Bookshelf Speakers

Dynaudio Focus 110A Actively-Powered Bookshelf Speakers

ARTICLE INDEX

In Use

While the Focus 110A has many uses, including as a self-powered speaker for TV, blu-ray, and iPod/iPhone music listening, I use it exclusively with my computers. As you have undoubtedly gathered from what has come before, I love these little babies. They're so simple to operate. Reach around the back, flip the power switch, and away you go. As much as I love the musicality of my VTL tubed Signature II 450W monoblocks in my downstairs reference system, there is a lot to be said for the ease and immediacy of solid-state amplification.

I have nothing but praise for the unforced detail of the Focus 110A. Recently, when I was using my downstairs system to review soprano Sandra Radvanovsky's Verdi recital on Delos, I was dismayed to discover that she lacked a trill. I was all set to put that into print when I carted the CD upstairs so that my spouse could hear a track on the computer before we went to bed. Lo and behold, the trill I thought was absent was clearly evident. The experience gave me pause. Not only did I immediately change my review copy, but I also promised myself that I would be getting new speakers for my downstairs reference system.

As mentioned earlier, I have now carted these speakers to my classes 18 times. At each class, I've watched my students sit enthralled, captivated by the clarity of the sound. And I'm not just talking about voices. Although they can't possibly convey the weight and depth of timpani and bass drum, let alone the lowest notes on the organ, these speakers do a beautiful job with orchestral music My desktop set-up puts every boom box I've ever heard to shame, including the Bose Wave system.

The Focus 110A is also a boon when it comes to auditioning mp3s. Many of the older Telarc recordings I blog for the Concord Music Group are sent to me in 320 kbps mp3 form. While they're infinitely superior to 128 kbps mp3s, they still come up short in the midrange and bass department, and are sometimes too tinny for my taste The warmth that the Focus 110A can produce makes the best case possible for mp3.

Because most purchasers will use the Focus 110A as part of a desktop system, a word on music servers is appropriate. As a Mac user, I find both Pure Music / Pure Vinyl from Channel D and Amarra from Sonic Solutions far superior to iTunes. While some reviewers have found Pure Music's "Memory Play" feature superior, Amarra is set to upgrade its version 2.0 to a version that also enables RAM playback. I haven't yet tried the Beta version, but a person I trust is raving about its sound with his Magico Q5s. Just as with cabling, which you will choose depends upon the components in your chain.

What is unquestionable, however, is that CDs ripped to your computer and played back through either Pure Music or Amarra sound infinitely better than CDs inserted into the computer's hard or solid-state drive. And when it comes to hi-res files, both servers sound considerably better than iTunes. Note as well that I use either MAX or RIP for ripping CDs rather than iTunes, again because of their greater accuracy.

Playing the Focus 110A at the higher volumes necessary to fill a large classroom, I have noticed a slight tendency to grow hard on sopranos and tenor top notes. Because I do not experience this phenomenon at lower volumes, I am not convinced that the speaker is at fault. Regardless, the sound thrills my students.

Last night, I was listening to the Turtle Island String Quartet's brand new Have You Ever Been…?. The CD combines the quartet's unique hit on the music of Jimi Hendrix with a cross genre twist on an old story, Balakrishnan's Tree of Life. The music flowed effortlessly, enticing me with its warmth. The sound is very, very different than Hendrix's electric guitar, and quite beguiling. I could hear every twist and turn clearly. The Focus 110As had me enraptured.