Far easier for the Victor Meldrews of the audiophile world to dismiss the manufacturer aiming beyond the audiophile echo chamber as pandering to hipsters than it is to admit a new product worthy of (their) closer scrutiny. Doubly so when a product dares to challenge established thinking.
Offering an alternative to passive loudspeakers powered by outboard amplifiers (once again) are Dynaudio. If we are to believe the Danish company’s promo shots, the 2017 revision of its Focus XD active loudspeaker range is aimed at younger folk than you’ll find at the average audio show.
“No amplifier. No speaker cables. No compromise” runs the promo tagline. No hi-fi rack either. Just a sideboard and a pair of floorstanders.
No compromise? “All Focus XD speakers are digital from the source to the driver – and all can handle full-fat 24-bit/192kHz hi-res files through their entire signal path,” quoth the press release.
Side note: the promo shot’s absence of power cables and interconnects is no more ad wo/man’s creative license than showing a turntable sharing the same shelf space as a pair of standmounts. In the real world, turntables require isolation from speaker vibrations just as much as active loudspeakers each call upon mains power. The accompanying electronics live inside the speaker cabinets. Outta sight! In the bin – quite literally – go speaker cables, outboard amps and DACs.
Dynaudio’s 2017 Focus XD range comprises three models: the XD 20 2-way standmount (€5500); the XD 30 2 ½-way compact floorstander (€8500); and the larger 3-way floorstanding Focus XD 60 (€11,000).
Finishes? Satin white, black piano lacquer and high-gloss walnut veneer comes as standard. High-gloss rosewood veneer and high-gloss grey oak veneer attract a small premium.
Were we to buy into one of Dynaudio’s passive models, how much extra cash would we need to set aside for third party amplification and D/A conversion? Doubtful that our total spend would be low enough to pass up on an active loudspeaker system’s all-in-one proposition and do so with confidence.
Active detractors quite reasonably point to a speaker cabinet’s internal sound waves as one reason to keep its amplifiers as separate entities. But what if going active gave us performance gains that outweighed any vibration-induced losses?
The theory is compelling. Ditto this commentator’s real life experiences with a range of active loudspeaker models.
Without recourse to the manual, the single digital (S/PDIF) input and single digital (S/PDIF) interconnect (that joins left Focus XD loudspeaker to right) tells us that Dynaudio favour a digital crossover, one where frequency anomalies can be smoothed and phase distortion corrected using DSP. One per driver, each digital amplifier’s output can been tailored precisely to its partnering driver.
From the press release: “The 2017 range has had a ground-up revamp of its signal-processing flow (incorporating elements from Dynaudio’s professional LYD range of studio monitors) for substantial improvements in sound quality.
“The relationship between the digital amplifiers and the drivers has also been optimised, including the overload-limiters: redesigning the signal flow here has resulted in higher volume levels from the drivers without distortion or compression. It also improves signal- to-noise ratios and dynamics and, in the case of the Focus 60 XD, even lower bass.”
Dynaudio’s DSP can also be used to tailor the loudspeaker’s output according to room placement: freestanding; wall; corner.
On this Dynaudio’s pdf says, “Less need for complicated crossover filters means there’s more computing horsepower available for speaker-position compensation. That doesn’t mean simply altering the bass – it covers the whole frequency spectrum. The technology adjusts for variances that happen in frequency and phase when placing the speaker near a wall or in a corner. The 2017 Focus XD can now do this at a higher resolution for greater accuracy – and better sound even when speakers can’t be placed optimally in the room.”
“Also new is the ‘brightness’ control from Dynaudio’s LYD pro-studio range. It adjusts the whole frequency character of the speakers, rather than just the treble. Users can set an overall brighter or darker sound to suit their room and preferences.”
This story isn’t only about new hardware. A firmware update applied via rear panel USB socket allows existing Focus XD owners to tap into the audible benefits of Dynaudio’s revised DSP code.
Clearly, active loudspeakers are more than just an attempt to minimise a hi-fi system’s aesthetic intrusion and/or wallet damage. They’re about optimal sound quality too. And with companies like KEF, ELAC, Acoustic Energy, Genelec, Manger, Canton, Raumfeld and Avant Garde also aboard the active loudspeaker train, it’s only a matter of time before it rolls into a town near you.
Further information: Dynaudio
Further enthusiasm for the active way of thinking can be found in my first piece for Michael Lavorgna’s AudioStream here.