Powered speakers show audiophiles are confused

17 of 23 speakers in my studio and home theater systems are internally powered. My studio system is all Genelec and sounds very accurate. I know the best new concert and studio speakers are internally powered there are great technical reasons to design a speaker and an amp synergistically, this concept is much more important to sound quality than the vibration systems we often buy. How can an audiophile justify a vibration system of any sort with this in mind.


Fred 60

I can tell you what it costs to repair an ATC active amplifer. The same as it costs to repair a regular [passive speaker] amplifier; perhaps less as with passive speaker amps, often the damage is inflicted by connectrors, or shorts in cable, etc. Active amp failiures are often (in analog amplifiers) one failed circuit part: a through hole resistor, sometimes a MOSFET or output device.  Passive system amplifers can be that, but are more often multiple burned output devices or other failures from self inflicted shorts (from speaker cables or connectors). There is essentially no differnce between an internal analog amp and external one.

In active, if an amp fails, you take it out of the back of the speaker box with a screw driver, disconnect the wires to the drivers and ship it in by itself for repair. If a passive amp fails, you are diconnecting it from the drivers and sending it in for repair. IN either case, you aren't sending the entire speaker in.  Saying active is a problem due to reliability is like saying a tube amp is more reliable than a solid state amp because you can "see" which tube is out. Or a class AB amp is more reliable than a Class A amp because Class A amps get hot.

Unless your idea of active is all this cheap chinese crap beng sold on amazon, or entry level active speakers, there is no difference between reliability in an active and passve -depending on how its engineered.  ATC, the brand Ive worked with for 20+ years, the internal amp pack is 100% all analog and hand made in factory by people, not machines. It is not cheap, it is not unreliable. By itself, the amp pack cossts about US$6,000. 

Many of the amps talked about favorably here use mostly chinese boards built by machines. How that is so much more comforting than a 100% hand made pure analog amp? ATC amp packs are built better than most of the audio gear out there.  There is no magic dust or other hidden process.

In this active discussion, everyone keeps ignoring and bypassing the #1 issue of passive: how adding a whole lot of parts and wire between amplifier and speaker is a good thing. It amazes me that this "truth" is just ignored. Would you want to run signal through a "speaker level" preamp after your amp? Or some "speaker level" processors? People freak out over running a speaker level switcher, that this affects performance (and it can); a passive crossover is not invisible or transparent in any way. A passive crossover is a series of filters designed for speaker level instead of line level - when line level is where it can be done with low distortion. Speaker level is the WORST place to attempt using lots of copper wire and filters and then hang even more speaker wire after that. Why can’t people see that as a major issue? Is it because we’ve been doing it that since 1950 and damn it, we are gonna keep doing it?

Its true that passive can be good, very good in fact, but how does that mean active has to be worse? That active is somehow is inferior becasue we might not understand it as clearly?  People that deny active are not understanding the basics of what a passive crossover does vs. what an active crossover does. I sometimes feels like this active vs passive argument is right up there with the sun rotates around the earth or electric cars are inherently better for the environment (while we dig up lots of litium to put in batteries and your electricity is supplied by a coal fired plant).  



Once I had active Avantgarde Acoustic speakers, they have costed around 10k new. For all the reasons above mentioned I thought that it could be a good concept. I was wrong, because I did not liked that particular sound. No matter how I tried, with few combinations (with Burmester 011 preamp and Burmester 001 cd player, than with ARC Ref 3 and Dcs Puccini) I could not escape hearing their amps, which simply were not to my liking.

My point is simple. No matter how ’concept’ might be good looking on the paper, everything has its imanent sound. For example, I do not like the sound of ATC. I like Sonus Faber much bettter. Than again, I would never use the amp from SF (they had few models as well)

So, there are so many great speaker brands and so many great amp brands. Until the ones you like them most start packing them into one box (which is an illusion ) there aint going to be ’best’ speaker/amp one box solution, no matter how ’accurate’ somebody claims they are. This discussion is pointless, imho

Back in 1999 I had the idea to build a fully horn loaded speaker system with the bass being played by folded corner horns back in the corners and mid range (actually wide range) and super tweeter horns being well out into the room where they could image better.  Obviously DSP was needed to correct the large distance difference between the various horn drivers.   It was 2004 before I found a DSP unit which would do everything I needed at a price I could afford.  That DSP was the initial commercial offering from DEQX.  I built the system then.  It was initially somewhat disappointing.

Over the next thirteen years I changed woofers, folded corner horns, midrange horn drivers, added horn super tweeters and went through six different changes of amplifiers as well as upgrading the DEQX.  I programmed and reprogrammed and reprogrammed the DEQX over and over.  Programming the DEQX  is neither quick nor easy.  I had the system sounding really good, but I always felt it could be better.  Then in 2017 I engaged the services of a DEQX company approved DEQExpert, Larry Owens,  Mr. Owens, a very smart man, connected his PC to my PC which was connected to the DEQX,  and we communicated via a Skype call while he did speaker calibration and correction, time and phase correction, room correction and crossovers.  If I remember correctly he took a total of about seven hours in two or three sessions to complete the process.  Crossovers were set at 200Hz and 8 kHz with all roll offs being 96 dB/octave.

The speaker/amp system finally sounded as I had imagined it back in 1999.  Modesty prevents me from using all the superlatives I feel my system deserves, but when fellow audiophiles come for a listen and say things such as, "that's the best I ever heard that song" I am immensely gratified.

Thus I have an active system with drivers and amplifiers of my own choosing with every element being easy to change.  I think I have the best of both worlds.


@mijostyn  - not sure what you are responding to with your batteries statement. Also you didn't answer my question about what % of the time you listen to digital vs. records.


@kingharold great story, I’m sure there was a lot of frustration, so glad you hung in there over all that time.

@lonemountain great post and you are right it is important to keep the signal the same level as best you can, doing crossover work at speaker level is silly everyone knows it, reason # 847 why speakers and amps need to be made for each other. Funny how right you are no one mentioned the many reasons why working on the signal after the amplifier is definitely suboptimal.