Passive vs Active...Again!

My wife and I have made the rounds and have listened to numerous speakers now, not as many as we'd like, but as many as we could within a 3-hour drive. We liked some both active and passive, but it seems most of the active speakers we saw are not that pleasing to the eye (eg: Genelecs).

Not having a dedicated listening room, our room itself is a big problem. We have lots of hard surfaces to deal with.

If we go with passive speakers and the associated gear to go with it, we will need to spend a whole bunch of money on acoustic treatments.

We have a ton of artwork as well and with already limited wall space, we would rather look at the art than a bunch of sound-absorbing panels.

So here's my question: Will active speakers, that may come in cheaper, with room correction software (DSP) be able to tame the sound to a pleasing level in my lively room, or do I go with passives and break out the Rockwool!

Just a side note, I had some Martin Logan Spires in a very similar style room, that was much larger with little acoustic treatments and they sounded pretty good. But in this house I don't have the room to pull the speakers 3 feet of the back wall.

I know there is no perfect answer here, but appreciate any feedback, thanks.



Sometimes, stepping back is the best approach. No shame in considering a ’lifestyle’ solution that meets your needs. You may be surprised with the versatility, aesthetic integration, and level of sound quality some of these products offer.


After watching Darko's videos on his expensive and evasive accoustic treatments, I'm almost ready to pack it in and purchase a Sonos speaker and call it a day! If I have to spend that much money and turn my house upside down to attain some decent sound, I'm starting to lose interest... and

Take a look at products along the lines of the Bowers and Wilkins Formation Duo, the Devialet Phantom II, the Naim Mu-so II, etc. to see if they meet your needs. Most are sold with return privileges, depending on the seller.

Most loudspeakers are designed to sound best in a normal living space not in a laboratory or anechoic chamber. 

Thanks David, yes the Devialet Phantom II can be heard locally, I just haven't got around to that one yet!

We used to sell  them  the devialet tphantoms totally gimmicky low end sound if yoyou like rap or club music rather y are great


You want lifestyle that sounds great dali Rubicon actives or atc


We are a dealer for both

Give us a call



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Dali and atc dealer 



Active Systems like Passive Systems are imperfect ...

A ' Passive System ' would be less expensive - generally - than a high tech Active System and DSP will not resolve all room issues.

As for the walls 2D and 3D Diffusors could be integrated with a Modern Theme.

A ' Cloud ' absorber and treatment around the L / R - Mains is a very effective minimal outlay for treatment.

Integrating all the components into a room should give an aesthetic flair with sound being no less important. As @david_ten pointed out - re-thinking goals and priorities can be helpful.

david_ten & rego - "re-thinking goals and priorities can be helpful"
Great advice, thank you both!

Just a side note, I had some Martin Logan Spires in a very similar style room, that was much larger with little acoustic treatments and they sounded pretty good. But in this house I don’t have the room to pull the speakers 3 feet of the back wall.

I know there is no perfect answer here, but appreciate any feedback, thanks.


You might want to look at a set of Swarm subs from Audiokinesis.

They will allow you to get the bass right without room treatment or DSP. This is because they can break up standing waves that you would otherwise have with only 2 speakers that can make bass. Standing waves can cause a lack of bass at the listening position.

The Swarms are designed to be as close to the wall as possible! Because of the increase you get inside the room boundary effect, Duke designed the speakers to roll off against that increase, resulting in a small sub flat to 20Hz.

The ear tends to equalize according to what frequencies are present. If there is no bass the ear will cause that to tilt to the high end. So if you get the bass right the highs will be more relaxed.

The upside of this is you can work with a much smaller speaker setup for your mains and they can be passive or active.

OP you mentioned you had a lot of art work. I guess it is hanging on the walls. Unless there are a lot of glass on the wall surfaces, you’ll be better off. I’ve seen more than one person with a tons of hanging things from the walls, and ceiling.

Painting on canvas with different types of frames will collect frequencies differently than others. When the frames is convex with raised crown borders vs flat stock, they act a lot different. The second is all of the canvas have air space behind them. They act with a certain amount of absorption and diffusion as long as there is not a lot of glass (there is a place for that too).

I have seen rooms over dampened just because of too much stuff in a room, and not a single piece of acoustic anything anywhere to be seen. LOL

Heavy curtains are what I’ve always suggested and used. WHY? An untreated long wall with high ceiling is a hard thing to tame. Being able to open or close curtains over a long bare (or covered with glass) wall works wonders and you can adjust the amount of dampening too.

I say the same thing every time. Add as much room treatment as you can stand, then start at the bottom and work your way up. BASS (sub) first, NOT last.

Now you can buy just about any speaker you want and it will work. It has to be a real pile to not work from 80hz and greater with ok measurements.

How hard is it to get a speaker to reproduce 100hz to 18khz. 90+ on sensitivity? Personally I used 92% sensitivity wired @ 12 ohms and have for over 20 years on my mains. There is no bass in my mains at all. Kind of defeats the purpose of vibration control if the box is banging away beating on mids and tweeters in the same box.. A different box make good sense to me.. At least be able to limit the mains to 80hz and above..

DBA, Swarm, Second (after room treatment), not last.. If you really want to get fancy go with a OB or IB servo sub system. I use GRs 12" dual OB Servo subs.
Real eye openers vs any other type of sub system..

Happy hunting. 


I’m BACK. Give me your cloths, Sarah Conner, Where is Sarah Conner?

1. GIK Acoustics makes panels which can have anything you like printed on them.

2. You may want speakers with limited dispersion.  Horns and ESL's are good choices.

3. Plan on a good EQ solution for the bottom end.  I'd recommend something like an Anthem receiver or similar with built in automatic subwoofer/room EQ


You haven’t mentioned price but in my opinion Dutch and Dutch 8c or Kii3 are probably your best bet for getting great sound with minimal room treatments if any in active speakers. The Dutch and Dutch can be placed within 10 centimeters of the front wall. 

oldhvymec - overall great advice! I don't think curtains would work, but maybe some heavier weight roller blinds or something. Then you also gave me a good idea. Fill the voids in the back of those open framed pieces of art with Rockwool!
erik_squires - thanks Erik, I didn't read any great things about the Anthem overall, just the fact that it does have room EQ, Anyways, you talked me into purchasing the same amp that you have. It's on lay-a-way, so I could change it, I guess?
djones51- "Dutch and Dutch 8c or Kii3" Those are the other 2 models I was exactly thinking of besides the Genelec's, but they aren't pretty either, especially for the price! Same price I would be at with separate, maybe even less. And, speaking on unattractive, did you audition the Devialets when you were on the hunt for actives? 





russ69 +1 now that's funny! :-)

Not really. If loudspeakers don't sound good in the most likely environment they will be in, the designer failed. That is not to say the environment can't be improved with treatments. 

speaking on unattractive, did you audition the Devialets when you were on the hunt for actives? 

No, I ended up with Dutch and Dutch 8c.  They look pretty nice in natural oak with black front. They finally received Roon Ready just waiting for firmware release. 

djones51 - sweet!

sc2 - I thought it was the exact opposite with open baffle speakers. Aren't they supposed to be as far away from the back wall as possible?

As @djones51 said, Dutch & Dutch or Kii.  I've had them both in my house. The D&D are much better looking in my opinion and could live with either. For under $15k you have a whole system. Ethernet into the speaker and, with the new firmware, Roon directly. There's no bluetooth/Airplay, which sucks. Those are great for when someone says can I play a song or you just want to play something else that isn't available on Roon. 

On the other hand, the Anthem software that @erik_squires mentioned is fantastic. The integrated with a pair of Harbeth 30's would work well. Devore is coming out with a micr/O which is a square that fits in a cubby or on a bookshelf.  I think it's around $4k. See it over his shoulder here: 



yes, your right, but their website did say "2-4 ft" on one type of their speakers...

My choice for passives is KEF R11s, minimum 9" off the back wall and 24" from the sides.

My sister has active speakers,  After about 15 years the amp failed and it can't be repaired.  If she had active speakers they would still be working and she could simply buy a new amp.

mark1961 - that sucks!

travelinjack - interesting, but not really looking for wireless at this time.

I’ve been using DSP with passive speakers for nearly 2 decades now. There is no reason you can’t, too. Look into DSP preamps by Anthem, miniDSP, Classé, Lyngdorf, DSPeaker, Trinnov, NAD, and others.

DSP can do a lot by itself, and the better the acoustics are to start, the better the result will be. Maybe you can mix in a few panels with your artwork. (I prefer looking at art myself, but I don’t like my ears bleeding, either.)

Have a look at Kii 3s or Aqueo Audio Stillas. Both are attractive designs and excellent speakers. Both can tame any room, especially the Kiis.

I use Kii's, which replaced Avant Garde Duo's.  Basic room treatment (diffusers) still helped.

Best wishes


Hello high-amp!  Are you into fabric art? A beautiful tapestry or "oriental" rug will tame a wall and provide beauty at the sme time. Attach the top of the fabric to  length of 1x1 a few inches less than the width of the fabric and fasten the wood to the wall any way you like. Just keep the fabric 1/2 inch or so off the wall. You can put a large, soft, stuffed animal in the upper corners of the room, too. They work wonders! Enjoy the music!

The smaller version of the Steinway-Lyngdorf would fit your bill, but not sure about your budget. Can put them right on the walls and use their dsp. They truly sound amazing. I cannot for the life of me remember what they are called. Dynaudio makes very good actives.


Good luck with whatever route you go - just remember to have fun with it mate!


For a living room, where supposedly you want to have occasionally just a background music, I would go for active speakers. Indeed, this is what I have done for my living room - active Dynaudio. It is much more practical, saves space and you can tune the sound better for low level listening. If you get more pricy option it may even be suitable for critical listening when in the mood to do so.


mike_in_nc - don't you need some kind of engineering degree to run DSP? It sounds very complicated.

laoman - Aqueo Audio Stillas - beutiful lookking speakers, thanks. Problem is, tough to find places that demo these and Kii3's.


stibi - gotolondon2 - I have heard a passive set of Dynaudios but not actives, thanks.

Thanks to all the others for their great suggestion!


DSP can only fix some of your room issues and only in one relatively small area depending on how bad the problem is.

Not very familiar with the Dutch and Dutch, but the Kii 3, I have heard and it lives up to the billing. If I had no ability to control my environment, it would definitely be on my listen list. They are a lot more than just DSP/Active.

+1 on Base swarm and any treatments you can fit in.

cindyment - thank you, trying to find somewhere to listen to those kii 3s! Also have an appointment with the bank for a second mortgage - Kii3 $$$$$+ Swarm $$$$ + Room Treatments $$$ = $$$$$$$$$$$$$ 
Did someone say "Sonos"? 

I am with you, I want to listen in a lovely room, yours sounds to be so. 

1. Toe-In will definitely make a difference, especially in your case, very similar to mine.

2. Tilting the speakers back will help in two ways,

a, most important, it alters the angles of reflections primary and subsequent relative to the floor, ceiling, side walls.

b. aim the tweeters so they project their narrower sound waves at seated ear height, primary listening position.

3. fabric, draperies, in the corners behind the speakers can help, any side windows that will cause early reflections

4. any large table(s), soft fabric tablecloth

5. Avoid glass on artwork on the side walls

we use tacky stuff on the bottom back corners to keep wall mounted art both level and vibration free.

6. tons of small cork/rubber/felt feet for small stuff hither and thither

You probably don't have a dining room table setup like mine, but have a peek at my setup.


My table, close your eyes, it's not there. as long as L & R get to your ears properly, your brain will make the phantom imaging which happily is excellent here. 



My Vintage Speakers have L-Pads, one for mid horn, one for horn tweet. Many in those days included them, for the purpose of adjusting to the room they ended up in: less attenuation for dull rooms and more attenuation for live rooms. And, your personal taste (or the wifey’s).

Are you finding current makers that provide for adjustments while listening in the space?

You are thinking modern software correction, and of course you can get a high quality multi-band parametric equalizer.


Sorry @high-amp I got carried away. I thought they were up for active discussion.

Room treatment purchased is expensive. Room treatment made is inexpensive and can be exactly the aesthetic your wish.

Sonos has many happy customers :-)

By the standards of this website, swarms are not expensive, but I don't know your budget.

But let's go back to those Spires. Floor to ceiling arrays, ESL, ribbon, etc. (or close to floor to ceiling) are more immune to floor and ceiling bounce. Why not look into those again. You do fix the response with DSP. Don't look at DSP as complicated, look at it as an extension to your hobby. Something to have fun with.



Final Thought, My Latest Kick

Buy an inexpensive SPL Meter, and a Test CD

meter doesn’t need to be perfectly calibrated, it gives answers, at ___ location this 1/3 octave is more or less than the prior and subsequent one, up and down the line. Move the speakers, adjust the toe-in, tilt them back, move furniture,



this test cd has selectable 1/3 octave bands, so easy

they come with holes for tripod, put in listening position/height, see what you get and see effect of changes.

not looking for perfect, just the best you can

elliottbnewcombjr - Great pics of your place and great suggestions as well. +1 on the PATIENCE thing...Thank you!
cindyment - Hey, no need to apologize, Kii 3s are up for discussion, I'm even negotiating as I write with a dealer 2 hours south that may let me have a demo! By the time you add up all the separate components and room treatment on top of that, I'm sure things would even out price-wise. Spires? Loved them but they need space off the back wall. I would probably go open baffle if I had the room again?




Here's a couple of shots and some measurements of the place before I purchased it

This is the back wall, wife would like to mirror the wall to the left to make the room look bigger plus reflect the view. I don't think she'll like acoustic panels on the mirror...UGH!

Far wall, showing all the widow and I think drapes are out.




I use a DEQX HDP 4 preamp/DSP with my fully horn loaded tri-amplified DIY speakers.  The room correction software in this component does an excellent job of producing a sound free of most room problems in the sweet spot, but I have to admit that it fails to provide as effective a correction well off axis.

I did include a picture as an attachment above of the room dimensions but lengthwise it's about 24 feet and it's a bit of an L-shaped it is 26 feet long into the kitchen and steps back in 10 feet into the great room and then that wall that is going to be mirrored eventually is 12 feet. I have a proximately 12 feet on the back wall for speaker placement from the corner to the door into the next room.

Maybe some Open Baffle Speakers would work. I believe they work up against the walls.

@high-amp Just so you know, this statement is false. Open baffle speakers need to be about 5 feet from the wall behind them (like any speaker with rear-firing information). Otherwise the ear will interpret the reflected information as harshness.

I’ll take a shot here, I think stereo manufacturers originally assumed their components would be integrated into living spaces, not dedicated listening rooms. My advice is to find something that you like and put it in the mix. 

There are a lot of sneaky ways to make a room art friendly and also ’acoustically sweet’. These two objectives have a lot of overlap and you can satisfy both masters by careful planning.


My wife will not tolerate acoustic treatments in our living room. So I made a compromise that really worked for both of us. All artwork must not be behind no picture frames. What we have on the wall are canvas paintings, fabric tapestry, wood carvings. Even the chandelier is a perforated brass affair. The only shiny smooth surfaces are a TV on the long side wall and the full width window on the back wall. A wool throw blanket covers the TV during listening sessions and we selected heavy velvet drapes for the back window. Everything on the wall and floor has a diffusive or absorbtive quality.

We have a hardwood floor so we chose the biggest wool Persion rug we could fit in our room.

You would not know this room places a high priority on acoustics but it actually makes the room more interesting.

Everything from candle holders to vases have an acoustic signature. I simply place the harder, smoother vases in other rooms. The wood and heavy textured pottery stayed.

We have lot’s of live plants next to window.

It’s visually and acoustically sweet.



sandthemall - very creative, some great ideas, thx!

dinov - +1

atmasphere - thanks Ralph, that's what I kinda though.

yogi42 - Paradigm 120 h - yes, I saw these when they first came out and I'd love to hear them, problem is, where?


kingharold - - stuff like this is really cool but I don't think I could figure out how to use it. I bought a microphone online and downloaded Room Perfect. I got so confused I returned the mic and deleted the software!