Hi Gordon,

I enjoy your reviews on SoundStage! Simplifi, finding them comprehensive and informative, yet easy to read and digest. Based on your reviews and personal system choice, I know you are a fan of active speakers for home listening. I’m planning an upgrade to my current hi-fi setup, and the active vs. passive decision is probably the biggest choice I face.

I’m not wed to the traditional amplifier-cable-loudspeaker approach. However, the open-concept room where my new components will reside is on the large side (25’ x 23’, including seating, on-wall TV, kitchen, and dining areas). If I go the passive route, it would be an integrated amplifier and small-to-medium-size floorstanding speakers. If I used an NAD Masters M10 with built-in room correction, it could contribute to smoother in-room response, given the unusual dimensions and configuration. But most articles I’ve read indicate there are real benefits to an active speaker such as the Dynaudio Xeo 30.

In your opinion, would these benefits more than offset the potential benefit of Dirac Live room correction? I would add a Bluesound Node 2i to any active speakers to handle streaming, while the M10 has BluOS built-in. Tough choice I know, so your thoughts and opinions would be most appreciated.

United States

Hello Jack,

Thanks for your note, and your kind words. I can’t provide definitive answers to your questions, but hopefully, I can help you navigate your options.

I think the Dynaudio Focus Xeo 30s and Bluesound Node 2i would make a wonderful system, delivering great sound, with really simple system layout (which, as the senior editor of Simplifi, I really appreciate!). For a couple of years, I was using the Node 2i with Dynaudio Focus 200 XD stand-mount speakers, and loved the combination, not just sonically, but functionally as well. BluOS is a great software platform for streaming audio, so the Node 2i proved a flexible, easy-to-use source.

I assume that in your large space, the room boundary-conditions for the two speakers are quite different. All of Dynaudio’s Focus XD and Xeo active speakers have controls for speaker position, and these can be set independently for each channel. I found that capability very useful in my room, where one speaker is near a corner, and the other along a long wall. My living space is much smaller than yours, so for your application, a more powerful floorstanding model is likely a better choice.

As you surmise, full-blown room correction will be even more effective in addressing room problems than the Dynaudios’ speaker-position controls, as I’ve confirmed by reviewing two NAD products with Dirac Live room correction -- the Masters M10 streaming integrated amplifier ($2749), and the Classic C 658 streaming preamp ($1649).

If you go with passive speakers, and are looking for an integrated amp with room correction, the M10 is an excellent choice, especially as it has both Dirac Live and an excellent network streamer. Another option is Arcam’s SA30 integrated amp ($3000), which also has Dirac; but its streaming capabilities are more basic -- Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, and UPnP. However, like all BluOS products, the SA30 can also work as a Roon endpoint, so if you plan to use Roon, you’re all set. My only concern is power -- will the M10 (100Wpc into 8 ohms) or SA30 (120Wpc into 8 ohms) have enough power to fill your large space? The answer will depend partly on your listening habits, and partly on the speakers you choose, but I expect you’ll be fine with either amp. However, this is something I’d consider in your position.

Depending on your budget, there are other possibilities. NAD’s new Masters M33 amp ($4999) is rated at 200Wpc into 8 ohms, and uses new the new Purifi Hybrid Digital output stage. This looks like a really interesting product, and Roger Kanno is in the process of reviewing it for SoundStage! Hi-Fi. Of course, it uses the BluOS platform, and has Dirac Live.

Another very interesting amp is Lyngdorf Audio’s TDAI-3400 integrated amp-DAC ($6499), which Roger Kanno reviewed on SoundStage! Hi-Fi on June 15. It uses Lyngdorf’s RoomPerfect room correction, and is rated at 200Wpc into 8 ohms. Another option is Anthem’s STR integrated amp-DAC ($4499), which has built-in Anthem Room Correction and is again rated at 200Wpc into 8 ohms. Roger reviewed the STR for SoundStage! Hi-Fi in June 2018.

Here’s another possibility that you may not have considered -- combine a streaming DAC-preamp like the NAD C 658 with analog active speakers like Elac Navis ARF-51 floorstanders ($4599.96/pair). I’m using that very combination, and like it a lot.

I realize that I’ve probably raised more questions than I’ve answered, but I hope this helps. You have some really great options -- I don’t think there’s a bad choice here. Feel free to write back if you have more questions, and let me know what system you ultimately choose.

Kindest regards,
Gordon Brockhouse