Definitive Technology BP 8060 ST Loudspeaker (TAS 212)

Equipment report
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Floorstanding
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Products:
Definitive Technology BP 8062 ST
Definitive Technology BP 8060 ST Loudspeaker (TAS 212)

The BP 8060 ST is a slim, medium-height, cloth-covered tower speaker with outrigger stabilizer feet. You could say that it is probably designed for a “lifestyle” aesthetic, while still delivering real sonic value. It would fit right in with many home decors, including an audio-video setup, although I evaluated the BP 8060 ST solely as a stereo pair. The 8060 makes no apology for looking domesticated. You can't see any of the drivers, for example, because the cloth wrap is designed to stay in place all the time. How non-audiophile.

As a bipolar loudspeaker, the BP 8060 ST produces sound to the front and the rear that are in-phase with each other. By contrast, a dipolar loudspeaker’s front and rear outputs are out of phase with each other. When used solely as front stereo speakers, dipoles usually require a fair bit of distance from the back wall and, sometimes, careful attention paid to room treatments behind the speakers—in effect making that area of the room partially act like the cabinet of a typical cone-’n’-dome, dynamic speaker. Typical bipolar speakers take it a bit further. They tend to create even more audible output to the rear because it is in phase with the front (and is less likely to be partially canceled out), thereby lending a greater feeling of “largeness” to the overall soundscape—albeit with somewhat less focus.

This is where Definitive Technology's special take on bipolar design kicks in. Definitive reduces the rear output by 6dB to more closely approximate an ideal balance (according to various experiments) of direct and rear-reflected sounds. Definitive says that a 6dB attenuation of the rear drivers creates more focus but still generates enough rear output to produce a perception of expansiveness coupled with that feeling of not being locked into a small sweetspot. Because of the reduction in output, the new Definitive speakers can now be placed much closer to a rear wall. Does it work? Yes. While I didn't have a classic bipole on hand for comparison, I can verify that the “Forward Focused Bipolar Array Technology,” as Definitive calls it, does live up to its goal of blending focus with expansiveness, and the sweet spot is indeed not a small strike zone. The 8060's tonal balance and soundstage remains basically intact for a width of about three people sitting closely side by side on a couch. An mbl Radialstrahler it is not, but you get the idea.

The 8060 manages to get its relatively robust bass (and efficiency) from such a svelte cabinet through an on-board, 300-watt, Class D amplifier that powers one side-firing 10" woofer with two 10" passive radiators—one on each side. The bass amplifier is user-adjustable for volume but not for crossover frequency and phase. Definitive wanted to make the four 8000 Series Bipolar Supertower models as easy to use as possible by taking away the trickier elements of integrating a subwoofer with the rest of the speaker's drivers. Those other drivers are a D'Appolito cluster (mid-tweeter-mid) at the top of the front baffle and a single mid-tweeter combo at the top of the rear baffle. The midrange units are 4.5" composite polymer cones and the tweeters are 1" pure aluminum domes. The midrange drivers have two surrounds each, one on the outer rim (as usual) and one on the inner edge where the cone meets the base of the center-mounted waveguide (where a phase plug would normally go). This patented double-surround arrangement is claimed to give the cone greater linearity, while also allowing a longer excursion, thus making the driver act more like a slightly larger one without some of the negative effects of using a larger driver (mass, inertia, dispersion pattern, etc.). The phase plug-like function here is actually provided by a mushroom-shaped waveguide rather than the bullet-tip plug we normally think of. This particular waveguide is said to better mitigate some of the negative interactions of varying wavelengths being simultaneously emitted by different sections of the cone, which can cause tonal shifts or even, theoretically, cancellation of some frequencies.

What does a $2000 pair of speakers with all of this stuff in it sound like? The BP 8060 ST is a smooth, agreeable, full-sounding speaker that can be considered a good all-rounder for those who value a large sound in a sleek package. The overall tonal balance of the 8060 falls just a bit to the warm and forgiving side of neutral without sounding cloying or syrupy. Of course, some of its tonal character can be adjusted by the on-board bass amp's volume control. I started out with the bass control at 12 o'clock but found that backing it off to about 10:30 worked best, because it alleviated a bass overhang in my room. With the speakers positioned 30" from the sidewalls, 63" from the back wall, and about 7.5' apart (as measured from the front tweeters), I ended up with a toe-in that fired outward to about two feet beyond my shoulders. While the 8060 can be placed much closer to the back wall than I put it, my room layout makes a lesser distance to the rearwall problematic. Definitive's Paul DiComo helped with the initial setup, and he left satisfied that the 8060 would not be shortchanged by this positioning. More toe-in increased image focus, but it also reduced the openness of the soundstage; hence, the “in-between” positioning. The speaker is easy to drive. I could turn down the volume a few notches and get roughly the same level compared to my regular speakers. Power music, like various passages of Pomp and Pipes [Fennell/Dallas Wind Symphony, RR], did not make the 8060 (and my main amp) sound ragged or stressed as most passive speakers do, no doubt because the on-board amp carried the bulk of the demanding load.

I try not to get hung up with preconceived notions of what a device will sound like based on materials or topology, but the 8060's pure aluminum tweeters are the smoothest aluminum-based (alloy or pure) tweeters I have heard. There is a commendable level of detail without an attendant glare or shrillness that too often comes with aluminum tweeters at this price level. The BP 8060 is also fairly well integrated from top to bottom. The 8060's bass could be better defined and articulate, but I really only noticed this because I am used to the Dynaudio Confidence C1, a $7500 speaker (with dedicated stands). Yes, the 8060 has more powerful bass, but the C1—believe it or not—comes mighty close in overall extension, and the C1 certainly has better resolution in the bass by quite a bit. (Jim Austin of Stereophile measured a pair of C1s in his listening room -3db at 24Hz! [August, 2008].) The 8060's midrange is clear and inviting. The overall resolution of the 8060 is not price-level-busting but still quite good. While the 8060 does not have the electrifying musicality of the more expensive Dynaudio Excite X32 ($2800, Issue 205), the 8060 balances fullness with enough resolution to blend everything into pleasant, rewarding listening with all kinds of music from solo classical violin to huge Bollywood soundtracks.

Soundstaging is wide enough to extend about a foot beyond the speakers' sides and reasonably deep, starting at the back of the cabinets and extending to the rear from there (which just happens to be how I like it). When the recording allows for it, a great deal of the area behind the speakers fills up with a stable soundstage. The rendering of continuousness and “air” is not up to the bar set by more expensive speakers like the C1 or B&W 805 Diamond ($5000, Issue 210) or even, to a lesser extent, the Dynaudio X32, but it is still commendable. Individual image outlines are done well, never exaggerated, and—as the recording allows—are generally placed into a larger, better-defined context rather than spotlit in a vaguer ambient setting. The overall effect, to use a comparison to a live experience, is to place your listening seat a bit farther back in the concert hall than mid-hall. You won't hear leading edges as well as you would if you were sitting closer, but you still get a musically valid experience.

The 8060 faired well with my Ayre K-1xe preamp and GamuT M200, as if it reveled in being pushed by the system. The BP 8060 ST is a fun, civilized, easy-to-use speaker, and that pretty much sums it up. I enjoyed its relaxed way with large music one moment and its delicate handling of intimate music the next.

SPECS & PRICING

Type: Three-way, powered-woofer, pressure-coupled floorstander with passive radiators
Drivers: One 10" cone woofer, two passive 10" bass radiators, three 4.5" composite polymer midrange units, two 1" aluminum tweeters
Frequency response: ~33Hz–25kHz (-3dB)
Sensitivity: 92dB (2.83 V/1 m)
Impedance: 8 ohms
Power handling: 300W
Recommended amplifier power: 20–300W
Dimensions: 5-15/16" x 44-3/16" x 13-7/16" without stabilizer feet (add 5-1/8” to width with feet).
Weight: 54 lbs. each
Price: $2000 (pair) available in black only.

Definitive Technology
11433 Cronridge Drive, Suite K
Owings Mills, Maryland 21117
(800) 228-7148
(410) 363-7148
definitivetech.com

ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT
Analog source: Basis Debut V turntable with Vector 4 tonearm, Benz-Micro LP S cartridge
Digital source: Ayre C-5xeMP universal player
Phonostage preamp: Ayre P-5xe
Linestage preamp: Ayre K-1xe
Integrated amplifier: H200
Power amplifier: GamuT M-200 monos
Speakers: Dynaudio Confidence C1, B&W 805 Diamond, Klipsch RF 82 II
Cables: Shunyata Antares interconnects and Orion speaker wire, Wegrzyn power cords
A/C Power: Two 20-amp dedicated lines, FIM receptacles
Room treatments: PrimeAcoustic Z-foam panels

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