Surround Sound Speaker Systems

Dynaudio Excite Home Theater Speakers

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Dynaudio Excite home theater speakers

Introduction

Long before I ever dreamed of owning a genuine set of Dynaudio speakers, I’ve lusted after their raw drivers. Dynaudio speaker components have always been highly regarded in the do-it-yourself (DIY) community for their exceptional fidelity and bullet-proof construction. Notably, the DIY crowd isn’t exactly known for their extravagance or pretentiousness, so the huge popularity of Dynaudio is quite telling. This isn’t just my opinion. A number of uber high-end speaker manufacturers also employ Dynaudio drivers in their flagship products. Their utilization within the big leagues of speaker makers and amongst the upper echelons of the DIY community says a lot more than advertising or techno-babble ever could. However, even as raw speakers, the price of Dynaudio was barely what I would consider affordable. Sadly, their speaker components are pretty much unavailable these days, as major DIY suppliers like Madisound and Solen no longer offer these gemstones. So, if nothing else, Dynaudio makes outstanding speaker components. Finally, Dynaudio has not been shy or unsuccessful in producing some of the finest and most expensive speakers in the world, as exemplified by their latest Evidence line. Check it out for yourself.

Specifications

  • X32 Tower Speakers
  • Design:: Two-way, Ported
  • Drivers: One1.1" Soft Dome Tweeeter, Two 5.7" Woofers
  • MFR: 37 Hz – 23 kHz (± 3 dB)
  • Sensitivity: 87 dB (2.83 Volts/1 Meter)
  • Power Handling: 200 watts
  • Nominal Impedance: 4 Ohms
  • Crossover: 1.8 kHz, First Order
  • Dimensions: 36.2" H x 6.7" W x 10.6" D
  • Weight: 37.8 Pounds/each
  • MSRP: $2,800/pair USA
  • X22 Center Channel
  • Design: Two-way, Ported
  • Drivers: One 1.1" Soft Dome Tweeter, Two 4.3" Woofers
  • MFR: 58 Hz – 23 kHz (± 3 dB)
  • Sensitivity: 86 dB (2.83 Volts/1 Meter)
  • Power Handling: 150 watts
  • Nominal Impedance: 4 Ohms
  • Crossover: 1.8 kHz, First Order
  • Dimensions: 5.1" H x 19.7" W x 8.3" D
  • Weight: 15.4 Pounds
  • MSRP: $850/each USA
  • X12 Monitors
  • Design: Two-way, Ported
  • Drivers: One 1.1" Soft Dome Tweeter, One 5.7" Woofer
  • MFR: 50 Hz – 23 kHz (± 3 dB)
  • Sensitivity: 86 dB (2.83 Volts/1 Meter)
  • Power Handling: 150 watts
  • Nominal Impedance: 4 Ohms
  • Crossover: 2 kHz, First Order
  • Dimensions: 11.2" H x 6.7" W x 10" D
  • Weight: 14.3 Pounds/each
  • MSRP: $1,200/pair
  • Sub500 Subwoofer
  • Design: Sealed Enclosure
  • Driver: One 12"
  • MFR: 18 Hz - 250 Hz (± 3 dB)
  • Amplifier: 250 Watts RMS, Class A/B
  • Features: XLR and RCA inputs, Card-size Remote Control
  • Low-Pass Filter: Flat/60/80/100 Hz
  • Dimensions: 14.9" H x 14.2" W x 22.4" D
  • Weight: 67.2 Pounds
  • MSRP: $2,200 USA
  • Dynaudio

Design

Based on this busload of bias, I was very excited to have the opportunity to review a complete surround system from Dynaudio’s new Excite line. My review sample consisted of X32 towers, the X22 center channel, and X12 rear surrounds, accompanied by their Sub 500. Even though this package represents an entry level system from Dynaudio, my expectations were extremely high. With an admission price of around $7K (MSRP) for the package, I think it’s fair to expect a lot.

The X32s are two way, bass reflex floor-standers with a sleek appearance and small footprint. Mine came finished in a beautiful rosewood veneer. Like Danish architecture and furniture, they are an attractive but minimalist design. Build quality is excellent and the fit and finish are first rate. The X32s have two 5.7 inch, mid-bass drivers and a 1.1 inch soft dome tweeter in a linear arrangement, with the tweeter sitting on top centered at 33.25 inches from terra firma. I know and routinely measure this because my ears sit at 36.0 inches. Spikes are included with the speakers as are foam plugs to block the ports, if required.

The X22 center channel is also a two-way, three driver set-up arranged in a horizontal linear array. It houses two 4.3 inch mid-bass drivers and a 1.1 inch tweeter. The center channel is positioned on a removable stand that cants it upward or downward depending upon its ultimate placement. Nice, but non-adjustable for those of us who use lasers for tweeter targeting. It made me even madder to find out that it was bang on for my requirements.

The X12s are a surprisingly small, two-way, two driver system with a single 5.7 inch woofer and a 1.1 inch tweeter. I actually thought that Dynaudio made a mistake when I opened these up since it seemed unrealistic to pair these half-pints with the X32s. If you’ve never heard a baby wail, you’re in for a surprise as it was for me and the X12s.

The Sub 500 is a fairly compact, sealed enclosure with a 12 inch, long excursion driver. It is driven by a 250 watt class A/B amplifier, which utilizes proprietary Dynamic CEC (cone extrusion control), presumably reflecting some unique method of servo control. The card-sized remote control handles a variety of functions including volume, phase, crossover frequency, an additional extended bass mode, as well as up to four memory presets (established by the operator) and an on-off switch. In practice, it works quickly and conveniently to optimize your subwoofer to a variety of listening conditions. A few other desirable features include the ability to use either XLR (balanced) or RCA inputs and an interesting master/slave function that can be utilized to connect multiple subwoofers with the LFE signal.

All speakers employ coated, soft dome tweeters and the mid-bass drivers are constructed of Magnesium Silicate Polymer (MSP) cones with low mass, aluminum voice coils and rigid, die-cast aluminum frames. All speakers within the Excite line are direct radiators, so those in search of dipoles or bipoles will need to search elsewhere. The cabinets, while not overly thick or heavy, are well constructed and rigid. All have a one inch front baffle. They are finished in furniture grade, genuine wood veneers and come available in maple, cherry, rosewood and black ash. As an avid wood-worker, I was envious of the craftsmanship evident in these cabinets. I’m certain they wouldn't hire me in that department.

Dynaudio Excite home theater speakers


Setup

When I accepted the opportunity to review for Secrets, I was ecstatic. In contrast, the first thing my wife said was “This will cost us a fortune”. Since it took over a month for my Dynaudios to arrive over the Christmas Holidays, I had plenty of time to prepare for this review (and prove her wrong). Fortunately, Santa brought me a Denon 3808CI receiver for this review. He also got the kids a PS3 which, as luck would have it, can play Blu-rays and SACDs. A hundred odd SACDs and DVD-Audio discs later, I felt totally prepared to fairly demo the new Dynaudios. Well, that and a few new Blu-rays. I’ve become very enamored with this new technology so if a Blu-ray doesn’t suck, or sucks but is on sale, I’ll buy it. I sleep well at night knowing that I’m not responsible for this failing economy and my children will inherit……..uh…..the earth and some killer audio gear. All the above was set up in a 15 x 20 family room, centered around a 52 inch Sony 1080p LCD that Santa also delivered. I let Audyssey MultiEQ XT do the hard work and it worked well for all but the sub settings, which I adjusted manually. Overall, I think I got off pretty cheap, showing that it pays to be a good boy. I’m not sure what my wife was talking about.


In Use

The vast majority of the time, I listened to this set up as a complete 5.1 system. Even though I’m aware that my growing SACD and DVD-audio discs are thought of as dinosaur formats, “y’all don’t know what yur missing”. When needed for DVD-Audio, I swapped in a Denon 3910 multiplayer from my reference system. Listening to Fleetwood Mac “Rumors” (DVD-A) through the Dynaudios reminded me of why I was in love with Stevie Nicks as a child. Oh Daddy, the Dynaudios revealed the complexity and intricacies of Stevie’s voice with aplomb. Steely Dan’s “Gaucho” (in both DVD-A and SACD) is one of the cleanest recordings I have ever heard and the Dynaudios delivered this in spades. The bass punch on the opening track, “Babylon Sisters”, is a good test for any system and it came through clean and taut on the X32s. If there were any bass shortcomings of the X32s, they were seamlessly filled by the Sub 500. It was impossible to tell who was doing the work and I really didn’t want to leave my throne to find out. David Bowies “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust” (SACD) was a magical trip back to my past and the surround mix offers it in an interesting new flavor. The opening and closing transitions on “Five Years” were perfectly seamless as they moved back and forth between the X12s and the X32s. For surround effects, Pink Floyd’s DSOTM (SACD) never disappoints but was even upstaged by The Flaming Lips “Yoshi Battles the Pink Robots” (DVD-A). What I noticed most about the Dynaudios was that I really didn’t notice them. That’s a huge compliment because even with my reference system, I’m often listening to how it sounds rather than listening to what I’m listening to. All that I’ve ever heard or read about Dynaudio is absolutely true. That is, their speakers don’t impart their own musical signature to anything. They simply reveal the songs as they were intended. The mids and highs from this set-up are stunning and the three dimensional soundstage was frighteningly good. On a good recording, I could swear the speakers were 20 feet apart, rather than the six that they actually were. No interpretation, just delivery. Overall, these are certainly amongst the most immersive, yet innocuous, speakers I have ever had the pleasure to hear.

Dynaudio Excite home theater speakers

About half of my listening pleasure comes from solo experiences. The other comes from enjoying people’s reactions to fine audio. The vast majority of my friends are non-audiophiles and it’s personally entertaining to watch their responses to a good audio system. Over the past few months, I’ve had several guests try to describe how it sounded. “It sounds so clear.” “You can hear all the instruments.” “I can tell where everything is.” “They make your room seem bigger than it is.” “How can they do that?” Audiophiles, engineers and musicians have fancy words for all this, but the simple ones convey the message just as well.

Hearing the new high def surround formats (Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master) is also pretty amazing. I watched a ton of Blu-rays movies with this set-up and the Dynaudios continued to excel at disappearing as they went about their business. To those with cold feet at jumping into Blu-ray, play “Baraka” for anyone and you can immediately justify all of your purchases. Stealing a quote I first read from James Tanner (of Bryston), I experienced a “suspension of disbelief” on numerous occasions. Translation: “it sounds so real that you no longer believe it isn’t.” Yes, you can experience storms or super barks in your living room or have helicopters fly through it. These are speakers that keep you fully engaged in the performance at hand. I really didn’t want to give these back. The Excites routinely delivered all of a movies excitement and nuances.

Dynaudio Excite home theater speakers

Finally, the Dynaudios evoked two pretty substantial changes in me. Well, at least in combination with Blu-ray. Previously, I was only been able to listen to classical music for about as long as I could hold my breath. That’s changing pretty quickly with the Dynaudios and fortunately, the SACD format is still reasonably well represented for classical music. Second, I’ve never been a big fan of music videos. However, watching and listening (OK, mostly watching) Shakira’s Oral Fixation Tour on Blu-ray has already made a few of my reluctant friends with deep pockets and short arms jump on the Blu-ray band-wagon. Dave Matthews “Live at Radio City” or Rush’s “Snakes and Arrows Live” or the Cure “Trilogy” in high def have all made me rethink $150 concert tickets. These new audio and video formats are just stupid good and the Excites were exemplary for showing them off. Many of my viewing audience took multiple glances at the X12s, completely in awe at the realization that something so small could deliver so much. If you can swing it, jump in with both feet.

Dynaudio Excite home theater speakers

Finally, I was so impressed with the X32s and the diminutive X12s that I had to put them through their paces individually in a stereo setting. I powered them with my trusty old Perreaux 2150B, as this amp has bass slam that’s world-class. In both cases, this tightened every thing up even more and revealed astonishingly good two channel capabilities. As expected, both speakers failed to fully reproduce the lower octaves, expectedly more so for the X12s. A high quality sub is probably desirable for both speakers. Even still, listening to almost anything by Xavier Rudd or Ray Montford, with eyes closed and a good single malt was a magical way to end an evening. Going back and forth between old school and new cool was also a blast as I flipped between Joan Armatrading/Rickie Lee Jones and the Raconteurs/Cat Power. Having young kids, I can even get away with guilty pleasures, so if Rhianna or Taylor Swift was ever found in the tray by my buddies, I could always blame my daughters.


Conclusions

Shortcomings? Yeah, there’s a few. As advertised, the Excite Series is designed to be very amplifier friendly. In my mind, this would generally mean a flat impedance curve for all speakers to avoid those nasty amplifier-eating dips. More importantly, however, I would have expected higher than normal efficiency levels. I have to say that neither of these general requirements has really been met. The nominal impedance reported by the manufacturer for all speakers is 4 ohms and the sensitivities range from 86-87 dB. While a few online reports (including that from Mick Tillman (Dynlunatic from Dynaudio) suggest significantly higher average impedance values of around 6 ohms, the bottom line is that these speakers will certainly respond favorably to a better than average amplifier or receiver. While the sub can definitely take a lot of pressure off of your amplification requirements, these speakers also have an upper volume limit that’s a bit lower than my own. I gather that Dynaudio caters to a more refined crowd than me, as I occasionally need to regress to my concert going days, where few of us could hear if the car was running when we left. In this regard, the maximum SPL levels of the Excites are likely to shortchange the acoustically insane. Nevertheless, I doubt that many people would couple a $7K speaker package with a $299 Costco receiver, but be forewarned that these speakers will greatly appreciate (and probably require) better than average amplification. You’ll have to advance upward on the Dynaudio range if higher SPLs are required, and I would love to do exactly that. The most disappointing part of this experience was that I haven’t quite figured out how to obtain these yet, never mind their bigger brothers. No one in my family wanted these to leave the house.

So who are they for? Well, I think Dynaudio just about got it right. You can match these with a high quality receiver and be completely happy almost forever. For 95% of my listening needs, and 100% of my family’s, they are impeccable. They are also very easy on the eyes and the diminutive X12s tuck away comfortably anywhere. Their small size certainly belies their thoroughbred audio lineage. As a 5.1 package, you will find that you don’t even notice your Dynaudios as you get absorbed into a movie or musical experience. The Excites do exactly what they are supposed to do. If you’re past the stage of trying to make yourself or your friends deaf, it would be hard to surpass their quality. The notoriety of Dynaudio for uncolored, unadulterated sound is fully apparent in the Excite line. Even as an entry level package, one gets sonic purity and superb build quality. They are refined and immersive, and draw you in completely. For everyday listening, I found them to be nearly flawless and dead accurate. I don’t think you can tire of Dynaudio….ever. They are only fatiguing because you may stay up all night listening to music or watching movies.