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Active VS passive – specific questions

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matt49

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Apr 7, 2013
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I wasn't quite sure where to post this, but this old thread seemed like a sensible spot. In fact this post follows on from a thread

http://www.whathifi.com/forum/hi-fi/upgrade-strategy

which I started under a different user name. (Sorry about that, feeling more comfortable now that my full name isn't on display).

The first stage of a complete upgrade of my living room system is to decide whether I want to go the active speaker route. I decided to test this by trying out actives in the £1-2K range and comparing them with separates in (roughly) the same price range. So yesterday I took a Mac loaded with ALACs to a local dealer to listen to:

Cyrus 6 DAC into Dynaudio DM 2/6 (£1700)

Excellent staging; good sense of space. Good control of (the just about adequate) low frequencies. Very sparkly top end, with a touch of splashiness. A decent system, though I’d prefer more presence at the bottom end and more control at the top.

AVI ADM9RS (with Scanspeak tweeter) (£1300)

Great naturalness of vocal tone; tangible presence in the room. Just a hint of boxiness with some vocals. Lacks the top-end brilliance of the Dynos: for instance, on the Isserlis Bach Cello Suites, I couldn’t make out SI’s fingering. Bottom end entirely absent (e.g. on Saint-Saens’s organ symphony). (I would have liked to hear the ADMs with the AVI sub, but the dealer had sold out of subs.)

Dynaudio Focus 110A (£1700, but reduced to clear at £1200)

Similar character to the AVIs: very proper and neutral. Still lacking the top end sparkle and bass depth of the passives. The upper middle dominates. But more life than the AVIs, definitely a notch or two above.

Cyrus 6 DAC into Dynaudio Excite X12 (£1800)

Markedly better all round, lower frequencies stronger, both more polished and exciting than the DM2/6s. More space in the recording, also more life, involvement and rhythm.
 

matt49

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Apr 7, 2013
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Macspur said:
So have you come to any decision, or are you looking to do more demos?

Mac
I'm still trying to make sense of what I heard. I can definitely see the virtues of actives, notably for vocal and acoustic music. And I can also see that these particular active speakers won't do it for me. In the interests of thoroughness, I'd like to demo the ADM9RSs with the AVI sub, as well as the ADM40s. Problem is it's very difficult to get a comparative test with AVIs. I might go along to Ash James's in Nailsworth in a few weeks.

If anyone could suggest some actives that are (a) big enough to produce decent bass and (b) not over £10K, I'd be keen to demo them.

But at the moment I guess I'm tending towards the traditional passive set-up.

Sorry if that's a bit equivocal, but it's a complex business ...
 

BenLaw

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Nov 21, 2010
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tomlinscote said:
"the daeler had sold out of AVI subs"

that tells you something about the 9's set up then!!
It would only tell me something if I knew how many pairs of 9s he'd got in vs how many subs. What does it tell you?
 

hoopsontoast

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Oct 1, 2011
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matt49 said:
Macspur said:
So have you come to any decision, or are you looking to do more demos?

Mac
I'm still trying to make sense of what I heard. I can definitely see the virtues of actives, notably for vocal and acoustic music. And I can also see that these particular active speakers won't do it for me. In the interests of thoroughness, I'd like to demo the ADM9RSs with the AVI sub, as well as the ADM40s. Problem is it's very difficult to get a comparative test with AVIs. I might go along to Ash James's in Nailsworth in a few weeks.

If anyone could suggest some actives that are (a) big enough to produce decent bass and (b) not over £10K, I'd be keen to demo them.

But at the moment I guess I'm tending towards the traditional passive set-up.

Sorry if that's a bit equivocal, but it's a complex business ...
If its vocal/acoustic stuff you are mainly interested in, then either higher sensitivity wide-range-drivers or horns would be on my list, along with Electrostatic/Planar panels if you have the room.

These are great, for example:

http://www.bd-audio.co.uk/tune-audio-marvel.html

Heard them briefly at the Scalford show, very nice and SET friendly.

altruistic.lemon said:
At that price, the ATC actives probably have the field to themselves. They're the classics.
Yup, SCM20ASL Towers or SCM50ASL if I were looking at actives under £10k.
 

matt49

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Apr 7, 2013
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hoopsontoast said:
If its vocal/acoustic stuff you are mainly interested in, then either higher sensitivity wide-range-drivers or horns would be on my list, along with Electrostatic/Planar panels if you have the room.

These are great, for example:

http://www.bd-audio.co.uk/tune-audio-marvel.html

Heard them briefly at the Scalford show, very nice and SET friendly.
No, I only mentioned vocal/acoustic as I that was the actives' strong suit. My listening takes in all forms of classical, pop/rock (except metal), and reggae/dance.

That's not to say I don't covet a pair of electrostatics, but sadly we don't have space for them.

altruistic.lemon said:
At that price, the ATC actives probably have the field to themselves. They're the classics.
Yup, SCM20ASL Towers or SCM50ASL if I were looking at actives under £10k.

[/quote]

Thanks, the ATC SCM20SL ATs would fit in our space. Must hunt them down.
 

Macspur

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May 3, 2010
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matt49 said:
Macspur said:
So have you come to any decision, or are you looking to do more demos?

Mac
I'm still trying to make sense of what I heard. I can definitely see the virtues of actives, notably for vocal and acoustic music. And I can also see that these particular active speakers won't do it for me. In the interests of thoroughness, I'd like to demo the ADM9RSs with the AVI sub, as well as the ADM40s. Problem is it's very difficult to get a comparative test with AVIs. I might go along to Ash James's in Nailsworth in a few weeks.

If anyone could suggest some actives that are (a) big enough to produce decent bass and (b) not over £10K, I'd be keen to demo them.

But at the moment I guess I'm tending towards the traditional passive set-up.

Sorry if that's a bit equivocal, but it's a complex business ...
Not at all... you need to be clear on your goal, no point rushing any decision and regretting it.

If acoustic/vocals/classicle are your favoured genres, I would highly recommend Harbeth SHL5 or as mentioned 30.1.

However, another active to look into would be Genelec.

Mac
 

Craig M.

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Mar 20, 2008
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I thought the ADM40s were excellent. I think the ADM9s are amazing VFM but if I was buying them I'd want the sub too, I'd recommend the trip to Nailsworth as the 40s are lovely sounding things and the sub really lifts the performance of the 9s to another level, imo. If you don't care about the looks, the Event Opals are something special (a wigwam members review). The ATC SCM50s are good but overpriced imo, if you found the ADM9s too bass light I'd imagine the SCM20ASL would be too - they are -6db @ 60hz which is a similar figure to the ADM9s.
 

matt49

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Apr 7, 2013
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Craig M. said:
The ATC SCM50s are good but overpriced imo, if you found the ADM9s too bass light I'd imagine the SCM20ASL would be too - they are -6db @ 60hz which is a similar figure to the ADM9s.
Thanks, that's helpful.

I think I'll try either the AVI ADM40s or the STC20ASL ATs (they've really got to do something about the names of these speakers), and if I don't like, then I'll close the book on my own active vs passive debate.
 

hoopsontoast

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Oct 1, 2011
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matt49 said:
Craig M. said:
The ATC SCM50s are good but overpriced imo, if you found the ADM9s too bass light I'd imagine the SCM20ASL would be too - they are -6db @ 60hz which is a similar figure to the ADM9s.
Thanks, that's helpful.

I think I'll try either the AVI ADM40s or the STC20ASL ATs (they've really got to do something about the names of these speakers), and if I don't like, then I'll close the book on my own active vs passive debate.
If the ATC SCM19s are anything to go by (Same SL Bass driver as the 20ASL) then they 20s wont be bass light IME.
 

Craig M.

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Mar 20, 2008
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The Moos Audio speakers could be worth considering, although they don't publish frequency response on the website so you'd have to ask, they look interesting and can be had on home demo. They should be due to start shipping soon. A bit of research needed on costs to the UK though.

Fwiw, I thought the ADM40s were a big improvement on the 9s - even with the sub. I'll probably go that way myself.
 

Craig M.

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hoopsontoast said:
If the ATC SCM19s are anything to go by (Same SL Bass driver as the 20ASL) then they 20s wont be bass light IME.
I've compared the SCM19s and the ADM9Ts back to back in my room. Not much difference in bass depth.
 

matt49

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steve_1979 said:
matt49 said:
If anyone could suggest some actives that are (a) big enough to produce decent bass and (b) not over £10K, I'd be keen to demo them.
Event Opal. 8)
Thanks for the suggestion. I'm sure they're great speakers, as are the Questeds, but infuriatingly the style police wouldn't let them in the house.
 

steve_1979

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Jul 14, 2010
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matt49 said:
steve_1979 said:
matt49 said:
If anyone could suggest some actives that are (a) big enough to produce decent bass and (b) not over £10K, I'd be keen to demo them.
Event Opal. 8)
Thanks for the suggestion. I'm sure they're great speakers, as are the Questeds, but infuriatingly the style police wouldn't let them in the house.
Your choice will be very limited then. Most active speakers a fugly.

IMO that's the only real advantage that passive speakers have over actives.
 

Overdose

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Feb 8, 2008
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matt49 said:
steve_1979 said:
matt49 said:
If anyone could suggest some actives that are (a) big enough to produce decent bass and (b) not over £10K, I'd be keen to demo them.
Event Opal. 8)
Thanks for the suggestion. I'm sure they're great speakers, as are the Questeds, but infuriatingly the style police wouldn't let them in the house.
What about Genelec? The have a look that could be seen as 'contemporary style'. Most pro audio stuff hasn't been designed to be looked at though, so will suffer in the style department.
 

BigH

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Dec 29, 2012
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Have you looked at the PMC range, believe they are quite expensive for what they are but may suit you.
 

hoopsontoast

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Oct 1, 2011
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Craig M. said:
hoopsontoast said:
If the ATC SCM19s are anything to go by (Same SL Bass driver as the 20ASL) then they 20s wont be bass light IME.
I've compared the SCM19s and the ADM9Ts back to back in my room. Not much difference in bass depth.
Interesting, I would expect the SCM19/SCM20 to have deeper bass than a lot of floorstanders, and would certainly be my experience. It might not have 'louder' bass but bass depth should not be a problem.

One of my test tracks is 'Prayers for Rain' by The Cure, and the thunder effects especially, have been the best I have heard on the 19s. Thats comparing to stuff like the KEF 205/2, Proac D28s or SCM40s, and Rega R7s from what I remember although different room/system.
 

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