Active and digital design issues.
I think it's important to say that it is possible to take a successful passive design and clone the crossover as an active solution (I've done that several times) but it is impossible to take an active speaker and make a successful functional passive clone from it. That's because you have far greater flexibility with active circuitry; passive circuits do not lend themselves to ultra-flexibility so the designer has to use every ounce of ingenuity to get a good system result with a passive crossover. He is fighting the limitations of passive technology all the time.
One reason digital-active speakers can/do sound so horrendously hard and fatiguing is because their designers have never had to learn their craft making passive speakers - doing the job the hard way. With digital actives, a few clicks of the mouse on the development computer in the comfort of the lab, and the response can be made ruler flat. Had those designers (all young men, fresh from digital design degrees) been forced to spend twenty years with a soldering iron and pile of chunky passive components, they'd have more respect for, and empathy with, what we here would consider to be good sound. 'Digital design tools' creates the illusion that anyone sitting at a PC can be a master of audio design without ever needing to listen. And even if they did - deprived of the accumulated knowledge over decades of working within the limitations of passive components - there wouldn't be the foundations from which to draw work-arounds to achieve better sound. Of course, there must be exceptions to this rule, but even the biggest European speaker brands seem to have two parallel design teams: one to design the drive units and the cabinet - the other the electronics and hence, to define the final system sound. That design by committee is, in my opinion, never going to give a truly natural sound.
Alan A. Shaw
Harbeth Audio UK