What’s better: 1) Putting a DAC, streaming functionality, MM phono staging, subwoofer output and HDMI ARC into an active loudspeaker; or 2) Running a pair of passive loudspeakers and farming out that DAC, streaming, MM phono, subwoofer output and HDMI ARC to an outboard integrated amplifier?
We recently covered option 1 with the PSB Alpha iQ whose internal DACs and amplifiers come after the crossover in the signal path. That’s the very definition of active speakers.
Option 2 only came together after the Marantz Stereo 70s provided the lightbulb moment. It’s a stereo A/V receiver that offers 75wpc of Class A/B power into 8 Ohms with HDMI ARC, HEOS streaming, DAC, subwoofer outputs and MM phono staging all on board.
That’s pretty much the same connectivity suite as the Alpha iQ where the Marantz will sit before the loudspeaker’s passive crossover in the signal path.
And if I built out the Marantz amplifier with a pair of passive loudspeakers, I could find out how the more separated system compared to those PSB actives. The result would be a side-by-side system comparison. But because the Marantz amplifier had already eaten up €1000, any partnering passive speakers would need to come in at €400 (or less) if I were to match the Alpha iQ’s €1400/pair asking price.
However, when I stumbled upon the Pro-Ject Speaker Box 5 S2 – also available in a yellow finish – I chose to look past their €649/pair asking price to prioritise colour-matching over cash. So you’re going to have to give me a little latitude here. Especially as we’re not factoring in the cost of speaker cabling either.
Like the yellow PSB streaming active, the Pro-Ject passive is a 2-way design: a 1” silk dome tweeter meets a 5” fibreglass mid/bass driver that’s augmented by a rear-firing bass reflex port. That’s one more mid-bass driver inch than the PSB with the Pro-Ject rated down to 55Hz by the manufacturer.
Those drivers are wrapped in an MDF cabinet complete with internal bracing but unusually for a speaker at this price point, it’s made in Europe. The Pro-Ject’s yellow finish isn’t gloss but a more understated matte. And I prefer its mustard tone to the more in-your-face tangerine yellow of the PSB.
It was only later that I noticed that the original Speaker Box 5 (€420/pair) was still listed on Pro-Ject’s website. So I asked the Austrian manufacturer, “What’s new in the S2?”. Pro-Ject told me via return email that they did not intend the S2 as a “Mark 2” model but one that offers greater performance than the original.
Compared to the OG model, the Speaker Box 5 S2 offers:
• Special internal bracing
• Slightly different dimensions
• Special eco-friendly glue
• Heavier construction
• A slightly different tuning
I lassoed the Box 5 S2 to the Marantz amplifier to set the scene for a passive vs. active standoff where system functionality is near-identical. Expect the results to spill as a video sometime in December.
Further information: Pro-Ject