Surround Sound Speaker Systems
- Written by Larry Hryshko
- Published on 28 May 2009
The vast majority of the time, I listened to this set up as a complete 5.1 system. Even though Iâ€™m aware that my growing SACD and DVD-audio discs are thought of as dinosaur formats, â€œyâ€™all donâ€™t know what yur missingâ€. When needed for DVD-Audio, I swapped in a Denon 3910 multiplayer from my reference system. Listening to Fleetwood Mac â€œRumorsâ€ (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 Stevieâ€™s voice with aplomb. Steely Danâ€™s â€œGauchoâ€ (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, â€œBabylon Sistersâ€, 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 didnâ€™t want to leave my throne to find out. David Bowies â€œThe Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardustâ€ (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 â€œFive Yearsâ€ were perfectly seamless as they moved back and forth between the X12s and the X32s. For surround effects, Pink Floydâ€™s DSOTM (SACD) never disappoints but was even upstaged by The Flaming Lips â€œYoshi Battles the Pink Robotsâ€ (DVD-A). What I noticed most about the Dynaudios was that I really didnâ€™t notice them. Thatâ€™s a huge compliment because even with my reference system, Iâ€™m often listening to how it sounds rather than listening to what Iâ€™m listening to. All that Iâ€™ve ever heard or read about Dynaudio is absolutely true. That is, their speakers donâ€™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.
About half of my listening pleasure comes from solo experiences. The other comes from enjoying peopleâ€™s reactions to fine audio. The vast majority of my friends are non-audiophiles and itâ€™s personally entertaining to watch their responses to a good audio system. Over the past few months, Iâ€™ve had several guests try to describe how it sounded. â€œIt sounds so clear.â€ â€œYou can hear all the instruments.â€ â€œI can tell where everything is.â€ â€œThey make your room seem bigger than it is.â€ â€œHow can they do that?â€ 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 â€œBarakaâ€ 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 â€œsuspension of disbeliefâ€ on numerous occasions. Translation: â€œit sounds so real that you no longer believe it isnâ€™t.â€ 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 didnâ€™t want to give these back. The Excites routinely delivered all of a movies excitement and nuances.
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. Thatâ€™s changing pretty quickly with the Dynaudios and fortunately, the SACD format is still reasonably well represented for classical music. Second, Iâ€™ve never been a big fan of music videos. However, watching and listening (OK, mostly watching) Shakiraâ€™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 â€œLive at Radio Cityâ€ or Rushâ€™s â€œSnakes and Arrows Liveâ€ or the Cure â€œTrilogyâ€ 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.
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 thatâ€™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.