Active speakers, anno 2020

Bruno Putzeys (Hypex, Grimm, Mola Mola, Kii) states very well, the complete chain is what matters to sound quality.


  • amp: tube, FET, Transistor, class A through …
  • speaker connections: single wiring, bi wiring, single amping, bi amping, cable types etc.
  • cross overs, high power cross overs are lossy and very hard to design to avoid phase changes, the enemy to sound imaging
  • speaker drivers
  • cabinets
  • positioning
    Too many variables to combine to the perfectly matched system.

From a budget point of view, it is much more attractive to match all those factors into one box which allows all parts to be engineered to a much better defined environment/system.

With M1200 risen from the “budget” to the “money no object” league it is really interesting to measure systems comprising good separates against those kind of high end active speakers.

For that price point there is a very much increasing choice, not limited to the brands Bruno Putzeys is involved in, offer extremely good high end active speakers even in the EURO 3.500 to 15.000 region. Some reach linear down to 20 or even 16 Hz. Ported, cardioid sound immersion or closed cabinets. Whatever suits ones visual preference and room properties / positioning bes.

Important: That is a price figure for a pair, that eliminates the need for monoblocks, speaker cables and passive speakers all together.

Active speakers allow extreme control of drivers. They may be Analog (servo) driven or DSP driven.

Some manufacturers offer at this price point all EU made manufactured and assembled PCB’s and locally EU made cabinets and EU made drivers.

Options with, ribbon, AMT or even horn drivers.

For those re entering or starting in high end in modern and often small homes active speakers offer:

  • less wiring
  • more space
  • avoidance of room treatments, that are for most living rooms simply unacceptable
  • flexible, close to the wall, even corner placement
  • superb best controlled soundstage
  • bass frequencies that go deeper than comparable priced separate speakers can ever offer

I’d compare it to the reason I didn’t buy a Tesla, no way to tinker, can’t add a better exhaust, etc. I know I would at some point want to change something. With a one box (or 2 active speaker) I would have to replace the whole of it to make any changes. Not something that would suit my personality.


Are there not third-party software tuning packages for Teslas? I would expect there is a lot of coding which can be accomplished.

I must have mods. :slight_smile:

I’m really coming to appreciate the active speaker market. Dutch and Dutch and others are pushing the boundaries. When I first hooked up my KEF LS50W on my desktop, I really wondered why I was spending so much money on my other system. Engineering belongs in a lab, not my living room. Maybe I should have posted this on the curmudgeon thread…


There may be, but I want something I can bolt on, get under the hood and swap, turn a wrench. As an aside, I’ll bet it won’t be 15 minutes until there is a vigorous aftermarket for crossovers or caps etc. for the active speaker market.

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I get it, if I wasn’t into electronics or equipment in general, then it would be a great so!ution.
I wonder how many folks there are who want a really high end sound but no furtling and adjusting etc.
I am sure a few, but what do I know? :slight_smile:


I understand; I like physical things. But I find the ability to play with fuel tables, etc. great fun as well.


Can you please name specific active speaker brand names and models you are referring to ?
Tom - NJ

This speaker was just reviewed by a magazine as the best speaker for a livingroom they know. 11k. Very holographic imaging, great bass that’s not overpowering the room, so they write.

You’ve got to decide if you’re into audio to:
(1) Unscrew things and put them back together again;
(2) Keep DHL in business and swap boxes to the extent that you could alternatively buy a new Tesla every year; or
(3) Listen to music.

The no-box solutions are thinks like Dutch & Dutch and Kii Three, one box passive like Hegel, Devialet, Audionet, AVM and many others, or one box active like Linn Exakt, or any active speakers with a streaming DAC pre-amp, of which there are many.

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I like the DSP solution for crossover design. Having used DSP on my Bose 901’s, I’ll never go back to the Analog Active EQ’s. If I ever build another pair of Speakers again, I’ll do external amps with MiniDSP’s feeding each pair of Tweeter’s, Midrange, and Woofer’s. Each having their own dedicated amp.

Indeed - passive speakers and crossovers have a lot more “art” about them, and a lot of trial and error too to get something really special.
Again for end users it’s like vinyl - passive crossovers are great to play with and “art” at, as a second or experimental system, but the main system - has to be consistent and, preferably, entirely predictable, stable, and measurable for me to be able to relax and exit “critical analysis” mode.


Here’s another one, from Gold Note.

US$3,000, €2,500, £2,500 for the streamer/DAC/pre-amp if you have active speakers and there’s a matching and equally small amplifier if you have passive speakers, 75w/8ohms and 300w/8ohms in dual mono mode. The amps are US$1,700, £1,170 each.

This is what people want these days, and the Gold Note Series 10 seems a typically flexible system.

Upon your request, here are some links and brands offering active solutions:

Jazznut published one too, although with ME Geithain and their dealers don’t like to publish prices so their price point is hard to understand.

The following companies build active speakers only, not one, like Kii or Dutch & Dutch but multiple series with plenty of choices.

German only (leider) but you can call them. They direct sell and ship anywhere.

ATC loudspeakers

PSI Audio


Rowen speakers offer either active or passive amplification, not a one box solution though, but plenty to tune.

Grimm Audio
Dutch & Dutch

Avantgarde Acoustics
and others.
Offer active options from attractive budget to high end.

Then there are the pure studio brands making active speakers only, that one can use in the living room.

And others.

I have Yamaha MSP 5 nearfield monitors connected to my Stellar Gain Cell DAC in my home office. The sound is very good.

A friend showed me his Abacus bookshelf models, we played music, song after song and left the room 3 hours later, pure hoy of music.

We listened to music not to speakers and tons of equipment which was what made that system attractive to me.

I would probably add a pre amp, to any active speaker as I like to listen to vinyl as well as digital sources. So my Stellar again Cell DAC does that job for me in the home office.

A solution I would look for in the living room would preferably include a Phono stage and streamer DAC in one box. The Mola Mola Makua comes to my mind.

I was going to mention the phono issue, which is relevant to me, and how you solve it.

I’m not brand-loyal, but don’t like to chop and change. I already have an all-in-one box but was thinking I might go boxless with Dutch & Dutch.

Those particular units have digital ethernet (obviously) and a balanced analogue input - the socket on the far left. So you can I assume attach a phono amp with balanced outputs. The obvious choice is the PS Audio Stellar Phono, other options in the UK/EU include the very well regarded Cyrus Signature.

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I was really impressed with the ELAC concept of tri-amped active monitors that can be used as wireless boxes by bluetooth or via a small wired unit for HD and phono. This really is genius design.


The Cyrus Signature has a pre-amp. It can also be run off the mains or a separate DC power supply. Most people do the latter. Cyrus has been hugely popular over here for decades but I don’t think they have much if any presence in the USA. They are yet another company in the Huntingdon area, on the same industrial estate as Quad and the rest of the IAG Group.

Hi Steven,

What is there not to like about the Dutch & Dutch?

Nothing, just a couple of personal considerations for me:

  • not sure if Dutch & Dutch are Roon ready yet, though if I’d attach an Innuos server that might not be necessary, as I don’t like the Roon subscription anyway and am mostly interested in listening to my library, I would buy CD’s in our local store and rip them. I can’t help to love going to those stores and talk to fellow music enthousiasts. At 1.5 meter distance off course.
  • they accept no Native DSD, I have DSD Music and like it
  • for a Phono I still need that phono stage in a box
  • and I still like to spin CD’s or watch movies, let the kids play games

So I figure that even with Dutch & Dutch, a pre amp Would make me more flexible with my sources. For a turntable you still need that Phono Which typically is an extra box anyway. The Mola Mola is all Balanced XLR interface, even for phono in and has 2 pair of balanced outputs.

Look it up it’s certainly an interesting unit:
Mola Mola Makua

For me the Abacus are a very attractive with the Mola Mola:
Particular models are all analog which means: no doubling in AD/DA conversions. Although Abacus also offers DSP options. They utilize closed cabinets, AMT tweeters, servo amplified drivers, and bass that goes all the way linear down to 16 Hz. Analog also custom trim-able for room correction. Cost start at EUR 4.400 the pair! Next steps up 5.900 and 7.900 to 2 ultra high end options at 14.900.
All electronics (PCB’s and assembly) and cabinets are locally sourced and produced, drivers (AMT from Mundorf in Kologne) EU made.
So with an all analog and balanced Mola Mola pre amp with integrated all discrete, upgradable Streamer/DAC and discrete phono stage, it would be a single defined DA conversion for PCM and DSD and vinyl completely in the analog domain.
The bonus with the Mola Mola is that the settings are all digital, by app, and that inputs can be routed through all the analogue options or direct, whatever you prefer.

This unit offers all tweaking you can possibly think off without having to fork out an additional fortune and haul another box or wrist thick cable into your living room.

I know @Baldy has the BHK pre amp connected to his Dutch & Dutch and says he prefers it over direct. John Darko states that he really liked the sound of the Schiit Freya in front of the Kii 3’s.

As you say, less is beautiful and your idea of going total minimalistic is tempting, certainly with speakers like the Dutch & Dutch.

If I were to upgrade my MSP 5 in my home office, those ELAC all analog active speakers would be serious candidates.

In the store I listened to exactly those ELACs connected to my Stellar Gain Cell DAC, A/B compared to my Yamaha MSP 5. A clearly audible improvement by the ELAC’s.

But I can’t have it all as I want to save up for the living room system. For the living room system I am interested in the deeper bass fundament the Abacus seem to offer without the need for an additional subwoofer.

Also the Abacus with closed cabinets and AMT tweeter I heard at my friends home seemed more defined, precise and dynamic than the ELAC’s. The Abacus I can test at home the, ELAC only in the store. That is a major advantage for Abacus.