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Are active speakers a good idea?

Softy59

Active member
Apr 19, 2021
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Hello everybody

I have joined the What Hi-Fi? forum, because i am looking for advice on upgrading my Hi-Fi system. I have a budget of around £1000 - £1500 to replace my old Myriad system and early Q Acoustics speakers

I have varied taste in music from Neil Young to Jenifer Warnes (i do like female vocal) to folk and some classical

I like the idea of active speakers because it makes sense to me to match the amplifier to the speakers. BUT, i am a bit concerned that with changing streaming technology buying speakers with streaming tech built-in could be a mistake.

So, i am thinking about buying a pair of Acoustic Energy AE1's. I can then add a separate streamer for use as my music source.

Any thoughts and advice would be much appreciated.

I have asked this question on another forum, but the reply was super technical and way over my head.
 

njprrogers

Well-known member
Aug 12, 2015
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I would say undoubtedly. Removes a lot of question marks behind compatible equipment.

You should audition to ensure that you like the sound created. I seriously considered the Acoustic Energy AE1 but was unable to audition them in my location.
 

RoA

Well-known member
Feb 11, 2021
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Streaming technology has not really changed. DAC's ... Well yes, to some extent but not necessarily always for the better, subjectively that is. - Seeing that a lot of Audiophiles say the same as you ... namely that they won't buy into an integrated system because of fears it will become 'obsolete' over night ... yet most use legacy equipment updated many times over ... that is imho a red herring.

That plus most integrated systems include some sort of Aux input which allows to connect something if required.

I found the AE1 Active underwhelming but I did not hear it in familiar surroundings. It also played fairly loud but seemed strained and flat/bright. They are probably underpowered but should be just fine if high volume is not required.

One point often made about them is that there is no internal A/D conversion. - Again and imho a red herring as decently implemented Digital is indistinguishable.

They look very nice.

You now can get Kef's LS50 Wireless MK1 for not much more and I would compare the two.
 

insider9

Well-known member
Sep 20, 2016
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Recording , Film & Broadcast industry uses nothing but Active speakers for decades
That's incorrect. Use of passive speakers in the industry is as common as it's always been.

It's like saying all pros use nothing but diesel and petrol is for amateurs.
I like the idea of active speakers because it makes sense to me to match the amplifier to the speakers. BUT, i am a bit concerned that with changing streaming technology buying speakers with streaming tech built-in could be a mistake.

So, i am thinking about buying a pair of Acoustic Energy AE1's. I can then add a separate streamer for use as my music source.

Any thoughts and advice would be much appreciated.
Hi, couple of thoughts. You're far more likely to match an amplifier to speakers doing it yourself than relying on manufacturers of actives. They do it to a price point and that's a huge limitation. I would not buy actives based on that rationale.

Second thought. Software gets outdated far quicker than hardware so separating these two can be a benefit. Convenience is the name of the game, streaming isn't ultimately what you'd want if sound quality was the most important aspect. Some find one box solution more convenient even if that means upgrading that one box more often. What's more important to you?
 

Softy59

Active member
Apr 19, 2021
4
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Wow, thanks for the prompt replies, certainly food for thought. The AE1 was a What Hi-Fi award winner a few years ago, but several of you have made the really important point, that i either need to audition them first hand, or secure a sale or return purchase. I actually favour the later, because i can try them in my own home.
On another forum, somebody pointed me in the direction of an on-line retailer offering AE1's with a FREE streamer. I am going to check this out. The streamer is from a German company called Polyvection who i have never heard of. It could be a nice cost effective starting point, but i need to confirm if they offer the AE1's on a sale-or-return basis
BTW, I prefer class A/B amps with linear supplies. I find many class D amplifiers sound impressive, but ultimately sound slightly harsh by comparison, which is something i find quite tiring. Thats why i was attracted to the AE1's
 

RoA

Well-known member
Feb 11, 2021
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You're far more likely to match an amplifier to speakers doing it yourself than relying on manufacturers of actives. They do it to a price point and that's a huge limitation. I would not buy actives based on that rationale.
That may be so at the very low end ie. Bedroom DJ speakers but not as you move up plus you loose the advantages of active operation. Manufacturers can tailor a non lossy, digital xover exactly to the requirements/drivers. Technically there are many advantages going active with few disadvantages apart from Audiophile Angst.

I have not seen the passive Meta's Crossover but I'd hazard a guess that even here it includes some budget components. Even at twice the prise you will still find compromised components. No holds barred Xover componentry costs money. A lot of money. Its the stuff of high end. A well designed xover in an active design will entirely negate (and surpass) this technically.

Whether one likes that has more to do with everything else, room and personal preferences included.
 
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insider9

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Sep 20, 2016
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That may be so at the very low end ie. Bedroom DJ speakers but not as you move up plus you loose the advantages of active operation. Manufacturers can tailor a non lossy, digital xover exactly to the requirements/drivers. Technically there are many advantages going active with few disadvantages apart from Audiophile Angst.
Why would you lose the advantages of active operation? Did you think I was referring to passive speakers? My point was a general one that applies to any system at any price point.

I can also tailor an active crossover and pick a far better amplification than manufacturers would be willing to in their all in one active solution. Both these things are not difficult to do and usually to much better effect than available solutions be it at consumer, prosumer or pro level. Only question is how much do you care and whether you're prepared to do it.

Also I'd question your use of non lossy digital crossover particularly in a scenario in which you need to do ADC before it. Scenario in which you can have your cake and eat it doesn't exist there are always negatives but I don't dispute virtues of active approach.

But I'd be far from a standpoint that actives are better than passives as in general you're not comparing the same system. And just being active doesn't make a speaker good sounding.

And on the subject of audiophile angst. I can't speak for other all I'm doing is providing perspective to the OP.
 

abacus

Well-known member
Sep 24, 2008
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Good quality professional active speakers will always out perform a typical amp/speaker setup, but, as has been mentioned, like all things you get what you pay for, which is why you must audition before purchase. (You may prefer a separate amp/speaker setup for the same price as an active speaker)

Professional active speakers are designed to present a totally accurate representation of what is fed into them, however the cheaper ones tend to focus on a certain type of music and focus on that to keep the price down, (This is why auditioning is vitally important) hence you will find many recommendations online being dependent on the type of music that the user is producing.

Another thing to take into account is that most active speakers have controls to allow better integration with the room, which as the room is the biggest thing that affects the sound of a speaker, is always a positive.

As mentioned above professional speakers are designed to be as accurate at their price point as much as possible, which means if the recording is bad, it will sound bad, but if the recording is great then you are in complete nirvana, Hi-Fi passive speakers tend to produce a sound that sounds nice (Even with poor recordings) but maybe not that accurate, but some users prefer so it will depend on what camp you are in. (If you have a computer and DAW software (There is some good free software around) you can remaster the sound to make a poor recording sound better (You want need to bother with good recordings) and for users like this active speakers are a no brainer)

Finally and the most important thing of all, always try before you buy and only use specs and reviews to narrow the list of speakers to audition, as no 2 persons ears are the same.

Have fun choosing

Bill
 

RoA

Well-known member
Feb 11, 2021
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As far as I remember UMG watermarked their streaming content so unless that's changed on lossless services any talk about sound quality and streaming is pointless.
Really? Clear as mud and almost as many conspiracy theories as MQA but with less data to back it up.

One for the Area 51 crowd.
 

muljao

Well-known member
Jul 18, 2016
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I ran a pair of jbl lsr305 with a Raumfeld connector for about a year and a half. A little over 300 euros in total (maybe closer to 400 now I think about it). Excellent little simple, great sounding setup. Any proper active speakers in the higher end (such as AEs mentioned) should have amplification matched to their drivers. This allows for fine tweaking and a very well matched sound.

If your going 1500 ish, Dynaudio have a preamp wireless hub as do Dali now, there are a few others
 

Softy59

Active member
Apr 19, 2021
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25
Well, I am super impressed by the activity on this forum and the quality of advice.
Having read all of the replies (many thanks to all who have replied) I have decided that I am going to go for AE1’s active speakers. This will however be subject to being able to agree a sale or return deal with the supplier so that I can audition these at my home. As several people have rightly pointed out, I do need to listen to them to be sure that I like them. I have sent a message to the supplier, so will see what they have to say

I have also been checking out the bundle deal that this particular seller is offering which includes a free ‘DAC32’ (the name of the Polyvection streaming DAC) and guess what, one of user reviews on their website has been written by someone who is already using a DAC32 with a pair of AE1’s and loves it!

This is probably going a bit off subject now, but Polyvection are also introducing a server type product which can also locally store digital music files– this is just what I am looking for and at a really good price.
 

muljao

Well-known member
Jul 18, 2016
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Looking at the dac streamer I think I'd rethink this in your case. It does not seem to have a physical volume, you'll be at the mercy of an app at all times ( I was in similar situation with the Raumfeld and jbls but you're spending 1000 on speakers). Have a look at the Yamaha wxc-50, you could unlock your setup as a user friendly system for the sake of a few hundred, or indeed ask advice on a preamp
 

Roger_A

Well-known member
Mar 31, 2010
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Looking at the dac streamer I think I'd rethink this in your case. It does not seem to have a physical volume, you'll be at the mercy of an app at all times ( I was in similar situation with the Raumfeld and jbls but you're spending 1000 on speakers). Have a look at the Yamaha wxc-50, you could unlock your setup as a user friendly system for the sake of a few hundred, or indeed ask advice on a preamp
If they're offering a free DAC then he might as well take it and see how he gets on with it although I can see the issue about only being app controlled. However, if it works reliably then use it until you feel the need to upgrade or have something more up to date with changing software in the future.
 

muljao

Well-known member
Jul 18, 2016
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If they're offering a free DAC then he might as well take it and see how he gets on with it although I can see the issue about only being app controlled. However, if it works reliably then use it until you feel the need to upgrade or have something more up to date with changing software in the future.
Sorry, I missed the fact it was free, of course it's worth a go, I guess my point was it was a shame to spend so much and not have convenience also
 

rainsoothe

Well-known member
Apr 30, 2012
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Looking at the dac streamer I think I'd rethink this in your case. It does not seem to have a physical volume, you'll be at the mercy of an app at all times ( I was in similar situation with the Raumfeld and jbls but you're spending 1000 on speakers). Have a look at the Yamaha wxc-50, you could unlock your setup as a user friendly system for the sake of a few hundred, or indeed ask advice on a preamp
Don't the Acoustic Energy actives come with a remote that controls volume?
 

manicm

Well-known member
May 1, 2008
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That there’s no remote for the AE1s does not matter one decibel. The idea, if you read the manual, is to set it at a suggested 60% volume (or thereabouts) as a guide, and then adjust to taste with your preamp. And thereafter just adjust the volume on the preamp.

It’s not an omission, it’s a common sense set it and forget it recommendation.

From all the reviews I’ve read the AE1,Active is fantastic, and should work with a wide range of components which have a preamp section such as some streamers and dacs.
 

muljao

Well-known member
Jul 18, 2016
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That there’s no remote for the AE1s does not matter one decibel. The idea, if you read the manual, is to set it at a suggested 60% volume (or thereabouts) as a guide, and then adjust to taste with your preamp. And thereafter just adjust the volume on the preamp.

It’s not an omission, it’s a common sense set it and forget it recommendation.

From all the reviews I’ve read the AE1,Active is fantastic, and should work with a wide range of components which have a preamp section such as some streamers and dacs.
It makes a difference if you don't have a preamp
 

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