Dynaudio Audience 5.1 Speaker System 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems
Written by Brian Kahn   
Sunday, 01 February 2004

Dynaudio is a Danish company known for over 25 years for producing high-quality speakers ranging from affordable bookshelf models to some of the finest, priciest transducers in the world. In addition to the speakers produced directly by Dynaudio, astute audio enthusiasts may have noticed that many famous high-end speaker makers also use Dynaudio drivers in order to build their own speakers. In recent years, Dynaudio has picked up significant momentum in the ultra-competitive affordable speaker market and their relatively new Audience line represents Dynaudio’s latest effort to bring their design expertise to an affordable price level.

The Audience system reviewed here retails for less than $4,000 and is comprised of the model 62 ($1,350) mini-towers for the front left and right channels, the 42c ($450) and 42 ($800) for the center and surround channels and the Sub-20A ($1,209) for the low-frequency effects channel. These prices include the wood veneer finishes that are available in four flavors.

Even though Audience is Dynaudio’s least expensive line, it is still chock-full of advanced features and quality drivers. The 62 is the smallest of the three towers offered and features a 17cm mid-woofer and a 28mm soft-dome tweeter inside a 34-inch high, eight-inch wide and 10-inch deep cabinet. The front baffle is a dark gray, impregnated piece of MDF, with a front-firing port under the drivers. The port helps the 62 obtain a useable frequency response down to 38Hz. The same gray from the front baffle is utilized on the bottom base panel, separated from the maple-finished cabinet by a small gap, giving the speaker a nice clean modern look. The removable front panel can be handily attached to the rear of the speaker, thanks to an extra set of grille mounts. The bottom of the rear panel features a pair of true five-way binding plugs.

One look at the 42s and you can tell that they are little brothers to the 62s. The 42 measures approximately 11 inches high by seven inches wide by nine inches deep and has the same slate gray baffle on the otherwise maple cabinet. Beneath the grille, you will find a 15cm driver mounted immediately below a 28mm soft-dome tweeter. The port on the 42s is on the back; a wall- mount version is available with the port on the front. The 42 is the smaller of the two bookshelf-sized speakers in the Audience line. The 42c is the smaller of the two center channel choices and uses the same drivers as the 42, mounted in a horizontal configuration and featuring a front-firing port.

All of the passive speakers in the Audience line utilize a 28mm soft-dome tweeter, with a smooth response extending past 25kHz to handle the extended frequency response offered by the newly available formats. The tweeter assembly also consists of a substantial aluminum baffle with a rear damping chamber to absorb any rear wave energy. The midranges all feature a large, three-inch lightweight aluminum voice coil, coupled to custom designed cones made out of magnesium silicate polymer. The interaction of the drivers is handled by custom six dB per octave, first order crossover.

The last speaker in the system reviewed here is the Sub-20A, and again, as you may have guessed, it is the smaller of the two subwoofer options. This is a relatively small powered subwoofer with a front-firing driver measuring just under 10 inches in a cabinet that is approximately 11 inches wide, 17 inches high and 18 inches deep. The 90-watt amplifier can be driven by either stereo or mono input. The rear panel also features a daisy chain connection and line level outputs with a switchable crossover. Also on the rear panel are a continuously adjustable phase control, crossover and level controls, all under a rear-firing port. Internal circuits include thermal protection, automatic standby and a subsonic filter. I should note that Dynaudio just announced that they are replacing the Sub-20A with the Sub-300, which will be similarly sized with a bottom firing port and remote control.

The 62s flanked my seven-foot screen with their inside edges just under seven feet apart and two feet from the front wall. The center channel was mounted just below the screen with a slight upward angle. The 42s were mounted just behind and outside my seating position on Vantage Point stands and were toed inward. Lastly, the Sub-20A was positioned between the center and front right speakers.

The five-way binding posts were a bit thick for the spades on my AudioQuest Gibraltar cables, forcing me to put one leg of the spade in the center hole of the post, a less than perfect connection situation. The subwoofer’s adjustments allowed me to easily set it up with the rest of the Audience speakers.

Music and Movies
After letting the speakers play for over a week for a much-needed break-in, I began my evaluation by listening to Blues Travelers’ epononymously titled album (A&M Records). The track “Dropping Some NYC” revealed the Dynaudio system to be fairly dynamic, easy to listen to and warm. The speakers are detailed without being overly analytical. They sound ever so slightly on the “soft” side of flat, which is the tendency of many of the finest high-end loudspeakers on the market. The 62s threw a wide soundstage going beyond the exterior sides of the cabinet. The voices were accurate but the imaging was a bit vague. On the track “Gotta Get Mean,” I noticed that the drums seemed a bit weak. The rest of the sound, the guitars and the vocals were still good, with appropriately balanced weight and tone. The speakers themselves pretty much disappeared when I closed my eyes, a very good sign.

I auditioned an old favorite, Al Jarreau’s Tenderness (Reprise). The opening track, “Mas Que Nada,” is a fast-paced jazz piece with a complicated vocal track that tests a speaker’s ability to resolve different voices. The 62s came through with flying colors. I was easily able to discern the difference between Green’s and the background singers’ vocals. The piano was full, natural-sounding and solid. Again, I found the drums a bit light. The track “My Favorite Things” features Kathleen Battle as a guest vocalist. Battle’s voice is very well portrayed, full, detailed and very easy on the ears. The tenor sax sounds silky smooth, portraying a good level of energy without any glare. The highs were detailed and extended, without any noticeable etching or annoying brightness. This track also features a synthesizer, which on some systems I find to be harsh and difficult to listen to, but this was definitely not the case here. I suffered no ear fatigue from the synthesizer.

Moving to 5.1 listening tests, I spun Diana Krall’s Love Scenes album (DTS Entertainment). The track “Peel Me A Grape” featured bass and piano tracks that were beautifully portrayed around the circular soundstage. The imaging, was very good. However, it didn’t quite have the shockingly good imaging of my far more expensive MartinLogan hybrid electrostatic speaker system. The speakers also disappeared during my multi-channel listening sessions, much as they did in my stereo listening sessions. The low end was somewhat more prominent in the 5.1 than in stereo, no doubt due to the Sub-20A augmenting the 62’s low end. The subwoofer was musical and never called attention to itself. The Audience’s warm and relaxed nature lent itself perfectly to Krall’s vocals and provided for a long relaxed listening session.

I then switched to movies, and watched “S.W.A.T.” (Columbia/TriStar). As you may be able to surmise by the title, it is definitely a shoot ‘em up. There were numerous big gunfights, with complex sonic landscapes with shooting and yelling from all directions. These types of scenes often turn into mush with speakers lacking detail, but the Audience speakers had no problem rendering the individual voices and gunshots without blurring them together. The dynamics of the Audience came alive at higher volumes. These speakers need some power to get up and moving, so make sure to team them up with a relatively stout amplifier. The subwoofer rendered the crashes and explosions with a good amount of detail and refinement. My only criticism of the subwoofer was that it lacked some of the bottom end punch and power, favoring finesse over raw power.

The Downside
To me, the Dynaudio Audience speakers need a fairly powerful amplifier to come alive dynamically, as opposed to other speakers in their price range. Other more efficient speakers come alive more easily that the more power-hungry Dynaudios. Can they run on a $1,000 receiver? Absolutely. Would they sound better on Sunfire, Rotel, Anthem or B&K electronics? You bet. With speakers this good, you are likely to want better electronics sooner or later.

The overall sound of the speaker is relaxed and polite, reminiscent of a smooth audiophile speaker. While the flavor of the speaker is not a downside, it is important to point out that if you are looking for really sharp imaging and crisp highs, speakers like Canton, B&W and Polk might make for better choices. I liked the laid-back nature of the speakers, especially at their price, but they simply didn’t image like my more expensive MartinLogans do. Perhaps I shouldn’t expect them to, but if lively highs and sharp imaging is what gets you off, then you might look to other speakers. If dynamics are your thing, the Dynaudio Audience system is going to be right up your alley.

Dynaudio not only knows how to make killer speaker components, but they can also put together the complete speaker package. The Audience system brings true audiophile quality sound to a reasonable price. The sound of the Audience line is reminiscent of the warm, laid-back character of my first pair of high-end speakers, Vandersteen 2Ci’s, but with a more extended high frequency response. If this is the type of sound that appeals to you, the Audience is a well-built, attractive and reasonably priced option. Despite their affordable price, don’t mistake the value of these speakers. This is a high-end speaker package priced for the masses. With the money you might save investing in this system, consider making sure you have fantastic electronics and great source components capable of DVD-Audio and SACD. With speakers this good, you will want to hear every last note of every disc you own all over again.
Manufacturer Dynaudio
Model Audience 5.1 Speaker System
Reviewer Brian Kahn

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