Sup­ply­ing De­mand

De­fin­i­tive Tech­nol­ogy De­mand Se­ries D11 Speaker Sys­tem

Sound & Vision - - TEST REPORT - By Mark Fleis­chmann

PRICE $3,196

NA­TURE ABHORS A VAC­UUM, but wast­ing cab­i­net real es­tate is stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dure among loud­speaker de­sign­ers.

With the no­table ex­cep­tion of At­mos-en­abled speak­ers and the oc­ca­sional tweeter pod, the top panel of most speak­ers is a blank noth­ing. But does it have to be that way? De­fin­i­tive Tech­nol­ogy an­swered no, in ef­fect, with its orig­i­nal Stu­dio Mon­i­tor Se­ries of book­shelf/stand-mount speak­ers (circa 2012) and does so again in this new up­date, the De­mand Se­ries. The D11 and D9 mon­i­tors (the for­mer re­viewed here) em­ploy re­flex en­clo­sures that lo­cate a pas­sive ra­di­a­tor on the top panel in lieu of a more com­pact port, which would com­monly be lo­cated else­where on the cab­i­net. Even more provoca­tively, the CS9060 cen­ter the com­pany mated with our sys­tem in­cludes an ac­tive driver on top, es­sen­tially aug­ment­ing the sys­tem’s sub­woofer needs. A D-shaped in­di­ca­tor on the CS9060’S front il­lu­mi­nates when the ac­tive sub driver is ac­tive. I’ve never re­viewed such a thing be­fore. But it makes me see the vast desert of

space found atop the typ­i­cal hor­i­zon­tal cen­ter in a new and more skep­ti­cal light.

United They Stand

De­fin­i­tive Tech­nol­ogy was founded in 1990 and has landed nu­mer­ous prod­ucts on our Top Picks list since the brand’s in­cep­tion. It is now part of the Sound United sta­ble that also in­cludes Polk Au­dio, Denon, HEOS, Marantz, and Bos­ton Acous­tics. Prod­ucts are de­signed in San Diego, Cal­i­for­nia and at a com­bined De­fin­i­tive Tech­nol­ogy and Polk en­gi­neer­ing fa­cil­ity in both brands’ old home­town of Bal­ti­more, where many of the same long­time en­gi­neers re­main em­ployed.

Long known for its fab­ric-wrapped tow­ers and some­times un­ortho­dox de­signs, De­fin­i­tive of­fers a wide va­ri­ety of speak­ers. Tow­ers in­clude the well-re­garded Mythos line and BP9000 bipo­lar tow­ers. Also of­fered are nu­mer­ous mon­i­tors, cen­ters, subwoofers, and speaker pack­ages. The Wire­less Col­lec­tion line in­cludes two sound­bars, two stand­alone speak­ers, and both preamp and pow­ered player mo­d­ules. The com­pany also mar­kets a full line of other sound­bars as well as fully de­vel­oped lines of in-walls, on-walls, out­door speak­ers, and head­phones.

The new De­mand Se­ries in­cludes three mon­i­tors: the D11 ($999/pair), D9 ($749/pair), and D7 ($499/pair). They in­clude 6.5-inch, 5.25-inch, and 4.5-inch woofers, re­spec­tively, along with 1-inch alu­minum dome tweet­ers; as noted, the top two models also sport top­mounted pas­sive ra­di­a­tors, while the small­est has a rear port. Our re­view sys­tem used a pair of the D11 in front and a pair of the D7 in back.

The some­what un­ortho­dox CS9060 in the cen­ter po­si­tion was in­tro­duced in 2016 to com­ple­ment De­fin­i­tive’s then-new BP9000 se­ries of up­dated bipo­lar tower speak­ers. The speaker’s hor­i­zon­tal front-fir­ing 4.5-inch woofer-tweeter-woofer ar­ray is beefed up by a top-fir­ing 8-inch pow­ered woofer, com­plete with its own LFE line in­put. Feed this with the RCA sub­woofer out­put from your AVR, and it might make an out­board sub un­nec­es­sary in some small rooms, or sup­ple­ment a free­stand­ing sub in a two-sub sys­tem. Oth­er­wise, es­chew this con­nec­tion, and the ac­tive woofer will sim­ply bol­ster the bot­tom of the cen­ter’s out­put when used with a con­ven­tional cross­over and ded­i­cated sub. A pos­si­ble down­side to build­ing the sub into the cen­ter is that it lim­its place­ment to a sin­gle fixed po­si­tion that prob­a­bly is not op­ti­mized for bass re­pro­duc­tion. Fur­ther­more, that spot might just be in­side a cubby, the con­fines of which could re­strict out­put from the up­fir­ing driver and rear port, or on a shelf that might rat­tle if pounded with bass beyond what’s ex­pected of most cen­ter speak­ers. How­ever, in my setup, the cen­ter fired up un­re­stricted to­ward the high plas­ter ceil­ing, and I could place our sys­tem’s stand­alone sub— De­fin­i­tive’s long-estab­lished Su­per­cube 6000— in the usual spot where ex­pe­ri­ence told me it would work the best.

The De­mand Se­ries mon­i­tors are pleas­antly and un­abashedly dressy-look­ing, with black gloss en­clo­sures ac­cented by a “bead blasted” ex­truded-alu­minum baf­fle that wraps around the sides for an inch or so. The CS9060 is wrapped in fab­ric, in the De­fin­i­tive tra­di­tion, with alu­minum side ac­cents.

The tweeter used in the De­mand Se­ries fea­tures an in­te­grated phase plug that De­fin­i­tive calls their 20/20 Wave Align­ment Lens, plus a shal­low wave­guide to con­trol on- and off-axis re­sponse. In a not-un­heard-of but some­what un­com­mon de­sign twist, the acous­ti­cal cen­ter of the tweet­ers are lat­er­ally off­set from the cen­ter­line of the cab­i­net to­ward the outer edge; hence, they are sold in mir­ror-im­aged left/right pairs only. In­cor­po­rat­ing a lat­eral off­set places the tweet­ers at vary­ing dis­tances from each cab­i­net edge, where a par­tic­u­lar form of dif­frac­tion typ­i­cally oc­curs. Nor­mally, a re­flec­tion or bend­ing of a sound wave com­ing off the driver is caused when the wave abruptly en­coun­ters the change in acous­tics that oc­curs where the sharp edge of the baf­fle meets the sur­round­ing air. This will gen­er­ally cause un­even re­sponse at

fre­quen­cies de­ter­mined by the baf­fle di­men­sions. If the dis­tance to each of these edges is the same, as it is with a cen­tered tweeter, the ef­fect from each of the three near­est baf­fle di­men­sions will be at the same fre­quency, which piles up and can po­ten­tially cause a large dip in the ax­ial re­sponse at a sin­gle fre­quency. By off­set­ting the tweeter, you get smaller dips at mul­ti­ple fre­quen­cies, cre­at­ing more of a rip­ple than a large dip, which many ar­gue is psy­cho-acous­ti­cally prefer­able.

The woofers in all three speak­ers in­clude phase plugs and what De­fin­i­tive calls a Balanced Dou­ble Sur­round Sys­tem that’s said to im­prove lin­ear cone ex­cur­sion. In what amounts to the De­mand Se­ries’ other no­table de­sign fea­ture, the D11’s large 6 x 10-inch oval pas­sive ra­di­a­tor (with cloth grille match­ing the front baf­fle’s), used in lieu of a port, is mounted on the speaker’s top—the only ex­posed panel area avail­able to squeeze it into. By their na­ture, the top-mounted pas­sive ra­di­a­tors also pre­vent the cab­i­net tops from ac­com­mo­dat­ing Dolby At­mos add-on el­e­va­tion mo­d­ules (though if you’re de­ter­mined to add im­mer­sive sound with­out wiring ceil­ing speak­ers, you might suc­cess­fully place these near, but above, the mains on a dif­fer­ent sup­port­ing sur­face). In any event, this lim­i­ta­tion did not im­pair our re­view’s 5.1chan­nel con­fig­u­ra­tion. On the back of the D11 are gold-nut bi­amp-ready bridged bind­ing posts, and on the rear of the D7, a sin­gle set of posts. The CS9060 has a sin­gle pair of speaker ter­mi­nals plus the line-level RCA jack for op­tional LFE in­put and a power con­nec­tor for the Class D am­pli­fier driv­ing its in­te­gral sub; the bass-re­flex cab­i­net in­cor­po­rates a rec­tan­gu­lar vent on the rear.

The D11 mon­i­tor and CS9060 cen­ter are rated at 90 and 91 deci­bels sen­si­tiv­ity, re­spec­tively, on the high side of av­er­age. Rated sen­si­tiv­ity of the ported D7 mon­i­tor is con­sid­er­ably lower at 85 db, but a good re­ceiver should have lit­tle trou­ble driv­ing it, es­pe­cially if you use it just for the sur­round chan­nels (as we did).

See our Test Bench re­sults be­low.

The Su­per­cube 6000 sub ($999), re­viewed fa­vor­ably in 2012 by my col­league Dar­ryl Wilkin­son as part of a Stu­diomon­i­tor sys­tem test (avail­able at soun­dand­vi­sion.com), aug­ments its front-fir­ing 9-inch woofer with two side-fir­ing 10-inch pas­sive ra­di­a­tors. The Class D amp is rated at 1,000 watts RMS and 1,500 watts peak with a 56-bit DSP on board. Fab­ric grilles cover all driv­ers, while the top piece and bot­tom trim are gloss black. A sup­plied card re­mote in­cludes con­trols for EQ mode, night mode, low-pass fil­ter, phase, dis­play dim­ming, vol­ume, mute, and power, al­low­ing the enor­mous lux­ury of tweak­ing from your seat. You’ll have no trou­ble read­ing set­tings on the front-panel dis­play in let­ters and num­bers nearly an inch tall and in bright red. The dis­play can be turned on or off but not dimmed.

The sub has four pre­set EQ modes, in ad­di­tion to off, the flat­test set­ting. Night mode com­presses the dy­namic range of bass fre­quen­cies. The low­pass fil­ter is ad­justable from 40 to

150 hertz in 5-Hz in­cre­ments be­low, and 10-Hz in­cre­ments above, 100

Hz. Phase is ad­justable, with four set­tings (more than the usual two) at 0, 90, 180, and 270 de­grees. Low-pass and phase di­als of­fer more in­cre­ments of ad­just­ment, but also less cer­tainty—it’s nice to know that when you endeavor to se­lect 80 Hz, as I did, that you’re ac­tu­ally call­ing for 80 Hz, not some fre­quency a linewidth away on the dial.

As­so­ci­ated equip­ment in­cluded a Denon AVR-X7200W re­ceiver, Oppo BDP-83SE uni­ver­sal disc player, Mi­cro Seiki BL-51 turntable, Shure M97XE car­tridge, and Denon PRAS10 serv­ing as phono preamp. All movie demos were on Blu-ray

Disc with DTS-HD Mas­ter Au­dio sound­tracks.

Neu­tral Feel

While our mea­sure­ments are the ul­ti­mate ar­biter of tech­ni­cal rec­ti­tude, I did find that the De­mand mon­i­tors and cen­ter had a neu­tral feel— I never ob­served any part of the spec­trum be­ing em­pha­sized, down­played, or sweet­ened. The midrange and pres­ence re­gion were open and re­veal­ing but not etched or clin­i­cal. No veil, but still with a high com­fort level. Not sur­pris­ingly, I loved hav­ing two subs in the sys­tem—an ex­tra sub can help pro­vide more even cov­er­age through­out the room as well as more to­tal out­put. Bass from the 8-inch sub built into the cen­ter and the 9-inch out­board sub sum-med well, helped by the fact that they were placed fairly close to­gether. This ar­range­ment was unique in my ex­pe­ri­ence, and I liked it im­me­di­ately. It also ex­cited my room’s stand­ing wave less than I’d ex­pected, so I pushed up my ini­tially con­ser­va­tive me­ter-de­ter­mined LFE lev­els to fat­ten rhythm sec­tions, with few ill ef­fects. My Denon re­ceiver helped by al­low­ing me to set the level of each sub sep­a­rately but of­fer­ing an op­tion that ad­justed them in lock­step, which came in handy later.

Lo­gan has a busy and dy­nam­i­cally chal­leng­ing sound­track with Wolver­ine’s me­tal-claw brawls, an­gry cars rip­ping up a dirt yard, rou­tine bal­lis­tics, and the dis­tinc­tive all-chan­nel dron­ing may­hem that ac­com­pa­nied Charles Xavier’s seizures. Yet I never felt the need to turn down the vol­ume, which was all the more re­mark­able in a sys­tem that avoids sug­ar­coat­ing. My fears of en­thu­si­as­tic sub­woofer lev­els caus­ing male vo­cals in the cen­ter chan­nel to be­come overly thick and boomy were un­founded as well.

Af­ter­math casts Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger as a plane-crash mourner. Though the crash is not di­rectly de­picted, the sound­track does hint at jet noise in bass-rich swirls that sig­nal his psy­cho­log­i­cal stress.

The two subs con­veyed them with ad­mirable re­straint and no no­tice­able ex­ci­ta­tion of the room’s stand­ing wave. While my ref­er­ence sub (un­used in this re­view) is a great per­former, I felt that this sys­tem’s dual subs en­dowed the bass re­sponse with an even­ness of cov­er­age and sub­tlety my one-sub ref­er­ence sys­tem can’t match.

Alien: Covenant chal­lenged the sys­tem with a cor­nu­copia of tim­bres and tex­tures. The open­ing emer­gency in space—roar­ing, whoosh­ing, buzzing, ex­plod­ing— showed the sys­tem’s abil­ity to de­liver a lot of in­for­ma­tion, even at chal­leng­ing vol­umes, while also jug­gling a fun score that veered be­tween awed mys­ti­cism and panic. Then there were the ex­tend­ed­ex­plo­sion of a land­ing craft,

ships in tur­bu­lence, and a wa­ter land­ing, not to men­tion good old-fash­ioned splat­ter­ing rain. As a gen­eral in­di­ca­tion of how good the speak­ers were at sus­pend­ing dis­be­lief, I prac­ti­cally jumped out of my skin when some­thing flut­tered into my field of vi­sion dur­ing a space-crea­ture at­tack. It was a loose feather that es­caped from a sofa pil­low.

High-res Helps

King Crim­son’s new 27-disc box set Sailors’ Tales in­cludes Blu-ray Discs with Steven Wil­son’s 2009 and 2010 mixes of In the Wake of Po­sei­don, Lizard, and Is­lands, all in both 5.1 and stereo, with 96/24 un­com­pressed PCM and loss­less DTS-HD Mas­ter Au­dio sound­tracks. Fol­low­ing their ear­lier re­lease on Dvd-au­dio, Lizard was gen­er­ally deemed the chief ben­e­fi­ciary, with the

5.1-chan­nel mix fi­nally teas­ing the knots out of the al­bum’s tan­gled tex­tures. But Is­lands was the one that grabbed my at­ten­tion with its master­ful ebb and flow of rock in­stru­men­ta­tion and odd pas­toral el­e­ments like Harry Miller’s string bass, Mark Charig’s cor­net, and Paulina Lu­cas’s word­less soprano. The re­li­able tim­bres of the De­mand mon­i­tors made me re­al­ize how much the new mixes ben­e­fit from be­ing re­leased in a high­res­o­lu­tion medium. The speak­ers also aced the dy­namic swings of Po­sei­don, us­ing the calm “Peace— A Be­gin­ning” and “Ca­dence and Cas­cade” to book­end the all-out sonic as­sault of “Pic­tures of a City” and the de­claim­ing mel­lotrons of the ti­tle track. As with the more ag­gres­sive movie sound­tracks, a high com­fort level held it all to­gether.

I chal­lenged the De­mand D11 mon­i­tors to make dis­tinc­tions be­tween two vin­tage vinyl re­leases of De­bussy’s La Mer: with Daniel Baren­boim lead­ing the Orchestre de Paris (Deutsche Gram­mophon, 1978) and with Leopold Stokowski lead­ing the Lon­don Sym­phony Or­ches­tra (Lon­don Phase 4, 1970). Both were tre­ble-for­ward, and I ex­pect no less of two closed-miked multi-track or­ches­tral record­ings from that pe­riod. Phase 4, in par­tic­u­lar, has a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing too “hot”—yet the D11’s ac­count of the Stokowski was a tad warmer and a lot smoother, with a more full-bod­ied string sound to fill out its well-de­fined edges, more am­bi­ence, more magic, and more vir­tu­os­ity than I ex­pected. (But I would say that, be­ing a Phase 4 ad­dict. Stokowski’s own or­ches­tra­tion of Mus­sorgsky’s Pic­tures at an Ex­hi­bi­tion was the first clas­si­cal LP I ever bought. No one, in­clud­ing Kara­jan, could beat it.)

An­gel De­light (U.K. LP) is the prod­uct of a four-man Fair­port Con­ven­tion. Though shorn of its beloved song­writ­ers, Sandy Denny and Richard Thomp­son, it held onto its scrappy rhythm sec­tion as the late Dave Swar­brick led it deeper into more English­tra­di­tion-rooted folk-rock ter­ri­tory. Newly el­e­vated lead vo­cal­ists Swar­brick and Si­mon Ni­col got spot­lighted in the mix, and the D11 gave them due promi­nence along­side Swarb’s vi­olin and man­dolin. Fid­dling around (sorry) with the Su­per­cube’s EQ set­tings, I liked what the low-bass-cen­tric set­ting did over­all. I ex­pected the set­tings that em­pha­sized mid­bass (with or with­out low-bass em­pha­sis) to in­ter­act un­fa­vor­ably with my room’s stand­ing wave, but they were sur­pris­ingly lis­ten­able. Only the out­put­max­ing set­ting seemed crude by call­ing at­ten­tion to the sub. In the best of all pos­si­ble worlds, I’d pre­fer mea­sure­ment-based room cor­rec­tion in a sub, but the Su­per­cube prob­a­bly would pros­per in more sit­u­a­tions than a sub that al­lows no EQ tweaks at all (and that’s most of them).

Con­clu­sion

De­fin­i­tive Tech­nol­ogy’s De­mand Se­ries is a bril­liantly un­ortho­dox de­sign state­ment that makes good on its rhetoric and as­pi­ra­tions with deeply sat­is­fy­ing sound. And the CS9060 cen­ter’s ac­tive sub mated with the De­mands here might alone be worth the in­vest­ment—it is an ex­cel­lent way to get a sec­ond sub into your sys­tem. How­ever, that train of thought would de­rail were it not for the over­all qual­ity of the com­ple­men­tary D11 and D7. By sheer co­in­ci­dence, I still had the sys­tem in­stalled over last year’s Thanks­giv­ing week­end and I gave thanks for it ev­ery day.

Au­dio Edi­tor Mark Fleis­chmann is the au­thor of Prac­ti­cal Home Theater: A Guide to Video and Au­dio Sys­tems, now avail­able in both print and

Kin­dle edi­tions.

The De­mand Se­ries mon­i­tors fea­ture off-cen­ter tweet­ers to re­duce dif­frac­tion.

The CS9060 cen­ter boasts a pow­ered 8-inch woofer with its own LFE in­put.

The Su­per­cube 6000 of­fers four pre­set EQ modes.

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