Acoustic Energy AE1active

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davedotco

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Paulq said:
Apologies for the slight deviation from the thread and also the nature of the question. I am curious for a reason.

With active speakers such as these is there any difference/disadvantage to them being active by means of having their own amplifiers vs (for example, in my case) the 'old' Linn approach of adding active filters to a separate amplifier?

Or are they just two different routes to the same result?
The big advantage of 'integrated' active systems is that of money.

Building everything into the speaker saves a fortune in casework and cables and enables the electronics, crossover, power amps, maybe dsp, to be optimised for that particular model. Amplifiers do not have to be universal, capable of driving an unusual 'difficult' load, they just have to drive the speaker in question, a known load.

Fine tweeking can be easily achieved also, my Adams use a subtle degree of response shaping to make the bass sound more extended than it should be, to very positive effect. Integrated systems can be relatively cheap and very effective, if you want a bit of a shock, try and get to hear a pair of Equator D5s in a hi-fi environment, if you are a fan of the Kef models, you will love these, and at a fraction of the price.
 

Paulq

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davedotco said:
The big advantage of 'integrated' active systems is that of money.

Building everything into the speaker saves a fortune in casework and cables and enables the electronics, crossover, power amps, maybe dsp, to be optimised for that particular model. Amplifiers do not have to be universal, capable of driving an unusual 'difficult' load, they just have to drive the speaker in question, a known load.

Fine tweeking can be easily achieved also, my Adams use a subtle degree of response shaping to make the bass sound more extended than it should be, to very positive effect. Integrated systems can be relatively cheap and very effective, if you want a bit of a shock, try and get to hear a pair of Equator D5s in a hi-fi environment, if you are a fan of the Kef models, you will love these, and at a fraction of the price.
I always read your posts with interest as you are obviously extremely knowledgeable - thanks for replying.

So, from what you say, I wouldn't actually be losing out technically by moving from what I have today to something like the AE1's?

Makes me wonder how on earth companies like Linn actually manage to sell what they do. Then again, I am a good example of someone who has bought it without researching alternatives so there's the answer.
 

Andrewjvt

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Jun 18, 2014
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Paulq said:
davedotco said:
The big advantage of 'integrated' active systems is that of money.

Building everything into the speaker saves a fortune in casework and cables and enables the electronics, crossover, power amps, maybe dsp, to be optimised for that particular model. Amplifiers do not have to be universal, capable of driving an unusual 'difficult' load, they just have to drive the speaker in question, a known load.

Fine tweeking can be easily achieved also, my Adams use a subtle degree of response shaping to make the bass sound more extended than it should be, to very positive effect. Integrated systems can be relatively cheap and very effective, if you want a bit of a shock, try and get to hear a pair of Equator D5s in a hi-fi environment, if you are a fan of the Kef models, you will love these, and at a fraction of the price.
I always read your posts with interest as you are obviously extremely knowledgeable - thanks for replying.

So, from what you say, I wouldn't actually be losing out technically by moving from what I have today to something like the AE1's?

Makes me wonder how on earth companies like Linn actually manage to sell what they do.  Then again, I am a good example of someone who has bought it without researching alternatives so there's the answer.

 
People may in a long time become wise to the traditional hifi rip off
It may take a long time as people just don't feel comfortable changing from what they know.and feel.comfortable.with
 

Andrewjvt

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Please can you as a designer shed some light on this statement regarding active speakers.
Taken from the thread 'nearfield active studio monitors' comment 22 if you want to get the context first.

Quote post 22
"Control" is a misleading word to use in the context of the increased bass damping that you get with active versions of passive speakers.

"Increased damping" is a more accurate description. Increased damping in the context of bass drivers comes with the penalty of dynamic compression. It's the wading through treacle effect of increased damping.

All the speaker manufacturers that I've spoken to (not hifi shop men) openly admit that their active versions are much better than the passive counterpart.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.
 

drummerman

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Jan 18, 2008
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Andrewjvt said:
Paulq said:
davedotco said:
The big advantage of 'integrated' active systems is that of money.

Building everything into the speaker saves a fortune in casework and cables and enables the electronics, crossover, power amps, maybe dsp, to be optimised for that particular model. Amplifiers do not have to be universal, capable of driving an unusual 'difficult' load, they just have to drive the speaker in question, a known load.

Fine tweeking can be easily achieved also, my Adams use a subtle degree of response shaping to make the bass sound more extended than it should be, to very positive effect. Integrated systems can be relatively cheap and very effective, if you want a bit of a shock, try and get to hear a pair of Equator D5s in a hi-fi environment, if you are a fan of the Kef models, you will love these, and at a fraction of the price.
I always read your posts with interest as you are obviously extremely knowledgeable - thanks for replying.

So, from what you say, I wouldn't actually be losing out technically by moving from what I have today to something like the AE1's?

Makes me wonder how on earth companies like Linn actually manage to sell what they do.  Then again, I am a good example of someone who has bought it without researching alternatives so there's the answer.

 
People may in a long time become wise to the traditional hifi rip off
It may take a long time as people just don't feel comfortable changing from what they know.and feel.comfortable.with
If the pro industry would invest a bit more in design/being less hairshirt plus add functions which most domestic users would find useful ... but then I guess it wouldn't be called pro but HiFi again and cost more :)
 

Paulq

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Dec 2, 2007
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Andrewjvt said:
People may in a long time become wise to the traditional hifi rip off It may take a long time as people just don't feel comfortable changing from what they know.and feel.comfortable.with
That's true of a lot of things, not just hi-fi. I think the other part of the issue here is an understanding of the alternatives available. I'm as guilty as anyone but to avoid making the same mistake twice I am digging to understand the differences. If indeed there are any.
 

steve_1979

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Jul 14, 2010
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Good luck with the new actives Jim. Judging by their looks alone you should be onto a winner. IMO they are the smartest looking active speakers currently on the market. Going by your track record I bet they sound the part too.

If I didn't already own two pairs of active speakers I'd buy some AE1s in a flash.
 

nopiano

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Feb 15, 2009
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Paulq said:
Andrewjvt said:
People may in a long time become wise to the traditional hifi rip off It may take a long time as people just don't feel comfortable changing from what they know.and feel.comfortable.with
That's true of a lot of things, not just hi-fi. I think the other part of the issue here is an understanding of the alternatives available. I'm as guilty as anyone but to avoid making the same mistake twice I am digging to understand the differences. If indeed there are any.
I’m sure the Linn “experience” of lavish dealerships with extensive demo, and home installation is a far bigger overhead than shipping two single boxes as a ‘pro shop’ might.
 

Paulq

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nopiano said:
I’m sure the Linn “experience” of lavish dealerships with extensive demo, and home installation is a far bigger overhead than shipping two single boxes as a ‘pro shop’ might.
Indeed. Except that in my experience 'lavish' means no more than a brew and a biscuit if you're lucky.
 

davedotco

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Apr 24, 2013
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Paulq said:
Andrewjvt said:
People may in a long time become wise to the traditional hifi rip off It may take a long time as people just don't feel comfortable changing from what they know.and feel.comfortable.with
That's true of a lot of things, not just hi-fi. I think the other part of the issue here is an understanding of the alternatives available. I'm as guilty as anyone but to avoid making the same mistake twice I am digging to understand the differences. If indeed there are any.
A simple explanation (I hope).

Consider a two way active, like the Katan, the AE1A or any number of pro monitors.

All of these will have an input section, which may or may not have level controls, to accept a line level or perhaps digital signal from a pre-amp of some kind.

The signal is then passed to the crossover which filters the signal into lows and highs and may also perform correction to give a more uniform response, again this may be achieved in the analog domain or digitally using dsp.

The signal then passes to the power amps which drive the individual drive units with a band limited signal.

Now, one approach, is to use stand alone components to perform crossover and power amplifier functions, the crossover will have to be specific to a particular speaker, so several different models perhaps and will need it's own casework and power supply, both expensive components. Similarly the stand alone power amps will need to be capable across a range of loads, delivering decent power into awkward low impedance speakers for example, adding to the cost of power supplies and of course casework.

As you can see this is an expensive approach, some manufacturers may integrate the crossovers into the amps in some way but this still requires the production of a range of options, for different speakers for example.

Contrast this with the integrated approach used (in the main) in pro speakers and of course the AE1A, input circuitry, frequency response adjustment, crossovers, dsp, power amplifiers are all combined and optimised for that particular speaker, easy to design and build and relatively cheap, just the one power supply, no expensive casework and amplifiers specifically optimised for the job in hand.

Just look at what can be offered for the money...



A simple two way active, 45 + 35 watt amplifiers and a range of control to suit virtually any position or application. Having tried a pair they sound pretty good, are dead easy to position and are a fantastic budget option at around £210 pr.
 
What is possible from an active speaker, just like a passive speaker, all comes down to budget. If this wasn’t the case, all actives would sound the same. As we know, they don’t.

As much as I’m loathe to defend the likes of Linn, their approach (along with Naim) to active speakers has been one of ultimate quality, something they’ve been doing since at least the early 90s. It has the same components as an active pair of loudspeakers, they’ve just broken it down into the individual components (much like a separates system), given them their own box and power supply, and made the most of each aspect. Obviously, that’s going to cost. The power amplifiers are still present, they’re just housed in their own individual casings, and not sharing power source with everything else. The bespoke crossover is still there, it’s just in the shape of a circuit board that can be fitted into the pre-amplifier. The pre-amplifier is still there, and like the power amplifiers, is in its own box for quality purposes, and again, not sharing power supplies. Once you have your full active system, what if you want to get larger speakers at some point? Easy. Change the speakers and swap out the active crossover board for the one that suits the speaker you’re going for. Want better power/dynamics/quality? Easy, change the power amplifiers. Want a better quality pre-amplifier? You get the picture. This approach may be seen as cynical by some, but it’s a flexible one, maintaining quality, albeit at a price.

So this isn’t Linn exploiting rich suckers into paying five figures when they could’ve paid £2k for some active KEF LS50s (although I’m sure they’re not undercharging for it). Anyone on that thought path is just riding the wave of others negativity towards the hi-fi industry, and not really taking any time to think for themselves. I do find it funny how something becomes a truth once it has been suggested.

It doesn’t seem so long ago since we were arguing against everything in the same box. We’re now ignoring benefits and focusing on negatives in order to discredit a multi-box approach.
 

Paulq

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davidf said:
It doesn’t seem so long ago since we were arguing against everything in the same box. We’re now ignoring benefits and focusing on negatives in order to discredit a multi-box approach.
I understand your comment and am staying relatively neutral on the debate as I simply don't know enough. Though the more I read the more I learn.

I think there are clearly arguments for both approaches but my question centres more around whether the multi box/'ultimate quality' you cite is actually worth more than 5x the amount of the 'all in one' approach being discussed here in the AE1's. That's what I am trying to ascertain really - what are the sonic differences, if any, and I am going to have to trust my ears.
 

davedotco

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Apr 24, 2013
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I have no issue with the linn approach, it is sometimes mirrored in high end studio monitors where purpose built active crossovers and various amplifier choices are supplied separately, at these prices cost is less important.

At the more afordable end of the market, the integrated approach makes a lot of sense, cost saving is huge so an awful lot of speaker can be had at affordable cost.

There are different approaches and you would have to try things for yourself to see what gives you the best value, for example, does the 'component' approach really justify all its extra costs? As always with hi-fi, the answer is up to the buyer.
 
Paulq said:
I understand your comment and am staying relatively neutral on the debate as I simply don't know enough. Though the more I read the more I learn.

I think there are clearly arguments for both approaches but my question centres more around whether the multi box/'ultimate quality' you cite is actually worth more than 5x the amount of the 'all in one' approach being discussed here in the AE1's. That's what I am trying to ascertain really - what are the sonic differences, if any, and I am going to have to trust my ears.
It’s much easier to be impressed by lesser boxes or smaller boxes, as you expect far more from larger or multiple boxes. It’s down to your own ears though as to whether the end result justifies the cost - in most cases, probably not, but it’s just eeking out as much as possible from this approach.
 

Troy62

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Dec 7, 2010
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Paulq said:
Time to listen for myself and make my own mind up. I ordered a pair of AE1's yesterday.
good stuff. I’d be grateful for feedback when you’ve had chance to hear them. Really fancy a pair of these with a Yamaha wxc50 pre amp
 

AEJim

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Nov 17, 2008
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Paulq said:
Time to listen for myself and make my own mind up. I ordered a pair of AE1's yesterday.
They left the office half hour ago I believe! :) I hope you enjoy them!

Just skimming over this thread as I've been a bit tied up the last couple of days, I think many points have been discussed and answered about actives already. I'll try to answer some of those that have been raised...

Active vs Passive: From a design point of view active is better, simple as that. There is nothing that can be done with a passive speaker that can't technically be improved by it being active. That said, it doesn't mean active will always sound better or that an active from one company will sound better than a passive from another - part of the reason for this is simply "character" or sonic signature. All speakers sound different and what is right or wrong isn't always that black and white, there are too many variables of personal taste, musical material, room size/shape/furnishing, positioning etc etc.

Damping factor - not an issue with well designed active speakers due to far higher control over drive units than a passive + amp system. This, in my opinion, is one of the sonic signatures of actives that some don't like. They're very controlled (equivalent of high damping) but this can come across as a lack of warmth. If a speaker is underdamped it will sound less precise or fast in the bass (less controlled) but conversely will sound warmer and fuller, many speakers are designed slightly underdamped to have this characteristic. That's why actives tend to sound fast and precise but many feel they have to add a sub, especially to smaller speaker systems, to gain some power and warmth in the lower registers. This is an area where passives may sound better while not being technically better.

Now, this is an area we paid particular attention to with the AE1 Active - we didn't want a cold, hard sounding speaker, we wanted to offer something that had all the benefits of active power but not to lose that enjoyable, full and powerful quality in the bass - so we designed it in. Much like a smaller Bluetooth speaker or similar uses EQ to sound better balanced, we tuned the bass of the Active in the same way. It's the same cabinet and bass driver size as the original AE1, a speaker which started to roll off in the bass around 65Hz (+/-3dB) yet the Active does the same at 55Hz, 10Hz lower, while being completely controlled - unlike a passive which would be becoming quite uncontrolled (underdamped) if we tuned it in the same way. This isn't "false" or overblown bass, it's tuned with the amp to remain flat down to that frequency, which it can do due to the grip the amp has over the drive unit. It will do this while playing louder, with very loud peaks up to 115dB, with far lower distortion than a passive that has to push all the power through a bunch of resistors, capacitors and inductors ever can.

It's a lot to explain but that's one of the benefits of an active speaker. The designers still design the sonic signature as they would a passive but have more freedom in doing so.
 

AEJim

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To answer In terms of sound quality of Active vs Passive I would say the most noticeable differences to me are how clean actives sound - distortion is incredibly low (and often results in listening louder than you think) and there is a certain hear-through quality as others have aluded to, that stereotypical "lifting of a veil" over the music. To me the AE1 Actives sound more three dimensional than any of our (AE's) other speakers, there's greater depth and precision to the soundstage but also instruments have a solidity and seemingly play in their own space rather than being mushed together, 3D probably is the best descriptive term for it, and as others have said you hear through rather than listen to the speakers.

As for smaller, cheaper solutions like this vs bigger, more complex systems I don't agree one is better or worse than the other. Price has been pretty irellevant to me in terms of performance since I started working in this industry around 16 or so years ago; I've had access to pretty much anything and heard most. I think the old AE2 Signature is probably the best overall speaker I've heard but then also the Quad ESL 63 for other reasons, the Yamaha NS1000's for others. My favourite speaker currently is probably our entry level AE100, cheap and passive! My point is - there's no one, best solution in Hi-Fi. Large, expensive speakers may be less compromised in terms of frequency response or power handling but their room interaction is more problematic than small speakers and the more drive units, or larger drive units mixed with small that you have, the more integration issues come up. These issues will be minimized the more space you have and further you can sit away, but then the further you get from the speakers the more room reflections and absorbsions come into play, meaning the sound will be further from the optimum that the designer heard. More expensive often means better built and damped cabinets, but that can also rob a speaker of life, offering a more accurate but less enjoyable sound in many cases, all depends on the methodology and goals of the designer. As I said in one of my earlier posts, all speaker designs are a combination of compromises, there's no perfect solution regardless of cost.
 

AEJim

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Paulq said:
MUSICRAFT said:


Hi Paulq

Nice one *smile*

Out of interest which colour have you chosen please?

All the best

Rick @ Musicraft
Hi Rick

Cherry/Orange*

(*delete as appropriate)
Cherry! It's no longer the glowing orange of the first batch. ;) That was matching the last passive AE1's which the colour sort of suited but I've had it toned down to a more natural shade now on the Actives! Still quite a rich finish but a little less luminous. I think you'll like it.

:)
 

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