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Active vs Passive monitors

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Active vs Passive monitors

Postby dw14 » Thu Oct 03, 2019 5:31 pm

Hi all,

Just getting back into home studio recording after many long years away.
Technology has moved on so much since my Fostex DMT-8 and outboard effects days!

Have a Focusrite 4i4 3rd Gen and looking at monitor speakers.
Narrowed down quality/budget wise the Presonus Eris E5/E5 XT's.
However, I have a pair of Spirit Absolute 2 passive monitors that I normally used as good hifi speakers. Don't have a 'studio'grade amp to drive them though.
https://www.soundcraft.com/en/products/spirit-absolute-2

Would I be best getting an amp for them or going with the Presonus E5's and using the Spirits as a mix gauge hooked up to a hifi amp?

If so, what amp?

Thanks for any replies.
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Re: Active vs Passive monitors

Postby Mike Stranks » Thu Oct 03, 2019 7:59 pm

Welcome!

These days most people use active monitors, but a few people here use passives.

The Absolute 2 aren't the greatest monitors in the world and these days have easily been surpassed in quality by many 'budget' models. So... I'd go for some new powered monitors in your situation.

BUT what is your room like? If it's acoustically untreated then you'd be wise to spend money on some acoustic treatment fairly smartish. (NB NOT foam panels! :) ) Even £100-£150 on some proper panels will make a huge difference.

As for an amp... and bearing in mind the speakers, I'd go for a second-user hi-fi amp - dozens of decent 70s/80s ones on EBay. The Alesis RA100 was good in its day and they can still be found second-hand. That's a power-amp though, not a hi-fi amp. The Alesis amps still command good money so unless you can get one for sub £100 I'd go the hi-fi route.
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Re: Active vs Passive monitors

Postby dw14 » Fri Oct 04, 2019 1:52 am

Thanks Mike,

I reckon I'll go for the active monitors and add some accoustic panels to the budget then.

My room is small at 2x3 metres and along the 3m wall being where the equipment will sit. Monitors will have to be very near the wall and not too big.
Probably be the Presonus E5's as that'll still be in budget, just need to forgoe better mic's just now and do with what I have from years ago.
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Re: Active vs Passive monitors

Postby Arpangel » Fri Oct 04, 2019 9:20 am

dw14 wrote:Thanks Mike,

I reckon I'll go for the active monitors and add some accoustic panels to the budget then.

My room is small at 2x3 metres and along the 3m wall being where the equipment will sit. Monitors will have to be very near the wall and not too big.
Probably be the Presonus E5's as that'll still be in budget, just need to forgoe better mic's just now and do with what I have from years ago.

Active or passive, it's up to you, but the passive option need more thought, matching aplifiers to speakers.
If going active the Presonus Eris series are excellent monitors I owned a pair of 8's for awhile. The build quality can be a bit suspect, but they may have improved on that since I had mine. I noticed a rather intrusive mechanical hum, I tried other pairs and they had it too, I stopped using them for this reason. You need to check this out in your own studio, and buy on sale or return. It's a shame as it ruins for me, what is actually a very good monitor speaker.
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Re: Active vs Passive monitors

Postby The Red Bladder » Fri Oct 04, 2019 11:18 am

The only passive speakers I have been able to find that work well and have good response times and low distortion at higher volumes have been the B&W DM600 S3 and the M&K 45 but both must be combined with a sub or two.

My favorite budget actives are small Genelecs, again combined with a sub.

The common denominator here is small mid-drivers. Anything above 6" (i.e. a 5" active surface) seems to flap about too much and this leads to very poor response times - which in turn leads to a lack of clarity and distortion.

Larger drivers in a two-way system give a 'sweeter' sound (more bass!) but at a cost.
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Re: Active vs Passive monitors

Postby Arpangel » Fri Oct 04, 2019 3:39 pm

While you're on the way to the supermarket you may want to make a slight detour and put a pair of these in your trolley...

https://www.bowerswilkins.com/en-gb/home-audio/800-series

:D
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Re: Active vs Passive monitors

Postby The Red Bladder » Fri Oct 04, 2019 3:52 pm

It's no good Tone - my trolley has a wonky wheel, so I've gone off it.
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Re: Active vs Passive monitors

Postby dw14 » Fri Oct 04, 2019 4:00 pm

Arpangel wrote:While you're on the way to the supermarket you may want to make a slight detour and put a pair of these in your trolley...

https://www.bowerswilkins.com/en-gb/home-audio/800-series

:D

I'll put a lottery ticket on! :lol:
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Re: Active vs Passive monitors

Postby Wonks » Fri Oct 04, 2019 5:44 pm

Arpangel wrote:While you're on the way to the supermarket you may want to make a slight detour and put a pair of these in your trolley...

https://www.bowerswilkins.com/en-gb/home-audio/800-series

:D

They are quite nice. A very relaxed, effortless sound to them. But they are physically very large and they need a suitably large room to put them in, and they need acoustic treatment. The penthouse lounge I heard them in wasn't treated - far to much glass walls to do so.
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Re: Active vs Passive monitors

Postby dw14 » Fri Oct 04, 2019 7:12 pm

The Red Bladder wrote:The common denominator here is small mid-drivers. Anything above 6" (i.e. a 5" active surface) seems to flap about too much and this leads to very poor response times - which in turn leads to a lack of clarity and distortion.

With the small space I have, small speakers will be the best.
I’ll probably have about 1/2 metre between them and my ears and 1 1/2 metres between front of speakers and painted, plaster wall behind me.
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Re: Active vs Passive monitors

Postby dw14 » Fri Oct 04, 2019 9:24 pm

Forgot to say, my ceiling height is 3 metres.
If deciding on accoustic treatment, should I put a couple of panels on the wall behing my seat opposite the speakers?

Also, just wondering, what's specifically wrong with the accoustic foam as opposed to proper panels?
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Re: Active vs Passive monitors

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Oct 04, 2019 10:15 pm

'Proper' rock wool RW3 panels work better at lower frequencies than foam (generally). As you have a high ceililng for such a small room you could probably benefit from a 'cloud'* suspended a couple of feet below the ceiling to act as a bass trap, then treat the 'mirror points (i.e. where, if you held a mirror up, you would see your monitor speakers from your mix position) on the side and back walls.

*Or a false ceiling maybe of acoustically transparent cloth over 100mm or so of rock wool)?
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Re: Active vs Passive monitors

Postby dw14 » Fri Oct 04, 2019 10:25 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:'Proper' rock wool RW3 panels work better at lower frequencies than foam (generally). As you have a high ceililng for such a small room you could probably benefit from a 'cloud'* suspended a couple of feet below the ceiling to act as a bass trap, then treat the 'mirror points (i.e. where, if you held a mirror up, you would see your monitor speakers from your mix position) on the side and back walls.

*Or a false ceiling maybe of acoustically transparent cloth over 100mm or so of rock wool)?

Thanks Sam, I'll look into costs and budget for the panels and see what's the best I can get.
Decided on the Presonus E5 as they are in budget and sound (sic) ideal for my room, leaving me money over for basic room treatment.

Incidentally, I have a dual 27" computer monitor setup so the speakers will either be reasonably far apart to bring the tweeter in line with my ear or higher than the PC monitors and angled down.
I'd much prefer the first option but say they were further apart than the distance to my ears, you think that would make a huge difference?
The new Presonus E5 XT's have a wider sweet spot apparently.
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Re: Active vs Passive monitors

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Oct 04, 2019 10:37 pm

Received wisdom is that you need the speakers at two points of an equilateral triangle and the listener at the third. Stereo doesn't translate if they are not. Recordists record stereo assuming the listener and his speakers will be in the aforementioned position so if you place them wider (or narrower) it will adversely affect the stereo image/spread. In a small room compromises have to be made but it may be better to compromise on VDU position to allow the speakers to be in the best place, this audio we are dealing with so the audio should have the priority.
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Re: Active vs Passive monitors

Postby dw14 » Fri Oct 04, 2019 11:44 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:Received wisdom is that you need the speakers at two points of an equilateral triangle and the listener at the third. Stereo doesn't translate if they are not. Recordists record stereo assuming the listener and his speakers will be in the aforementioned position so if you place them wider (or narrower) it will adversely affect the stereo image/spread. In a small room compromises have to be made but it may be better to compromise on VDU position to allow the speakers to be in the best place, this audio we are dealing with so the audio should have the priority.

Thanks, I need to reorganise the room and get new desks etc so will take all this into account.
Definitely compromises needed as this is my home office as well. :(

Eurolottery win tonight and I build dream studio :lol:
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Re: Active vs Passive monitors

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Oct 05, 2019 10:37 am

At least it's not a living room so it should be possible to install some decent treatment. My studio is a little bigger (though without the luxury of a decent ceiling height) but not huge. It's a nice place to be but if I needed a home office I'm not sure how much work I'd get done :blush:
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Re: Active vs Passive monitors

Postby dw14 » Sat Oct 05, 2019 2:38 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:At least it's not a living room so it should be possible to install some decent treatment. My studio is a little bigger (though without the luxury of a decent ceiling height) but not huge. It's a nice place to be but if I needed a home office I'm not sure how much work I'd get done :blush:

Yeah, home and office in the same sentence, doesn't always work well.
That's the reason I need the two monitors really so will have to redo around the main work area but manageable with a bit of thought.
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Re: Active vs Passive monitors

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Oct 05, 2019 3:29 pm

At least if it's the office you can excuse making it nice as it will help productivity ;)
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Re: Active vs Passive monitors

Postby Arpangel » Sun Oct 06, 2019 10:18 am

The Red Bladder wrote:It's no good Tone - my trolley has a wonky wheel, so I've gone off it.

I'm not sure if I've gone off my trolley altogether...

:D
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