DYNAUDIO FO­CUS 60XD SPEAK­ERS

AC­TIVE LOUD­SPEAK­ERS

Australian HIFI - - CONTENTS - Tony Mor­gan

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.

THE EQUIP­MENT

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.

CON­CLU­SION

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 .

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