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What speakers to turn active?

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Hi All, I'm in the hunt for 3-way (or just 3 drive units design) speakers. Looking for suggestions of speakers than can be had for no more than £400 second hand that will have a decently designed, sturdy cabinets and good drive units.

Specs wise I'd like them to go down to 40 Hz in room so nothing massive is necessary but it's likely they will be floorstanders. If they were to go lower not a problem. I've so far considered a number of speakers but would rather not suggest any at this point to see what you come up with. There's lots out there and it certainly doesn't make it easy. Three pairs of speaker terminals would be a bonus as well as ribbon tweeters. I will be turning them active and will have moderate dsp so quality of drive units is of paramount importance. Original voicing not so much. They will be going into a small room and playing at low-moderate volume but with dsp I belive I cannot go too big.

Amplification will be decided once the choice of speakers has been made. I don't have unreasonable expectations but at the same time know that spending circa £500 used usually get a lovely pair of speakers. Also would consider a 4 way (4 drive) designs but not 2.

Anything considered and no wrong answers :) Thanks

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The 'speakers I would consider for converting to active are those that are already pretty good as passives, and therefore are likely to have good cabinets and good drivers.

Of those, in no particular order are:-

Yamaha NS1000

KEF104(remove the passive bass and replace it with the B139)

KEF 104.2

KEF 105

B&W 800 series 

Celestion Ditton 44 & 66

With all of these, I would remove the original passive crossover and keep it safe in case you ever want to go back to passive, or sell them as originals. 

You can replace the single loudspeaker terminals with three pairs, or better still one 6 pole Speakon, although there are benefits in being able to put a meter directly across the terminals.

I did my 801s and have no regrets whatsoever.

As to amplification, I use A500s, although there are more compact solutions using 6 way AV amps.

S.

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11 minutes ago, SergeAuckland said:

The 'speakers I would consider for converting to active are those that are already pretty good as passives, and therefore are likely to have good cabinets and good drivers.

Of those, in no particular order are:-

Yamaha NS1000

KEF104(remove the passive bass and replace it with the B139)

KEF 104.2

KEF 105

B&W 800 series 

Celestion Ditton 44 & 66

With all of these, I would remove the original passive crossover and keep it safe in case you ever want to go back to passive, or sell them as originals. 

You can replace the single loudspeaker terminals with three pairs, or better still one 6 pole Speakon, although there are benefits in being able to put a meter directly across the terminals.

I did my 801s and have no regrets whatsoever.

As to amplification, I use A500s, although there are more compact solutions using 6 way AV amps.

S.

Thanks Serge! 104/2 were a consideration :) and Behringer A500 looks like the way to go. My original plan was for a two-way using Sony AV amp but might just get another one. In the process of changing my minidsp so I can do up to 4 way. 

I'll check out the Yamaha and Celestions. Many thanks for overall advice, as always very helpful. 

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Super Wammer
51 minutes ago, SergeAuckland said:

The 'speakers I would consider for converting to active are those that are already pretty good as passives, and therefore are likely to have good cabinets and good drivers.

Of those, in no particular order are:-

Yamaha NS1000

KEF104(remove the passive bass and replace it with the B139)

KEF 104.2

KEF 105

B&W 800 series 

Celestion Ditton 44 & 66

With all of these, I would remove the original passive crossover and keep it safe in case you ever want to go back to passive, or sell them as originals. 

You can replace the single loudspeaker terminals with three pairs, or better still one 6 pole Speakon, although there are benefits in being able to put a meter directly across the terminals.

I did my 801s and have no regrets whatsoever.

As to amplification, I use A500s, although there are more compact solutions using 6 way AV amps.

S.

As a matter of interest, how have you arranged your amps?

Have you, for example, used one per frequency range, or perhaps mixed bass and treble to allow for more current capability for each bass unit. Or do you run so well within limits that you feel it makes no difference?

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3 minutes ago, bigfool1956 said:

Have you, for example, used one per frequency range, or perhaps mixed bass and treble to allow for more current capability for each bass unit. Or do you run so well within limits that you feel it makes no difference?

Interesting, haven't thought of that. 

Thanks, David! 

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Super Wammer

I can vouch for the A500 amps I use them in my 2 way active design.

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15 minutes ago, bigfool1956 said:

As a matter of interest, how have you arranged your amps?

Have you, for example, used one per frequency range, or perhaps mixed bass and treble to allow for more current capability for each bass unit. Or do you run so well within limits that you feel it makes no difference?

As I have three-way 'speakers and two-channel amplifiers, it was altogether easier to have one two-channel amp for bass, mid and treble even though the bass amp has to work the hardest, treble the next hardest and mid the least. Normally the treble would be the least extended, but the B&W mid drivers are 7dB more sensitive than the woofers and 5 dB more sensitive than the tweeters.

As to whether it matters, the meters on the amps show the output power, and at normal listening levels I don't draw more than 1-2 watts out of the bass, less out of the others, but it's nice to know I have LOTS of headroom.  Also, the Behringer amps are dual mono insofar as the power supplies are separate for each channel, only the mains transformer primary is common to both channels, so the interaction between channels is minimal.

There is an argument against using a stereo amplifier for bass and mid or mid and treble use on one channel as unless again the amp is dual mono, there's more possibility for intermodulation between bass and mid or mid and treble than there is between Left and Right in each frequency band.

I decided on three identical A500 amps although I could quite easily have used lower powers for the mid and treble, but three A500 brand new were cheaper than any other three amps even used or DIY, so is made sense to use them at least initially, then I could 'upgrade' if need be, but never felt the need to do so.  

The two things I would advise with any active system is to put protection capacitors in series with the mid and treble drivers in case of amplifier going DC. Normally a bass driver will stand some DC long enough for fuses to blow, tweeters and mid-range drivers won't, and if using vintage drivers, replacements are hard to come by. Also, if your crossover allows, put a limiter on the tweeter set at the tweeter's maximum continuous power (typically something like 40 watts) so you can't exceed that in the event of a fault.

S

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On 09/05/2017 at 15:42, SergeAuckland said:

Also, if your crossover allows, put a limiter on the tweeter set at the tweeter's maximum continuous power (typically something like 40 watts) so you can't exceed that in the event of a fault.

Thank you, Serge. 

I believe this can be achieved with a compressor built into minidsp.

Buy great point regarding protection capacitors on mid drivers. I'm hoping to use ribbons even if not the first project speakers and I don't think I'd dare to have them just wired to an amp. 

I'll report back on the hunt. 

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Super Wammer

B&W Dm2 or 2A ..  but the world is your oyster here .. the possibilities are massive :) .. although on a personal note I have yet to hear an active loudspeaker that actually does it all better than a passive one ..(of similar specs) .. e..g. there are many better sounding two way loudspeakers than Meridian M2s  etc. :) 

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3 minutes ago, uzzy said:

B&W Dm2 or 2A ..  but the world is your oyster here .. the possibilities are massive :) .. although on a personal note I have yet to hear an active loudspeaker that actually does it all better than a passive one ..(of similar specs) .. e..g. there are many better sounding two way loudspeakers than Meridian M2s  etc. :) 

You may be missing the point on the M2s and similar actives. They are physically smaller than loudspeakers with similar bass extension and neater insofar as they don't need external amplifiers, so if your criterion is just the narrow one of sound quality, you may be right, but taking the product as a whole, including size, looks and total price, the M2 looks a pretty good deal. Similarly, the John Bowers Active 1 was a superb loudspeaker, as was the Meridian M10/100, although looks may have been more difficult with those.

S

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2 hours ago, uzzy said:

B&W Dm2 or 2A ..  but the world is your oyster here .. the possibilities are massive :) .. although on a personal note I have yet to hear an active loudspeaker that actually does it all better than a passive one ..(of similar specs) .. e..g. there are many better sounding two way loudspeakers than Meridian M2s  etc. :) 

Thanks, will have a look at these.

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Super Wammer
14 hours ago, SergeAuckland said:

You may be missing the point on the M2s and similar actives. They are physically smaller than loudspeakers with similar bass extension and neater insofar as they don't need external amplifiers, so if your criterion is just the narrow one of sound quality, you may be right, but taking the product as a whole, including size, looks and total price, the M2 looks a pretty good deal. Similarly, the John Bowers Active 1 was a superb loudspeaker, as was the Meridian M10/100, although looks may have been more difficult with those.

S

I wasn't missing the point the guy asked for speakers he could turn into actives .. I just quoted some active loudspeakers to make a point.  As for the Meridian M1s they cost more at the time than Yamaha NS1000, Gale GS401 and a number of other much more compact passive loudspeakers that to most people sounded better and had great lower registers  :).  

Another thing to consider with going active if you are making your own, make it with balanced inputs cos the chances are you will want to site your preamp the other end of the lounge :) 

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4 minutes ago, uzzy said:

I wasn't missing the point the guy asked for speakers he could turn into actives .. I just quoted some active loudspeakers to make a point.  As for the Meridian M1s they cost more at the time than Yamaha NS1000, Gale GS401 and a number of other much more compact passive loudspeakers that to most people sounded better and had great lower registers  :).  

Another thing to consider with going active if you are making your own, make it with balanced inputs cos the chances are you will want to site your preamp the other end of the lounge :) 

I'm not familiar with Meridian M1s,  but neither the NS1000s nor Gale GS401s could get anywhere near the bottom end of the M10s and M100s, and they were both bigger than the M2s which had a similar bass extension. As to cost, by the time a pair of NS1000s  had a decent amplifier behind them, the M2s were better value, as at the time they were £1000 including stands and cables, whereas the NS1000s were £750 plus amplifier plus stands plus cables, so somewhat more expensive.

Which sounded better, as you know, is a personal judgement I won't comment on, but I chose Meridian M2s over any other comparable loudspeaker at the time, and only upgraded after many years to Meridian DSP5000s. 

As to balanced inputs, I agree that it's desirable as it avoids any problems with hum loops, but over domestic cable lengths, I think there are other more important considerations, such as the ease of settings, repeatability, type and accuracy of EQ and filtering, gain settings, time delay compensation. In many cases, especially if one uses a 'Pro' type crossover and equaliser as I have, balanced I/O comes as standard. 

S.

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If I were you, given the budget, I'd like to have a go at converting some Acoustic Energy AE120. 

They are 89db with a passive crossover, +/-3db down to 38Hz and rated down to 33Hz. 

They have 4 drivers which could give you a 3 or 4-way.   If you added an active sub, you could reduce the bandwidth of each driver and get a lot less distortion out of the units.   I'd be tempted to keep them 3-way and add a sub.  You can also pick them up for peanuts.  They already have 3 sets of speaker terminals so no messing about drilling the rear or adding more terminals if you keep them 3-way, just rip out the crossover...  You could easily solder the crossover back in if you wanted to sell them.

There are some on ebay for £219 but can be picked up for less. 
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Boxed-Acoustic-Energy-AE120-Floor-Standing-Tri-Wire-Natural-Cherry-Loud-Speakers/262978055573
The ones on ebay look in very good condition but the price reflects that compared to others I've seen.

I think they have great potential for improvement.

s-l1600.jpg

Manual:  http://acoustic-energy.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/UM-AE120.pdf

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Super Wammer
5 hours ago, SergeAuckland said:

I'm not familiar with Meridian M1s,  but neither the NS1000s nor Gale GS401s could get anywhere near the bottom end of the M10s and M100s, and they were both bigger than the M2s which had a similar bass extension. As to cost, by the time a pair of NS1000s  had a decent amplifier behind them, the M2s were better value, as at the time they were £1000 including stands and cables, whereas the NS1000s were £750 plus amplifier plus stands plus cables, so somewhat more expensive.

Which sounded better, as you know, is a personal judgement I won't comment on, but I chose Meridian M2s over any other comparable loudspeaker at the time, and only upgraded after many years to Meridian DSP5000s. 

As to balanced inputs, I agree that it's desirable as it avoids any problems with hum loops, but over domestic cable lengths, I think there are other more important considerations, such as the ease of settings, repeatability, type and accuracy of EQ and filtering, gain settings, time delay compensation. In many cases, especially if one uses a 'Pro' type crossover and equaliser as I have, balanced I/O comes as standard. 

S.

We will agree to disagree .. you were an owner I was a seller .. had the M2s up against lots of stuff but the Gales and NS2000s both produced similar bass end but were more balanced to my ears.  You are obviously hooked into the Meridian sound, as when you changed it was for the DSPs... good job we don't all think the same otherwise there wouldn't be a lot of choice :) ..

As to RCA and balanced and domestic lengths - I agree but even so, running RCAs over 20 feet (which I would have to) might be pushing things.  As to EQ and filtering well sorry I have none of those things just a good old SP9 pre and my ancient hafler with 20 foot speaker lead lengths, rather than having the power amp down between the loudspeakers (I did try it that way but I couldn't hear any noticeable difference and it was a pain having to walk from one end of the lounge to the other to turn the stuff on).  In order to make hiding wires easy I drilled holes in the wall and they run down the outside of the house.. I am planning on putting plumbing foam insulation around them to stop them getting frozen in winter and seeing if that makes a difference.

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