What Is An Active Speaker System?

What Are Active Speaker Systems

With our upcoming Kudos Active Roadshow we thought it might be a good idea to explain a little more about active systems.


A traditional HiFi system will consist of a number of components, although these may be combined together in fewer “boxes” to simplify cabling or for convenience.

A typical system would have a source (eg. a turntable), an amplifier and loudspeakers. Built into the loudspeakers will be a crossover, which divides the incoming signal into frequency bands to suit the drive cones of the loudspeaker.

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Various manufacturers have different solutions for their systems, some may combine the source in the same box as the amplifier, some may split the amplifier into a pre amplifier, which will switch between multiple sources and provide the volume control, and a power amplifier to drive the speakers.

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How does an active system differ from a traditional passive system? 

The simplest answer is that the crossover is placed in the system before the power amplifier(s), the result is that the signal is split before it reaches the amplifier stage so each amplifier only deals with part of the signal. In its simplest form a 2 way loudspeaker design has a high frequency driver and a low frequency driver, so these speakers in active configuration would require 2 amplifiers, one to drive the high frequency drivers in both left and right speakers and one to drive the low frequency drivers.

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Are powered speakers active

Not always. Some speakers include the amplifier within the loudspeaker but whether they are active depends where the crossover is arranged in the signal path.

 Can all loudspeakers be run active? 

No, only ones where the manufacturer has designed them with internal wiring or some other solution to bypass the passive crossover.

Manufacturers have found different solutions to create active systems, some include amplifiers within their loudspeakers, some rely on external amplifiers and a box to house the external crossovers (Linn Tunebox, Naim Snaxo), or house the crossovers within the amplifiers themselves.

As many sources in todays systems are digital sources, digital files from a CD player, streamed from a local NAS or via the Internet, there has been a move towards digital crossovers, which accommodates more control of the signal or digital signal processing (DSP) before converting to analogue signal to be amplified for the loudspeakers. Traditionally a digital source eg. A CD player would convert to analogue before being fed to the pre amplifier of a system.

 In many of todays active systems, the signal is split by a crossover in the digital domain (Linn Exaktbox, Devialet Expert Pro), then converted to analogue, and then amplified, in many cases all of these elements being incorporated in the loudspeaker (Linn Exakt speakers, Meridian Digital active speakers), which has the advantage of reducing cabling (usually an Ethernet type cable is all that is required) and it also makes for a reduced box count, which for something like a 5 way loudspeaker design would be quite considerable.

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Out with Naim in with Devialet plus LP12 serviced

A local Windsor customer (who I tried to sell LINN to years ago when working in Eton) made a recent guest appearance recently.

“Hello, don’t I know you?” “

Yes” he replied. “We met in Eton when you were selling Linn and I preferred Naim. I’ve been listening to Naim ever since, however I’m interested in two things: I’ve inherited my father’s old LP12 and I’m thinking of getting a streamer for my Naim setup.”

We were more than happy to service his LP12 which was in desperate need of a new tonearm and happened to have a used Ittok in stock. With the deck serviced and a Lingo 1 added we showed the couple into the basement where we were unboxing a Devialet Expert Pro Integrated amplifier /streamer DAC with phonostage. Sometimes there are things like a LINN Selekt that catch your eyes. The Linn Selekt is brilliant in so many ways. On this occasion the Devialet won over the client with a comment of this is so much better than the Naim and to have it in a one box elegant chrome case has certainly impressed the wife. Never assume clients stay with one brand for ever.

Devialet Expert 140 with LINN LP12


The Linn Majik DSM and why it is brilliant.

In the recently published Linn Price List, it was a surprise to see that the Majik DSM has been reduced. It was already very reasonably priced when you consider what you get:

·      Linn Digital Streamer

·      Pre-amplifier with 15 inputs (4x RCA, 1x 3.5mm, 4x HDMI 2.0m, 3x SPDIF, 3x Toslink) 

·      2x90 watt Chakra power amplifiers

·      Moving Magnet Phono Stage (upgradable to Moving Coil)

·      Onboard DAC

·      HDMI switching to simplify wiring and operation

Being a Linn, you can take for granted that it is beautifully built and has excellent sound quality.

It neatly slots in with the equipment you already own and makes it sound amazing.  As well as working with traditional hi-fi sources such as your old turntable and CD player, we also have customers using the DSM with televisions, DVD players and even games consoles.  Because the Majik DSM has digital inputs, it means that the digital to analogue conversion can take place within the Linn unit, meaning that the £30 DVD players that supermarkets sell can actually sound OK.  

We have customers who have used the Majik DSM with a variety of speakers, old and new, and it always gives excellent results.  We’ve heard the DSM get the best out of £99 Wharfedale Diamond bookshelf speakers, vintage BBC LS3/5A monitor speakers and beautiful Sonus Faber floor standing speakers.

The Space Optimisation feature built in to the DSM allows us to tailor the sound to compensate for any acoustic quirks in your room and allows the speakers to be placed (within reason) where you want whilst still giving their optimum sound quality.

The DSM works with Apple Airplay as standard and integrates with music streaming services such as Spotify and Tidal.

Over the years, Linn has released firmware updates for the DSM which are downloaded via the internet free of charge to bring older machines up to date with the latest functionality as it becomes available.  This means that, like those who invested in a Linn turntable back in 1973, you will have invested in a product that can be kept up-to-date.

If you decide to upgrade in the future, each section of the DSM can be used independently.  For example, you could add external power amps and still use the DSM preamp and DAC.  Or you could get an Akurate DSM and still use the Majik power amp section.

Of course the only way to truly learn about the benefits of the Majik DSM is to try it in your own system, with no pressure to buy – get in touch and we’ll be happy to arrange this for you.