Many specialty audio companies begin life as one designer's unique take on how a given part of the audio chain can be improved. Such companies often start in a tinkerer's project room with a few tools and a few good ideas on how to make it better. High-end audio has benefited enormously from these inventive spirits, and I have owned and loved components that were made by companies whose genesis fits this profile. The low economies of scale and heavy reliance on parts vendors by these small, often one- or two-person operations tends to make the prices of finished products quite high—a constant source of complaint among consumers.
Dynaudio is not such a company. It started over 32 years ago building finished loudspeakers, but quickly began developing its own drivers to realize higher performance than was available from driver manufacturers of the day. Other loudspeaker companies took notice of Dynaudio’s in-house-developed drivers and Dynaudio was suddenly in the driver business. Dynaudio still has a thriving OEM driver business, but it also makes a wide variety of complete speaker systems from starter mini-monitors to the Evidence Master flagship ($105,000). In addition, it makes complete automotive audio systems and active speakers for professional monitoring and computer/multi-media use. Customers can't necessarily contact the designer and have a chat about speaker impedance curves and phase behavior (the dealers handle that), but I believe consumers do benefit from Dynaudio's considerable engineering and manufacturing capabilities and experience, which in turn translate into product lines that have performed well over decades. Besides, Dynaudio still manufactures in Denmark; it seems to be in keeping with the understated Danish way to simply produce fine audio products and forgo the “lone genius” approach.
Dynaudio's four Excite models fall just above the lower-end DM range in a total of six complete consumer lines. The Excite X32 is a small, two-way, floorstanding, bass-reflex design with a 1" soft dome tweeter and two 5.7" magnesium-silicate-polymer mid/bass drivers. The cabinet seems to be well damped. I could run my fingers down the cabinet walls while heavy beat music was playing and detect only small levels of sympathetic vibrations. The top vibrated a bit more than any other panel, oddly enough. Some far-more-expensive speakers' cabinets vibrate much more. Excite models come in various wood veneer finishes with a medium-gray front baffle ($2800), in addition to white and black high-gloss finishes ($3000). My review samples came in an attractive white gloss. All passive Dynaudio speakers have a single pair of multi-way binding posts. The build-quality appears to be quite high.
The well-written manual gently assures the user that Excite models have “no unusual or extraordinary positioning demands.” I found the X32 to be, indeed, unfussy about positioning. The X32 worked well quite close to the back wall (tweeters about two feet from the wall) in a medium-sized room used mostly for video and background music; they did just as well in my 12.5* x 17* dedicated listening room set up quite far into the room (tweeters 68" from the back wall). I did, however, find that at least 200 hours of music playing time was needed to allow the bass to fully integrate with the midrange and upper end. The speakers also benefited from two loose baggies of lead shot placed on their tops. This added some focus and solidity to the sound and brought out tone colors a bit better than without.
The Excite X32 is a lively, fast, musically involving speaker with surprisingly extended, satisfying bass for its size. It seems to capitalize on music's natural sense of momentum. From solo acoustic guitar to Third Stream jazz to rock and classical, the X32 just seems to make all kinds of music come alive. We often tend to think that the “musical” appellation implies a kind of soft focus or a forgiving quality. The X32 achieves its musicality in exactly the opposite way; it charges music up with lots of detail, verve, and excitement. If I were pressed to sum up its tonal balance, I would say that it accents the upper frequencies in some systems, sometimes at the expense of midrange tone colors. In others, like an all-NAD system and in a beautiful ASR Emitter 1-based system (both owned by obliging friends), the X32 sounded just right and was simply stunning in its ability to resolve details, deliver commendable dynamic shadings, and just generally draw me into the listening experience. The fact that a $2800 speaker can be dropped into a $25k system (ASR) and truly shine is a testament to the X32's performance. Nonetheless, the usual precautions about system synergy apply.
In my own system, the X32 proved to be a very entertaining speaker. Even when the upward tilt I mentioned manifested itself on some recordings, the music still remained engaging and did not veer into distracting stridency. Music that can sound slightly dull in some systems seemed to be revivified through the X32. I have liked “Mingusiana” on Ralph Towner's A Closer View [ECM] for some time, but have regarded it as an “in-the-right-mood” kind of piece (single-malt whiskey sipping, maybe). This cut took on new inner momentum through the X32. The entire CD, mostly duets with bassist Gary Peacock, seemed to reveal layers of interplay between Towner and Peacock that are not always readily apparent through other speakers. The X32's resolution was so good that on “Opalesque” I could readily pick up the sounds caused by Towner either moving his left hand off the guitar neck only to return to the same neck location on repeated chords or hitting the same chord in a different neck position. Impressive for a $2800 speaker.
Sometimes music that is borderline odd can be a good test for a speaker's handling of musical coherence. I have heard the “Chinese March” movement of The Song of the Nightingale [Stravinsky, Oue/Minnesota, RR] sound positively wonky on some systems. Through the X32 this slightly dissonant music “read” beautifully. The X32 had no trouble making sense of the challenging combination of typical Stravinsky-esque intervals and tricky rhythms. Straightforward music with beat-based appeal induced almost involuntary head-bobbing. Tool's "Right in Two" from 10,000 Days [Sony] just soared with its driving, alternating five- and six-beat time signatures—if you can roll with that kind rock, of course.
The X32 was easily driven by a variety of solid-state amplifiers ranging from 80 to 200 watts per channel and by a 60-watt tubed amp (Genesis M-Sixty)—although, the X32 tilted toward sounding overly forward and forced with the Genesis amp. The speaker threw a wide sweet spot for multiple side-by-side listeners. Even well-off-axis listening was quite pleasant and rewarding. This will also be a boon in a video application. The X32 created audible response below 30Hz in my room based on a quick check with my TRC, Check and Double Check [Westminster HiFi] test LP. The X32 carried a fair bit of weight and authority in its bass range, too. The midrange was open and detailed, and the highs came across as revealing and engaging. As I mentioned, in some pairings the X32's upper frequencies could supply too much of an otherwise good thing in certain pairings.
The X32 tended to move the front of the soundstage forward to the front plane of the speakers, and it also moved one's apparent listening perspective a few rows closer to the musicians. I prefer a soundstage that begins at or behind the back of the speaker cabinets and then continues further back from there. Because I can place speakers with their tweeters 68" from the wall behind them in my normal setup, I can often achieve such a rendering of soundstage depth. In other rooms and systems, the X32's slightly diminished stage depth was not nearly as apparent. The X32 had decent soundstage width, extending just a bit beyond the outer edges of the cabinets (recording permitting). My Dynaudio C1 speaker ($7k) can create a wider wall-to-wall soundstage with greater depth and height. Of course, we are talking about a speaker that costs well over twice as much as the X32. In a wider placement in a larger room, the X32 created a wider soundstage but still not much beyond the cabinets. Also, the back wall and back corners of the soundstage were not as well fleshed out as I am used to with the C1.
Individual images were well focused and quite solid. No indistinct, gossamer-like musicians here. The less-than-cavernous stage depth did tend to foreshorten individual images just a bit compared to speakers such as the Dynaudio C1 or Wilson-Benesch Curves (which also cost over twice as much). The C1 has a more relaxed, natural quality over all. The C1 is also not quite as obviously musically gripping, either. The C1 is generally more revealing, more coherent, more dynamically impactful, and almost as extended in the bass as the X32.
My minor reservations about the X32 are mostly centered around soundstaging, with a caveat about harmonious pairing with associated equipment. I would take the compelling musical detail-resolving abilities of the X32 over a lackluster speaker that recreated a soundstage brilliantly. I listen to the same music again, over time, for the way it makes me feel more than for “seeing” Miles Davis again. Of course, it is great to have both compelling emotional and spatial performance in the same package. The reservations are my duty to report and really only become apparent in direct comparison with speakers that cost a good deal more.
Given the tremendous musical life that it brings to bear in an attractive package and at a fair price, the X32 really does illustrate how a well-established manufacturer can deliver good value to consumers. I don't believe the X32 is difficult to mate with a wide variety of upstream gear, especially when one considers the kind of equipment it is likely to pull duty with. Some systems just might get a much needed helping of detail and dynamic life by adding the X32. There may be interesting layers in your music collection that you ever knew existed.
SPECS & PRICING
Type: Two-way, bass-reflex design
Drivers: Two 5.7” MSP mid/bass, one 1” soft dome tweeter
Frequency Response: 37Hz–23kHz (–3dB)
Sensitivity: 87dB (2.83 V/1m)
Impedance: 4 ohms
Power handling: 200 watts
Recommended amplifier power: Not stated
Dimensions: 6.7" x 36.2" x 10.6"
Weight: 38 lbs each
Warranty (parts and labor): Five years
Price: $2800 (pair) maple, cherry, rosewood, black ash; $3000 high gloss white or black
Dynaudio North America
1140 Tower Lane
Bensenville, IL 60106
Analog Source: VPI TNT 3.5 turntable, SME V tonearm, Benz-Micro LP-S cartridge
Digital Source: Ayre C-5xeMP universal player
Phonostage: Ayre P-5xe
Linestage: Ayre K-1xe
Integrated amplifier: Stello Ai500
Power amplifier: Gamut M-200 monoblocks
Speaker: Dynaudio Confidence C1
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