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Author Topic: disadvantages to active speakers  (Read 9688 times)

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disadvantages to active speakers
« on: April 29, 2005, 10:44:10 pm »

What disadvantages are there to using active (powered) speakers instead of passive speakers? Weight difference is one area that comes to mind.
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Wade Biery

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Re: disadvantages to active speakers
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2005, 12:43:21 am »

Another obvious one is that if it breaks, TWO things go down for repair.
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DanDraper

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Re: disadvantages to active speakers
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2005, 03:52:23 am »

u have to run 2 cables to each speaker....

however, u have less to carry around and less space taken up on stage because there are no amp racks, plus protection circuitry and crossover etc. are designed specifically for the amp/ driver combo, so can be better

hope this helps
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James Leece

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Re: disadvantages to active speakers
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2005, 04:54:13 am »

STILL wrote on Sat, 30 April 2005 05:43

Another obvious one is that if it breaks, TWO things go down for repair.


On the other hand, with passive setups you can have 2 or more speakers being powered off one amp. So if one amp goes down completely, you lose two speakers as opposed to just one.
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Ivan Beaver

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Re: disadvantages to active speakers
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2005, 08:58:46 am »

The biggest issue is, what would be the best type of speaker for the job First. Then look at what's available and what would make better sense.  Is this for install-portable-flown-ground-cost-size-coverage etc.

Making a blanket statement is kind of like asking what is better a car or a pickup?  After you determine you need,then you can ask what is better Ford Chevy Toyota etc. Then you choose your color etc.  Your particular need come first!

But to answer your question is there are advantages and disadvantes to active and passive speakers, it all depends.
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Brian Adams

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Re: disadvantages to active speakers
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2005, 05:01:06 pm »

Here's a few that I can think of:

Active:
~Generally more efficient on power
~No amp racks, saves space onstage and in the trailer
~Don't need speaker cables
~As many mixes as you've got speakers, as long as you've got the sends
~Most have a built-in LP or HP crossover, which can be handy sometimes
~Some have built-in mixers, which work for small stuff
~Preset delay and crossover points, some have a preset EQ curve to correct frequency response
~Built in limiters
~Can be easier to power than large amp racks when there's not adequate power

Passive:
~Possibility for better biamping/triamping
~Easy to add more cabinets on the same amps
~Ability to run several cabinets on one amp channel
~Only one cable to each cabinet
~Can save cable with multiconductor speaker cables (NL8 into triamped mains, NL4 out from mains to sub)
~Usually easier to deal with equipment failure
~No IEC cables to slip out of the cabinet during the show
~Locking connectors (ie- Speakon)

That said, I think that active systems are great for small-ish setups, maybe up to 3 mains/subs per side.  Anything more than that, and you're better off going passive.  Unless you've got something like a Milo rig (or something else by Meyer), or a powered Vertec system, or something similar, but that's a little different.  One of the biggest advantages of active systems, for me, is the ability to be able to make do with less power than a similarly sized passive system.  It can be a pain to run two cables to each cabinet though, especially when there's lots of cabs.  Built in limiters great, they help to keep you from blowing things up.

In my experience, powered cabs aren't significantly heavier than similar passive cabs (maybe 20%), but the total weight of a passive system is much less without those amp racks.
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John Roberts {JR}

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Re: disadvantages to active speakers
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2005, 07:00:43 pm »

BHFProfessional wrote on Fri, 29 April 2005 21:44

What disadvantages are there to using active (powered) speakers instead of passive speakers? Weight difference is one area that comes to mind.


This is not easy to answer. Even the weight issue depends on what you are comparing to.... You should consider the weight of the total system.

I am a huge fan of active speakers because I have seen what can be done. I consider using passive speakers a little like the old days of Hifi when you had to be smart enough to buy components that would work well together, and know how to hook them up etc.

I have worked closely with a few very good speaker designers. I will trust them to tweak the crossover any day over leaving that to the system operator to second guess. There will be abuses, like certain active speakers that are voiced to sound better at POS than in actual use... but that happens with passives too.

I suspect some day we may look back and reminisce about passive speakers. Of course I could be wrong... Cool

JR
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Bud Bolf

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Re: disadvantages to active speakers
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2005, 07:03:41 pm »

 My complaint in a nutshell.
What do you do when the Internal Power Amp fails? The Active Speaker is dead, dead, dead! The Manufacturers will not add a Switch into the cab, that will let you bypass the Internal Power Amp, and still use the cab via a Spare Power Amp.
I understand that as a Manufacturer, it is not good to add cost to a unit so that it may still be used if a portion of it Fails.
But let's face it they do Fail. Only God is perfect 100% of the time! For Manuf. sales, Failures are never part of an Ad!

If my Passive System looses a Power Amp, I have options.
I can use a Spare Amp, or use a Guitar and or Bass Amp, Bridge one of the other Amps, take one Side of my Monitor Amp.
Because the bottom line, is to ALWAYS get through the GIG!
The following day, it's a lot easier to rent or Borrow, an Amp, than a Active Speaker Cab!
When Active Speaker cabs provide me with an option to get me through the night, then I'll think of putting my Faith and Money as well as a Gig into them!
Until then I'll stay Passive, Flexible, and able to get through the Show!
 This is of course considering that you know how to set your Gains and are not Blowing up Speakers, just dealing with Amplifier Failures.
My 2c
 Bud
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Rob Timmerman

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Re: disadvantages to active speakers
« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2005, 09:35:38 pm »

True, if the internal amp fails on an active speaker, the speaker is no longer usable.  But passive speakers have many more failure points than do active speakers.

A biamplified active speaker has the following potential failure points:
Drivers
Internal electronics (including amplifiers)
Power cable
Signal cable

The equivalent externally powered speaker has the following failure points:
Drivers
Speaker cable
Amplifier (possibly 2)
External DSP (or crossover + limiter)
interconnect cables (including patch panels)
Power cable x2
Signal cable


Unless you do something stupid, you aren't going to blow drivers.  And given modern manufacturing, failures in amplifiers and drive electronics will be low.  The big issue in my mind is the cable, as that is normally what fails.

If you're worried about failure, full redundancy with active speakers is easier and less expensive than with an externally powered cabinet, as you need less spare equipment.

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Wade Biery

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Re: disadvantages to active speakers
« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2005, 09:53:51 pm »

FunkyJim wrote on Sat, 30 April 2005 01:54

STILL wrote on Sat, 30 April 2005 05:43

Another obvious one is that if it breaks, TWO things go down for repair.


On the other hand, with passive setups you can have 2 or more speakers being powered off one amp. So if one amp goes down completely, you lose two speakers as opposed to just one.


That only makes sense if it takes the speakers with it when it goes, (which obvioulsy does happen sometimes) but otherwise you only need to replace one thing.

Myself I still really haven't heard active speakers that stand up sound-wise against a good or even decent passive speaker/amp system, but I admit limited exposure to them.
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Bud Bolf

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Re: disadvantages to active speakers
« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2005, 06:14:37 am »

 Hi again,
In regard to more items available for failure in a Passive System compared to an Active System. I don't think that that argument holds water, I use a DriveRack from my Mixer, and I also have an old Crossover should the DriveRack Fail. Though I have never heard horror stories (doesn't mean it's never happenned) about Crossovers dying or for that Matter DSP's failing. Thankfully, most decent outboard Equipment today lives long stable lives! I think that the most common failure in a System, Active or Passive is a Power Amp. They seem to take the most abuse day in and day out, and some of that is due to keeping them in (or not) a good environment, with good air flow to keep them cool and good AC to keep them properly powered. Again unless you set your gains inproperly and clip alot, it is also rare to blow a speaker, again, not to say that one will not just fail of old age.
Active speakers just scare me in that, I do not have Options available to me to recover, my hands are tied! Short of carrying a spare speaker! It is easier and less space consuming to plan ahead for a Passive Failure and have a spare Crossover and Power Amp! In regard to Cabling, if you do not already carry lots of spare Mic, Speaker, Inter-connect, power, and even Guitar cables (to cover that lost Guitar Player, scratching his head) then you should, because this is the easiest backup, Active or Passive!
I have no grudge against those that Love the Active way.
Call me over-protective of my System, no scratch that, make me over-protective of getting through the gig with both stacks!
In time maybe I'll convert. At that time, I'll probably modify my cabs so that I can bypass the Power Amp, and I'll carry a Spare Power amp from my old Passive days! LOL!
Later,
  Bud
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Matt Johnson

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Re: disadvantages to active speakers
« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2005, 10:01:07 am »

I'll just say "Don't knock it 'till you tried it.".  I was completely against using powered speakers for a long time.  Especially after hearing the crap Mackie and Peavey had to offer. Then I was offered an opportunity to try out both FBT and EV powered systems.  I ended up buying a complete powered EV system (SXA series) for my small bar gigs and even used it at a couple of outdoor gigs.  

That was over three years ago.  The only failure I've had was on a top that took the shortcut off my truck after being packed poorly.  All of my monitors are the same model as the tops, so I made the drummer live without a monitor for a gig and everything went fine.  

I still have my passive rig for large gigs, but it collects more dust than my powered system.  Plus, if I need extra monitors with the big rig, I can just grab a powered ones.  It fits in the back of my pickup and handles everything I've thrown at it so far.  I love it.
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Larry Cioffi

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Re: disadvantages to active speakers
« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2005, 06:20:21 am »

Our band uses 100% powered speakers for everything, mains, sub, monitors.  We are a 5 piece, female-fronted band in the chicago area, and most of the clubs we play where we need to bring PA are small to medium sized venues.  We use Yorkville EF500Ps for mains, LS700Ps for subs, and NX250s for monitors (we have 3, going for a 4th).  We know this gear is durable, the EF500Ps have been going for over 2 years with no failures.  This band doesn't push them very hard.... and if we do have a failure, we would just move a monitor cabinet up to replace the failing EF500P.  Not optimal, but it would get us through the show.
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Jonathan Novick

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Re: disadvantages to active speakers
« Reply #13 on: May 13, 2005, 05:26:21 pm »

Here is how I see things.

If cars were like pro-audio gear, we would dissassemble our cars before and after each use. We would need to know a lot about tuning and aligning our cars or they would drive horribly after we assembled them. Thankfully, cars come in integrated packages. We just need to know where the gas goes and how to use the steering wheel, foot pedals and the shift lever.

Powered speakers are a step towards integration of sound systems. They take a key variable, namely matching the speakers to the amps, out of the assembly problem. It allows someone to focus more energy on another part of their job. It is kind of like using a Driverack. The DR eliminates a lot of the level matching and wiring issues between components and saves space to boot. The DR creates a single point failure problem too.

I feel powered speakers get a bad rap because there are so many budget plastic models on the market catering to DJs and this is what people see. You have Meyer cabinets at the high end of powered speakers but you won't find them in bars. The market for powered speakers targeted above the beginner DJ and below the touring system is still relatively young. The selection keeps getting better each year.

The powered vs non-powered argument is like the analog vs. digital console argument. Eventually they will coexist quite nicely.


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John Roberts {JR}

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Re: disadvantages to active speakers
« Reply #14 on: May 13, 2005, 07:16:22 pm »

sawdust12 wrote on Fri, 13 May 2005 16:26

Here is how I see things.

If cars were like pro-audio gear, we would dissassemble our cars before and after each use. We would need to know a lot about tuning and aligning our cars or they would drive horribly after we assembled them. Thankfully, cars come in integrated packages. We just need to know where the gas goes and how to use the steering wheel, foot pedals and the shift lever.

Powered speakers are a step towards integration of sound systems. They take a key variable, namely matching the speakers to the amps, out of the assembly problem. It allows someone to focus more energy on another part of their job. It is kind of like using a Driverack. The DR eliminates a lot of the level matching and wiring issues between components and saves space to boot. The DR creates a single point failure problem too.

I feel powered speakers get a bad rap because there are so many budget plastic models on the market catering to DJs and this is what people see. You have Meyer cabinets at the high end of powered speakers but you won't find them in bars. The market for powered speakers targeted above the beginner DJ and below the touring system is still relatively young. The selection keeps getting better each year.

The powered vs non-powered argument is like the analog vs. digital console argument. Eventually they will coexist quite nicely.






I agree with your sentiment about powered speakers being a more advanced evolutionary branch of the same tree. The car analogy is rich with comparisons I'll leave for others to expand upon.

My only minor disagreement would be with the analog vs. digital console argument being similar.... I'm not even sure what the analog vs. digital console argument is? AFAIK it's not a system integration issue, while digital is more amenable to that.  

While many have been waiting for the digital console revolution to arrive. Godot like, either it already has or isn't ever going to. I suspect there will be ongoing evolutionary increases in   acceptance and market share of digital everything.

IMO the likely evolutionary path for consoles is first to break the control surface away from the audio path, which certainly favors digital, and finally the control surface morphing to something unrecognizable to today's mix engineers. Of course I could be wrong. The future hasn't happened yet. Rolling Eyes

JR





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Jonathan Novick

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Re: disadvantages to active speakers
« Reply #15 on: May 15, 2005, 11:38:24 pm »

JR,

The only reason for the console analogy is that some people swear one way or the other while most people now accept that both with will coexist for quite a while (at least according to a recent FOH poll). I see people taking sides on powered cabinets as well. IMHO, they will coexist.
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