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


Staying in the topic of practical differences between active and passive speakers for the home, I want to talk a little more about my most recent experience.

I have conventional 2-way L and R speakers. I’ve added a 3-way active speaker in the center. The mid-woofers are practically the same but the center uses a different and very highly regarded mid and tweeter. More suitable for the location.

The use of a 3-way amplifier with 50 + 125 + 125 watt sections means I have a theoretical dynamic range of around 1,000 watts. That’s a lot more than my modest Luxman integrated (100W/ch) especially given the losses in the passive crossover due to tweeter/woofer level matching.  Honestly, 20W peaks are VERY LOUD in my home.

So you’d think the center channel blows away the L and R? It does not. It does not sound more dynamic, or louder. It integrates perfectly. What I do get is a fuller bass thanks to having larger woofers than my previous center, and excellent off-axis coverage thanks to the 3-way design, high order crossover and digital time alignment.

What’s my point? That in homes the dynamic range and power calculus often won’t matter to you. Buy what you like and is more convenient.

There are many sceanrios where a listener could not tell there were changes to a system.  Of course that does not mean there isnt a difference or it isnt a desireable difference.  Much like swapping out phono cartridges, if you walked out of the room while it was switched, you may not realize what's different when you returned.  Would any of us say phono cartridges all sound the same based on that?  Many products in consumer are like that, requiring a very careful comparison and a educated listener.  @erik_squires , you are a very educated listener!.   

Working in this industry full time, where differences are a constant challenge in diagnosing problems in service (client heard something you cannot replicate) or assessing value of something new, you can be fooled but usually scinece wins.  Which is why we have a $10,000 Audio Precision sytem with calibrated mic to measure things.  The science behind active vs passive is conclusive and not debatable, unless you elevate your own perception as the superior test.  Demos are contextual audible comparisons with a tremendous number of variables.  For some, once their own perception is satisfied, even if inaccurate to science, they are happy and the search is over.  Sort of a parrallel to the way we prefer one color over another in a car-they really do look different in more ways than color alone.  And once we decide which color we like, we rarely look back. 

Ive said it before, I think active expands the ability to hear changes in the system of various cmponents, not reduces them.  All the elements before the active speakers are easier to hear, cables, preamps, turntables, sources, etc.  thqtq's certainly my expereince.   Sometimes it seems like the shared thought is "I'll buy active when you can pry my amp from my cold dead fingers".  It like the amp makers marketing has convinced everyone that its worth buying an expensive amp.  From a science point of view, passive being "better" than active is like telling someone from Arizona that snow tires are "better" on an all wheel drive sports car when you've only test driven them in the snow.  Snow tires may indeed work better in that one condition, but certainly not all.   Because you've never driven that car with snow tires in the summer on a dry road doesnt make it true.


I'm not saying that all speakers and all amps are similar sounding, at all.

I'm just saying that coming to some universal truth about the desirability of an active vs. passive speaker in the home is never going to happen.

I think so too...

And in my case  active low cost speakers could be easily  partly redesigned  without money loss...

Ive said it before, I think active expands the ability to hear changes in the system of various cmponents, not reduces them.

@erik_squires wrote:

Thanks, but in the interest of staying with the OP’s topic, I’m NOT discussing the use of external crossovers and amps.

Not only was that not mentioned in his post, but the use of active crossovers and external amps in the home is probably the very rarest of beasts. I’ll happily engage in that topic elsewhere.

And what exactly is the interest of the OP in this regard going by his threat opener? He only says the following:

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

No specific implementation of active configuration is mentioned, so that holds every route open here, as long as it’s active. Moreover, the threat is over 3 years old (with an activity pause almost as long) - the OP might have gotten along since then, and so what we’re venturing into at this point, for as long as we’re continuing with active as a general topic that isn’t at odds with the OP, I’d say it’s all safe to go.

But really, you’re no admin of this threat (or even if you are, I’m within the confines of the OP) nor the OP poster, so loosen up on specifying what we can or cannot discuss. It seems to me it’s about what YOU would like the specific context (of active configuration) of this threat to be about, rather than the OP. My take: chart off in any direction of active as you see fit and let others do the same, and if the OP has a problem with that, he can chime in.

With regard to the link of his: Steve’s rant on active goes on to state - 2:15 into the video - that the Parasound A21 power amp (as an example) doesn’t fit into most any speaker, and you’d believe he really wanted it to if it weren’t so darn impractical. That way of thinking of his tells me Steve is not even considering that the A21 doesn’t have to fit into a speaker (for it to still be active), so my deduction is that ’active’ to him is defined as a bundled approach, and he’s stuck with that. Really, he doesn’t get it.

Take the ATC SCM300 Pro ASL. It’s an actively configured speaker through and through, yet the amps and electronic crossover are outboard, most likely due to the power requirements of the amps and the physical size this would necessitate. The JBL M2’s - another example. Sanders Sound as well. Even if there are only a few such examples of active, it doesn’t make it conspicuous or other - it’s just outboard.

Where it gets more hairy is setting the DSP filter parameters by oneself, and I’m assuming this goes for your DIY center channel as well? You think the OP initially considered a DIY approach of active like that? Maybe he didn’t even consider outboard active, and that’s where I feel correcting Steve in his video rant is appropriate. It only broadens the opportunities while potentially raising the bar even further.

I’m just saying that coming to some universal truth about the desirability of an active vs. passive speaker in the home is never going to happen.

At this point it seems the overall purpose is merely to have audiophiles accept active configuration as a viable approach next to passive, and get rid of some of the misconceptions here. Once there active can really begin its ascent into wider use (and configurations) in the domestic milieus.