DYNAUDIO FOCUS 60XD SPEAKERS
The new Focus 60XDs are so fabulously good-sounding all-round that you’d be mad not to question why you’d bother buying a pair of passive speakers.
It’s amazing how much a retail price can change when an overseas manufacturer switches its brand from one Australian distributor to another. When the previous distributor for Dynaudio was selling these speakers, they retailed for $17,999. Now that Dynaudio is being imported and distributed by BusiSoft AV, the same speakers retail for just $15,499.
Remember that this $2,500 saving is not just for a pair of passive speakers: the Dynaudio Focus 60XDs are active, so they have all the amplifiers you need inside, as well as a DAC and Bluetooth circuitry, so once you buy a pair, you only need to provide music… and that can be in analogue or digital form via wires, or it can be supplied digitally and wirelessly from your phone or your computer.
So, yes, Dynaudio’s Focus 60XD is not ‘just’ a loudspeaker. Inside each one is a digital-to-analogue converter, an electronic crossover, four power amplifiers to drive the four drivers (two bass drivers, one midrange and a tweeter) plus there is the control circuitry that allows you to use the infra-red remote control provided with the 60XDs to turn the speakers on or off, mute their output, switch inputs between analog and digital, select input source (Line In, Optical In, Coax In or USB), select a Hub source (A, B or C), turn the speakers’ front-baffle LED displays on or off… and, of course, adjust speaker volume.
There’s also a radio frequency transceiver to grab any music you send wirelessly from a Dynaudio ‘Connect’ or if you connect, say, the left-channel speaker via a wired digital connection, the transceiver inside that speaker can transmit the right-channel information wirelessly to the right-channel speaker, so you don’t have to connect any signal wires to that speaker at all (though you do have to connect a 240V mains power cable, so it’s not exactly ‘wireless’). Finally, there’s an upgrade port (marked ‘Service’) that makes it possible to easily upgrade the internal circuitry with any new features or functions when they become available. All of which makes the Focus 60XD a very, very full-featured high-end loudspeaker indeed.
Dynaudio has been at the cutting-edge of high-end sound since it was first established in 1977. It is one of the very few loudspeaker companies in the world that manufactures its own drivers, and is one of the very few that uses over-sized (in some cases up to 75mm in diameter) voice coils to provide the motive force for those drivers. Importantly, Dynaudio does not just ‘assemble’ its drivers in Denmark—it also makes the parts for those drivers in Denmark itself, in its own factory… the cones, the voice coils, the suspensions, the chassis. It even energises its own magnets. So Dynaudio speakers are truly ‘inhouse’ designs, with research, development and production taking place in a brand-new R&D facility in Skanderborg, Denmark, which boasts Europe’s largest echoic chamber.
The two 180mm-diameter bass drivers in each Focus 60XD have a thermo-formed MSP (magnesium silicate polymer) cone that’s driven by a 54mm diameter voice-coil former around which is wound wire extruded from pure aluminium. Aluminium has a higher temperature rating than the copper wire that is more often used in voice coils, and it’s also lighter, which is what enables Dynaudio to use its larger-diameter voice coils.
The advantage of using of a large voice coil is that drive force is distributed more efficiently over the cone’s surface, which effectively reduces distortion. The bass drivers in the 60XD (18W54 Esotec+ units with ultra-long throw suspensions and cast aluminium chassis) were reportedly developed specifically for it. At 270Hz, the audio signal is switched (via an electronic DSP-based crossover, with 24dB/octave slopes) from the two bass drivers to the single midrange driver, which is identical in construction to the bass drivers, except that it has a smaller-diameter cone (140mm) and a commensurately-smaller voice coil (though at 38mm, it’s still considerably larger than the 25mm voice coils used on most midrange drivers).
The midrange driver hands over at 3.1kHz to the 60XD’s 27mm soft dome tweeter, the output of which can be varied by up to 2dB by using a three-position treble contour switch on the terminal panel on the rear of the speakers. Also on this panel is an input sensitivity switch to optimise the sensitivity for analogue input signals (+6dB, 0dB, –6dB). This seems to have been provided primarily to ensure the effective operation of Dynaudio’s built-in volume control (about which more later).
Each one of the four drivers inside Dynaudio’s 60XD is driven by its own individual Class-D amplifier, rated by Dynaudio with a power output of 150-watts. So, between the left and right speakers, the total power available is a staggering 1,200-watts (600-watts per channel). Dynaudio has certainly used an arcane method to display the internal system status of the 60XDs. At the top corner of each speaker is a series of ten LEDs—arranged vertically—and it’s these that are used to show you what’s going on inside the speakers. For example, if the bottom-most of the LEDs (LED10) is blue, it means the speaker is switched on and an audio signal is playing. If it’s flashing blue, the speaker is switched on, but can’t find an audio signal. If it’s coloured violet, the speaker is on, and an audio signal is playing and the left and right speakers are connected via a wired link.
If the LED is red, power is available to the speaker, but it’s not switched on. (And if it’s not doing anything, there’s no power!) If the LED above this one (LED9) flashes red, the speaker is muted and volume level is indicated by how many of the LEDs above the bottom one are lit.
So far, so good… all fairly intuitive. But it’s when it comes to selecting a Hub or an input that things become tricky. For Hub selection, LED1 flashes for Hub 1, LED5 flashes for Hub 2 and LED9 flashes for Hub 3. But for input source selection, LED1 flashes for Input 1, LED3 flashes for Input 2, LED5 flashes for Input 3, and LED7 flashes for Input 4! The one thing I can say about all this is that it takes a good while to get used to! On the other hand the LED display is also very entertaining, because during some operations (such as searching for an active input, or at switch-on and switch-off) the LEDs put on a mini lightshow, ‘chasing’ up and down as they turn on and off sequentially.
As you’d expect of Dynaudio, the Focus 60XD is available in a wide range of finishes, including satin white and satin black lacquer as well as in rosewood and walnut finishes (both of which are real wood veneers). Special order finishes are also available, but these attract a 30 per cent price premium. All models have black grilles that attach to the front baffles via hidden neodymium magnets.
IN USE AND LISTENING SESSIONS
Loudspeaker placement is often a compromise between where the speakers will sound best in the room, where they will look best, and where it’s actually practical to locate them… a statement that applies to all loudspeakers, no matter what their design. However the Dynaudio 60XDs have aces up their sleeves, because if you’re forced to place them anywhere other than in the optimum positions in the room, they have DSP circuitry on-board that can compensate for that less-than-optimum positioning.
For example, if you position the speakers in the best position in the room, you simply select the ‘Neutral’ setting of the DSP. But if you have to place them closer to a wall than is optimum, you can use the DSP’s ‘Wall’ setting to compensate. And, if you simply must have the speakers close to the corners of a room… yep, you’ve guessed it, the ‘Corner’ setting will correct for this position too. In even-better news, the compensation circuit can be set individually for each speaker, so you could have the left speaker in a corner and the right speaker back against a wall and still get the correct sound balance. Room compensation is accomplished using a seven-position rotary control on the rear of each speaker, so there’s a little extra setting variability allowed to cover each speakers’ actual proximity to a wall or corner.
You certainly have a multiplicity of choices when it comes to connecting the Dynaudio Focus 60XDs to your music sources, though some of these involve the purchase of a Dynaudio Connect ($799), to which you can connect all your analogue and digital sources, after which the Connect would send those signals wirelessly to your speakers. Using a Connect set-up affords the opportunity to have different speakers in different rooms reproducing different signals. It also means you can use Bluetooth. Streaming is possible at up to 24/96. Perhaps most importantly it allows completely wireless operation (except for those 240V cables, of course.)
For this review I elected to use a fully-wired set-up, using analogue signals delivered from an external pre-amplifier individually to the left- and right-channel speakers, as it is this mode that delivers the highest audio quality. When using the active set-up, I further had the choice of using the Dynaudio’s own volume control to adjust playback volume (by setting the rear-panel switch on the speakers to ‘Master’ and ‘Slave’) or bypassing it so I could use my pre-amplifier’s own volume control (by setting the rear-panel switch to ‘External’). I elected to use my pre-amplifier’s volume control to control volume, partly for reasons of convenience but also partly because I found Dynaudio’s inbuilt volume control to be fairly coarse, offering only a limited number of settings. (To be precise, the highest audio quality is achieved by delivering 24-bit/192kHz digital signals directly to the 60XD’s digital inputs, but you do need to route the digital signal to
Proof positive that active loudspeaker systems give you ‘way more bang for your buck than conventional speaker systems
both the left and the right speaker via wires because if you use only a single digital cable to one speaker, and depend on it to transmit the digital signal wirelessly to the other speaker, the digital signal will be downgraded to 24-bit/96kHz during the wireless transmission, plus there’ll also be a slight time delay introduced by the wireless link, which means that even if your speakers were positioned perfectly, sounds from the left-channel speaker will arrive at the listening position a few milliseconds earlier than the signals from the right-channel speaker.)
By now you should have figured out the technical advantages of using a fully active DSP loudspeaker design: a flatter and more extended frequency response, improved sound quality, reduced intermodulation distortion (IMD), enhanced dynamic range capabilities and the potential to deliver much higher in-room sound pressure levels (SPLs). But listing the technical advantages will never prepare you for the sound quality, particularly when a design has been as well-executed as it has with the Dynaudio 60XDs, because they sound simply magnificent.
I found the clarity of the sound issuing from the 60XDs to be jaw-droppingly good… and that’s across the entire frequency spectrum … there simply isn’t a weak link anywhere. The bass is almost bottomlessly deep and can deliver anything from the sledge-hammer-like impact of an aggressive kick drum to the subtle caress of a viola with equal authority and with unparalleled accuracy. So much so that I found myself replaying the intro track, Prelude, from Milo Greene’s new album (‘Control’) over and over just to savour the seductive sound of it, as well as the depth and power of the bass delivery. The same held true of the midrange. Vocals in particular are delivered with a crispness and a ‘you are there’ liveness that will have you shaking your head in wonderment. The intimacy of Holly Cole’s voice as she sings Alison is rendered perfectly, and the backing is all in harmonious balance. As for the articulation of the Dynaudios, it’s simply exceptional… I was awed by the 60XDs’ presentation of Simone Dinnerstein’s performance of Bach’s French Suite No. 5 in G Major as performed live on her album ‘The Berlin Concert’ (Telarc CD-80715). On this disc you can also hear how ‘real’ the sound of the audience’s clapping sounds via the 60XDs—applause being a particularly good test of a loudspeakers’ tonal accuracy. And as for the stereo imaging, well that was just to die for… so good that if someone on-stage were to drop a pin, the moment it hit the floor your eyes would immediately flick down and visually locate the exact point you heard it make contact.
And the high frequencies? It seemed to me that the tweeter in the 60XDs delivered exactly the same sound I heard when I was auditioning Dynaudio’s flagship Evidence Platinums, so I would have sworn I was listening to Dynaudio’s most expensive tweeter, the Esotar², which is reckoned by many audiophiles to be the world’s best. The tweeter in the 60XD is not an Esotar², but one of Dynaudio’s lower-specced Esotec+s, but it appeared to me that thanks to the triple advantages of the electronic crossover, having its own private driving amplifier and maybe some subtle DSP correction, the Esotec+ tweeter when driven actively performs at the level of an Esotar² being driven passively, which means you’ll hear a beautiful, sweetly delicate sound and benefit from a frequency response that extends far beyond the range of the human hearing and one that is thus absolutely tailor-made for delivering the myriad subtleties of high-res audio recordings.
Dynaudio’s Focus 60XD active loudspeakers sound fabulous and deliver a level of bass performance that you’d never get from a pair of passive speakers of the same size and specification. In fact the Focus 60XDs are so fabulously good-sounding all-round that you’d be mad not to question why you’d bother buying a pair of passive speakers, and then finding the extra money and space required for all the attendant electronics you’d need to get the features and facilities that are already built into the Focus 60XDs. They’re proof positive that active loudspeaker systems give you ‘way more bang for your buck than conventional speaker systems using external amplifiers.
The midrange driver hands over at 3.1kHz to the 60XD’s 27mm soft dome tweeter, the output of which can be varied by up to 2dB by using the contour switch
You certainly have a multiplicity of choices when it comes to connecting the Dynaudio Focus 60XDs to your music sources .