- Written by Tyler Stripko
- Published on 20 April 2009
Driving electronics started off with the Marantz SR6003 receiver (without any Audyssey correction) that I recently reviewed fed by my Pioneer Elite DV-47Ai universal player as well as my Samsung BD-P5000 Blu-ray/HD-DVD combo player. The kind folks at Dynaudio managed to put about 150 hours of "break-in" time on the X16s before I received them so they were pretty much ready to go straight out of the box. From my listening, I would say that 150 hours is an adequate amount of break-in time for these speakers, as I detected no additional changes in the X16s overall sound during the three months that I used them in my home.
I started off my listening tests with track 1, "Non-Allegro," from Rachmaninoff's "Symphonic Dances" (Reference Recordings, RR-96). Within a few minutes, I knew that I would be enjoying my time with the little Dynaudios. The X16s were able to capture the startling dynamic range of this track, which is always hard for a bookshelf speaker unless it employs some massive drivers or a large cabinet. Bass in particular was impressive and reproduced the tympani hits cleanly and accurately. The mid-range seemed accurate and uncolored, while the silk-dome tweeter presented a remarkable sense of air and space on the chimes that get brushed throughout the track. Imaging was very good and the soundstage was fairly wide.
However, I wasn't blown away by the sound so I decided to do a little more tweaking with the set-up. First, I moved the speakers back an inch or two at a time to increase the bass/mid-bass slightly. At about 2 feet from the back wall I seemed to find a sweet spot which created a slightly richer overall sound that I really liked without detracting from the accuracy and tightness of the bass response. I also moved the speakers slightly further apart (about 7 feet) from each other. This seemed to increase the size of the soundstage nicely without destroying the imaging.
Now that I was pretty satisfied with the overall sound, I decided to take off the grilles. I won't lie and say that the difference was night and day, but removing the grilles is definitely the way to go with the Excites. Imaging and sound staging opened up to that last little degree and the overall tonal balance of the mid-range and treble just seemed to smooth out perfectly. It was now much easier to pick out individual instruments from the mix, as well as exactly where in the concert hall they were placed. The X16s simply became a more "complete" speaker with the grilles off, so that's how I did the rest of my critical listening.
Now that I had the X16s sounding just right, I went through the rest of my demo discs. "Dusk," track 4 from "Azucar" (Avalon - B00000J6Z0) offered extremely accurate (there's that word again) sounding Spanish guitar and surprisingly hard hitting bass. I was really taken back by just how much force the X16s had in the lower regions. The speakers were reaching cleanly down into the lower 40Hz range with power and authority. There was no evidence of bloat or excess, just clean, crisp hits of the drum notes.
Next I cued up a few tracks off of Patricia Barber's "Modern Cool" (Koch – B00026WTVA). The X16s reproduced all the breathy nuance of Barber's voice as well as the incredibly well recorded natural bass notes that underlie most of the tracks. The X16s threw an incredibly wide sound stage and really helped me pinpoint individual notes and instruments. Continuing with the jazz theme, I then switched to the SACD of Norah Jones' "Come Away With Me" (Blue Note – B00008WT49) and selected my favorite song on the disc, "I've Got To See You Again." As good as the Patricia Barber CD sounded; there is no denying that a well-recorded SACD sounds better. Through the X16s, I was able to hear the subtle nuances of the how the background guitar strings are picked, as opposed to just hearing the individual notes.
Having decided that the Excites were excellent speakers for classical, jazz, and acoustic guitar, I moved on to the louder and harder stuff. I popped in Rob Zombie's "American Made Music to Strip By" (Interscope B00002DDPD), cued up the remix of "Dragula," and slowly inched up the volume until the X16s cried "uncle." The Excites surprised me by how well they sounded as the volume increased, retaining their clarity, hard-hitting bass, and overall smooth tonal qualities. At about 92dB, the amplifier in the Marantz gave up the fight, with some harshness finding its way into the sound as the X16s drove the amp towards its clipping point.
This is my only real quibble with the X16s. At 87dB efficient at 4ohms, the X16s aren't the most sensitive speaker and will require a lot of amp power to crest the 95dB+ point. If you like to play your music really loud (or have a large room) and only have a modest receiver, consider yourself warned. The good news is that the X16s can definitely handle higher powered amps, as a short session with them paired with my Wyred 4 Sound multichannel amp revealed. The front channels of this amp use the B+O 1000ASP ICEpower® modules, which are capable of delivering well over a kilowatt (that's 1000 watts!) at the X16's 4ohm load. While it is really unfair to compare the amp of a mid-range receiver to the separate ICEpower® modules, those using higher quality amplification will find that the X16s will reward that investment with overall better sound reproduction.
In my time with the Excites, I found that they are quite sensitive to amplifier and source component changes. The X16s are very revealing speakers that will allow you to easily hear differences in source components and amplifiers. Do you have a harsh sounding CD/DVD player (like my Samsung Blu-ray player)? The Dynaudios will let you know it. Is your amp a little bright in the treble? If so, you will definitely hear it. Equipment synergy is very important with the Excites. The X16s sounded fantastic with the Marantz SR6003. The Marantz's slightly musical nature and excellent resolution made for some very beautiful sounding music. However, pairing the X16s with an older Denon 3802 receiver gave me a rather lean sound that seemed to over-emphasize midrange and treble detail. A late 1980's vintage Pioneer two-channel receiver also proved to be a surprisingly nice match with the Excites.
Along these same lines, the Dynaudios will also clearly emphasize the decisions made in the recording studio. If an album was mastered with limited dynamic range and compression, you will be able to hear it. If the brass section on a jazz CD was mixed way too hot (i.e. older Frank Sinatra recordings), the horns will blare at you and send you scampering to turn down the volume. On the flipside, well-recorded material really comes to life on the X16s. I could also imagine the X16s as the front speakers in a 5.1/7.1 Excite surround set-up. With a good subwoofer and high powered receiver, you should be able to reach the appropriate SPL levels provided that your room is not too large.