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Product Review - Duke Speakers - March, 1996

By John E. Johnson, Jr.

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Duke Speakers

Duke Speakers; Floor standing speakers, center channel and rear surround home theater speakers; Model DK-2010: Three-way bass reflex floor standing; one 1" dome tweeter, one 6 1/2" mid-range treated paper cone driver, two 10" low frequency treated paper cone drivers; Frequency response 28 Hz - 22 kHz; Sensitivity 90 dB/w/m; Power handling 200 w continuous, 280 w short term; Nominal impedance 6 Ohms; Size 42"H x 12"W x 15"D; Weight 70 pounds each; $1,358/pair; Model DK-K-80: Center Channel Speaker; Two-way sealed enclosure; one 13mm dome tweeter, two 5 1/2" treated paper cone mid-bass drivers; Frequency response 70 Hz - 20 kHz; Sensitivity 90 dB/w/m; Power handling 60 w continuous, 100 w short term; Nominal impedance 6 Ohms; Size 6 1/2"H x 18"W x 8 1/2"D; Weight 9 pounds; $300; Model DK-502 Rear Surround Speakers; Two-way bass reflex; one 13mm dome tweeter, one 5 1/2 treated paper cone low frequency driver; Frequency response 60 Hz - 20 kHz; Sensitivity 90 dB/w/m; Power handling 80 w continuous, 100 w short term; Nominal impedance 4 Ohms; Size 12"H x 7"W x 7"D; Weight 6 pounds each; $266/pair; Duke Speakers of USA, 4012 East Broad Street, P.O. Box 13170, Columbus, Ohio 43213; Phone 614-237-2010; Fax 614-237-2143.

Whenever you see a company name followed by USA, you know that there is a high probability that the product is made in another country. In the case of Duke Speakers of USA, they are manufactured in Denmark. Many speakers these days are built with a vinyl veneer covering, and although Denmark is famous for their furniture craftsmanship, Duke Speakers have also decided that black vinyl is the most widely acceptable look in speakers. You can order some models with real wood veneer, but this increases the cost. The DK-2010s are large floor standing speakers, and they only come in black vinyl. The cost ($1,358/pair) reflects the decision to utilize this type of finish as the only style in which they can be purchased. It is like Henry Ford said of the Model A, "You can get it in any color you wish, as long as it's black."

The 2010s are three-way, with a bass reflex enclosure. The drivers are arranged with one woofer (10") at the top, followed by a 1" dome tweeter, then a 6 1/2" mid-range, and finally, another 10" woofer at the bottom (see photo). The tweeter and mid-range are contained within a sealed cabinet inside the main enclosure. There are two 2 1/2" diameter plastic ports on the back, one a few inches from the top, and the other a few inches from the bottom. Two pairs of gold plated binding posts allow bi-wiring or bi-amping. Black velvet covers the front of the enclosure, to absorb sound that otherwise might be reflected from the enclosure front and interact with the sound from the drivers themselves. The drivers are all flush with the front of the enclosure.

We tested the 2010s with our McCormack SST-1 Drive and DAC-1, ALD-1 Preamp, and Carver Silver 9t Monoblocks, as well as with the Sunfire Power Amp. They (2010s) are designed to handle 200 watts per speaker continuously, and 280 watts on a short term basis. At 6 Ohms nominal impedance and 90 dB/w/m sensitivity, they are very easy to drive. To my ears, they had a detailed high end, did not have excessive sibilance, were a bit laid back in the mid-range, and had a very powerful, deep bass. This is a pleasing combination, because our ears are most sensitive in the mid-range, and not so sensitive at the extremes. Since they have two large woofers, I anticipated that these speakers might sound chesty, but they did not. The separate internal sealed enclosure for the mid-range is undoubtedly responsible for this. The main enclosures are not very well damped, but the final analysis is in the sound of the music, which did not come across as boomy. The bass is very powerful however, so one must have this in mind when considering these speakers. They are designed to kick tail. A subwoofer really is not necessary here.

The near-field frequency response test results are as follows (Grille removed, microphone 3 feet from center of speaker, on axis, reference tone 1 kHz set at approximately 80 dB):

Frequency: 25 Hz 31.5 Hz 40 Hz 50 Hz 63 Hz 80 Hz 100 Hz 125 Hz 160 Hz 200 Hz
dB: 74.3 77.7 80.2 78.1 89.1 88.5 94.1 90.3 81.2 84.8
Frequency: 500 Hz 1 kHz 2.5 kHz 5 kHz 8 kHz 10 kHz 12.5 kHz 15 kHz 18 kHz
dB: 85.9 80.4 85.4 87.8 82.9 86.3 89.8 89.8 84.4


The far-field frequency response test results are as follows (Grille removed, microphone 13 feet from center of speaker, on axis, reference tone 1 kHz set at approximately 80 dB):

Frequency: 25 Hz 31.5 Hz 40 Hz 50 Hz 63 Hz 80 Hz 100 Hz 125 Hz 160 Hz 200 Hz
dB: 77.1 80.5 83.0 74.6 81.5 82.4 79.4 69.3 72.8 77.6
Frequency: 500 Hz 1 kHz 2.5 kHz 5 kHz 8 kHz 10 kHz 12.5 kHz 15 kHz 18 kHz
dB: 76.4 80.2 70.7 77.1 75.0 68.2 71.5 78.3 70.9


The DK-K-80 Center Channel Speaker and DK-502 Rear Surround Speakers were another story entirely. The 502s were noticeably chesty in the female voice test (it means sounding like her chest cavity goes all the way to her toes) and required EQ of several dB reduction in the 150 Hz range to alleviate the problem. The 80 was not quite as bad in this area (it has a sealed enclosure), but still had just a slight tendency for the chestiness. It is angled backward at about 30 degrees. In any case, however, the construction of the 80 and 502s was not acceptable, in my opinion. Both models use spring clips for speaker connections, and the entire connection assembly with the attached crossover network is pressure fitted into the rear of the center channel speaker enclosure rather than being attached with screws. It simply fell out when we unpacked it. Also, I did not like the 502 plastic enclosures. In short, I cannot recommend either the DK-K-80 or DK-502. For their price, there are many other speakers with better sound, and better construction (e.g., with binding posts).

I did really enjoy the DK-2010s though. They sounded clean, natural, and powerful. Their rather large size may make them take over a room, but that is the price of having a big sound. Other speakers, with real wood veneer, might be a lot more attractive, but you are talking three grand/pair at least for something with this large of a sound stage. The price tag of the 2010s, black vinyl and all, coupled with their very nice sound, makes them worthy of an afternoon spent giving them an audition. Crank the volume because that's what they are made for.

John E. Johnson, Jr.


Copyright 1995, 1996, 1997 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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