Dynaudio Audience 72 Speaker System
Although they're best known as a loudspeaker manufacturer for the audio enthusiast, Dynaudio also has a commanding presence in professional audio. Their Dynaudio Acoustics subsidiary is highly regarded by many people in leading recording studios. It is in these circles where I first came to know and gain an appreciation for the brand.
When I got the assignment to evaluate Dynaudio's Audience Series in a home theater context, I looked forward to discovering how this line performed in contrast to the company's studio-reference systems—because these two environments aren't as similar as you might expect. Studio monitors must be able to handle extreme transient peaks without obvious distortion so that the listener can make critical decisions about the mix. By contrast, most people listen to music that has already been mastered, and this process generally levels out the transient peaks and massages everything into a more manageable state. Armed with high expectations and several favorite CDs and DVDs, I was ready.
My system consisted of a pair of Audience 72 loudspeakers for the left and right channels, the Audience 122C center-channel unit, and a pair of Audience 52s for the surround channels. The subwoofer was the company's new SUB 500. As is the case with all current Dynaudio subwoofers, it is not specific to the product line.
While audio purists may frown at the notion that appearance counts, it does. After all, if you're about to spend $5,900 for a loudspeaker system, chances are good that your taste in home furnishings is a cut above that dormitory room you called home as a student. Rest assured, the Audience system has a refined, though conservative, look.
It's All in the Details
A closer inspection revealed solid fit and finish, with natural-maple-veneered enclosures. The baffles, made from heavy-duty medium-density fiberboard (MDF), provide support for the drivers and minimize resonance. For those of you who prefer to remove the grille, there are mounting provisions on the back of the Audience 72's enclosure for keeping the grille safe from harm. This is a nice touch. These systems are also available in black ash, cherry, and rosewood at identical pricing.
The Audience 72, Audience 122C, and Audience 52 all utilize a bass-reflex, ported cabinet and are equipped with a single set of gold-plated binding posts. They ship with foam plugs for the ports. If, due to limited space, you need to place the speakers close to a wall or in a corner, these plugs will reduce the bass output accentuated by proximity to room boundaries.
The 250-watt SUB 500 provides RCA and XLR-type connectors for both input and output. The grille is affixed with strong magnets to ensure a tight, stable fit. Noteworthy features include auto-on/standby signal sensing, whereby the sub shuts itself down after 20 minutes of inactivity and powers up upon sensing a signal. This feature greatly simplifies operation. The SUB 500 also ships with a credit-card-sized remote control for defining volume, roll-off frequency, phase, and low-frequency extension. With the ability to create four presets, this is the couch potato's dream come true for boosting low end during action movies and easily returning to a more natural balance for music listening.
My source-playback equipment included an Onkyo DV-SP800 SACD/DVD player, Parasound's Halo C2 controller, and Sunfire's Cinema 7 amplifier. The front loudspeakers employed Kimber Kables of equal lengths, while the surrounds and sub used Monster cables. Loudspeaker test levels for all enclosures measured 75 decibels.
I began with a stereo recording of Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 "Eroica" performed by the Berlin Philharmonic. The Audience 72s provided balanced, natural reproduction throughout the entire frequency range. The Audience 72s maintained the stereo field's integ-
rity better than many other systems I've heard. They are a 2.5-way system employing Dynaudio's D260 ESOTEC tweeter working alongside twin 6.7-inch woofers with 2.9-inch voice coils and one-piece molded-cone diaphragms. These speakers delivered a warm, pleasing performance with exceptional dynamic contrast and excellent stereo imaging. I was able to move in absurdly close before the soundfield collapsed into separate left and right sources. Similarly, off-axis listening remained convincing.
I listened to CBS Masterworks' recording Portrait of John Williams. Nothing beats classical guitar for auditioning a loudspeaker's ability to reproduce overtones, and the Audience 72s did not disappoint. The light, airy texture of the overtones cascading above the plucked string's fundamental was delightful. Further, every little scrape of the strings as Williams' hands raced across the fretboard was there—without causing distraction, as can be the case with loudspeakers that have an accentuated high end.
Changing pace, I switched to Sting's Brand New Day, in both CD and DVD versions. Now the SUB 500 made its presence known. Without deviating from the 75-dB level, the low end sprung to life—with plenty of definition, particularly in the midbass region. Bass-guitar slaps jumped right out. Every note had personality. Low-frequency drones and other effects were rich and full. The SUB 500 does exactly what a good sub should—enhance the performance without overpowering it.
Again, the Audience 72s performed impressively. While percussive effects danced throughout the soundfield, Sting's vocals were so positively centered that, on more than one occasion, I found myself checking to ensure that I was still operating in stereo.
When I switched to DVD and 5.1 surround, Sting's music assumed a new dynamic, with effects now prancing about the entire soundfield. I heard the Audience 52s for the first time. These two-way, monopole enclosures with 6.7-inch woofers and 1.1-inch soft-dome tweeters would make an admirable stereo setup on their own. While I wasn't impressed with some of the mixing decisions, the congas, backing vocals, and even the piano solo were all reproduced with convincing detail.
I auditioned the system with 20th Century Fox's original Die Hard, listening primarily for sound effects, ambient treatments, and center-channel performance. The Audience 52s and the SUB 500 combined to create spectacular-sounding action scenes, and I upped the volume accordingly. One scene features a jet landing at Los Angeles International Airport, and, sonically, this was particularly impressive. I was examining the sub's remote when, all of a sudden, this roar of engines swept from rear to front. Forgetting where I was, I ducked for cover. The SUB 500 is capable of prodigious output. During the multitude of explosions and general mayhem, the entire system pooled its resources and shook the room. I experienced pure, mindless bliss.
I also experimented with the SUB 500's various configurations and level settings. This is an impressive unit, although I was disappointed by its lack of visual feedback during parameter settings. There are two status LEDs and an indicator that flashes when the sub receives remote commands, but that's it.
The Audience 122C's performance on the 5.1-channel versions of both Sting's DVD and Die Hard was on par with the system's other components. The Audience 122C's two midbass drivers and its single soft-dome tweeter performed admirably. Dialogue was clear and articulate, and ambient effects were handled with aplomb. If you intend to place this enclosure in a cabinet, you'll appreciate its ported design and the inclusion of the foam plug, as this will enable you to better control the bass response.
It's difficult to find fault with Dynaudio's Audience 72 speaker system. The articulate, smooth performance throughout the entire frequency range, combined with great imaging and solid off-axis capability makes this a compelling system. Similarly, the SUB 500's performance and features make it a great complementary piece.
The system has a conservative design, which leads me to the following thought: There's a saying, "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM." The same goes with Dynaudio's Audience system. While its looks may not garner a "Wow" from your houseguests, its performance certainly will.
• Great imaging and off-axis consistency enhance the multiple-listener experience
• The SUB 500 is a versatile performer for those who love to tweak settings