I’ve been reviewing high-fidelity equipment for almost 25 years. And in all that time, there are two loudspeaker brands which I felt were head-and-shoulders above all others in terms of dynamic responsiveness. One was local – South Australian firm VAF Research. And one was Danish: Dynaudio.
Dynaudio has several ranges of loudspeakers, from the kind-of entry-level Emit range to the price-is-no-object Confidence range. But the Dynaudio Heritage Special loudspeakers are not part of any of those ranges. They are a limited edition release – only 2500 pairs are to be made – to celebrate Dynaudio’s legacy.
- Stand mount, 2-way bass reflex loudspeakers
- Limited edition, 2500 pairs only
- Made in Denmark
- 19mm MDF with real American Walnut veneer, matched for each panel and pair of speakers, hand sanded and lacquered
- Tweeters: soft-dome, aluminium voice-coil Esotar 3 tweeters, Dynaudio’s top-of-the-line model
- Woofers: 180mm MSP (Magnesium Silicon Polypropylene) cone, “souped-up” version of the “Evidence” woofer
- Crossover: 2200 hertz, 1st order
- Not bi-wireable
- Rear-mounted port
- Sensitivity: 85dB (2.83 volts @ 1 metre)
- Power handling: 200 watts IEC
- Nominal impedance: 4 ohms
- Frequency response: 42-23,000 hertz ±3dB
- Weight: 11kg each
- Dimensions: 208mm wide, 385mm tall, 320mm deep
- In brief: Superb sound. Superb finish. A real adornment for any system.
- Price: $11,000
- Available at fine Dynaudio retailers and here.
A bit more on the Dynaudio Heritage Special loudspeakers
The “Heritage” in the name does not really relate to the drivers, as we’ll see, but more to the relatively traditional styling of the Dynaudio Heritage Special loudspeakers. Compare, for example, with the modernistic lines of Dynaudio’s premium Confidence range. The Heritage Special harks back a number of Dynaudio’s classic premium models.
Look closely and you see that these speakers ooze quality. The finish is perfect. There are little touches, like groove around the baffle, that lift these loudspeakers way beyond the norm. The veneer’s are matched, and hand-finished, to provide a cohesive look to each pair.
They are provided with a grille, which is secured (and located) magnetically.
They are designed for stand mounting. And indeed, Dynaudio makes a suitable stand. I used the Dynaudio Stand 20 ($950) with the special, larger, TS20 adaptor plate ($189) for the Heritage Special speakers. These stands feature two cavities within the column, one for sand and one for cable management. There are pre-drilled holes in the bottom of the speakers which match those in the adaptor plate so that you can more securely mount them, should you wish, and effectively add physical mass to the speakers.
Speaking of which, I’ve always considered the weight of a piece of high-fidelity equipment a loose, but nonetheless useful proxy for quality. It isn’t dispositive, but a heavy piece of equipment is a good hint that the manufacturer had quality in mind. Each of the Heritage Special loudspeakers weighs an impressively heavy 11 kilograms.
Finally, even though the Heritage Special loudspeakers nod to classic models of the past, Dynaudio designed and tuned them using the latest technology in its massive Jupiter measurement laboratory.
A word on loudspeaker placement. I always start my loudspeaker listening with the speakers toed in to, as closely as I can manage it, directly fire towards the listening position. If this seems less than optimal, I’ll play around with the angle and report on it in my review. With these speakers, I toed in and just left them there. Because there they were delightful.
After a couple of days of just playing random music to make sure the speakers were thoroughly loosened up – I understand they already had around fifty hours on the odometer – I sat down for some real listening. For the first serious attention-paying session I entered the time machine and dragged out Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick on vinyl. Actual vinyl from the days when this album was first released. My copy – I bought it new back in the day – has the fold-out newspaper feature.
I confess, I haven’t played this for a while. I generally listen to the Steven Wilson high resolution remixed version. But it was a true pleasure to return to the original mix as originally presented, in large part because the Dynaudio Heritage Special speakers revealed the extraordinary detail and imaging available from vinyl. It was quite something hearing through the climactic parts the subtle ring of percussive chimes swaying slightly from left to right and back again, aurally located some distance behind the rest of the instruments, behind the plane of the loudspeakers, actually beyond the wall behind the loudspeakers.
The tonal balance was perfect. Surface noise was audible, barely, during some of the quiet passages, neither emphasised nor hidden. The bass guitar was solid and easy to follow, and the kick drum was delivered with an excellent controlled thump.
I played this loud, as you should with Jethro Tull of course, and given the fairly low sensitivity of the Heritage Special loudspeakers, I must have been pouring in the power. Yet the delivery by these speakers was as clean and distortion free – and as full of subtlety – as others might manage at moderate levels.
That included revealing everything. Including – as the stylus tracked close to the centre of the record – the deterioration of the groove quality towards the end of the side. I imagine I must have played this record at least a hundred times, more so in the 70s than in recent years, and my playback gear was quite good for the time, so the wear and tear is minimal. Still, listening to old vinyl with such fine loudspeakers does remind you of both the glories and limitations of the medium.
Staying with old vinyl, but switching genres, I spun up an album I recently purchased second hand, Ernestine Anderson’s Sunshine, a US pressing from Concord Jazz. A tip for second-hand vinyl purchasers: a jazz album with a cover in good condition probably sounds pretty good too. It was most likely owned either by a jazz lover, who tended to look after their records, or had been a gift to someone who didn’t much care for jazz, and thus never played it.
On “Summertime”, the upright bass had luscious body and fine depth, with the speakers delivering the percussive elements of the play as strongly as the harmonic. Since this is an album focused on the vocalist, Anderson’s voice is full on front and centre. Not a whole lot of subtlety was available to be extracted from the recording. But on the next track – “Time After Time” – things were different. On this she used all facets of her vocal talents, from power to a gentle croon, colouring her voice with different levels of throat effects. The piano solo (played by Monty Alexander) on the same track involved lots of runs across much of the keyboard. Every note was even in level, with a precisely located strike and a full harmonic load. And I know all this because these loudspeakers were so faithful in their delivery at pleasingly room-filling levels.
Switching then to digital – having a truly black noise floor is always such a pleasure with digital – I went for one of those tracks I recommend to experience the bass performance of a system, “Wrapped Around Your Finger” from The Police’s album Synchronicity. For ninety percent of the song the bass delivery was entirely satisfying, full and balanced. It was that balance that makes these speakers sound larger than they are. At a couple of points in the song, the bass drops into a lower register and this was a bit muted by comparison. The 40-ish hertz specification seemed to me to be entirely accurate.
As I was finishing off that paragraph, the album rolled (if that word is appropriately used for audio streamed from network attached storage) onto the next track, “Tea in the Sahara”. And it struck me that this is a much better-produced track. “Wrapped” had harshened up during the choruses. “Tea” remained consistently clean, and its bass was delivered pretty close to perfectly. Indeed, on this track the bass seemed to extend more deeply than the claimed 41 hertz. The stereo imaging was rounded and quite deep.
The drums throughout both tracks were flung out into the room without the slightest hint of dynamic compression. Which prompted me to go over to a highly percussive track: “We’ll Let You Know” from King Crimson’s 1974 album Starless and Bible Black. I have this on vinyl, but I played the digital 24-bit/96kHz 2011 stereo remix. This builds up a song from fragments, and it all comes together when Bill Bruford’s full drum kit kicks in around 2:50 into the track.
I had the thing at too high a level, and afterwards I had to stop for a while to give my ears a rest. No distortion. Absolute control. There was space around each element. The percussive parts, especially near the start, danced across the stereo stage, side to side, front to back, up and down.
I had this feeling from previous Dynaudio speakers was that they were perhaps just a little on the bright side. No, not now. The tonal balance was perfect.
I always hesitate to publish frequency response measurements of loudspeakers. Outside a proper anechoic chamber, what you are measuring is the environment – the room in which they speakers are located – as much as the speakers themselves. Nonetheless the measurements are worth conducting because they can show overall tonal balance, and specifically the bass extension.
So, first, here is a measurement, on axis at one metre:
See that dip at 66 hertz? That’s the room. As are all those jaggies across the full spectrum. But we can see two things from this graph. First, an even bass which lacks the upper-bass-boost fakery sometimes employed by smaller speakers. Second, that left-most bass peak is at 44 hertz. Then the output steps down by around 4dB and is maintained to 30 hertz.
Let’s look at that a bit more closely:
I grabbed this measurement close to the side of the cabinet, halfway between the baffle and the rear panel. The idea was to capture the output from both woofer and bass reflex port, while minimising room effects. Again, there’s significant bass output to 31 hertz.
(The test signal was wideband pink noise, which kind of approximates the tonal balance in the real world, as opposed to white noise which is nothing like real sound. After measurement, I rebalance it. A perfect response would show a flat, horizontal line.)
There is one downside with the Dynaudio Heritage Special loudspeakers. As I said, they ooze quality. But with conventional styling, they simply don’t draw attention to themselves visually. Your visitors will probably not notice them, unless they are well-versed in the high-fidelity world.
Which isn’t really a problem. Just start playing some music, and they’ll draw attention to themselves aurally. Then your visitors will notice.