7.1.4 (at home) using active speakers

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Joined
Apr 13, 2022
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209
Location
Oslo, Norway
We are planning to sell our house and move within a couple of years. This opens up the possibility to design/buy a new sound system. Hard to tell how big the budget will be. Same goes for room size, so I better plan for several alternatives. I would really like this to be an all active speaker system. Thinking of 7.1.4, or maybe 2 subs.

Why active speakers? I really like the precision you get from active speakers. I know there are several challenges as well. A lot of studio monitors are made for near field listening. The speakers I look for will need to play well in a more traditional living room distance. I probably will be able to do some acoustical treatment in the new room. I would like the speakers to be detailed and fun to listen to. They should be able to play well at both low, moderate and high levels. I tend to like warmer non-fatiguing sound rather than very bright speakers. Great studio monitors is meant to reveal limitations and turn the mix engineer's focus towards what needs to be fixed. In my living room I also like to enjoy older recordings with not necessarily very good mixes. This could be harder to accomplish with active monitors. They don't necesserily need to be studio monitors either. There are quite a few hifi manufacturers who make active speakers as well like Kef, Klipsch, System Audio to mention a few. Although I often find them to be optimized/locked to stereo use. I play a lot of different genres from heavy metal to singer/songwriter, including pop, rock, r'n'b and jazz.

Anyone having experience with active speakers that can be suitable for an Atmos home system?
 
I'm pretty sure "active" speaker is meant to mean powered speaker. ie. A standard amp built into the speaker cabinet. You connect line level to it from a preamp or interface just like you would to a separate amplifier.

"Studio monitors" will be as flat and accurate as their design budget allowed. "Consumer speakers" might be intentionally hyped one way or another to intentionally cover for some design limitation. ie. They knew they weren't flat to begin with. Someone decided they sounded better with some skewing to mask the limitations even though that makes them even less flat!

The consumer on a budget likes the "better" sound.
The studio engineer prefers as flat as possible even with limitations.

Some speakers will have a wider dispersion but speakers are all genuinely intended to reproduce audio without anything weird. Near/mid/far field is up to you and the room. It's really up to you if you prefer amps built into your speaker boxes or separate boxes.

There may be some product called "active speaker" with some kind of calibration system with a mic built in. You can always put together a system like that with your own calibration system choices too. Google search just returned powered monitors from an "active speaker" search though. I think this is what was meant and someone just started using a different term.

I did 7.1.4 with standard passive speakers and separate amps. AR9 based.
My interface is a MOTU 828mk3. ADAT optical outs to Apogee DACs.
I helped a friend set up 7.1.4 with Dynaudio powered 6" 2 way speakers and a sub. His interface is a Behringer/Midas UMC-1820 with an ADAT connecting expansion box with another 8 outputs.

Yes to at least modest room treatment! If you can setup the room and system with no correction eq, you'll have a significant advantage.
 
We are planning to sell our house and move within a couple of years. This opens up the possibility to design/buy a new sound system. Hard to tell how big the budget will be. Same goes for room size, so I better plan for several alternatives. I would really like this to be an all active speaker system. Thinking of 7.1.4, or maybe 2 subs.

Why active speakers? I really like the precision you get from active speakers. I know there are several challenges as well. A lot of studio monitors are made for near field listening. The speakers I look for will need to play well in a more traditional living room distance. I probably will be able to do some acoustical treatment in the new room. I would like the speakers to be detailed and fun to listen to. They should be able to play well at both low, moderate and high levels. I tend to like warmer non-fatiguing sound rather than very bright speakers. Great studio monitors is meant to reveal limitations and turn the mix engineer's focus towards what needs to be fixed. In my living room I also like to enjoy older recordings with not necessarily very good mixes. This could be harder to accomplish with active monitors. They don't necesserily need to be studio monitors either. There are quite a few hifi manufacturers who make active speakers as well like Kef, Klipsch, System Audio to mention a few. Although I often find them to be optimized/locked to stereo use. I play a lot of different genres from heavy metal to singer/songwriter, including pop, rock, r'n'b and jazz.

Anyone having experience with active speakers that can be suitable for an Atmos home system?
I've had excellent results using active speakers (studio monitors) for a 5.1 set up. While mine were designed for near-field, they performed really well and easily filled my decent sized media room.

It seems that one concern / consideration would be how to effectively use these in an Atmos set-up. Since active speakers have their amplifiers built into them, it adds to their size and weight. Seems it would rule out an in-ceiling mount for the overheads. There also might need to be consideration given to the heat generated from the amplifiers. In a 5.1 set up, ventilation is easy to achieve.

I don't have experience with an Atmos set-up (not yet anyway), so others can chime in.

I've heard John Darko state that he expects a significant increase in the popularity and selection of active speakers for hi-end audio. I've noticed more of them coming on stream over the past few years. A lot of these new active speakers coming into the market from hi-fi manufacturers have pretty extensive controls on the back of the units. As such, it's critical that you have easy access to the rear of the speakers to take full advantage of their features.

I hope that helps.
 
An important consideration for 7.1.4 is where the decoding of atmos will happen. Also room correction. An AVR with pre outs seems to be the simplest option. For some reason I have gone the no-AVR route and use a Mac for Apple Music and MMH to decode bluray atmos to multichannel wav. I have Genelec and use GLM for room correction.

Some reject the studio monitors are not good when listening for pleasure paradigm.

Lots of pretty Genelec pictures here
https://www.genelec.com/immersive-hub

And this is an insane mastering setup


Also plan for lots of power cords.

(Some make the distinction that active means the crossover is before the amplification whereas powered might mean a passive crossover after amplification).
 
I'm pretty sure "active" speaker is meant to mean powered speaker. ie. A standard amp built into the speaker cabinet. You connect line level to it from a preamp or interface just like you would to a separate amplifier.

"Studio monitors" will be as flat and accurate as their design budget allowed. "Consumer speakers" might be intentionally hyped one way or another to intentionally cover for some design limitation. ie. They knew they weren't flat to begin with. Someone decided they sounded better with some skewing to mask the limitations even though that makes them even less flat!

The consumer on a budget likes the "better" sound.
The studio engineer prefers as flat as possible even with limitations.

Some speakers will have a wider dispersion but speakers are all genuinely intended to reproduce audio without anything weird. Near/mid/far field is up to you and the room. It's really up to you if you prefer amps built into your speaker boxes or separate boxes.

There may be some product called "active speaker" with some kind of calibration system with a mic built in. You can always put together a system like that with your own calibration system choices too. Google search just returned powered monitors from an "active speaker" search though. I think this is what was meant and someone just started using a different term.

I did 7.1.4 with standard passive speakers and separate amps. AR9 based.
My interface is a MOTU 828mk3. ADAT optical outs to Apogee DACs.
I helped a friend set up 7.1.4 with Dynaudio powered 6" 2 way speakers and a sub. His interface is a Behringer/Midas UMC-1820 with an ADAT connecting expansion box with another 8 outputs.

Yes to at least modest room treatment! If you can setup the room and system with no correction eq, you'll have a significant advantage.
Thanks for the input, and sorry for the confusion. Norwegian is my first language and we often use the term "active speaker" insted of "powered". But yes, powered speaker with built-in separate amps for each driver is what I meant.

AR9s and Apogee DACs sounds like a great solution. No need for powered speakers at your place then. Had to look up "AR9" to refresh my memory. Had almost forgot their common history with NAD 3020s. Great Hifi trivia.

How did your friend's system with the 2-way Dynaudios turn out? Definitely a brand to include, I think. Did you use the same speaker type for all 7 + 4?
 
I've had excellent results using active speakers (studio monitors) for a 5.1 set up. While mine were designed for near-field, they performed really well and easily filled my decent sized media room.

It seems that one concern / consideration would be how to effectively use these in an Atmos set-up. Since active speakers have their amplifiers built into them, it adds to their size and weight. Seems it would rule out an in-ceiling mount for the overheads. There also might need to be consideration given to the heat generated from the amplifiers. In a 5.1 set up, ventilation is easy to achieve.

I don't have experience with an Atmos set-up (not yet anyway), so others can chime in.

I've heard John Darko state that he expects a significant increase in the popularity and selection of active speakers for hi-end audio. I've noticed more of them coming on stream over the past few years. A lot of these new active speakers coming into the market from hi-fi manufacturers have pretty extensive controls on the back of the units. As such, it's critical that you have easy access to the rear of the speakers to take full advantage of their features.

I hope that helps.
Thanks for your tips. Yes, heat and ventilation could be a challenge. Will take that in to consideration. Also smart to think about having access to the back of the units. Not sure how I will install them, but my wife is used to living with a former sound engineer so pracitcal solutions beat the WAF friendly at our house. At least in this room. :)

What studio monitors did you use in your 5.1 set up? Would be interesting to hear.
 
An important consideration for 7.1.4 is where the decoding of atmos will happen. Also room correction. An AVR with pre outs seems to be the simplest option. For some reason I have gone the no-AVR route and use a Mac for Apple Music and MMH to decode bluray atmos to multichannel wav. I have Genelec and use GLM for room correction.

Some reject the studio monitors are not good when listening for pleasure paradigm.

Lots of pretty Genelec pictures here
https://www.genelec.com/immersive-hub

And this is an insane mastering setup


Also plan for lots of power cords.

(Some make the distinction that active means the crossover is before the amplification whereas powered might mean a passive crossover after amplification).

Thanks, MKT. Genelec has developed a lot since I used them for mixing over 20 years ago. If I get a big budget after selling my house I will certainly have a look at their speakers. "The ones" look amazing and have got a lot of good reviews. What type of Genelecs do you have? And what music do you listen to?

At this point I am open for any type of controller. Will definitive have some sort of room correction. But will decide this later.

Morten's immersive studio is great! A friend of mine used to work for him so I actually got the chance to get at demo of his 5.1 studio. They didn't have Genelec's back then, but very nice to hear some of his recordings where he mixed it. :)
 
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Here's a big list of active monitors, many with objective tests. I have a compact nearfield setup with 8331s for LRC, 8330s for surrounds, and 8320s for heights.

The Trinnov and StormAudio processors seem pretty nice for active speakers. Since many active speakers take digital inputs (and do DSP internally), the Arvus products might offer a minimalist solution too.
PS. Sigberg Audio seems to be in your neighborhood.
 
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My current dual duty stereo & multi-channel big rig (2.1/5.1.4) is based around a 5 speaker bed layer of the more cost effective pro audio version of the ATC SCM20ASL Pro Mk2 analog actives on Skylan stands along with 4 of the matching slightly smaller ATC SCM12i Pro (install version) passive monitors hung from the ceiling using Koenig & Meyer heavy duty ceiling brackets and interface plates. Using active speakers on the ceiling is a bit trickier due to the need for adjacent AC power outlets on the ceiling and the install variant of the SCM12 was specifically created to be the ceiling channel mate to an SCM20 bed layer.

IMG_0648.JPG


Screen Shot 2022-04-15 at 6.31.30 PM.png


Both of these loud speakers are sold and used as near field monitors in the pro audio world and considered to be among the very best available. Both of these loudspeakers are offered in far more expensive veneered consumer versions that are functionally identical in the case of the SCM20T ASL and near identical in the SCM11. Using these compact professional monitoring loudspeakers as mid-field monitors (9' listening distance for the front LCR trio) in a practically sized domestic media room environment is just as valid a use as a near field setup- providing they can meet your SPL requirements at the further mid-field listening distance. My ATC's easily do this in my modestly sized 20'x14'x11' dedicated room.

IMG_1702.JPG


IMG_0854.JPG


IMG_0844.JPG
 
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Your MOTO 828 MK3 appears to offer a maximum of 8-channels. How are you intending to acquire the 7.1.4 height channels?
ADAT outs 1-8 -> Apogee Rosetta 800-192 -> Channels 1-8
Analog outs 1-4 -> Channels 9-12
(Thought I noted that, sorry! Set this up 9 months ago.)

The MOTU and Apogee both have 2 pairs of ADAT ports so everything is connected the same for 96k operation.

So I guess I'm compromising on the height channels with MOTU DACs vs the Apogees. Oh well.
 
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I have three Emotiva Stealth 8 monitors across my front stage. While I like their sound, they are no longer being made, and mine all needed to have virtually every aluminum electrolytic capacitor replaced after about six or seven years.

The low-level crossover and amplifier designs are pretty standard analog circuits, so they weren’t too hard to figure out, but the support from Emotiva was minimal - they sent me schematic diagrams and didn’t even wish me luck.
 
Here's a big list of active monitors, many with objective tests. I have a compact nearfield setup with 8331s for LRC, 8330s for surrounds, and 8320s for heights.

The Trinnov and StormAudio processors seem pretty nice for active speakers. Since many active speakers take digital inputs (and do DSP internally), the Arvus products might offer a minimalist solution too.
PS. Sigberg Audio seems to be in your neighborhood.
Thanks again! Certainly a lot to check out. Have been an on and off reader of audiosciencereview. Will have a closer look at their list. Your Genelec setup looks very interesting. Smart combo of different sizes. Definitely something I will consider. Genelec have a lot of different sizes so it should be possible to make a good combo for several room sizes. I'll have to dig deeper in to processors. Thanks for mentioning these. I have a better knowledge of ordinary preamps/receivers, but will certainly broaden my mind here. Sigberg Audio is not far from where I'm sitting right now. Haven't had the pleasure to listen to them, but they look great!
 
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Thanks for your tips. Yes, heat and ventilation could be a challenge. Will take that in to consideration. Also smart to think about having access to the back of the units. Not sure how I will install them, but my wife is used to living with a former sound engineer so pracitcal solutions beat the WAF friendly at our house. At least in this room. :)

What studio monitors did you use in your 5.1 set up? Would be interesting to hear.
I used JBL LSR 6328 P (Linear Spatial Reference) active monitors. They are bi-amplified with 250W to drive low frequency and 120W toward high frequency. They weigh about 40 lbs. each. They also have room correction capability.
 
I have three Emotiva Stealth 8 monitors across my front stage. While I like their sound, they are no longer being made, and mine all needed to have virtually every aluminum electrolytic capacitor replaced after about six or seven years.

The low-level crossover and amplifier designs are pretty standard analog circuits, so they weren’t too hard to figure out, but the support from Emotiva was minimal - they sent me schematic diagrams and didn’t even wish me luck.
Yeah, I remember these from when they were introduced. A shame that you had to replace the capacitors but you probably added some good years of use to them. :)
 
Bi-amp (bi-amplification - ie two separate amps) is a thing and usually spelled out as such. Simply one amp per driver for a two way speaker. You can do that yourself with passive speakers or find powered monitors built that way.

Active vs passive crossovers. Active use powered circuits. Passive are unpowered filter designs. We usually see passive crossover filters used with amp levels between the amp and speaker drivers. We usually see active crossovers used in line level audio. Between preamp/source and amplifier line input. So powered monitors will usually have active crossovers built in. Maybe that's how someone started using the term "active monitor"?

There isn't anything weird with any one strategy that leads to better results for one style of music over another or one size room vs another or near/mid/far field. All these speaker systems are intended to produce standard audio range. In all things audio, the fewest preamp stages and filters you run the signal through, the better! Do what needs to be done but passive techniques and room treatment carry a lot of weight. A perfect theoretical single driver would avoid any crossover filter degradation. Multiple drivers make for efficient clean frequency band delivery. Two way speakers for mains and then a sub for sub bass for a 3 way system is often a sweet spot. There's the crossover design and there's also the range that the physical drivers crossover through. Matching this to avoid comb filtering in the speaker design is just as much a factor as the crossover design itself.

About 20 years ago now the digital audio approach appeared. Digital crossover eq in a stand alone digital device or using a DAW. Then use an audio interface or digital mixer with multiple outputs for the different frequency bands.

So 3 main crossover strategies to choose from.
 
My current dual duty stereo & multi-channel big rig (2.1/5.1.4) is based around a 5 speaker bed layer of the more cost effective pro audio version of the ATC SCM20ASL Pro Mk2 analog actives on Skylan stands along with 4 of the matching slightly smaller ATC SCM12i Pro (install version) passive monitors hung from the ceiling using Koenig & Meyer heavy duty ceiling brackets and interface plates. Using active speakers on the ceiling is a bit trickier due to the need for adjacent AC power outlets on the ceiling and the install variant of the SCM12 was specifically created to be the ceiling channel mate to an SCM20 bed layer.

View attachment 105221

View attachment 105222

Both of these loud speakers are sold and used as near field monitors in the pro audio world and considered to be among the very best available. Both of these loudspeakers are offered in far more expensive veneered consumer versions that are functionally identical in the case of the SCM20T ASL and near identical in the SCM11. Using these compact professional monitoring loudspeakers as mid-field monitors (9' listening distance for the front LCR trio) in a practically sized domestic media room environment is just as valid a use as a near field setup- providing they can meet your SPL requirements at the further mid-field listening distance. My ATC's easily do this in my modestly sized 20'x14'x11' dedicated room.

View attachment 105223

View attachment 105224

View attachment 105225
Wow, very cool room! I was kind of hoping someone used powered ATCs. Your combo with powered speakers for the bed combined with passive speakers in the roof is another great alternative. Have to put this into a spreadsheet. Thanks for sharing photos and info!
 
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