DYNAUDIO XEO / XD
With serious high-quality wireless speakers plus hubs which can add zoned operation, Dynaudio offers a different multiroom solution.
So in the last decade, there has been an ongoing tension in this market of wireless speakers and streaming audio. The convenience is marvellous. But what of the quality? Until very recently, streaming services were all delivering music below CD quality, some at a listenable 320k, others at the ugly end of the MP3 spectrum. Alongside this has been the rise of the one-box wireless speaker — all very convenient under app control with access to millions of tunes, but after decades developing hi-fi to the heights of truthful reproduction, do we descend to low-res music and small boxes which are effectively mono, sometimes actually mono? Is this the future of audio?
In fact this summary is a little unfair. Nearly all the various wireless multiroom systems include a simple receiver unit which can plug into a hi-fi of the highest quality — so you can maintain all the wonders of hi-fi reproduction while adding the convenience factor of streaming audio. But as retailers tell us, it’s all too easy for buyers to become convinced that they only need a few small speaker boxes around the home. There’s no denying that one-box speakers have had an inevitable ‘dumbing down’ effect.
But there are companies doing it differently, and aiming to emphasise quality in addition to convenience, and few have gone as far as Dynaudio. With its Xeo range, it introduced high-quality hi-fi speakers which are active (amplifiers included inside the speakers), and able to receive using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. A higher range of speakers, two Focus XD floorstanders and a standmount design, take the level of audio reproduction still higher.
With active speakers one issue can be how to plug in all your sources — this can be easy enough if your speakers are over by the TV, but there are many scenarios where sources won’t be close enough for convenient connection. To overcome this, Dynaudio offers a series of wireless hubs — devices into which you can plug various sources and then send them wirelessly to the speakers. And if the hubs can stream to one set of speakers, why not to many sets at the same time? In this way Dynaudio has been able to introduce a path to multiroom operation. This is limited in some ways, and certainly ripe for further development. Until recently, for example, there was no ‘app’ control for any of it, so that the recent release of even a fairly basic app for the ‘Connect’ hub has lifted the whole offering markedly closer to delivering a proper smart system — and one which is offering an unmatched level of loudspeaker quality on the end.
We realised the potential of this in our February-March 2016 issue when we reviewed the new Dynaudio Xeo 2s on their own. Knowing we had this multiroom issue coming up, we asked the Australian distributors BusiSoft AV if we might borrow a Connect hub to see how that worked, and they sent us a pair of Focus 200 XDs so we could enjoy a multiroom system. And since our sister magazine Audio Esoterica has previously reviewed the 600 XD, we’ve brought them all together here to describe what is a rather different path to wireless multiroom audio.
Meet the family
There are currently three models in the Xeo active speaker range — the new generation Xeo 2, and the previous generation Xeo 4 and Xeo 6. There are also three models of Focus XD speakers which also boast wireless abilities — the Focus 200 XD, 400 XD and 600 XD.
Any of these can work alone as active speakers — they all have analogue and digital inputs on the speakers themselves. But if you add one of Dynaudio’s wireless hubs (the Xeo Hub or the Connect), then you can plug sources into that, and send them to your speakers — up to four different sets of speakers at the same time in the case of the Connect.