Is aktiv operation best in all respects (same quality amp)?

General HiFi discussion, using the Tune Method to evaluate performance

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Is aktiv operation best in all respects (same quality amp)?

Post by Charlie1 » 2010-02-19 01:27

Recently converted my Ninkas from 3-way aktiv to passive using the same 6100/D - it's just a temporary measure whilst I test something else. Anyway, have forum members always found aktiv operation an entirely one-way street to better performance? I'm detecting some minor benefits in passive and wasn't expecting this when using same quality amp.

The benefits are no where near enough to make me prefer passive overall, but just a bit surprised that's all. I sense that timing (or maybe some element of timing - if that's possible) is better passive. There is more 'togetherness', perhaps you could call cohesiveness, to the music. Also, less fancy and distracting hi-fi - some times I feel it's easier to focus on the music and not be so impressed by the aktiv presentation.

Anyone else experience this?

It then got me thinking that perhaps this because the signal is split before taking dedicated speaker runs - maybe this gives opportunity for some timing differences between the channels. And maybe active speakers with in-built amps don't have this problem?

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Post by anthony » 2010-02-19 08:57

An interesting observation. Naim has a philosophy a better amp passive outperforms a cheaper amp aktiv, and I agree, many uninformed quote "it doesn't matter when aktiv the amps have less work to do", some even mix amps!
I went aktiv with isobariks, kabers and owned aktiv keltiks.
Aktiv genarally allows a much more extended bass, this normally improves the sound anyway. When people say for example, I have an akurate 2200, and now going aktiv with a majik 6100 is to me a bad move! Kabers just needed aktiv to give a big sound. My first doubts arose when I tried moving, different klimax solos to different drivers,
I was stunned how one pair of solos worked better with the treble, than a similar aged other pair.And similarly on the other drive units, it took many days and a lot of combinations to arrive at a perfect arrangement.
Moving on to 242s driven by a klimax twin, I decided to "upgrade" to Akurate aktiv" this is where paranoia sets in, swapping amps, I initially perceived this as better and spent probably a few weeks pleased.
I always need a fix of music every day, and found this was being eroded, so I went back to passive solos and am still happy after several years.
Fredrik recently noted something which I had never cosidered, with aktiv none of the drivers are protected by a crossover, eg the tweeter will be seeing the whole bandwidth of bad bits such as hum and low level hash, this obviously would normally be filtered by a passive crossover.
I do strangely perceive the timing as better passive. I have always preferred 350P to a 350A....so I suppose I am a passive convert.
I appreciate aktiv has many advantages, and the thought of driving passive crossovers is scary but proof is in the listening.
I feel the newer range of amps, ie all aktiv channels in one box help eliminate some variances, the 350A with dynamik, is the first time I could honestly recommend them, so perhaps as amplifiers and aktiv crossovers improve so will the aktiv concept.

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Post by anthony » 2010-02-19 09:42

Another after thought, a majority who upgrade to aktiv, go back to passive, often a difference is seen as an upgrade. During the recession I know of a few who have reverted have been surprisedhow much they still enjoyed their systems.
I have recently hooked up some sara 9s to my klimax system, and contary to them being a past happy memory have surprised me how good they are, and how sources improve so much more than speakers.

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Post by Charlie1 » 2010-02-19 13:49

Thanks Anthony - it's good to know I'm not the only one :D

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Post by Tony Tune-age » 2010-02-19 16:03

I've spent time listening to an audio system which was recently converted to active, although not with Linn components. The owner is still evaluating this change, but overall he's not real happy.

Certain areas are improved, although not by a large margin. Bass sounds a little more clear, but high frequencies aren't nearly as nice. He will wait a few weeks for "burn-in time," before knowing if it's a better sounding system than passive.
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Post by lejonklou » 2010-02-20 11:03

Very interesting discussion! Although the answers can be complex, I think Anthony hit the nail on the head when he wrote: Proof is in the listening.

Although I'm very fond of aktiv systems, I believe I did point out a few advantages of passive Katans in my system presentation here on the forum. It's never 100% positive when going from passive to aktiv, there are a few drawbacks as well. I suspect the final result will depend a lot on how good the filters are (both the passive and aktiv ones).

But even more important is to make sure the speakers are properly installed in both aktiv and passive configurations! Otherwise the comparison becomes pointless, as an optimised installation is more important than passive/aktiv mode IMHO.

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Post by Tony Tune-age » 2010-02-21 18:42

But the good news is, either type of system can sound very nice if all aspects are set-up properly :) .
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Post by MRTweak » 2010-02-21 19:46

Active vs passive.
Or why isn’t active always better?
Well I believe, that is because there is so many more things, that has the potential to go wrong, in an active setup.
Its a lot more complicated to set it up properly, and if you don’t, it will tell you loud and clear. :cry:

The higher resolution makes it much more unforgiving to every little aspect of your setup.

But if you really got what it takes, it will reward you at a completely new and higher level. :D

If you dont have the skills you just burn a big hole in your wallet without the faintest chance of ever getting your expensive rig to perform above par. :(

As always, the proof is in the pudding and if you dont know yet about the concept of “Foundation first”, well you better look it up, to improve your toolbox of tweaks to really make your Hifi rig sing better than ever before. :mrgreen:

Cheers and good luck!
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Post by Tony Tune-age » 2010-02-21 19:50

Well stated MRTweak... :!:
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Post by Music Lover » 2010-02-22 12:17

Charlie, Anthony and Fredrik - using same amps active and passive, what is better passive?
Please give some examples and elaborate.
It's all about musical understanding!

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Post by Charlie1 » 2010-02-22 16:19

Hi ML. Like I said, aktiv Ninkas with the 6100 is much better overall. There is no question of that, but there is something I sense to be 'timing' related that seems better when passive. It's subtle though and I'm not knowledgable enough on the structure/construct of music to even begin to clearly identify what's going on. I'm also leaning towards the notion that passive is a little less fatuiging too :shock:

Setup is a fair point though, but I'd be surprised if it's enough to explain this. I admit to not fine tuning the aktiv Ninkas to the last degree although everything was level and otherwise in order. Passive I didn't change the speaker position because I wasn't planning to compare aktiv/passive - only get setup to try some other speakers and had to convert the 6100 to passive operation.

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Post by MRTweak » 2010-02-22 18:27

Hi Charlie1, you will indeed be surprised what a truly "Foundation first" installation will do to your Hifi rig, probably picking up your jaw from the floor , "methinks" :mrgreen:

With Hi End gear, every little minute detail matters and for instance the ideal position of your loudspeakers, could very well vary, between active/passive.

So you got to check everything at least twice :wink:

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Post by ThomasOK » 2010-02-24 21:13

I have to say that I have a hard time listening to even the best passive systems and speakers without feeling like I am missing something. It may be that I tend to listen at what is referred to as "realistic" listening levels (read LOUD)! And at decent listening levels I am almost always aware of some compression of dynamics that I equate to the passive crossovers saturating.

That said I also find active systems to be more enjoyable at low levels as well. Indeed I am surprised at the comment that passive might be less fatiguing as I have always found the opposite. Active systems to me have always been less fatiguing and have allowed me to get into the music more easily. That said my personal experience with active systems in the home has been limited to Isobariks driven either by LK280/SPARKS or 2250s or ATC 100As both fronted by a pretty fully-loaded LP12 and other quite good sources. YMMV.

One thing that I could see playing into the timing differences mentioned by Charlie (other than the Aktiv filters as Fredrik mentioned) are the inevitable differences in the pieces leading up to the speakers. As I believe has been mentioned here, no two devices sound identical and this includes cables. Fredrik mentioned this some time ago and I listened to all my Silver interconnects in mono and picked the best two to go from my Urika to my KK, the next best two from the Majik DS and the third best two for the Pekin. The fourth pair are reserve for recording usage. Likewise I have in the past compared three different KKs as a customer brought his in complaining it didn't sound as good as he felt it should. Our demo was quite a bit better than his. Once we did a software reload and changed some settings we were able to get it to be good enough that the customer was happy but it still wasn't quite as good as the store demo which wasn't quite as good as my personal unit that I brought in for comparison. I have since sold that unit to get a KK/1/D and I don't generally compare them anymore as I'm not sure I want to know. :wink:

Considering how many individual components are in a typical piece of gear (capacitors, resistors, etc.) and the fact that Linn does not orient each part for optimum direction, it comes as little surprise that there is variability in the musical quality. Add to that the differences that Fredrik and I have found in the sound of torque on fasteners, even in electronics, and the findings of Fredrik in terms of precise soldering temperatures and different solders and the real surprise may be that they sound as similar as they do.

When you have a typical Linn Aktiv system you are dealing with several pair of interconnect cables, multiple channels of amplification, multiple Aktiv cards and often multiple amplifier chassis/power supplies (although not in Charlie's case). It is certainly likely that variances here could lead to some errors that could blur timing and/or have an effect on tunefulness. Although it is a lot of work it could certainly be beneficial to compare your interconnects and optimize them as mentioned above and also to listen to each channel of the power amp separately and pair them based on musical quality.

I have to say that having the amps and crossovers inside the speaker and all the circuitry on a single board does tend to at least reduce these differences. Or at least it makes it impossible to play around with it! :)

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Post by lejonklou » 2010-02-24 22:11

That was an excellent comment, Thomas. Aktiv systems are more complex and this becomes evident when fine tuning them: It takes a lot more time to optimise them.

In return, the performance benefits are typically much bigger. I have found that when fiddling with cables, connectors, fasteners and such inside the units, the benefits can vary enormously from unit to unit. Some improve just a tiny bit, others are completely transformed. In a passive system, you have a lot less of these tiny variables affecting the performance.

MRTweak is also right in pointing out the importance of racks and speaker placement. I have yet to find any pair of speakers that have the exact same optimal position in passive and aktiv mode.

I have to disagree with Thomas' "endorsement" of fully integrated aktiv speakers, however. My experience so far with the Artikulate/Klimax speaker range is that these are prone to many internal problems; both plain faults (broken cabling in three cases) and suboptimised details (rattling cables/circuit boards/heatsinks, loose connectors and fasteners, bad cable positioning, wrong cable directions etc).

This makes different units perform very differently - and optimising them takes forever as there's so much technology crammed into a small space. Additionally, when something breaks down (which it sooner or later will), you have to send the entire speaker in for service. Not fun.

Simplicity I like, but the all-integrated speakers are only simple on the outside.

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Post by Charlie1 » 2010-02-24 23:22

Interesting posts. You have reminded me that someone advised I change the order of aktiv cards for a more even left/right channel performance. Not sure if this explains my thoughts on better passive timing, but it's worth doing anyway at some point.

Mine are currently 1.bass 2.bass 3.treble 4.bass 5.bass 6.treble
I was recommended try 1.bass 2.bass 3.treble 4.treble 5.bass 6.bass so that the right and left drivers are mirrored in position.

The passive channels I'm using at present are 3 and 4 which is fine.

All this work required to get the best out of an aktiv system is making me feel tired just thinking about it. We need a 3rd way that achieves the best of both worlds. Headphones!

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Post by MRTweak » 2010-02-24 23:54

Hi Charlie, I think that you have not fully realized, that the order of where you put the filters in the amp, that is the easy part :mrgreen:

The real hassle starts, when you have to decide which way/direction, you should put the little cables, that goes from the main board to the filters. :shock: Yes they are indeed directional . :o
And just when you think it cant get any more complicated, there is the issue of how many turns they should be twisted :twisted:

And then, as icing of the cake, there are different types of internal cables, the ones with thicker insulation sounds best IMO.

Well that is what you have to do with my kind of amps and filters at least. I have to admit ,that I havent peeked inside a Majik 6100 C :oops:
So i am not surprized, that there are many active setups out there, not performing at their best :wink:

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Post by ThomasOK » 2010-02-24 23:59

Fredrik, I fully agree with your comments regarding the Klimax/Artikulat speakers and the possible pitfalls of all the stuff in there and the difficulty of servicing them should something go wrong or need to be updated - as is made obvious by the need to send the amp modules back to Linn for the Dynamik update.

That said I also have to mention that you handily fell into my trap! :lol:

Of special note is the part of my post that states "all the circuitry on a single board". This was my way of directly referring to my ATCs without appearing to do so. You see, the ATC active speakers (at least the 50, 100 and 150 models) have all the electronics (power supply, crossovers and all three amps) on a single board! No extra cables, no extra board connections.

This is in contrast to the Klimax/Artikulat speakers which have a lot of separate pieces. If I have my count right the 350A has two servo cards, four Aktiv cards several amplifier modules and three power supplies - certainly plenty more to optimize with all those connections.

Furthermore, unlike the 350As which are a real bear to remove the electronics module from, the ATC has a readily accessible module with big handles and a single multi-pin connector to disconnect for the speaker cabling.

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Post by lejonklou » 2010-02-25 00:01

Charlie1 wrote:Mine are currently 1.bass 2.bass 3.treble 4.bass 5.bass 6.treble
I recommend the following:

For right speaker: 1.treble 2.upper bass 3.lower bass
For left speaker: 4.lower bass 5. upper bass 6.treble

Then connect your preamp to inputs 1 and 6. This way the audio signal will first go to the treble channels, which internally are now closest to the power supply.

Please note that if you have already optimised the direction of your internal connecting cables between the channels (the black/red ones that should have 7.5 turns of twist, direction must be done by ear), you need to reverse the ones between 4-5 and 5-6. Because the audio signal is now going the other way.

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Post by Charlie1 » 2010-02-25 00:13

lejonklou wrote:I recommend the following:

For right speaker: 1.treble 2.upper bass 3.lower bass
For left speaker: 4.lower bass 5. upper bass 6.treble

Then connect your preamp to inputs 1 and 6. This way the audio signal will first go to the treble channels, which internally are now closest to the power supply.

Please note that if you have already optimised the direction of your internal connecting cables between the channels (the black/red ones that should have 7.5 turns of twist, direction must be done by ear), you need to reverse the ones between 4-5 and 5-6. Because the audio signal is now going the other way.
Thanks MRTweak and Fredrik for this. I had already done the tweaks to check directionality of the little internal wires and added the 7.5 turns, so will reverese the direction for those specified above. I'll also try the recommended order and IC connection points.

If I get time then I'll retune the Ninkas in aktiv mode and then compare that to passive Ninkas and see if I can still detect any timing benefits passive. Problem I see coming is that the timing benefits were subtle and might well be the type of change I'm only able to pick up on when I've lived with the system a few weeks before making any changes.
Last edited by Charlie1 on 2010-02-25 04:12, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by Tony Tune-age » 2010-02-25 00:14

Thomas, I've experimented with different types of interconnects in an effort to improve sound. And I've listened to various lengths of the same interconnect, to determine what length sounded best. But I never listened to several pairs of the same "type and length of interconnect."

However, the difference you heard between each Klimax Kontrol is unfortunate. No wonder people have different opinions of how audio components sound. Apparently there is a significant amount of quality control variance.
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Post by ThomasOK » 2010-02-25 00:45

Tony Tune-age wrote:Thomas, I've experimented with different types of interconnects in an effort to improve sound. And I've listened to various lengths of the same interconnect, to determine what length sounded best. But I never listened to several pairs of the same "type and length of interconnect."

However, the difference you heard between each Klimax Kontrol is unfortunate. No wonder people have different opinions of how audio components sound. Apparently there is a significant amount of quality control variance.
The comparison on the interconnects came from Fredrik. He pointed out that different cables even made at the same time can sound different. I compared five pairs of Silver interconnects singly as mentioned and found audible differences between all of them. Even more worrisome is that the best two did not sound identical (although they were close) and were obviously from different batches (slight difference in the color of the silver jacket).

On the difference between Klimax Kontrols, I'm not trying to single them out. I believe you will likely find that pretty much all Hi-Fi gear varies from one unit to the next. As mentioned, there are so many variables that it would be almost impossible to make all the units of a given model sound alike. I imagine Fredrik might get close on units like the Slipsik where each unit is individually tuned but even there I expect there is some slight variance. If a pair of cables made at the same time by the same person can sound a little different can you expect all of a given capacitor or resistor to sound the same?

In the past I have noticed certain units that sounded better than others (my Ikemi sounded particularly good and the store's first Majik CD demo was not as good as our current one). But I have to state that I find these differences to generally be small with Linn equipment. I have certainly never heard a Klimax Kontrol that wouldn't make a Kairn sound broken by comparison, nor will the best Akurate Kontrol come close to the least of the KKs. So I don't think that Linn components are any worse in this regard - but those of us trying to get the ultimate out of our systems have fairly high standards. And I hoped it would be helpful to highlight some of these differences for people like Charlie who are trying to optimize their systems and want to understand how to proceed.

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Post by Charlie1 » 2010-02-25 00:52

ThomasOK wrote:And I hoped it would be helpful to highlight some of these differences for people like Charlie who are trying to optimize their systems and want to understand how to proceed.
Sorry, thanks Tom - I forgot to mention the Silvers. I will also tweak these at some point. I hadn't picked up on this before from the forum or maybe just forgot, but either way it's useful to read it in this thread.

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Post by Tony Tune-age » 2010-02-25 13:12

ThomasOK wrote:I have in the past compared three different KKs as a customer brought his in complaining it didn't sound as good as he felt it should. Our demo was quite a bit better than his. Once we did a software reload and changed some settings we were able to get it to be good enough that the customer was happy but it still wasn't quite as good as the store demo which wasn't quite as good as my personal unit that I brought in for comparison. I have since sold that unit to get a KK/1/D and I don't generally compare them anymore as I'm not sure I want to know. :wink:

That customer had a good ear, to realize his Klimax Kontrol wasn't sounding as good as it could. Was it just the internal components that made all three units sound different, or could it have been assembly differences?
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Post by ThomasOK » 2010-02-25 19:02

It was a little older unit so it could have been component upgrades but the main problems were solved by a reload of the operating software and changing some of the settings. There is info in another thread (I don't remember which) about which settings produce the best sound on the KK.

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Post by Charlie1 » 2010-02-25 22:28

ThomasOK wrote:There is info in another thread (I don't remember which) about which settings produce the best sound on the KK.
Here you go Tony:

http://www.lejonklou.com/forum/viewtopi ... ight=rs232

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