Passive Speakers

byakuya83

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Having read so much recently about active speakers producing a more accurate sound why do some hifi enthusiasts continue to purchase/use passive speakers?

I was thinking about buying some myself, having had little success tracking down the active speakers I wanted to buy originally.

However, I am apprehensive about buying passive as so many now consider them less accurate and an inferior product. Should I be concerned?
 

char_lotte

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byakuya83 said:
Having read so much recently about active speakers producing a more accurate sound why do some hifi enthusiasts continue to purchase/use passive speakers? I was thinking about buying some myself, having had little success tracking down the active speakers I wanted to buy originally. However, I am apprehensive about buying passive as so many now consider them less accurate and an inferior product. Should I be concerned?

Should you be concerned? In a word no.

Actually, make that three words...Not. At. All.
 

lindsayt

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I have 3 different pairs of speakers that I currently use. All of them can be used with either passive amplification or they can be easily converted to actively bi-amped or fully active mode. I currently have 1 pair actively bi-amped and the other 2 pairs passive. My favourite speakers in terms of overall sound quality are one of the passive pairs, followed by the actively bi-amped pair.

I think it's absolute cobblers to say that active speakers are more "accurate" than passive speakers - by my definition of accurate. Accurate to me meaning the sound that's produced in my room most closely resembles the sounds recorded. IE the detail, dynamics, pitch and tonal balance are all maintained as closely as possible to the recording - which overall produces the effect of recreating actual musicians playing actual instruments in my listening rooms.

There are some speakers that some people have described as "accurate" that have sound tonally lean to me. Which makes me wonder if "accurate" gets used as a euphemism for "lean"? Or if "lean" speakers create the psycho-acoustic efffect of sounding "accurate" to some people?

Hi-fi systems are full of sonic compromises. Generally speaking, the advantage of going active is that you're giving your amps an easier time which can result in greater dynamic ease from your system, as well as allowing you to use horses for courses amplification. This is at the expense of putting an active crossover in the signal path which can result in detail masking transistorised hash. Either way I don't think we're talking about a huge difference between active and passive with any particular speakers. More like 2 different flavours of the same thing.

Active vs passive is only one ingredient of your amp / speaker combination. There are lots of factors that I think are more important to the overall sound quality of your system, such as driver type, driver quality, driver size, cabinet type, cabinet construction etc etc etc.
 

Ajani

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I am a fan of actives, but to answer your question: NO, you should not be worried.

ASFAIK, Active technology is generally accepted as better (at least theoretically) than passive. HOWEVER, whether a speaker is active or passive is just one of many variable that determine whether the setup sounds good.

It's like saying that a V8 engine is better than a V6 - generally speaking sure, but just having a bigger engine doesn't mean that one car will be superior to the other. You need to look at all the other factors that affect the car's performance.
 

Ajani

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lindsayt said:
Hi-fi systems are full of sonic compromises. Generally speaking, the advantage of going active is that you're giving your amps an easier time which can result in greater dynamic ease from your system, as well as allowing you to use horses for courses amplification. This is at the expense of putting an active crossover in the signal path which can result in detail masking transistorised hash. Either way I don't think we're talking about a huge difference between active and passive with any particular speakers. More like 2 different flavours of the same thing.

So are you saying that a passive crossover is superior to an active one? I've never heard someone claim that.

lindsayt said:
Active vs passive is only one ingredient of your amp / speaker combination. There are lots of factors that I think are more important to the overall sound quality of your system, such as driver type, driver quality, driver size, cabinet type, cabinet construction etc etc etc.

Agreed.
 
ooh.. said:
I thought my old Dynaudio passives were brilliant.

Still are, Max.

You appear to dismiss most (if not all) passives since you migrated. You say that all MAs are too bright. Perhaps in your barn-like living room that maybe true, but in the right environment they shine as well (and better others), but matching, as with most set-ups, is essential.

Wise to keep the whole hi-fi thing, regardless of passives or actives, in clear perspective.
 

lindsayt

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Ajani said:
lindsayt said:
Hi-fi systems are full of sonic compromises. Generally speaking, the advantage of going active is that you're giving your amps an easier time which can result in greater dynamic ease from your system, as well as allowing you to use horses for courses amplification. This is at the expense of putting an active crossover in the signal path which can result in detail masking transistorised hash. Either way I don't think we're talking about a huge difference between active and passive with any particular speakers. More like 2 different flavours of the same thing.

So are you saying that a passive crossover is superior to an active one? I've never heard someone claim that.

lindsayt said:
Active vs passive is only one ingredient of your amp / speaker combination. There are lots of factors that I think are more important to the overall sound quality of your system, such as driver type, driver quality, driver size, cabinet type, cabinet construction etc etc etc.

Agreed.

No, I'm not saying that a passive crossover is better than an active one. Full stop. With no provisos.

Hi-fi isn't that simple.

I said that active crossovers tend to produce better results in some respects and worse results in other respects.

For any particular speakers the best overall compromise will depend upon the speakers themselves, the amps that you have available for them, the transparency of the active crossover used and the effects that the particular passive crossover produces.

In some situations passive crossovers are overall better. In other situations active are better.

I will say that a very high efficiency passive speaker, with huge lightweight bass cones in a sealed cabinet, with a good quality SET valve amp or solid state amp is very hard to beat for my definition of accuracy / realism. With this type of speaker you don't need to give the amps an easier time as they're already having a very easy time. You also don't need high damping factor as the bass cones will hardly move at high volumes. I'd also say that passive electrostatic speakers are very hard to beat for midrange accuracy / realism. Active tends to produce better overall results with inefficient speakers that would give the amps a hard time in passive mode.
 

oldric_naubhoff

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lindsayt said:
I will say that a very high efficiency passive speaker, with huge lightweight bass cones in a sealed cabinet, with a good quality SET valve amp or solid state amp is very hard to beat for my definition of accuracy / realism. With this type of speaker you don't need to give the amps an easier time as they're already having a very easy time. You also don't need high damping factor as the bass cones will hardly move at high volumes. I'd also say that passive electrostatic speakers are very hard to beat for midrange accuracy / realism. Active tends to produce better overall results with inefficient speakers that would give the amps a hard time in passive mode.

:clap:

probably the most even handed (and true too) reply regarding passive vs. active I've seen in weeks. you don't hang out in HDD forum Lind, do you? :grin:
 

tino

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Any good recommendations for high efficiency and good value passives Lindsay?

Knowing your penchant for huge vintage speakers ... any suggestions for something that might fit in a normal room and that don't look too baroque ;). I quite like the idea of Klipsh Heresy III but they are a bit pricey new????
 

Frank Harvey

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How concerned you are about buying passive speakers depends one what you've read and where you've read it. There are active doom mongers out there that will have you believe that a passive speaker is evil and so far from reproducing the truth that you'd be better off without speakers if you can't have active. The drawbacks losted regarding passive loudspeakers are not always as pronounced - or even sometimes audible - as they'd lead you to believe.

Have a listen to a few passive speakers and have a listen to some active ones. See which you prefer the sound of. See which ones suit you as far as minimalism or flexibility is concerned.
 

lindsayt

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tino said:
Any good recommendations for high efficiency and good value passives Lindsay?

Knowing your penchant for huge vintage speakers ... any suggestions for something that might fit in a normal room and that don't look too baroque ;). I quite like the idea of Klipsh Heresy III but they are a bit pricey new????

Klipsch Heresy's have a wonderfully dynamic and wide open midrange and treble - especially when mated with a good SET amp. Trouble is they're far too lean in the bass for my tastes. This is the Achilles heel of high efficiency speakers. The bass. The problem being that the midrange and treble drivers tend to be much more efficient than the bass drivers. So you often get a lean tonal balance with very high efficiency speakers. It's really hard, if not impossible to get very high efficiency bass drivers without going large, very large. It's another one of those hi-fi compromises. High efficiency bass chucks the WAF right out of the window.

I'd rather go for Klipsch Cornwalls than Klipsch Heresys. I'd rather go for Altec Model 19's or EV Sentry III's than Klipsch Cornwalls. But by the time you've got to the 19's or Sentry's you're looking at big low WAF speakers. Also the bass quality from them isn't up to the very high standards of their midrange and treble. Klipschorns are good, but a bit lean.

For medium to small sized speakers with high WAF and a neutral tonal balance you're looking at low efficiency. It's Hoffman's Iron Law. In speakers you can have bass extension, high efficiency, small size. Pick any 2.

This means that I can't think of any speakers that will tick all your boxes. Maybe something from the Yamaha NS1000 school of speakers will be the best compromise solution for you? Medium sized, low to mid efficiency, sealed box, good quality drivers.
 

oldric_naubhoff

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tino said:
Any good recommendations for high efficiency and good value passives Lindsay?

Knowing your penchant for huge vintage speakers ... any suggestions for something that might fit in a normal room and that don't look too baroque ;). I quite like the idea of Klipsh Heresy III but they are a bit pricey new????

what about these? :) although they would fit a normal barn but don't look too baroque. maybe rustic.

053012OMA2-600.jpg
 

oldric_naubhoff

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plastic penguin said:
Monitor Audio and Focal fall into this catagory nicely. And they don't lack bass either. :)

I think what Lindsayt regards as efficient speaker is anything around 100dB. MA and Focal with their 90dB efficiency thereabouts don't come even close. don't be fooled. 10dB difference around 90dB mark starts to make a huge difference in volume levels.
 

AL13N

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byakuya83 said:
However, I am apprehensive about buying passive as so many now consider them less accurate and an inferior product. Should I be concerned?
As others have already mentioned above, audition both passive and active designs.

Just make sure you're using live unamplified voice/instruments as reference, otherwise you'll just be comparing one reproduced sound with another.

Try not listening to Hi-Fi and amplified sound for a few months, sticking to the above. Then start auditioning.

Good Luck
 
oldric_naubhoff said:
plastic penguin said:
Monitor Audio and Focal fall into this catagory nicely. And they don't lack bass either. :)

I think what Lindsayt regards as efficient speaker is anything around 100dB. MA and Focal with their 90dB efficiency thereabouts don't come even close. don't be fooled. 10dB difference around 90dB mark starts to make a huge difference in volume levels.

Are ther many domestic (home hi-fi speakers) go that high? My old Wharfedale E series was 96db, and they entertained the neighbourhood. The main problem I found was not a lack of bass, but how quickly they distorted. They were, however, designed to be used with valve or tube amps - back in those days the average wattage of a midrange tube amp was around 10-25 watts typically. With such low output they were well suited.
 

tino

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plastic penguin said:
Are there many domestic (home hi-fi speakers) go that high? My old Wharfedale E series was 96db, and they entertained the neighbourhood. The main problem I found was not a lack of bass, but how quickly they distorted. They were, however, designed to be used with valve or tube amps - back in those days the average wattage of a midrange tube amp was around 10-25 watts typically. With such low output they were well suited.

The Heresy III go to 99dB in a plain looking but compact i.e not barn sized package. They seem to be quite popular across the pond.
 

tino

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oldric_naubhoff said:
what about these? :) although they would fit a normal barn but don't look too baroque. maybe rustic.

053012OMA2-600.jpg

They look like a relic from "It's a knockout" - designed to launch wet sponges at hapless contestants.

:grin:
 

tino

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lindsayt said:
tino said:
Any good recommendations for high efficiency and good value passives Lindsay?

Knowing your penchant for huge vintage speakers ... any suggestions for something that might fit in a normal room and that don't look too baroque ;). I quite like the idea of Klipsh Heresy III but they are a bit pricey new????

Klipsch Heresy's have a wonderfully dynamic and wide open midrange and treble - especially when mated with a good SET amp. Trouble is they're far too lean in the bass for my tastes. This is the Achilles heel of high efficiency speakers. The bass. The problem being that the midrange and treble drivers tend to be much more efficient than the bass drivers. So you often get a lean tonal balance with very high efficiency speakers. It's really hard, if not impossible to get very high efficiency bass drivers without going large, very large. It's another one of those hi-fi compromises. High efficiency bass chucks the WAF right out of the window.

I'd rather go for Klipsch Cornwalls than Klipsch Heresys. I'd rather go for Altec Model 19's or EV Sentry III's than Klipsch Cornwalls. But by the time you've got to the 19's or Sentry's you're looking at big low WAF speakers. Also the bass quality from them isn't up to the very high standards of their midrange and treble. Klipschorns are good, but a bit lean.

For medium to small sized speakers with high WAF and a neutral tonal balance you're looking at low efficiency. It's Hoffman's Iron Law. In speakers you can have bass extension, high efficiency, small size. Pick any 2.

This means that I can't think of any speakers that will tick all your boxes. Maybe something from the Yamaha NS1000 school of speakers will be the best compromise solution for you? Medium sized, low to mid efficiency, sealed box, good quality drivers.

Thank you for the comprehensive and informative reply.
 

tino

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byakuya83 said:
Having read so much recently about active speakers producing a more accurate sound why do some hifi enthusiasts continue to purchase/use passive speakers? I was thinking about buying some myself, having had little success tracking down the active speakers I wanted to buy originally. However, I am apprehensive about buying passive as so many now consider them less accurate and an inferior product. Should I be concerned?

Back on topic ... there are hybrid speakers that have passive mid-range drivers and tweeters but a powered bass driver all in the same cabinet ... like these http://www.goldenear.com/index.php/products/triton-towers.
 

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