Which is better passive or active audio equalization?

Should you apply equalization to your audio system?

I have long argued to avoid active equalization.
Passive equalization is my lead choice.
However, active equalization has evolved.
It’s time to give active equalization a listen.
Before we do, let’s confirm we’re on the same page.
Please review these terms: high fidelity, equalization, active, and passive.

High fidelity refers to the accurate reproduction of recorded sound.
Two questions can frame this description.
Does the reproduced sound of a piano sound like a real piano?
Does the audio system faithfully reproduce the artist’s intent?

Test measurement adds confirming support.
Test measurement compares an input source to the reproduced output result.
The initial base measurement, the frequency response test, sweeps the audio range from the lowest bass to the highest frequencies.
Any difference from the input is distortion.
Additional analysis includes but is not limited to signal-to-noise ratio, phase, and many types of distortion. This Rane Commercial Audio link offers a comprehensive list of test specifications.

Equalization selects audio frequencies and then alters amplitude/volume to meet a desired result.
In terms of a layman, it’s the ultimate tone control.
Home audio equalization’s primary aim, minimize undesired room-acoustic effects.

Active Equalization electronically alters/manipulates the output of an audio component.
It may engage digital sound processing (DSP) computer software.

Passive equalization avoids electronic manipulation.
Passive solutions employ room construction, room dimensions, speaker/listener positions,
and acoustic room treatment to minimize undesired room-acoustic effects.

An audiophile pays a premium price for extremely accurate high-fidelity components.
By definition, altering its output from the input (except overall volume) is distortion.
From the audiophile viewpoint, active equalization masks room acoustic distortion with distortion.
Therefore, as a rule, audiophiles minimize acoustic problems with passive solutions.

However, modest audio systems are not as accurate as audiophile components.
They may benefit from electronic manipulation.
Active equalization may mask their shortcomings while managing acoustical problems,
and create an improved goose-bump result.

Return to Earth
Equalization is a fact of audio life.
Recorded audio sources include many equalization stages beginning with a studio microphone.
Delayed audio transients and misaligned phase alone compromise the goal of reproducing the artist’s intent.
Then the room acoustics always add another level of complication.
Therefore, I cannot universally denounce any type of equalization.

Now let’s answer the question.
Which is better, passive or active equalization?
Passive is still my lead choice.
Yet active can augment and improve passive results.
Therefore, initially engage passive solutions.
Then, if still needed, add a dose of active equalization.

Change is difficult for a gray-haired semi-retired AV guy.
The following website links have shifted my old opinion.
They offer extensive qualified information.
Norm Varney @ AV Room Service articles on acoustic solutions.
Audioholics discusses Audessey acoustical correction.
Audioholics discusses Dirac acoustical correction.
Audioholics discusses Trinov acoustical correction.

SandTrapAudio Message

You were robbed

A drywall custom speaker installation highjacked the audio fidelity you bought.
Reclaim the tighter bass, warm vocals, and decibel level you paid for.
Buy the SandTrap. Only $69.99 ea.
Go To SandTrapAudio.com

Looking for in-wall/in-ceiling speaker tips? Select this LINK.