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Tyler Acoustics D4M Loudspeakers Review Print E-mail
Monday, 11 January 2010
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Tyler Acoustics D4M Loudspeakers Review
Page 2

ImageI remember reading a letter in Stereophile several years back from a reader complaining about the magazine's lack of review coverage with regards to certain loudspeaker manufacturers. One of the names mentioned was Tyler Acoustics, an outfit I was then unaware of myself. For some reason that letter stuck in my memory, and here I am in an unexpected position to shed additional light on that very same “neglected” company. It was my pleasure to finally make contact with main man – and name – behind Tyler Acoustics, Tyler (“Ty”) Lashbrook, who runs the speaker-building operation from Owensboro, Kentucky. From the beautiful Bluegrass State, Lashbrook has been quietly building furniture-grade loudspeakers and selling direct to consumers for a decade.

The speaker lineup is broad and offers something for nearly everyone, from home theater enthusiast to Joe Audiophile with bucks to spend on room-filling floor-standers. Ty wants to make it easy for customers to hear his designs and offers layaway and trade-up programs, even used speakers, all from the Tyler Acoustics' Web site. A quick tour of the site reveals a commitment not just to the audible but the visual, as all speakers are available in more than 80 finishes (!).  When Lashbrook offered a pair of D4Ms for review, he bumped up the deal and wrapped the speakers in a gorgeous West African Movingue veneer. Movingue originates from Cameroon and Ghana and mimics silken waves, giving rise to the nickname “satinwood.”

The D4Ms ($2,400/pair factory direct) are the smallest stereo pair in Tyler's Decade lineup. They put a spin on traditional rectangular bookshelf speakers and incorporate a hexagonal design, with each side sloping out about 1 inch from the corners. The D4M is a two-way, rear-ported with a 1-inch soft dome tweeter matched to an aluminum faceplate and 6-inch paper cone woofer with aluminum phase plug. Frequency crossover occurs at 1,800 Hz. The speakers sport magnetic cloth grilles, are offered with either single or bi-wire posts and available in more than 80 finishes. Furthering the customizable options, the tweeter is offered in black or copper. Binding posts are gold-plated and very high quality. The D4Ms are recommended for amps or receivers up to 100 watts per channel. Rated input impedance is 8 ohms and range extends from 44 to 20 kHz. The speakers weigh 28 pounds apiece; cabinets measure 16 inches high, 12 inches deep and 9.5 inches wide. My review set was packaged with care, each speaker lovingly cradled in custom foam padding.


Rated at 87dB sensitivity into 8 ohms, the D4Ms need some power to be at their best. I had excellent results pairing them with Sheng Ya's new A-80CS integrated tube stereo amplifier – a hybrid design with far more power than its 80-watt rating might imply. They also need a period of break-in to start really making music. Lashbrook recommends 200 hours of break-in before serious listening. My pair already had about three days of  play on them, so I was saved 70 hours and change of such effort. Even so, out of the box after 3 days of burn-in the D4Ms were dull and unremarkable. That all changed, though, after letting them run as suggested.

I also found the D4Ms benefited from exacting placement; be prepared to spend time experimenting to find the sweet spot. That means spending a couple hours or more moving the speakers by half-foot (or less) increments, listening, repeating, and finally breaking out the tape measure and marking the final resting point of left and right. This isn't a criticism, but the D4Ms didn't work as a stereo pair if not aligned oppositely almost to the inch. Instead, one speaker inevitably took over and became the dominant voice. My main listening room is approximately 16 feet (deep) x 24 feet (wide) x 7 feet (high). I set them atop a pair of 30-inch stands (Plateau STS-30s), placed 3 feet from the long wall, 4 feet from the side walls and spaced 7 feet apart, with the speakers toed in approximately 15 degrees.

Once setup correctly, expect excellent imaging and clear, engaging sound. Perhaps the greatest distinguishing strength of the D4Ms is their unflappable consistency between low and high frequencies. To my ears, there is no imbalance between bass, midrange and treble response. It's all tight, fast and smooth with no unwanted booms or shrieks. If I found the D4Ms lacking for anything, it would be in  broad sound-staging - I would like a bit more “bloom” in the mix. In that respect, they act very much like monitors. Again, not bad, but I enjoyed them best when seated no more than 8 feet away. On the plus side, the D4Ms are very detailed.

Compared to THIEL's SCS4s – bookshelf speakers I've recently auditioned – the D4Ms are a bit warmer. Both are very fast and cleanly reproduce a broad range of music, though I wouldn't recommend either for serious heavy-metal head-banging or bass-dominating rap. It's not that the bass is lacking, it's just a bit too civilized and taut for such fare. Within the realm of rock, blues, jazz and classical, though, the D4Ms are effortless and authoritative. These are very good speakers.


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