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Digital Active Speaker Thread.....  

post #1 of 481
Thread Starter 
Ask and ye shall receive. Mark has uttered the death knell for the V3 thread which is "stay on topic", so here's a new one.

Lee asked why digital speakers haven't taken over yet. In addition to Frantz' good answer about audiophiles clinging to orthodoxy, I've heard the following -

1. "I can't choose the amps, the cables, the DACs, etc, etc, etc. "
2. "I can't *use* my [tens of $thousands of] current audiophile gear that I have accumulated."
3. "I don't trust digital"
4. "I'd have to convert my albums to digital and back and I don't like that idea, let alone the idea of bypassing the DACs in my $10K CD player
5. Limited selection - Too expensive, too inexpensive, not the right color, not the right form factor, where's the wood finish, I want ribbons, dipole, bipole, ported, sealed...... - kinda like finding the exotic hybrid or electric car that gets you hot and bothered. There's like one of those.
6. Confusing and or not the right sound - "No sir, we don't have DSP speakers in 'Chunky Monkey' or 'Cherry Cheesecake', but we have French Vanilla......"
7. Poor marketing and an intransigent dealer base who finds selling conventional gear more profitable and ongoing. "Sell the problem, then sell 10 solutions down the road". What do I sell the current $6K NHT Xd customer? Nothing. What do my competitors sell after selling a $15K or $20K speakers that doesn't match the show room experience at home? New amps, new preamps, new CD players, new cables, new power cords, new power conditioners...........DSP speakers are also lower profit margin for the dealer and typically requires a lot of trade-ins, so there's little incentive.
8. Stereo focus. Most DSP speakers, especially DEQX ones are totally focused on stereo while even most of the hardcore audiophiles are integrating home theater. I had one customer sell his Xds because he couldn't find a center channel to keep up, but then finally got two new pair and uses one half of one set as his center. Plus it's hard to wire for DSP rears if you don't have 4 or 6 conductor or power/ethernet to the right locations. Meridian does full DSP HT, but it's pricey and it's proprietary (and sounds mighty awesome).
9. Fear factor. I don't think a lot of people feel comfortable being the first on their block to abandon expensive old technology for expensive new technology, same reason why we had trouble selling Tivo and Sonos and Vudu for the first year of each product. People are naturally skeptical of paradigm shifts, but then sales snowball as more and more people report good experiences.
post #2 of 481
Let us rather focus on the merits of Digital Crossovers rather than Digital ACTIVE speakers... There is certain amount of restriction in Active speakers. They are what they are and you cannot much change what they do.
Active Digital Crossovers on the other hand let us mix and match to our heart content.. It could arguably be advanced that superior results can be obtained through this approach rather than the fixed Active speaker one... One can then use almost ANY passive speaker and use what he/she deems most appropriate for amps and cables...
post #3 of 481
High end is a hobby. Most people find it more fun to use high end contact fluids then to measure their rooms or speakers. Voodoo still defines high end than anything else. Ask at work colleagues how they define audio......sad, very sad, all prejudiced come true.

Professionals have understood this a long time ago. That is why there is no main reference monitor using passive x-overs, only active or DSP designs.

Also we need more common availability of digital interfaces for multichannel, not only on the most expensive and rediculous priced items. That is either 4x spdif or 4 AES/EBU for 8 channels. I only know a handfull of such products....
post #4 of 481
Andreas

I find it too easy and too convenient to paint ALL audiophiles with such a thick brush... I have heard my share of Pro Monitors and they did not convince me ... The fact that it is a hobby does not mean that we are not looking for performance.. The Mix and match aspect of what we tend to do is actually related to performance ... Measures tell part of the story not the whole of it... Measures need to correlate with what people prefer... Telling me that this monitor measures flat and thus sound good despite my ears yelling me the contrary is a poor approach IMHO.. I will not repeat is verbatim but your rationale that the reason why people do not like Pro monitors is that they are too revealing does not hold much water.. some of these may measure flat but still sound bad... A question do ALL PRO speakers sound alike? If they were ALL perfect they shoudl ALL sound the same don't you think. As an aside several High End speakers do measure exceedingly well.. This has been repeated countless times wihtout much proof... Most HiGh End speaker do measure quite well and some don't.. the all ecompassing statements need to be refrained for an honest and rational discussion...

Please do stop the audiophile-bashing once and for all. This will make for a more constructive debate... if this thread is simply about bashing us, the Audiophiles , I am not sure it will live long, I for one will simply not post in it...
post #5 of 481
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by FrantzM View Post

Please do stop the audiophile-bashing once and for all. This will make for a more constructive debate... if this thread is simply about bashing us, the Audiophiles , I am not sure it will live long, I for one will simply not post in it...

Frantz, you are indeed a saint, though I think there is a point to the fact that it *is* viewed as a hobby and people do it as much for the fun of playing with gear as for the fun of listening to music. But you are right, so on to substance!
post #6 of 481
Thread Starter 
If you look at digital crossovers in there most basic form, the Behringer or Meridian or Phase Technology dARTS, for instance, you're simply doing a more precise, less lossy 24dB/octave crossover. There's no heat loss, no heat induced changes, there's no modulation of the crossover frequency from fluctuating driver impedances, no need to pad down a tweeter by 2 or 3dB to match the midrange volume, poorly matched etc, etc.

In theory, you could lose some audible resolution with a digital crossover if you're using a digital volume rather than VCAs on the other end (DEQX and Meridian does analog volume control on the other side), but our ears also lose resolution at softer volumes so this somewhat offset. The key is to adjust the gains so that you are at full resolution at your highest used volume rather than at 6 or 10dB louder than that.

The biggest advantage of DEQX is not that it can do a better, more transparent crossover. That's easy. The Behringer does that. In theory, any speaker that doesn't require driver compensation in the crossover will benefit from a Behringer in predictable, though perhaps subtle ways.
post #7 of 481
Sorry Frantz, but you are picking on me for the "human truth" that has prevented the breakthrough in consumer mainstream for such a long time, same is still the truth for analogue active systems, they also still make up only a very small fraction of the high end audio market. Ask yourselve why we are where we are. I work in a consumer electronics company, I hear the stories every day why complicated stuff is not selling, although by far superior. Why aren't we all driving electric yet ? One day we will.....

My first 5.1 digital fully active system was roughly 10 or 12 years ago. With the Meridian 565 and 5 Philips DSS930LE digital active 2.5way speakers. That was AC-3 as soon as it was available on LD on a fully digital active system. Philips was and is mainstream, and did not make the break through, Meridian neither in high end, not even today, they are still the colorful birds in high end audio. So where is the progress in the last 10years. There is non. I bet market shares of digital active speakers are still the same, if not worse.

We have landed at the rediculous situation that high end people understood the benefits of digital DSPs in minimum phase systems as standalone processors offer (Dolby) or in their HT processors/pre-amplifiers (Sharc/Motorola), but to bring that into their speakers, no way. Obviously not possible.

In video we all use measuring/test material to determine the quality. In audio, that seems impossible to go by science. Once we see 4 spdif outs on any Sony HT receiver, you know the technology made the breakthrough.
post #8 of 481
There is one more reason not mentioned that has also prevented so far the break through and annoyed people. The digital evolution in the past 10 years. You put digital technology into each speaker (3 DACs per 3way speaker plus DSP), and then it all changes, you need to up-date each speaker/each way. Meridian clients know the up-grade path to well, that was from 16 Bit or so to 20 to 24, from 44,1 to 96 to 192KHz. Each time, all speakers. Now we have reached a quality where serious high end people struggle to hear any difference anymore in blind A/B tests. Although many will say consumers will have a hard time to hear a difference to anything above 16Bit/44,1, but more is always better in their minds. Marketing is too powerful, that one could simply overcome his human thinking on the numbers.
post #9 of 481
Thread Starter 
It is said that speaker design is the art of compromise and this is very much the case. If you look at most drivers, they're good for about 2 octaves. Above that, they start to ring and/or resonate and dispersion narrows. Below that, distortion begins to build up, often rather sharply. There are cheats you can do to extract more - multiple drivers can reduce low frequency distortion, but that causes lobing and acoustic distortion except in the woofer range. If you get a driver that is extremely well behaved in the upper octaves, you tend to give up some resolution for self-damped, good behavior. Even frequency response often goes, requiring some compensation.

Look at the SEAS W15. It's ideal operating range is 2 octaves, from about 500Hz to 2000Hz and its behavior in this range is nearly flawless. At 2K, it's starting to lose dispersion. By 5kHz, it's got all kinds of ringing behavior. By 250Hz, it's starting to compress and distort. The more shallow the crossover, the more distortion and ringing you let through. But use a steeper crossover and you push it closer to its limits without side effects.

If you look at most 1" tweeters, their dispersion is actually quite poor over about 10kHz and they ring like a bell at 20kHz. But push them below about 2500Hz and they start to induce fatigue from added distortion. (Distortion below 1000Hz is usually relatively benign, but distortion over 1000Hz is increasingly bad).

So, every 3-way speaker on the market has compromise, even $100K ones. But if you use steeper DSP crossovers, you can squeeze a bit more out of them, maybe get 7 or 8 of the 10 octaves done well. Even using very steep crossovers and very high quality drivers, Xd still has some compromise in the top octave and in the octave between 125Hz and 250Hz. But this is a major victory compared to getting 5 or 6 octaves right. With steeper digital crossovers, you can do with 3 drivers what it would normally require 4. But if you wanted to build a 'no compromise' full range speaker, it would take at least 5 drivers with current technology. And even then, it is massively tricky to get them to blend and sound coherent.
post #10 of 481
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andreas View Post

There is one more reason not mentioned that has also prevented so far the break through and annoyed people. The digital evolution in the past 10 years. Y

Of course, now you can get a high performance 6-channel 24/96 DAC very cheaply, thanks to A/V receivers. In fact, the core technology required to do speakers cheaply and easily rests neatly in a cheap multi-channel receiver. 6 or more amp channels, multi channel DSP, multi-channel volume, sufficient DSP for the crossover/EQ functions. I've been trying to convince NAD to adopt DEQX and convert their T785 (easily done with different card modules) into a stereo DSP speaker system.
post #11 of 481
Quote:
Originally Posted by FrantzM View Post

I have heard my share of Pro Monitors and they did not convince me

I'm curious as to what particular models you've heard?
post #12 of 481
The problem is maybe that digtal DSP is not the best solution? Ever think of that? The same with people thinking that a mic and digital room eq can fix the sound as good as real life acoustics treatment.
post #13 of 481
NIN

Digital is more than CD NIN and Digital Signal Processing is a very mature technology that permeates most aspects of your entertaiment life, be it watching a DVD, listening to music through an iPOd a CD a PC or talking over he phone cell, landline or Skype... The system you sneer at as "a mic and digital room eq" is a little more involved than that. It is by no means a panacea but it can solve problems that Rooms Treatment can't; one of these being the correction of drivers aberration... Digital Room Correction cannot make an acoustically bad room great but in conjunction with Room Treatment Digital Room Correction should provide a level of performance we could not even dream of ... I still use a good old Passive crossover with regular electronics... I will thoroughly audition the behold (their name is indeed with all capital letters) system as I consider it and similar systems the wave of the future.. we will resist all we want but Digital has steadfastly overtaken analog...
post #14 of 481
Thread Starter 
If you look at B&W's 800D brochure, it is an excellent presentation of the struggles involved and the compromises taken when trying to do a 3-way passive speaker. For instance, trying to do a *single* midrange that has wide dispersion, yet decent power handling, they went for the FST design that acts like a smaller cone at higher frequencies (a bit of a rationalization, but....). BUT, they also talk about breakup and cone resonance that occurs (that they feel they've sufficiently controlled). That is occurring pretty much throughout the upper midrange. And how do they blend a completely pistonic diamond tweeter with a driver that is not pistonic at all? By using a 4kHz 6dB/octave crossover that allows more driver distortion to come through *but* allows it to blend over several octaves rather than a sharper transition. They also bring up their preference for pistonic aluminum bass drivers, but because the FST driver doesn't play low, they must cross over the bass region too high and that would allow aluminum ringing to get in.

The general beef against steep crossovers is that the drivers don't have time to 'blend' their sonic signatures and the idea being that lower order crossovers allow the flavors and dispersion of the drivers to merge. BUT, if the drivers are accurate, pistonic, low distortion and wide dispersion at the crossover, you can use steep crossovers and get a very seamless blend while shifting distortion/resonance spectra out of the used range. If you had the ability to use much steeper crossovers, you could switch the 800D's midrange and woofers to very pistonic drivers that performed better in the used bandwidth while lowering distortion and keeping the dispersion very high. That's my only real beef with the 800Ds. They're not harsh like the 800N, but they do retain a low level grunge that, while dismissable, really isn't something I'm used to hearing on digital active speakers such as the Xd or other speakers that have rigid drivers. I may hear other artifacts, but not a general wide bandwidth grunge. It is something that you wouldn't notice if you hadn't lived without it for so long, but it is there. Most speaker designers spend all of their energies making this grunge difficult to notice.
post #15 of 481
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NIN74 View Post

The problem is maybe that digtal DSP is not the best solution? Ever think of that? The same with people thinking that a mic and digital room eq can fix the sound as good as real life acoustics treatment.

I set up a system with some old, but expensive Triads and they sounded muddy from the bass through the midrange until I ran Audyssey on them. No amount of room treatment would have fixed that. There were clearly some inaccuracies that needed to be fixed in the speaker.

This is the difference with impulse response correction. You can actually fix the original event at the speaker, not try to mask later room effects which are dramatically more complicated and technically impossible to correct. Audyssey does both speaker impulse and room impulse response correction. The former works pretty well, the latter is a bit more questionable. DEQX does an even better job of speaker correction and skips the room. The problem with room correction is that it's a multi dimensional problem, basically a set of different problems with no one solution. Speakers are more 1-dimensional.

Also, DSP essentially eliminates certain problems and compensates for others. No passive crossover can do this. Once many of the problems are removed or reduced, you find that solving the remaining problems are not only much easier, but you can use more advanced and higher performance solutions.
post #16 of 481
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alimentall View Post

I set up a system with some old, but expensive Triads and they sounded muddy from the bass through the midrange until I ran Audyssey on them. No amount of room treatment would have fixed that. There were clearly some inaccuracies that needed to be fixed in the speaker.


Well, I should say, buy a new speaker instead.

Otherwise, I don't really agree with you.
post #17 of 481
Quote:
Originally Posted by NIN74 View Post

Otherwise, I don't really agree with you.

What don't you agree with in what he said?
post #18 of 481
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NIN74 View Post

Well, I should say, buy a new speaker instead.

We'd thought of that but figured they would still perform well. The cabinets are well done and the drivers we pretty good, but they clearly need some EQ. The Audyssey did that and the system sounds great now without the added expense.
Quote:

Otherwise, I don't really agree with you.

I'm still taking that one in.......
post #19 of 481
As I said before, it all depends on the guy/guys that do this. To think digital active speakers is better just because they are digital active speakers are not really a good move, IMO. It all depends on how it is all done.

I have not heard NHT/DEQX stuff so I cannot commant on that.
post #20 of 481
Quote:
Originally Posted by NIN74 View Post

It all depends on how it is all done.

How insightful.
post #21 of 481
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NIN74 View Post

As I said before, it all depends on the guy/guys that do this. To think digital active speakers is better just because they are digital active speakers are not really a good move, IMO. It all depends on how it is all done.

No one was saying that a digital speaker is automatically better than a passive speaker, but it is a pretty sensible to say that a digital crossover is more transparent than a passive crossover, not to mention a whole lot more flexible and faster to bring to market.
post #22 of 481
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alimentall View Post

No one was saying that a digital speaker is automatically better than a passive speaker, but it is a pretty sensible to say that a digital crossover is more transparent than a passive crossover, not to mention a whole lot more flexible and faster to bring to market.


In what way would they be more transparent?
post #23 of 481
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NIN74 View Post

In what way would they be more transparent?

Well, there's no capacitors, inductors or resistors in the path, the amps are attached directly to the drivers, there's no modulation of the crossover frequency due to constant impedance changes with the drivers, no compression due to overheating components, no signal loss etc, etc.
post #24 of 481
Can you show that in any measurements?
post #25 of 481
Thread Starter 
If I had some expensive test gear, I'm sure I could. Do you have any measurements to show I'm wrong?
post #26 of 481
No, but I think you maybe simplify stuff. Some think that Meridian make the best speakers because they way they are doing the crossover (and other stuff), but the is really just opinion, not a fact.

Is it only those old NHT that have that digital crossover?
post #27 of 481
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NIN74 View Post

No, but I think you maybe simplify stuff. Some think that Meridian make the best speakers because they way they are doing the crossover (and other stuff), but the is really just opinion, not a fact.

But that's not what we're saying. I do think their implementation is impressive, though technically a bit simple compared to DEQX and they could use better, more exotic drivers.
Quote:

Is it only those old NHT that have that digital crossover?

No, there are half a dozen other speakers now using DEQX - the Pulserods, the Graz ribbons, the Legend Acoustics Tikandis, the Acoustic Zen Maestros, the Overkill Audio speakers, etc. The Tikandi has the closest to perfect execution of what I've seen (not heard) so far.
post #28 of 481
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alimentall View Post

...not to mention a whole lot more flexible and faster to bring to market.

Perhaps that is why digital active speakers are flooding the market daily.
post #29 of 481
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alimentall View Post

But that's not what we're saying. I do think their implementation is impressive, though technically a bit simple compared to DEQX and they could use better, more exotic drivers.

No, there are half a dozen other speakers now using DEQX - the Pulserods, the Graz ribbons, the Legend Acoustics Tikandis, the Acoustic Zen Maestros, the Overkill Audio speakers, etc. The Tikandi has the closest to perfect execution of what I've seen (not heard) so far.


I will try to see if I can listen to any of these here in Sweden.
post #30 of 481
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alimentall View Post

Well, there's no capacitors, inductors or resistors in the path, the amps are attached directly to the drivers, there's no modulation of the crossover frequency due to constant impedance changes with the drivers, no compression due to overheating components, no signal loss etc, etc.

Doug Self (the amplifier designer and book author) somewhere wrote that crossover coils may cross-talk. He suggested that the crossover should be removed from the speaker enclosure and spread out over more real estate.
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