Dynaudio is a company that leaves nothing to chance. Whereas others lean heavily on subcontractors for fabrication and construction, it is a virtual soup-to-nuts operation—from the conceptual stages to the last strip of packing tape. And from shortly after its beginnings in 1977, it has also been one of the few loudspeaker manufacturers that designs and assembles its own drivers. It’s this long history of hands-on experience that contributes to the consistently high levels of performance and build-quality throughout Dynaudio’s extensive line— including this entry-level floorstander, the Audience 72SE.
The Audience 72SE is a bass-reflex design with a narrow baffle fronting a handsome column. The short plinth at its base is pretapped for the included spikes. Drivers are arrayed in a two-anda- half-way configuration that uses two 6.5" mid/bass units to increase bass extension, dynamics, and output.
Sonically, the 72SE is a bold, extroverted performer born to draw a crowd, with a combination of output-level capability and dynamics that almost dares you to try and rein it in. Its midrange is a bit forward, inclining vocals toward the listener, just as a performer might lean into a microphone. Its soft-dome tweeter is smooth and extended in the treble, producing only a hint of hardness on piano transients in something like Norah Jones’ “The Nearness Of You” [Come Away With Me, Blue Note]—a trait that masks the finest gradations of keyboard dynamics. Bass goes down to a solid 40Hz and is exceptionally full-bodied, occasionally exaggerating warmth through the upper bass and lower midrange. My feeling is that the 72SE was deliberately tuned this way. Dynaudio understands that hometheater and high-end listeners often have different priorities, and the extensive Audience line was designed to do doubleduty1— the high-tension slam of the movies and the finesse of acoustic music. Dynaudio is also experienced in the “realworld” complexities of speaker placement and in-room response, especially in the low frequencies. Thus the speakers come with a set of foam port plugs for those cases where the owner feels bass response needs to be reduced. The plugs work as advertised, effectively neutralizing the midbass bloom and smoothing output, without significantly attenuating the 72SE’s loweroctave extension or dynamic range.
With the port plugs in, the Audience sings out with an energy and color in the crucial upper bass and lower midrange that elegantly express the deep rich voices of Edgar Meyer’s bass and Yo Yo Ma’s cello during the country-classical fusion recording, Appalachian Journey [Sony Classics]. Instruments image precisely across the stage—not an easy feat on a recording where the cello and the bass tiptoe in and out of each other’s range. And Mark O’Connor’s fiddle, which is often doubled by Ma’s cello, has the aggressive edge detail that distinguishes a fiddler from his uptown concert-hall twin, the violin player. Driver integration is good–—with scant evidence of “tweeter on top, woofer on bottom” artifacts. The 72SE also establishes a rock beat as immaculate as Jim Keltner’s stick work. Only at very high volumes will the cabinet and port of the 72SE lose pitch definition or compress a section of bass viols or trombones. Dynamically, the speaker certainly doesn’t shy away from the raging, closemiked keyboard workout that Fiona Apple delivers as she sings “Oh, you silly, stupid pastime of mine,” during “Parting Gift” [Extraordinary Machine, Epic]. It’s one of those instances where you pity the poor piano, as every last transient is squeezed out of it.
Tonally, however, the 72SE does have occasional Technicolor moments. There are theatrical bumps in output not just in the upper bass/lower mids but also in the upper midrange/lower treble region, which make the speaker more effective at conveying Nirvana than Nielson and tip the balance, on the whole, a bit more to cinema than symphony. The upward tonal shift cuts both ways, however. It is actually flattering to soprano vocalists like Laurel Massé and Jennifer Warnes, in that the added air seems to elevate their voices skyward. Conversely, baritones with rich chest resonances like Tom Waits or Neil Diamond (whose terrific acoustic performance of “Oh Mary” from the new album 12 Songs [Capitol] is worth the price of the CD all by itself) sound a little less weighty. Still, although I lost some of the pitch details of the walking bass line during the Redwalls’ “It’s Alright” [De Nova, Capitol], there was no denying that the Audience 72SE captures this band’s ebullient musicality and the pure retro-excitement of classic British Invasion rock. And that, all by itself, excuses a few colorations.
The Audience is not Dynaudio’s most expensive or most sophisticated system—the upscale Contour and Confidence Series hew to more rigid audiophile standards. However, with its persuasive excitement-to-price ratio, the Audience system strikes a universal chord that makes it one of Dynaudio’s most appealing rigs.