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Near-Field Monitors: Active or Passive?


Ok, so we've established the importance of good monitors. Unfortunately not everyone has the budget to buy what they want straight out of the gate. So for a starter with growth in mind, what are the pros and cons of Passive vs. Active monitors? I would imagine an advantage of active monitors is that the amps are (hopefully) well matched with the speakers. However, the confines of speaker cabinets would also seem to limit the capabilities of the amps. So would someone be better off buying a seperate amp/ passive speaker combo? Or will you get more bang for the buck with actives?
Typical Example: Tannoy Reveal Actives - $700.
However, someone just building a small project studio, where every dollar must be carefully spent, may easily be tempted to look at the even more budgeted Alesis M1 or M Audio active monitors. Would their money be better spent on Passive Tannoy Reveals that they could power with a budget (or even consumer) amp? This would allow them to grow into the better monitors when they can afford a decent amp. Or should they buy the cheaper powered monitors and wait til they can afford something in the range of Mackies? The name brands mentioned here are mostly mentioned as a price point for typical entry level decisions. I'm not looking for a lengthy debate on one brand over another, but more toward philosophies on building on (and with) existing equipment as you progress.
Obviously, the mysterious "someone on a budget" in this specific scenario is me. However, I think there are many people who read this board who could benefit from a discussion on this matter.
Thank you,
Drew Douglas
Reverend Records
December 5, 2002 @05:36am

The one thing you also need to think about is that 'budget' amp. If that amp is the weak link in your chain, no matter how good your monitors are, they won't be as accurate as they need to be. Consumer amps don't have the same standards as reference amps.
My 2¢.
December 5, 2002 @02:57pm

I understand that. I'm just wondering what would be the best way to start for someone who just flat out doesn't have $700.00 to $1200.00 to spend on monitors. Eventually, I'm going to want to make that investment, but in the meantime, am I left with no other choice than to use my computer speakers, or as a few people have suggested, Radio Shack speakers? There must be some middle ground where you can start and build your way toward a decent monitoring system.
Are you saying that if I power Reveals with a cheap amp (or a not so cheap consumer amp), it's no better than using Radio Shack speakers?
p.s. two cents, four cents, it all adds up, and I'm broke...so I appreciate your input. :)
December 5, 2002 @06:46pm

Good monitors with a cheap amp are better than no (or cheap) monitors with a cheap amp. Said another way: The difference in sound quality between good versus poor speakers is greater than with good versus poor amps. That said, you should upgrade to a higher quality amp as soon as reasonably possible. It DOES make a significant difference, just not as much as the speakers themselves, which arguably make a bigger difference in the sound you hear than anything else you can do in the chain short of the mic and/or source.
The one potential downside to your plan is this: For a variety of reasons, in order to get those Tannoy passives up to where the actives are (or beyond) you'll probably need to spend significantly more than you would just buying the actives in the first place. You'll want to buy a really good amp at that point, one that is rated significantly better than the one built in to the actives, because you no longer have the benefit of it being matched precisely to the speakers.
Once you weigh all this out I'm sure you can come to a decision you'll be happy with.
December 5, 2002 @09:21pm

Do you have a ballpark figure you want to stay within? I'm sure there's a viable option if you give us an idea of what you have to work with.
December 5, 2002 @10:07pm

If I stretched my budget, I'd be looking around $500.00, but really, I'd be much more comfortable in the $300.00 range at the moment. It seems if I'm going to spend $500.00, I should just hold off and save until I can afford the Tannoy Actives for a couple hundred more.
Thanks to all of you for your replies.
December 9, 2002 @07:26pm

Split the difference and get the Alesis Mk2 Actives. They do a grreat job for the price. $400
-drew (another one)
December 10, 2002 @12:56am

You might be able to get a little more bang for your buck by looking for some used monitors. You never know when you might stumble across some used monitors that are in your price range that would be much more expensive if bought new.
That and you've let someone else take the hit on depreciation because you just know that you're going to sell them someday so you can get those awesome Mackies.
December 10, 2002 @04:21pm

December 10, 2002 @09:14pm

I have a pair of Event 20/20 passive monitor and am looking to upgrade to a higher end passive monitors for my DAW. I currently have a very accurate and very clean modified 100W Hafler DH-200 watt SS amplifer to push them with. Recomendations? Looking to stay under $2000.00 per pair? I have been looking at B&W and upper end Dynaudio any other thoughts?
February 21, 2008 @06:20pm

Phaseoff, I take your point for price vs. performance but it also matters what the ultimate purpose is and what is the audience for Drew's recordings. It just depends what he's aiming at -- to grow to a huge pro studio, or stay as now, etc. I'd say if he's planning to grow, better wait a few months and get a pair of Adam A7's, which are by far one of the best ribbon-tweeter speakers below 1k, and know that at least for several years you will not need to upgrade.
February 22, 2008 @02:45am
Wolf Garcia

So called "pro" unpowered monitors are nonesense. There is no "magic" in their design and a pair of well made "home audio" small 2 ways from many manufacturers are often better than the "made for studio" stuff. For YEARS I've been using a pair of (bought new) old KEF Q10s for near field monitors and they are amazing. Poly cone woofers, rubber surrounds (they don't rot like foam), and a neo tweeter in the center of the woofer JUST LIKE TANNOY only way less money. Front mounted port, tons of bass for their size and made in England. I bet you can get a clean pair on Ebay for under a 100 bucks. I've actually taken them into a friends pro recording studio and A/B compared them to his stuff...he was amazed at how flat and clear they are. Add a used high current stereo amp and forget all the "pro sound" hype.
October 21, 2009 @05:49pm

I have a pair of Event 20/20 passive monitor and am looking to upgrade to a higher end passive monitors for my DAW. I currently have a very accurate and very clean modified 100W Hafler DH-200 watt SS amplifer to push them with. Recomendations? Looking to stay under $2000.00 per pair? I have been looking at B&W and upper end Dynaudio any other thoughts?

www.av123.com has some nice stuff and you can typically get some crossover upgrades for nearly all their speakers
October 23, 2009 @09:21pm

I did the passive route with Dyn BM-15's and a Hafler amp.
October 29, 2009 @08:33pm