This is an interesting topic and one I have spent a good deal of time contemplating.
My first pair of powered monitors were Genelec's purchased in the mid-80's for my recording studio. I was amazed both at their performance and the simplicity of using a self-powered monitor. But for us, the product potential, at this point in time, is simply not there.
Every once and a while we get an email or call from someone living in an efficiency apartment in New York (or elsewhere). They don't have room for a rack of equipment and not much room for speakers either. So I thought that if we developed a self-powered monitor, there might be a market for it.
The first thing I noticed when working on this design (PowerPlay Monitors) was that the frequency response we were able to obtain was flatter than any speaker we had ever done.
We could create filters for every dip and peak in the response curve and generate a far flatter plot than possible with a more standard passive crossover design.
This monitor allows a customer to plug in a TV, CD Player and computer into the monitors and they would automatically switch to the input providing a signal. The volume could also be controlled with a remote. (In my setup, I have a StreamPlayer hooked to the PowerPlay Monitors via USB and that is all I need for a music playback system.)
Soon after finishing the design, we brought a pair to a local audiophile group meeting. When we brought them in, most attendees were less-than-enthused about the concept. When we played them, however, attitudes changed dramatically. But yet, no one seemed to be willing to ditch their DAC/Preamp/Amp setup to move in this direction.
So far, I can count the pairs of PowerPlay Monitors we have sold on zero fingers...we haven't sold any, despite the fact that they are the most accurate monitors we have done to date and perfect for the application I had in mind.
I had a discussion on the topic about a year ago with a customer who happens to be a lawyer in NYC. He suggested showing them at the Bronx Flea Market. He thought if you sold a set of self-powered speakers to someone living in an apartment complex, that customer would play them for other tenants and, before long, everyone in that complex would want a pair. It is all about "lifestyle." I tend to agree with his assessment. The market for self-powered speakers is the "lifestyle" market, not the audiophile market.
Self-powered monitors are well accepted in the recording industry. But recording engineers do not necessarily hang out on audiophile sites either. So you have the studio market and the lifestyle market - neither of which we currently do business in.
I think that, in the future, speakers will tend to be self-powered. It just makes sense. But the audiophile world is not quite ready to fully embrace the concept. They want their favorite DAC, their preamp and their amp, and it will take a while for this to change. So we will continue to do one-off self-powered designs, but for the next few years, it is probably not anything we will promote. Our current customer base has relatively little interest in this product segment.
At least that is the way we see from here.