DYNAUDIO MU­SIC 7 wire­less sys­tem

Sound + Image - - Contents - Jez Ford

Dynaudio’s first tilt at the stand­alone mu­sic sys­tem brings new an­gles to the art of mul­ti­room au­dio.

Dynaudio takes its first tilt at the wire­less mu­sic sys­tem and — as usual — does things a lit­tle dif­fer­ently.

Not merely a wire­less mu­sic sys­tem, this is an “in­tel­li­gent” wire­less mu­sic sys­tem, or so the pack­ag­ing of the Dynaudio Mu­sic se­ries de­clares it. The large Mu­sic 7 cer­tainly presents it­self as some­thing dif­fer­ent as it emerges from its long box, the unit it­self a wide 82cm from an­gled edge to an­gled edge, or 74cm across its but­ton-laden brushed alu­minium top, which looks from the side like a walk­way across some moun­tain dam with the out­ward an­gles of the Mu­sic 7 ex­tended out be­low.

This is the largest of four mod­els in Dynaudio’s new range, all of which of­fer mul­ti­ple paths to mu­sic. They all have Spo­tify Con­nect so you can tar­get them as a play­back de­vice from your Spo­tify app, as­sum­ing both are on the same home net­work. They can play au­dio streams via Air­Play from a Mac or from any app on an Ap­ple iOS smart de­vice. They can ac­cess in­ter­net ra­dio, and they can play mu­sic from UPnP-shared mu­sic on your net­work.

And of course they can all make a Blue­tooth wire­less con­nec­tion to stream di­rect from your de­vice of choice.

Then there are di­rect in­puts — on the Mu­sic 7 you get a 3.5mm mini­jack ana­logue in­put and a USB socket which will take dig­i­tal au­dio from an at­tached iOS de­vice (and pro­vide USB bat­tery charg­ing at the same time). These are both on the fi­nal slope of the unit’s left edge.

At the back, down low, there’s also an op­ti­cal dig­i­tal in­put and, lift­ing the Mu­sic 7 above the crowd, also an HDMI in­put which can be con­nected to an ARC-equipped TV HDMI socket, to play the au­dio from your TV. Dynaudio has opted not to in­clude an Eth­er­net con­nec­tion for your net­work, so all the stream­ing is done via Wi-Fi.

For con­trol on that top strip there is clearly la­belled and in­tu­itive but­tonry for track con­trol, vol­ume, in­put se­lec­tion and five num­bered ‘pre­sets’. But of course there’s also an app which can do all that — and so much more, in­clud­ing set-up.

you set up an ac­count, which re­quires ac­cept­ing terms and con­di­tions in­clud­ing, in­ter­est­ingly, a class-ac­tion waiver. One thing we’d note about the Mu­sic 7 is that you could still use much of its func­tion­al­ity were the app ever to dis­ap­pear, whereas some smart speak­ers will be­come dumb lumps of plas­tic and metal should their man­u­fac­tur­ers ever with­draw sup­port. Dynaudio’s longevity (40th an­niver­sary last year) and long prod­uct cy­cles give fur­ther con­fi­dence in this re­gard.

So signed up and signed in, there’s an en­ter­tain­ing bit of in­ter­ac­tion dis­played like an ex­tended SMS chat — ‘Do you want the news­let­ter?’ ‘Do you want to con­nect to Tidal?’ ‘What mu­sic do you like?’ It is a truly lovely bit of app de­sign.

For this last op­tion of choos­ing your fave mu­sic, it shows you bands you might like, but then aug­ments the ini­tial sug­ges­tions with sim­i­lar bands once you make a choice — we se­lect The Doors, it of­fers us The Who; se­lect The Who, it of­fers us The Kinks. Very smart, this, and the in­for­ma­tion is used to de­liver a ‘Mu­sic Now’ sec­tion, which pro­vides both sug­ges­tions and ac­cess to use­ful artist pro­files. Note, how­ever, that this is linked only to Tidal, so if you’re more of the Spo­tify/iHeartRa­dio ilk, it’s very much less use­ful. But once linked to our Tidal ac­count it proved well able to of­fer us suit­able mu­sic, as well as easy ac­cess to our own Tidal favourites and playlists. These can be saved to the five pre­sets for easy ac­cess from the but­tons on the top.

The ‘text’-style chat ex­tended to speaker set-up, which is ini­ti­ated by press­ing the unit’s ‘pre­set 1’ but­ton un­til it flashes; con­nec­tion worked third time for us (it flashed faster the time it worked, so per­haps this was our own user er­ror); it used Air­Play set-up from our iPad to get our Wi-Fi pass­word with­out re­quir­ing re-en­try, and we were off to Spo­tify and stream­ing The Strypes within about two min­utes flat. Po­si­tion and power Dynaudio’s “in­tel­li­gence” ex­tends to ad­just­ing the unit’s acous­tics for vari­able po­si­tion­ing, but we were pleased to see that they en­cour­age you to give it the best pos­si­ble start, rec­om­mend­ing ear-level sit­ing on a shelf or table. This wouldn’t be easy if you’re us­ing it for TV au­dio — the TV should also be at eye-level so a cen­trally-po­si­tioned Dynaudio will have to go sig­nif­i­cantly be­low, given its 21cm height. So then you can en­gage the “In­tel­li­gent” op­tion in the Dynaudio Mu­sic App RoomA­dapt set­tings menu, so that the Mu­sic 7 “senses where it’s been placed and con­tin­u­ally op­ti­mises the speaker’s tonal char­ac­ter­is­tics to de­liver the best per­for­mance pos­si­ble”.

Dynaudio notes that this isn’t just a bass-cut fil­ter to tem­per the re­in­force­ment of walls and cor­ners — “the tech­nol­ogy op­ti­mises vol­ume and tone si­mul­ta­ne­ously, and on the fly, by sens­ing the room and cal­cu­lat­ing as it goes”. Mak­ing mu­sic And my, the sound is big and rich — we thought at first it was our high-qual­ity stand­mounts burst­ing into life through some wire­less link but no, this fine sound was emerg­ing from the wide Mu­sic 7.

Leav­ing Spo­tify to shuf­fle all our ‘My Mu­sic’ songs ad in­fini­tum, we re­turned to the Dynaudio app and found we could con­trol Spo­tify’s vol­ume use­fully from there, and again with a nice graphic app in­ter­face; you sim­ply slide the whole screen up or down, mov­ing a tinted panel and get­ting a bloomin’ great per­cent­age read­out of level. It proved both sen­si­tive and rea­son­ably short on re­sponse lag; there’s no safety brake on slid­ing it up to 100%, though, so take a mod­icum of care. Some apps al­low a sen­si­ble max­i­mum to be set for app use — we can’t imag­ine many users push­ing the Mu­sic 7 much above 80% with ma­te­rial recorded at nor­mal lev­els. That 80% is ex­tremely loud, and go­ing any­where above had us sub­con­siously leap­ing to pull it back — a com­bi­na­tion of re­ceiv­ing too much in a medium-sized room, fear­ing for the Dynaudio’s driv­ers, and an edge of dis­tor­tion fi­nally creep­ing in.

Equally im­por­tantly the Mu­sic 7 has the valuable tal­ent of sound­ing fine in­deed at lower lev­els, where it main­tains its bal­ance of bass so that ‘quiet’ doesn’t mean ‘weedy’.

De­liv­er­ing all this is are six 50W in­ter­nal am­pli­fiers quoted at 50W each, driv­ing six trans­duc­ers, the po­si­tion­ing of which was not easy to dis­cern through the fab­ric grille — un­til we dis­cov­ered this was re­mov­able (with care, pull from the bot­tom first), to re­veal that both the tweet­ers and midrange driv­ers are on the an­gled sides to de­liver width of sound, with the two woofers on the main front sur­face (see pic­ture above left). The six driv­ers are con­fig­ured as a three-way stereo pair in a vented cabi­net, each chan­nel us­ing a 25mm tweeter, 76mm midrange and five-inch woofer.

It doesn’t al­ways do mu­sic favours — over­com­pressed pop is de­liv­ered as re­ceived; Sha­nia Twain’s Swingin’ With My

Eyes Closed was open enough on the down verses, with the Mu­sic 7 also be­tray­ing per­haps sus­pi­cion of some au­to­tune work on the vo­cal… but then the fist-pump­ing cho­rus was dy­nam­i­cally boxed. But not through any play­back fault — that’s how it was recorded. So give it some­thing more nat­u­ral — the re­cent Court­ney Bar­nett and Kurt Vile col­lab­o­ra­tion, say, which is like a neg­a­tive im­age of An­gus & Ju­lia Stone. This gui­tar com­bi­na­tion was de­liv­ered as open, wide and large, the vo­cals very im­pres­sively shaped with hi-fi re­al­ity, and un­der­pinned by large tune­ful bass. As on other tracks, the bass is given promi­nence that works great up to medium lev­els but did be­gin get­ting bloomy when pushed hard. This was one time we en­gaged RoomA­dapt, which did tighten the bass some­what. A solid sup­port also helped; we had the Mu­sic 7 on a pair of shot-filled speaker stands at one point, to some sonic ad­van­tage — and a cer­tain sculp­tural min­i­mal­ism at the front of the room.

Be­ing lower than a stand­mount speaker this also left our TV above its top edge, mak­ing this a work­ing ar­range­ment for us­ing the Mu­sic 7 for TV. The ARC con­nec­tion worked, though for conve- nience we ended up lis­ten­ing mainly via the op­ti­cal in­put. The Mu­sic 7 de­liv­ered a big rich TV sound, big­ger than a sound­bar, mas­sively prefer­able to TV speaker sound. It de­liv­ered well the dif­fi­cult voice of Po­lice Chief Hop­per in Stranger Things, whose voice boasts all the close-mike qual­ity of a Cal­i­for­nia DJ, here gain­ing a slightly strange push in his deep mids but all the re­quired pres­ence to in­form rather than ob­scure. Mean­while the Mu­sic 7’s mu­si­cal prow­ess made the most of the fab­u­lous mu­sic in the sound­track to this se­ries.

Our red sam­ple of the Mu­sic 7 was a bit dis­tract­ing in sound­bar po­si­tion, of course, but we can see things work­ing nicely with a wall-mounted TV and the Dynaudio Mu­sic 7 stretched out be­low. As for its po­si­tion be­ing slightly be­low ear height, we thought its sound also to be fine when the Mu­sic 7 was slightly be­low lis­ten­ing level, de­spite Dynaudio’s ad­vice.

We had un­til this point en­tirely for­got­ten the sys­tem came with a high qual­ity min­i­mal­ist re­mote, with three track con­trol but­tons, vol­ume and in­put se­lect. It’s no cheapie — re­as­sur­ingly weighty and the key vol­ume con­trols ex­actly where they should be; slightly finer ad­just­ment steps might be nice, but it’s not too bru­tal.

You can also use the Mu­sic 7’s own but­tons, of course, and it’s slightly alarm­ing at first that the Mu­sic 7 senses your ap­proach and turns on via prox­im­ity, as well as via a but­ton press ei­ther lo­cal or re­mote, or from an au­dio sig­nal on its in­puts, or a prompt via Blue­tooth or Wi-Fi. Smart thing it is.

Fi­nally there’s mul­ti­room op­er­a­tion to con­sider, for which we un­boxed the smaller Mu­sic 3. Dynaudio Mu­sic 3 Dynaudio has fol­lowed the com­mon mul­ti­room sys­tem ecosys­tem of larger mains-pow­ered speak­ers and be­low them smaller units which can run on bat­tery power when re­quired, though

of course their net­work­ing abil­i­ties dis­ap­pear when they’re out­side the home, leav­ing Blue­tooth or di­rect con­nec­tion as the main op­tions. Quite why so many mul­ti­room sys­tems ‘hap­pen’ to fol­low the 1/3/5/7 odd­num­ber­ing sys­tem pi­o­neered by Sonos we’ll leave them to ex­plain, but that’s the deal here — the small­est is the 1, while we had a play with the Mu­sic 3 (pic­tured right) to hear its pow­ers, while test­ing out the mul­ti­room play­back abil­i­ties in com­bi­na­tion with the Mu­sic 7.

In size (and kinda shape) the Mu­sic 3 re­minds us a lit­tle of the HEOS 5, but it adds ex­tended facets at front and rear ex­tend­ing its depth; again it’s hard to see ex­actly where the driv­ers re­side through the wo­ven grille, sup­plied this time in a taste­ful and dé­cor-friendly blue-grey, tucked into a sur­round­ing frame which has the power but­ton con­fus­ingly hid­den on the down­fac­ing left edge, while on top are the vol­ume and trans­port keys along with a sin­gle pre­set but­ton which shut­tles through the five avail­able pre­sets. Those driv­ers com­prise, we gather (hav­ing dis­cov­ered the grille here is not re­mov­able), a sin­gle five-inch woofer and twin 25mm tweet­ers, each re­ceiv­ing 40W of power, and the re­sult is a rather live­lier per­for­mance than from the larger unit, an oc­tave lighter on the bass, but nev­er­the­less re­tain­ing the char­ac­ter­is­tic of mu­si­cal­ity, free from the fizzed-up and bass-bloated sound that comes from many ri­vals in this space. Di­alling up the bass via the app doesn’t im­prove the depth, rather boosts what is al­ready there, so that we reckon Dynaudio has set the de­faults just right. We’re not say­ing it can’t punch — stream­ing Fleet­wod Mac’s The Chain from Tidal proved it could, the bass drum fir­ing out with great weight, all the more im­pres­sive given we’d now taken it off mains power and were run­ning on its in­ter­nal bat­tery, which prom­ises some­thing like 8-10 hours of play time. Bey­once’s Daddy Les­son re­vealed that the Dynaudio Mu­sic 3 is par­tic­u­larly fond of the bot­tom A of a bass gui­tar (55Hz), its re­sponse just dip­ping down by the bot­tom E. Even oldies like Booker T & The MG’s Green Onions were given a lively, rich yet ac­cu­rate de­liv­ery. There is usu­ally a trade-off in lis­ten­abil­ity at a cer­tain dis­tance for speak­ers of this ilk, and cer­tainly you get more of the Mu­sic 3’s tre­ble con­tent if it’s po­si­tioned desk­top in front of you as op­posed to table­top at a dis­tance. But even at close quar­ters the tre­ble was never in­sis­tent, never reek­ing of DSP. We had the auto RoomA­dapt se­lected, so that may have been play­ing a part in these dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios (though it couldn’t know where we were seated, of course).

Within your home net­work the Mu­sic 3 re­tains all its net­work­ing abil­i­ties on bat­tery power; go be­yond and you still have Blue­tooth and a choice of ana­logue mini­jack in­put or USB-A socket into which an iOS de­vice will play and charge at the same time — a per­fect so­lu­tion for data-stream­ing of mu­sic. The one down­side to its porta­bil­ity is the lack of any han­dle or easy way to carry it around.

Group­ing up was easy with both speak­ers avail­able from the app — you drag and drop speak­ers into a cir­cle (see left), and have the op­tion of group play­back or as­sign­ing them to be­come a stereo pair, with each work­ing in mono. For the two dif­fer­ent speak­ers we had, we grouped, of course. Syn­chro­ni­sa­tion was as near per­fect as we could dis­cern. Con­clu­sions The Dynaudio Mu­sic 3 is not for out-and-out bass heads, then, but bal­ances its pretty im­pres­sive de­liv­ery of bass against a cheery and never in­sis­tent tre­ble, achiev­ing one of the purer sounds from a speaker of its size in this mar­ket. Bat­tery power is a bonus, though the size of the Mu­sic 3 could only be con­sid­ered bor­der­line por­ta­ble — let’s call it ‘eas­ily re­lo­cat­able’, a mu­sic buddy for deck and hol­i­day, rather than one to take to the beach.

As a range, these two of the four mod­els in­di­cate that Dynaudio has bided its time sen­si­bly in en­ter­ing the wire­less speaker mar­ket at this rel­a­tively late stage, thereby achiev­ing a sen­si­bly cho­sen range of in­puts and stream­ing abil­i­ties. We might have wished for Chrome­cast, or for Spo­tify to be an op­tion in the Mu­sic Now playlist­ing, but oth­er­wise all its abil­i­ties com­bine to com­ple­ment the de­light­fully mu­si­cal de­liv­ery from both these speak­ers. We’d sug­gest that be­fore you opt for any ri­val mul­ti­room sys­tem, you should put them side-by-side with the price­com­pa­ra­ble Dynaudio, and give them a good lis­ten with the mu­sic you love.

ABOVE: We gen­tly re­moved the front grille to see where the Mu­sic 7’s six driv­ers resided. LEFT: The Dynaudio Mu­sic app in­ter­acts like a friendly stream of text mes­sages dur­ing set-up.

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