Definitive Technology Demand Series D11 Speaker System
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.
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.
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).
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
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.