dry and analytical.   It did sound more like the studio monitors in the studios I sometimes work in.  But pleasant to listen to?  I don’t think so. 
The eternal debate about active vs. passive speakers is exactly that, an eternal debate.

The truth:

Pros and cons are complicated. Only in the consumer land the raging debate tends to exist only because there just isn’t that much of a difference for us in terms of class of product.

In the end, the quality of the sound we experience is really complicated and the final result is the only way to compare two choices, and for that you need to get very specific.

I can imagine that there’s some future where two speakers sit in my living room, with no cables, no power supply, no amplifiers and are quantum linked directly to a performer’s recorded brainwaves. I’m literally going to buy a hologram of an integrated amplifier before I enjoy that experience. :)




Yeah, setting up a good sounding room curve is hard work.  Lots of ARC systems out there and only a few IMHO get it right.  Toole doesn't really like any of them, but I think a couple like Anthem and Dirac and JL Audio have come along in making better choices.

People still don't understand that automatic room correction does what a human told it to do, and you might not like that. :)


At 2000£ retail one could challenge the passive dogma and go for actives and there are plenty of decent models out there. 
But you can’t get a dCS Vivaldi inside a speaker enclosure. You can’t shrink a Pass or a D’Agostino or your favourite valve amplifier. You can’t have a hefty power supply with separate wiring for analogic / digital. 
The manufacturer might be able to give you a reasonable compromise on a budget. But the word “budget” is key. Active done right is separate sources / crossovers / amps. 
I suppose a massive enclosure could accommodate some of the above. But there is a reason why people separate streamers from dacs, dacs from preamps and so on. The fact that it can technically be done doesn’t mean that it should or that it sounds better. 
I tried most room corrections on the  market - now I am playing with Room Perfect. If room correction sounds BETTER there is something wrong with your system / room. 

 ...quantum linked directly to a performer’s recorded brainwaves....

Sounds interesting....you go first. ;)

Next time say up front its the Audiophiliac so I know not to waste my time.
I have only seen a few of this guys videos, and have never liked him. Doesn't really sound like he even gave many options a listen.

I can't really comment on full range actives as I have never heard a high end pair (I do have a JBL L16 that sounds great for what it is).

About a year and a half ago I upgrade to the Legacy Whisper XSD, so active woofers and just wanted to make one comment in regards to his concerns of fitting the amplification into the speaker.

I would imagine most (if not all) active speakers, are utilizing digital amplification for the woofers like the Whispers. The whole need for that hefty transformer and size of some other components in the component amplifier is to drive the low end. Take that need away with digital for the bottom end, and the rest of the amplification could likely be fitted with analog if so desired.
and you care about what he says because ...?

You need to listen for yourself.
Outboard active, with separate amplifiers. where cabling and wiring and crossover and amplification choices can be individually made.

Some of the components of passive filtering have to remain. Should remain. Must remain.

As there are some parts (aspects of the total equation) that are best done passive.

This tends to be the best use of active or passive.

Take the best part of each and abandon the parts that don’t work very well.

This is both a tall and complex order that not all audio participants are going to welcome, due to the complexity that is going to come into existence. A whole bunch of areas where some sort of minimal competence will have to be gained, over time.

A gear-head solution for the deeply involved.

For the rest of the audio world participants, it is out of range, it fades into the mists of overt complexity.

Thus the argument remains and will remain.. as each person shapes the nebulous impenetrable clouds of that innate complexity... into the shape they see in their minds.

There is no solution here. Only an innate complexity that is largely too complex for just about anyone here -to bother with.

If they penetrate the mystery and gain skills that allow them to swim well in that complexity of half passive and half active... the message cannot be brought back and then somehow interpreted by those who aren’t going to ever ’go there’. 

The message will be lost in translation. It will be viewed as gobbledygook seeming as if it is coming from the mists of the given personal projection - into unfathomable reaches.

Meaning... one cannot venture to the audio godhead... and come back with a decipherable message for others.

That’s not how it works.

I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. If you first understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others. This is what everyone throughout the world is attempting to do. Truth is narrowed down and made a plaything for those who are weak, for those who are only momentarily discontented. Truth cannot be brought down, rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. You cannot bring the mountain-top to the valley. If you would attain to the mountain-top you must pass through the valley, climb the steeps, unafraid of the dangerous precipices. -J. Krishnamurti

Teo seems HighO!  It’s a compromise to have active speakers and is technology mostly embraced by the professional audio sound people.  They listen for frequencies, not tonal shadings or micro dynamics...certainly not for the differences in instrument voicing or spatial imaging.  All of us have goals in what we hope to achieve in our systems.  If having active speakers and DSP lights your fire and attains your personal goals, then congratulations!!  Some of us want to hear the sweet rosin flaking off the bow of Bell’s violin as he digs in for the climax, or the burnished breathy whiskey colored texture of a Coltrane sax solo.  So many colors exist for those willing to explore the jagged landscape of high end audio...I’ll choose my own amplifier.  
It is interesting that you actively described (??) the difference between an "audiophile" and a "music lover." OMG. So horrrrrrrible! I am an aging (old) fellow who was born LONG before this "stuff" became a drug to the masses and so damned confusing to beginners that they listen to the garbage of today and think it's MUSIC. I KNOW that I love music, no matter if it is from an old AC/DC tube set or a modern source. It ain't the box, it's your ears and MIND which hear the music. If you become obsessed with the electronics, you forget WHY you are listening in the first place. de KQ2E
Also, it wouldn't be hard to tap into and replace the onboard amplifier with an outboard on.

And for that matter, it wouldn't be that difficult to turn a passive speaker active without outboard amplifiers and a processor.
Nitro is oldo?  So nothing matters but your brain...uh, no!  Anyway, I watched Steve again and I have to say, he is spot on.  Fools and young tone deaf rubes may beg to differ, but The Audiophiliac speaks truth!
Actives not for me after my experience with a powered sub.  Granted the sub is 13 years old, but it is a Paradigm Sub 12 that cost $2499 new.  Worked great until it just stopped.  Plugged into a surge protector and wired to a Marantz Pre/Pro that is still working fine.  My guess is that the amp or the board controlling the amp just quit.  Nothing much I can do to fix it.  Think about spending significant $$$ on a pair of actives-- and then the amp in the speaker stops working after a decade or so.  You OK with that?  Not me!
I used to be in the pro-actives camp until my own experience with them. I read all the great reviews and also lisetned to (sounded great) and bought the KEF LS50Ws but after having different issues with 3 (yes 3!) pairs of replacements I finally managed to get a full refund from the dealer.

While there is probably an advantage in that you get a properly matched amp and speaker in one system the downside of losing everything if something goes wrong is a huge negative, at least for me. It doesn't help that none of these speaker companies have any meaningful warranties on their active systems with 1 year being the norm (at least the ones that I know of). I was lucky my KEF LS50s had all the issues in the first year itself so could get replacements and finally the refund. 
"Fools and young tone deaf rubes may beg to differ, but The Audiophiliac speaks truth!" 

Don't forget the seniors with hearing loss who may be best suited for actives firing directly into the face. 
I'm holding out for a pair of active speakers with an internal amp, DAC, CD player that is also portable. Hey! My boom box in the garaurage does that.
jperry- and you care about what he says because ...?
You need to listen for yourself.

It’s not the listening part I was questioning it’s the compact nature of the active speaker over that of a passive and what better effects they might have on a lousy room. Something, I thought an active speaker may be a better solution for.

Also, it seems extremely difficult to listen to active speakers anywhere, at least around this neck of the woods. So if I want to listen for myself, it looks like I have to arrange a purchase with an in-home trial. If that’s the case, I really need to narrow down the field as I don’t want to get on the return shipping merry-go-round.

SG states about ¾’s of the way through his rant that "as the speaker ages you get stuck with the out-of-date DSP"

According to Buchardt their active speakers have been designed to be upgradable by switching out the active module which can be easily done in 5 minutes with only a screwdriver. They will be producing a series of videos on how to do this shortly.

Not sure if any of the other active speaker manufacturers offer this option to upgrade, but it sounds like a good future proof feature.

... the downside of losing everything if something goes wrong is a huge negative, at least for me ...
Same here. That’s one reason I buy separates.
It shouldn’t be rocket science to find an amplifier well-suited to any given speaker. If that’s not the case, then there’s something wrong with the speaker.
This is just his (Steve G.) opinion and he has not tried other active speakers. I have heard the ELAC Navis ARB-51's active speakers and they are great. I think all audiophiles at least should give active speakers a try, why not? It is part of the hobby. Bryston has an interesting approach to active speakers: https://bryston.com/active-loudspeakers/
I’ve had 3 sets of powered speakers/monitors on my desktop system. None were from big-name/big-quality studio monitor specialists such as Genelec, ATC, Hedd, and so on.

I ended up moving away from powered monitors for 2 reasons, both somewhat peculiar to me & my system:
  • The smaller factor: Any active speaker can issue self-noise (consequence of the amp running the driver direct, not through a passive crossover). None of the 3 powered pairs I had did this to any real degree, but I’ve read too many user comments about too many brands (including some good/expensive brands) to completely disregard this--particularly in my nearfield application.
  • The bigger factor (by far): Most active speakers are the province of professional audio studios. There are a few audiophile examples, but really very few. So in general, as one surveys the field of possible powered monitors, the majority of all candidates are designed for users to rarely if ever simply use them for music enjoyment. To whatever extent powered monitors are "voiced," most of the voicing is aimed at flat, clinical, even forensic sound.
If I had the space and the funds, I would happily try one of the powered ATC models. My passive monitors are ATC SCM12 Pro’s, and they really made me a believer in what ATC can do for music.

I don’t exactly feel the trepidation that Steve Guttenberg speaks about in this video--but in general I do feel that for someone like me, whose primary interest is music appreciation, powered studio monitors are probably not the place I should be looking.
I consider myself to be fortunate. I live in a house that was built in 1800.
I have always been passionate about good sounding music that is well recorded. I have one system that plays music throughout the house and outside patio and porch areas.( Music everywhere ). I also have five different systems that are set up in separate rooms. Out of the five I have one system that consists of Benchmark HGC DAC 2 controlling a Mac mini and an Oppo 105 feeding 2 Focal TWIN6 BE powered Speakers along with 2 Focal CDM Subwoofer playing in the Den. The sound is amazing soft or loud it really delivers. I also have a Krell KRC-3 and KSA-200 s powering B&W 805N (rebuilt ) with REL S/510 subwoofer in a dedicated listening room. Now playing the Krell in the listening room it blows away the Benchmark Focal system . When I had the Krell in the Den it wasn't as good as the Benchmark Focal. When it comes to powered speakers it all depends on your room and how you set them up. BTW there is a place for both.

" My boom box in the garaurage..."  

I'm just trying to get it right in my liviauring room.


But I thought the whole idea is that powered speakers (with DSP) are suppose to take the room (somewhat) out of the equation?

I'm really surprised at the varying opinions here, pretty divided with pros & cons.
But I thought the whole idea is that powered speakers (with DSP) are suppose to take the room (somewhat) out of the equation?

DSP with active or passive speakers will help do that if used correctly. One of the advantages of active is DSP tuned crossovers. You mentioned Buchardt, it's companies like them and Dutch and Dutch,  Kii, GGNTKT and others looking to the future not back at old guys like me is what high fidelity will be not what it was, but better. 
Hey, I'm old too, and I love my separates, but I don't have a lot of money at this time to chase that right combination and even if I did have the cash, I even have less time (because I'm old) to recoup if I don't get right the first time around.

With such lousy room and not really any options for acoustic treatments, a few have suggested that active is possibly a cure-all for this?

This is a great, thread with lots of good opinions, I'm just soaking them ALL in!

OK folks. Listen up. Here’s WHY active crossovers are so very much better than passive. A single loudspeaker driver is an inductor, and provides a frequency dependent, reactive load to an amplifier. Looking at the image here, the blue line on the bottom is the frequency dependent impedance curve for an SB Acoustics SB29RDAC Ring Dome Tweeter, and it typical of any dynamic tweeter. As you can see, it is anything but flat, yet it is listed as having a 4 ohm impedance. It’s 4 ohms at about 1200 hz, but at 600 hz, has an impedance of nearly 10 ohms.

Now if you put a passive crossover circuit in front of it, you add capacitors, resistors and inductors, which then give you a frequency dependent impedance curve which looks like a Coney Island roller coaster. And that’s just for a tweeter high-pass circuit.

Now when you add in mid and bass drivers, with high and low pass filters there... It’s a real mess. But we’re not done there yet. Nope. Many of your extreme hi-end loudspeakers add in equalization to their crossover designs, which makes that impedance curve even worse. This is very hard for an amp to properly manage. That’s why people drop many, many thousands of dollars on things like Krell, Threshhold, Bryston, or Rowland Research solid state power amps.

Now when you use an active crossover, an amp channel only has to manage a single driver. There’s no passive, reactive component in between the amp and the loudspeaker driver. Then you don’t need a megabuck amp to deal with it.

All of the Linkwitz loudspeaker designs use outboarded active crossovers. Earlier designs used analog crossovers, but his last designs were all digital crossovers. There are some digital crossovers that offer DSP EQ, which allows you to tailor the total system response for the room you are in. Then you’re not just limited to whatever sound your speakers give you in the room you’re stuck with.

The lowest cost active crossovers are typically pro grade, from manufacturers like Behringer, dbx, Rane or even Nady. There are many manufacturers. Some of the best known home audio digital crossovers are from miniDSP.

Another major benefit is that you can use much, much lower powered amps when you use active crossovers. A lot of power is wasted having to push through a passive crossover. You really don’t need to push many watts into a tweeter or mid-range driver to get a lot of level out. You could even run a single ended tube amp on your tweeter, and a mid-level tube power amp on your mid-range driver, and a solid state amp for the bass driver. You have a lot of options.

So instead of dropping $7,000 on that Threshold Stasis 8.0 power amp. You could spend much less on an active crossover and the various much more modestly priced amps of your choice.

Great post, thanks but could you clarify this please"

 "So instead of dropping $7,000 on that Threshold Stasis 8.0 power amp. You could spend much less on an active crossover and the various much more modestly priced amps of your choice"

The active speakers I'm looking at are the full meal deal, amps, Dacs, DSP all in. Spending less on an active crossover and purchasing a cheaper amp. This sounds like separates. How does it work?