Active Monitors for Home Theater?

Sawtaytoes

Sawtaytoes

Audiophyte
Hey! I'm wondering if Active Monitors are better for Home Theater.

Advantages
Since active monitors are already EQ'd and properly configured to work with a specific amplifier, these kinds of speakers have many advantages compared to passive speakers. They also have little switches on the back for how you configure them (in a corner, on a wall, open area, etc). I've seen this on passive speakers, but not in the same price range as active monitors.

Possible Alternative to Hi-Fi Speakers
Behringer TRUTH speakers look better than anything I could buy even at prices above $1K per speaker. I don't understand why they're so cheap if they're incredibly amazing. Considering the parts inside, they should cost $2K+ not including the integrated amp.

Is it a better deal to buy a pair of active monitors like the TRUTH over towers like the Polk Reserve R700? The R700 has about the same specs, going down to 50Hz. The only difference I see is that the Polks are a tower and wouldn't need separate stands, but I'm sure I've missed something.

The Argument
One of my friends is telling me that monitors are designed for accurate sound reproduction and that they'll sound good with anything you throw at them, even extremely poorly mixed recordings.

The thought process is: how would you properly mix soundtracks if the speakers aren't accurate, are clipping, or are adding distortion? So no matter what, active monitors will sound the best that I've ever heard a speaker, and the ~$200 price tag is all I'd need to pay to get the best, most accurate sound possible.

While I'm not convinced, looking at the specs of these Behringer speakers, I see things Audioholics notes in very high-end speakers such as linear frequency response, high-wattage amplifiers, a long-throw woofer, and controlled dispertion for a larger sweet spot thanks to a wave guide.

My Counter
From what I've seen, having multiple drivers each with a crossover will give better sound across a wider spectrum. This one has 2 drivers. I'm pretty sure that would limit its response if I'm trying to hear voices at the same time it's receiving a 50Hz bass signal.

From understanding gaming consumption vs production, I can say that the same high-resolution displays you use for content creation aren't the same you use playing games because the needs are different. Games need fast refresh rates and pixel response times whereas that doesn't matter as content creation requires high resolutions and 100% accurate colors.

Lastly, I'm also wondering if these monitors will be loud enough for me to sit on the couch 8+ feet away from them. I'm pretty sure they're designed to be used right up close to your ears on the desk you use for music production.
 
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lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
Depends on the particular active speaker and room, just like it does for passive speakers. Some can get pretty pricey, too. Personally I would have trouble setting up my system with actives, as I have very limited outlets around the room let alone the long distances that would be involved for signal cable, I'd just rather use passives and speaker wire in my situation. Personally I have one pair of lower end active monitors, the JBL LSR305 which I have setup as a 2ch setup....which are very nice speakers and five/seven of them in a small/medium room would sound great with a coupla subs I'd think. Some monitors are more suited to near-field than far-field use.

There are some excellent active speakers out there. JBL M2s or RBH SVTRSs I would love but am too cheap to buy :). How about some nice Genelec or Neumann or Dutch & Dutch monitors to name but a few out there popular in both professional and home applications. Many many are better than the typical computer speaker in any case. Aesthetics may be a bit more austere with monitors rather than the furniture some home speakers double as. There are some good reviews of more moderately priced offerings here at Audioholics from Adam, Kali, KEF and others.

Like any speaker, a bad recording would still sound bad, a speaker won't fix that particularly.

Not sure what you're talking about with the multiple drivers thing particularly....
 
Trell

Trell

Audioholic Samurai
I want Genelec 8361A SAM™ Studio Monitor for front left, right and center, but they are very expensive.


 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Staff member
Hey! I'm wondering if Active Monitors are better for Home Theater.

Advantages
Since active monitors are already EQ'd and properly configured to work with a specific amplifier, these kinds of speakers have many advantages compared to passive speakers. They also have little switches on the back for how you configure them (in a corner, on a wall, open area, etc). I've seen this on passive speakers, but not in the same price range as active monitors.

Possible Alternative to Hi-Fi Speakers
Behringer TRUTH speakers look better than anything I could buy even at prices above $1K per speaker. I don't understand why they're so cheap if they're incredibly amazing. Considering the parts inside, they should cost $2K+ not including the integrated amp.

Is it a better deal to buy a pair of active monitors like the TRUTH over towers like the Polk Reserve R700? The R700 has about the same specs, going down to 50Hz. The only difference I see is that the Polks are a tower and wouldn't need separate stands, but I'm sure I've missed something.

The Argument
One of my friends is telling me that monitors are designed for accurate sound reproduction and that they'll sound good with anything you throw at them, even extremely poorly mixed recordings.

The thought process is: how would you properly mix soundtracks if the speakers aren't accurate, clipping, or adding distortion? So no matter what, active monitors will sound the best that I've ever heard a speaker, and the ~$200 price tag is all I'd need to pay to get the best, most accurate sound possible.

While I'm not convinced, looking at the specs of these Behringer speakers, I see things Audioholics notes in very high-end speakers such as linear frequency response, high-wattage amplifiers, a long-throw woofer, and controlled dispertion for a larger sweet spot thanks to a wave guide.

My Counter
From what I've seen, having multiple drivers each with a crossover will give better sound across a wider spectrum. This one has 2 drivers. I'm pretty sure that would limit its response if I'm trying to hear voices at the same time it's receiving a 50Hz bass signal.

From understanding gaming consumption vs production, I can say that the same high-resolution displays you use for content creation aren't the same you use playing games because the needs are different. Games need fast refresh rates and pixel response times whereas that doesn't matter as content creation requires high resolutions and 100% accurate colors.

Lastly, I'm also wondering if these monitors will be loud enough for me to sit on the couch 8+ feet away from them. I'm pretty sure they're designed to be used right up close to your ears on the desk you use for music production.
Can you use active monitors for home theater? Yes, and they can work well. Are they better than passive speakers? Not necessarily. It depends. Let's take the examples you cited, the R700s and the Behringer Truths. Both are good speakers. I wouldn't trade the R700s for some Truth Monitors for a home theater application. The R700s have a wider dynamic range. as well as a very flat response. They are probably a bit more neutral than the Behinrger Truths, and they don't even have a DSP crossover. I have the Behringer Truth 2031p, so I know how they measure and perform. I would not get the active Behringer Truth monitors since Behringer has always had some significant reliability issues with electronics. The passive Truth monitors were the sweet spot for Behringer monitors. Better examples for your case might be Kali or JBL LSR or PreSonus.

You have a few misconceptions about monitors though. Firstly, multiple drivers do not necessarily give you a better sound across a wider spectrum. TLS Guy would argue very much the opposite. Wide-band drivers can give you a good sound over a very wide frequency spectrum. It depends on the driver. Second, the loudness of the monitor depends on the monitor. Some monitors are designed to be used near-field, but many are mid-field. A lot of the monitors with 8" woofers are mid-field monitors and can handle a 8' listening distance. Big-boys like the JBL M2s can be used in the far-field.
 
J

jhaider

Audiophyte
There's no reason not to use active monitors if you want to. The late David L. Clark's last home theater system (pre-immersive) had I think 9 soffit-mounted Behringer monitors. However, there is one real drawback, especially for immersive - for typical active speakers, each speaker needs not only a signal wire but also a power cord. That can get ugly, and expensive. Adding power outlets in odd places is much more expensive than routing low-voltage wiring. And with active speakers you of course need both electrical and low-voltage. Maybe someday there will be 300W PoE or similar. That will make active speakers much more attractive for HT.

There are a few studio-marketed monitors that are better designed for domestic use though. For example JBL has two 7-series lines: "i" (install) that takes the active electronics out of the cabinet and requires a Crown processor-amp or BSS processor+your amp(s), and "P" (powered) that has active electronics on the back of the cabinet. A new company called GGNTKT has a monitor with external processing/amplification as well. Neumann's flagship KH420 has a best of both worlds approach, with an amp that can be left in the cabinet or used externally.

We use three JBL LSR708i monitors for LCR in one system, with the required Crown processor-amps remotely located. The equivalent (slightly less power) P-model have been measured by Amir and Erin, with Erin having done some formal compression testing and Amir his informal "does it get loud enough for me" audition. Bass managed, they get much louder without strain than we will ever require in a domestic setting at a 160" or thereabout listening distance.
 
Sawtaytoes

Sawtaytoes

Audiophyte
I appreciate your responses. That doesn't give me a huge reason to choose one over the other, but helps me understand the situation better.

I agree, having 2 cables per speaker (plus wall outlets) isn't ideal, but that's less of an issue for me.

Something else I noticed, looking at the difference between the two, am I right in thinking the sweet spot for the R700s is larger than the Behringers? From the data I saw, the loudest for the Polks extends further out than the Behringers. But that could be bad for the room I use. I just don't have enough data at this point.

Snagged both of these measurement images from Audioholics.
 

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highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Slumlord
I want Genelec 8361A SAM™ Studio Monitor for front left, right and center, but they are very expensive.


You could look in pro audio forum ads, contact some recording studios and ask what they do with their old equipment or if they know of any Genelec monitors that might be coming up for sale.
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Staff member
I appreciate your responses. That doesn't give me a huge reason to choose one over the other, but helps me understand the situation better.

I agree, having 2 cables per speaker (plus wall outlets) isn't ideal, but that's less of an issue for me.

Something else I noticed, looking at the difference between the two, am I right in thinking the sweet spot for the R700s is larger than the Behringers? From the data I saw, the loudest for the Polks extends further out than the Behringers. But that could be bad for the room I use. I just don't have enough data at this point.

Snagged both of these measurement images from Audioholics.
The Behringers might have a slightly wider dispersion on the top end. Regarding sweet spot for these speakers, if you are talking about a stereo pair, the sweet spot for imaging is about the same- you have to be at an equal distance from the speakers. But if you are talking about a sweet spot for tonality, the Behringers might have a slight advantage there, due to the beaming of the Polk ring radiator tweeter at the top end. The size and position of the sweet spot for either speaker isn't really that different though.
 
Trell

Trell

Audioholic Samurai
I agree, having 2 cables per speaker (plus wall outlets) isn't ideal, but that's less of an issue for me.
There are combined power and signal cables like these of various lengths.

 
Trell

Trell

Audioholic Samurai
You can’t run those behind walls.
Probably not, but then you can drag proper cables following proper building rules. You’ll need an electrician as well perhaps.
 
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J

jhaider

Audiophyte
Which, again, adds a lot of additional cost to the installation. To fit active speakers in a nicely appointed room you’d want recessed power outlets and signal jacks behind each speaker. Add that up for 9-16 channels, plus multiple subs. Probably a network cable too, for control features and Dante or similar future proofing. Or you could just run 14/4 speaker cable to each position with a brush plate, and keep all the electronics in one place. Then the only electrical work needed is a dedicated circuit with an outlet by the electronics and an outlet by the display.
 
Trell

Trell

Audioholic Samurai
Which, again, adds a lot of additional cost to the installation. To fit active speakers in a nicely appointed room you’d want recessed power outlets and signal jacks behind each speaker. Add that up for 9-16 channels, plus multiple subs. Probably a network cable too, for control features and Dante or similar future proofing. Or you could just run 14/4 speaker cable to each position with a brush plate, and keep all the electronics in one place. Then the only electrical work needed is a dedicated circuit with an outlet by the electronics and an outlet by the display.
Nicely appointed room with 16 speakers and multiple subs? If you say so.

Active monitors are not for you, I get it.
 
J

jhaider

Audiophyte
Nicely appointed room with 16 speakers and multiple subs? If you say so.
It just takes some creativity. We manage 7.1.4 with 3 subs of over 220L total cabinet volume (wired for up to 2 more as well, one up high) in our family room and did the same in our previous house.

Admittedly, it took designing and commissioning furniture with integrated (passive) subwoofers. But it can certainly be done to a high standard.
 

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