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Dynaudio Focus 220 Floor-Standing Speakers, Focus 200 C Center Channel Speaker, Focus 110 Surround Speakers, and SUB 250 Subwoofer

Part II

January, 2007

Matthew Abel

 

Suitably impressed with the surround sound performance of the Focuses, I moved on to listening to the Focus 220s in stereo with Gustav Holst's Suites for Band (Telarc CD-80038). My favorite track, "Fantasia on the Dargason" from Holst's Second Suite in F, sounded magnificent, with the 220s completely disappearing into a wide and deep soundstage. Extension was excellent, with the 220s producing satisfying bass drum hits and low brass instruments. The triangle was crystal clear and the snare drum had a wonderfully immediate and dynamic snap when it was hit.

Overall, the 220's sound was tonally balanced throughout its range and very natural on this track with very realistic renditions of the woodwind and brass instruments. Ultimately, the Focus 220s gave the best performance of this track that I have heard in my house.

I listened to a lot of really good music during my time with the Dynaudios, and one of the things that really impressed me was how well these speakers worked with a wide variety of different musical genres. I could crank up some "Teen Angst" from M83's Before the Dawn Heals and turn them into a serious party speaker with their taut driving bass, or I could relax to the intimate and beautifully rendered vocals from "Homesick" from Kings of Convenience's Riot on an Empty Street.

In fact, it was this party speaker aspect that most surprised me. For such a small tower, the Focus 220s could really fill a room with good musical bass and I could even take it up another notch with the SUB 250, something I did far too often when I got Hot Chip's The Warning.

One of the interesting things I found myself doing with the Focus system was spending more time dissecting the surround mixing of movies. This was made that much easier by having truly high quality direct radiating speakers like the Focus 110s for surrounds. Of course, sometimes when you go looking for things, you do not always like what you find, and for me that moment happened while watching Ocean's 12. This movie blew me away by having what has to be one of the sparsest surround mixes I have heard recently from a big budget movie.

This, of course, begs the question, does one really need beautiful $1,400 monitors that are good enough to be excellent main speakers for most people to hear some incidental crowd noise in busy scenes?

This problem troubled me for quite some time, and as I often do when in crises of faith, I looked to The Talking Heads for answers. Thankfully the DualDisc version of Speaking in Tongues was all I needed to find my answer. The surround mix of "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)" proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that you really should be using speakers like the Focus 110s for your surrounds. I think I was already convinced from my earlier listening that the Focus speakers were excellent, but this track made me a true believer. Each of the speakers contributed to making an amazing soundfield. The 200 C transplanted David Byrne to my living room, with clear and natural vocals. The mains and the surrounds put me in the center of a completely coherent musical experience. This is one of my all time favorite songs (and not just because it was used in Wall Street), and the Focuses made it sound amazing and new again.

The Dynaudio Focuses are truly excellent speakers, but even more, they are truly excellent Danish speakers, and that is saying a lot. It was not until I traveled to Denmark recently that I truly understood how many of the positive aspects of Danish culture were embodied in these speakers and why ultimately I like them as much as I do.

I spent much of my time in Copenhagen on this trip, and I was amazed at the emphasis and attention paid to good design in all aspects of life. This ranged from famous landmarks like the Radisson SAS and Illums Bolighus, to simple cafés.

While the Focus speakers aren't as outlandish or revolutionary as an Arne Jacobsen chair or a Poul Henningsen lamp, they have the same attention to detail, materials, and form that typifies the Danish style. It is a style that is elegant and attractive and would not look out of place at your local DWR. It is also a style that resonates strongly with my own aesthetic.

Another thing I experienced in Demark is "hygge", a central element of Danish culture. Hygge doesn't have a direct translation in English, but many people like to use "coziness" as the closest English word. It is more than that though, hygge is about achieving perfection in the pleasures of life with friends and family, but in an effortless and simple way. Every Copenhagen café I went to was trying to make my evening a hygge night, and that was not a bad thing, since they were all about creating an intimate, comfortable, and very enjoyable experience. Hygge is a broad ranging concept, and for the Danes, many things can be described with the adjective for hygge, "hyggelig".

Conclusions

Ultimately, I feel I can pay the Dynaudio Focuses no greater compliment than to describe them as hyggelig. These speakers fit seamlessly and elegantly into your room and your life, and become a constant source pleasure. I found these Dynaudios engaging with all types of source material from quiet background music to powerful action movie soundtracks. Like something that is truly hyggelig, the Focus speakers also were able to produce excellent sound with a wide variety of electronics.

I lived with the Dynaudio Focuses for quite some time, and I enjoyed every minute of it. These speakers are not inexpensive, but I feel they offer good value with their impressive sonics, immaculate build quality, and an attractive appearance. In addition each of these speaker can stand alone as an excellent purchase. The Focus 220s make an outstanding set of stereo speakers or main speakers in a surround system. The Focus 110s are great as stereo speakers, main speakers in a surround system, or as surround speakers. The Focus 200 C, at $1,000, is an outstanding value for a high quality center speaker and can be paired with any combination of Focus speakers.

Finally, the SUB 250, while limited in its output, will be an ideal option for some people, but of course Dynaudio makes larger subwoofers as well (the 250 is the smallest in their line). In my opinion, if you are looking for a superior set of speakers to handle all of your audio needs, the Dynaudio Focuses deserve your serious consideration.



 - Matthew Abel -

© Copyright 2007 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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