The pair of Dynaudio Audience 82s arrived in the middle of the first round of the 2003 NBA playoffs . . . the big game that night pitted the Minnesota Timberwolves against the Los Angeles Lakers. I was expecting a few friends over to watch the game, so I wanted to set up the speakers as quickly as possible. I always wonder with amusement how long it will take one of my friends to exclaim, “New speakers again!?”
The speakers came double-boxed and are designed to be opened on the long side. One would think this would make it easier to un-box the speakers, but I didn't find this to be the case. I much prefer to cut the bottom open, spread the flaps, turn the speaker upright, and pull the box off the top. I realize I may be exposing my ignorance as to the advantage of the Dynaudio (and JM Lab, if memory serves) packing method, but combined with another packaging choice, it made removing the speakers from their boxes problematic.
Instead of Styrofoam or some other variation of plastic, Dynaudio uses a foam rubber material for those top and bottom caps that the speakers rest in, inside the box. Rubber and cardboard create just enough friction to make the 55 pound speaker's walking or sliding from the box more trouble than one would like.
Additionally, you cannot grab the cap and help it out because it will just stretch in your hand, and the speaker will not come with it. I know what you're saying. Criticizing this is pretty lame. How many times is one going to un-box the speakers? Fair enough, but many weeks later, getting them back into the box proved even more difficult and frustrating. I mention this only because of the fact that I've handled speakers considerably heavier than this with much less difficulty. On the other hand, there was nary a scratch on the enclosures, and that is what Dynaudio wants from all this complex packaging.
My guests arrived while I was still in the process of setting the speakers up. The game had begun. My reference set-up includes a Tact M2150 Digital Integrated Amplifier, a pair of Revel F30 speakers, a Philips DVD963SA DVD player, and speaker and interconnect cables by Analysis Plus. In the absence of any strong objections, I decided to switch the speakers in the middle of the first quarter. I moved the Revels out of the way and walked the 82s into place. A minute later, the audio was back.
Physically, the Dynaudio 82 is a much smaller speaker than the Revel F30. The pair I received was finished in a beautiful real wood Cherry veneer (Audience 82s were only recently made available in real wood veneers). It features a matte silver front baffle, which gives the conservative-looking speaker a clean, modern appearance. The plinth on the bottom adds to the elegance. The 82s feature a six-inch midrange and dual eight-inch woofers. The one-inch soft-dome tweeter, according to Dynaudio, “ . . . is an improved, customized version that incorporates many of the features of Dynaudio's renowned D260 ESOTEC tweeter. With a 4 mm die-cast front for maximum stiffness, along with a vented pole piece and rear chamber for excellent transient response, the tweeter also utilizes magnetic fluid for exceptional power handling and damping.” Anyone familiar with high-end audio knows that Dynaudio drivers are very well regarded, showing up in a large number of other manufacturers' designs. Frequency response is specified at 26 Hz - 21 kHz. Sensitivity is rated at 87 dB and impedance at 4 ohms. As with all Dynaudios, they are not bi-wireable. For more in-depth technical information, a visit to Dynaudio's excellent website should prove satisfactory.
My immediate impression was that once the 82s were on, the sound became “small.” I have an entry-level Hughes DirecTV receiver running a left and right analog signal into the Tact. In general, the audio portion of broadcast television leaves a lot to be desired. The accuracy of the 82s could be considered a weakness in this area versus a more full-bodied sounding speaker. This should certainly be taken into account when considering these speakers for your home for the very reason that you are unlikely to demo them with this sort of material. My advice is to access which sources see the most action in your set-up and buy the speakers which do the most things “right” to your ears. Even though I have friends who would never give up the resolution and “wow” factor their system provides on a just a handful of CDs, for most people their entertainment system needs to be a bit more multi-dimensional.
During the fourth quarter of the game, Minnesota did not look to be getting their act together, so one of my friends suggested we play some basketball on the Xbox. I surprised everyone by putting on the new NBA Street Vol. 2 instead of the usual NBA Live 2003. I have the Advanced A/V pack for the Xbox, which allows me to take the digital signal out via Toslink into the Tact. The game features a great hip-hop soundtrack and we were all impressed the moment the menu came up and the music began. I didn't want to drop my controller lest it be snatched up and I lose my turn, so I had to confine myself to a mental note of what great presence and speed the speakers had.
Once you get the hang of the game, which rewards over-the-top street ball moves, you will accumulate “gamebreaker” points. Once a gamebreaker is activated, a cut-scene is cued based on the move you initiated immediately before it, and as your player climbs into the sky for a physics-defying dunk or shot, the other team's players are powerless to defend you. The audio portion of this sequence demonstrated another quality, which the 82s possess. Because time slows down in the sequence and the music is silenced, the audio consists solely of outdoor ambience. At one point, you will hear a bird squawk (ostensibly because you are so high in the air). Now I'm not going to say that I felt like I was 30 feet off the ground soaring to the hoop, but the speakers certainly got that idea across and aren't nuances what we all appreciate in high resolution equipment? I played a good variety of games throughout the time I lived with the 82s, and subtleties like this were appreciated time and time again.
My DVD viewing requirements are fairly simple. If I can understand the dialogue, to a large extent, the system has done its job. Whether I actually buy into the story or the characters constitutes the magic of cinema and cannot be blamed on, or credited solely to equipment. The 82s allowed this magic to happen or not precisely because they did not interfere with or obscure what was happening on screen. In many ways, they enlightened what I was seeing. Although I feel somewhat ambivalent while recalling the experience of watching DVDs on this system, it is only because the movies I watched were unremarkable. The Dynaudios allowed me to focus on what was being played rather than what it was being played on. My memory consists of the movies themselves and not the equipment. The 82s do a great job of getting out of the way, and I feel they serve DVD viewing extremely well. In other words, they were tonally neutral, rather than bassy, or midrange bloomy, or tizzy.
A few weeks into my time with the 82s, I once again found myself watching NBA playoff basketball. I don't recall which game, but I remember walking into my kitchen at some point during a timeout. I was grabbing some food when I heard a distinct “click.” Besides living in a very bustling part of Los Angeles, my house backs up to an alley and the 24-hour ambience is something I am sure all big-city residents are familiar with. This was, however, a sound I had not yet heard before and it was definitely localized toward the front of my house, not the rear, so I was curious. As I walked back to the living room, I noticed the commercial playing on screen. “The Perfect Club is the most versatile club ever made. It replaces your utility clubs, 5 & 7 woods and your longest irons. It's also the easiest club to hit ever made. The Perfect Club flies as far or farther than the clubs it replaces and it's shorter in length, which leads to more consistent ball striking. The Perfect Club is played in the middle of your stance like a short iron and instantly induces a strong sense of confidence which carries over to every other club in your bag.” The voice came over in deep baritone. The “click” I heard in the kitchen and mistook for a sound happening in front of my house, was the “perfect club” striking a golf ball on television. Was this the best audio ever recorded for a commercial? Overall, it was quite good, but I wouldn't go nearly that far. The “click,” however was astoundingly well reproduced and really put a smile on my face. How unlikely, how almost ridiculous, but what an accomplishment for the engineers at Dynaudio, huh?
The speakers seemed to be gaining momentum. After the initial transition, which left me a bit cold, I was really beginning to warm up to the 82s. I had thrown some CDs on here and there, but had yet to sit down and listen to an entire CD. I figured the SACD of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon was a good initiation, so I fired it up. Just as I noted on the first day I had them, I was struck by the great presence and pace of the speaker's delivery. Jack Johnson's “Brushfire Fairytales” is a fabulous demonstration CD as it is filled with tons of acoustic guitar and well-miked vocals. The 82s served this recording especially well, and I noted the separation and distinctions within the mix were laid bare, much to my enjoyment.
I did have some criticisms of music playback with the speakers, which were so minor, their presence was only gradually realized. The 82s failed to pressurize my large room in the way that seemed effortless for the bigger Revels. I loved the tight, punchy bass response of the 82s, but on certain music, the F30s build a more solid foundation. Whether that foundation is entirely accurate is something I cannot answer, but it is something I very much enjoy.
Another area in which I felt the 82s fell short was in their midrange resolution. Compared to what they offered across the rest of the frequency range, the upper midrange had a slight blurriness to it. Initially, I thought it was in the recordings, but it became relatively easy to identify after a while, so it seemed inherent to the speaker. Please don't misunderstand me; the 82s offer resolution which is among the best I have heard under $5000. I seriously considered purchasing the review pair until I realized that my tastes require a bit more transparency in the midrange. I was disappointed until I remembered that the Audience is the entry-level line of Dynaudio speakers. Most manufacturers would be lucky to have this competent of a speaker as its top of the line offering. Michael Manousselis, Director of Sales & Marketing for Dynaudio USA, suggested that the next level up, the newly-designed Contour, would probably be exactly what I was looking for as it bests the 82 in critical areas such as transparency, soundstaging, and imaging. I look forward to hearing it.
One other note that I made involved the spikes supplied with the speakers. They are of the long, thin variety, which may or may not be to your liking. I found them difficult to work with as some of them allowed for more insertion into the bottom of the speaker than others. Whether it's attributable to the threading on the actual spike itself or the receptacle under the speaker, I'm not sure. I would, however, say that the classy looks of the plinth under the speaker are somewhat undone by the wimpy (yes, that's a technical term) looking and feeling spikes. I decided not to monkey (my technical dictionary is getting quite a workout) with them as I have hardwood floors and managed to seat them on level ground.
The Dynaudio Audience 82s do not editorialize. They
appreciate a high quality source and will reward you, the listener, in
kind. This level of transparency is vital because it not only allows you to
change out equipment and hear the results, but also reveals the strengths
and shortcomings of your various sources. Despite its modest, traditional
form factor, it speaks with a bold, engaging voice, falling short only when
compared with much more expensive competition. If you appreciate this type
of honesty in a speaker, the Dynaudios are certain to be your flavor.
- Michael Galvin -