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.

128x128donavabdear

When I saw that they used Bryston amps to remix Kind of Blue in Atmos at Capitol Records I realized that equipment must be perfect for immersive audio. I think the price is very reasonable and like that you can "bring your own amp" if you already have one and don’t want to buy Bryston. My Active 40’s are about the same size as the Mini-T’s and of course that enhanced the appeal for an immersive setup. I think the bigger Model T’s are great if you want a 2 channels setup but if you have subs and are going to send that bass to the subs the towers aren’t necessary. Having a digital crossover offers all of the DSP advantages plus software updates. In terms of what "audiophiles think" it is not about thinking. Nobody buys a sportscar for the MPG or being practical. It is about amp rolling and the adrenaline rush of putting your own spin on it. Going passive is NOT "logical" as you get crazy more value with active. I like getting the customization from the front end/source components while having the drivers/cabinets/active crossover and amps matched by the speaker designer. I do agree that you can go passive and get good or better SQ but it will cost at least double or more to achieve that AND there is also risk of a mismatch.

@kota1 @donavabdear Far Field multi way actives are not new or revolutionary. The ATC all analog hand made 4 channel P4 amp with built in (analog) crossovers is used to power the "active" pro ATC SCM200s and SCM300s used in studios for 20+ years?  These are some of the very few far fields with sufficient resolution one can confidently mix with them, everything hand made custom.  

Prior to this kind of speaker and the big Genelecs like them, the far fields in studios were traditional horn loaded high SPL speakers used to impress the band for playback and used by the engineer for tracking (tracking live instruments can often present sufficient peaks to blow up most speakers).  These were common back in the rock and roll era of the 60s, 70s and 80s.  Nowadays the super high SPLhorn loaded far fields are most popular in hip hop studios. 

Pink Floyds Astoria boat, East West in LA (called "western recorders" back in the 60s and 70s where Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin recorded), and the well known BlackBird Studio in Nashville (where a huge number of famous country acts, Jack White and more) all still use ATC 200/P4 or 300/P4 systems daily with a wide variety of artists using them and their near field of choice.     

There is a consumer system that parallels this ATC pro set up but with a different floor standing arrangement called the SCM200 towers and SCM 300 towers, with almost the same complement of drivers, same P4 amp pair, also all analog.  

Brad

Now I want one, I'll bet the amp is as indestructible as ATC speakers. 

Nice to hear from you @lonemountain great info. Is there any way someone can use specs to put together a high end system that is active? What I’m asking for is a way to use the specs on speakers amps and crossovers that would work together optimally, I’m sure the answer is no but why. Say I buy a very expensive spare of speakers and then take the passive crossovers out then pick amps for the drivers together with outboard electronic crossovers. I really don’t want to guess when spending so much money.

I think that’s what amazes some pro folks, that "active" is a very well worn path with evidence stretching 20+ years of success and satisfied customers. ATC and Genelec may have pioneered it, but it’s certainly well understood now. The simplest benefit isn’t DSP related, it’s developing a phase linear loudspeaker. There are still all the debates about directivity, dispersion, low end etc, but active is not a new or questionable feature in loudspeakers anymore, especially when compared to the mess passive crossovers leave behind and unresolved (lack of driver phase control being just one of many problems left behind)

 

As said earlier in this thread, I’ve directly A/B’d active and passive of the identical model speaker, same room, same music, using the same exact amp designs (example: ATC SCM50 active vs ATC SCM50 passive with ATC P2 full range amplification which uses the same exact devices and topology of the active amp designs). The "tone" is NOT that different. The speakers sounds very similar spectrally and many would never be able to tell the difference because the bass is very close, the high end is close, the mid range is still in the same place in the overall sound. Some listeners will use a quick listen and spectral similarity as evidence of "it’s not a benefit" or "they sound the same". But given some time, some attention, you will hear a growing difference in details, fine resolution, imaging, separation of instruments and separation of distinct unique elements (like "reverb tails" in the finished mastered track. Once you hear that info, you cannot unhear it. You get frustrated that passive just smooths all this information over, covers it up in the background, the mix now is somehow missing the little elements the artist and mix engineer worked so damn hard to put in there for you, but content wise it sounds very similar. Sort of like a better pair of glasses help you see previously hidden details in a painting.

In the record building process, there is a stage of mixing where the engineer works on "balance", the relative balance of bass vs treble you could say. Are the drums forward enough or should they be less loud compared to the guitars? Are background vocals loud enough or too loud? For this lower resolution passive nearfields are quite handy, things like Auratones and NS10s, etc help you hear balance quite well. But once you get past that, to work on making the guitar track PERFECT, you need resolution so you can hear every mistake, every tiny error. IF everyone does does their job right, the final record is nearly error free- and it is a marvel to hear! a well done record is so emotionally moving and engaging you can’t stop listing to it. You are impacted in a way that nothing else does.

[as evidence, if you can stand country for one moment, listen to "Send it On Down" by Lee Ann Womack- it is a master class in well done mixes (by Chuck Ainlay) with tiny details galore. Or if you like orchestra, listen to Linda Ronstadt Nelson Riddle (done by George Massenburg)- it’s like you can hear a single viola in the orchestra it’s so clear. These mixes have so much detail in them you could listen for hours and hours. Both were built on highly resolving actives.]

Engineers in the pro business sound just like audiophiles to me, Some of them use different converters for a specific song to get the "flavor" right.  Some of them use a unique microphone on different vocals with the same person to get the "tone" or the "feel" of a particular song right.  There is endless debate about what is right.  But what there is little debate about is active vs passive.

Brad