Dynaudio Audience 42 Loudspeakers
The Danes success with speakers is
something to behold. Ever since the Dynaco A-25 of the 1960s (made by SEAS), Denmark has
been the source of many great speaker systems, and of raw drivers for long before that.
Dynaudio, one of Denmarks largest producers, is also one of the youngest; the firm,
established in 1977, offers a broad array of speaker systems for home, car, and
Dynaudios Audience series constitutes the entry level
of their speaker offerings, but that doesnt mean cheaply made. The subject of this
review, the Audience 42 ($850 USD per pair), is surprisingly heavy for its diminutive
size, and surprisingly lovely.
Description and setup
The Audience 42 is small -- a mere 11" high by just
under 7" wide and 10" deep. The "midwoofer" (Dynaudios word) is
5.9" in diameter, the fabric-dome tweeter just over 1". Each speaker weighs 10.5
pounds. The stated sensitivity is 86dB, the frequency response 53Hz-28kHz, +/-3dB. The
42s nominal sensitivity is 4 ohms, with a range of 3.7-18.7 ohms over the entire
audioband. The review pair was clad in a handsome rosewood veneer; the Audience 42 is also
available in cherry, maple, and black ash.
The rear panel contains a pair of gold-plated, recessed,
multiway binding posts, as well as a 1.75" flared bass port with a matching plug of
high-density foam. Dynaudio suggests that the Audience 42s be set up to describe an
equilateral triangle with the listening position, and that they be placed no less than
0.5m from the front wall. If the 42s must be placed closer to the wall, Dynaudio suggests
plugging the ports, which turns their bass-reflex enclosures into sealed boxes. I found
that the bass tightened up a bit with the ports plugged, and probably didnt descend
as low as the quoted 53Hz. Most of the time I had to use the plugs, but didnt think
badly of the 42s for that.
I placed the 42s on 31"-high Sanus speaker stands, and
used Blu-Tack to secure them. The speakers gray grillecloth is secured by four
posts. I heard very little difference in sound with the grilles removed, and so left them
on for most of the review period.
Most of the time, I used the Audience 42s with my office
system: JVC L-F41 turntable with Grado Green cartridge, Onkyo DX-6800 CD player, and
Boston Acoustics Recepter Radio HD feeding a McIntosh C27 preamp and Carver TFM-15CB
100Wpc power amp. The low bass was handled by an Advent ASW 1200 subwoofer driven directly
from the McIntoshs center-channel output. Speaker cables were 16-gauge Recoton/ARs.
I found the best crossover setting for the sub was about 90Hz.
I also used the Dynaudios with my living-room system: NAD
C525BEE CD player and NAD 712 receiver with a PSB Subsonic 5i subwoofer. Here, I removed
the Audience 42s port plugs and set the crossover frequency between sub and
satellites to about 80Hz.
Overall, I found the Audience 42s integration of its
midbass and treble to be seamless. It sounded about as close to a point source as
Ive heard. With or without the port plugs, the midbass had some slam and punch --
with lots of rock music, the 42 could get up and boogie. Yet it didnt sound odd
reproducing ethereal choral music. The 42 handled the dynamics of full-bore classical
music, yet also seemed to delight in such intimate music as cabaret performances, small
jazz combos, and solo vocals.
When I played the Hoedown from Aaron Coplands Rodeo,
as performed by the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet on their Labyrinth [CD, Delos
DE3163] in a fine arrangement for four guitars, the Dynaudios displayed outstanding
imaging: the two main guitars on left and right, with appropriate fill-ins between. Even
through fairly good speakers -- including my own Celestion 3s -- the articulation of the
individual pluckings of strings in this very percussive performance can often be lost or
glossed over. Not with the Dynaudios: their very fast reproduction made this music sound
"Be Cool," from Claire Martins The
Waiting Game [CD, Honest/Linn CD 5018], is a favorite of mine. Ive been a fan of
this smoky-voiced British chanteuse, who only now is being properly introduced to American
audiences, since I heard a track from her debut album on an obscure jazz station. Once
again, the Dynaudios offered perfect imaging that even extended past the speakers
outer side panels. There was good depth, too -- the bass and drums were suitably in the
rear, and the guitar and piano were just behind Martin.
Manhattan Transfers cover of Weather Reports
"Birdland," as heard on The Manhattan Transfer Anthology [Atlantic/Rhino
D200146], was instructive. In this tour de force vocal performance, the group was well
integrated with the spare instrumental accompaniment, but when each singer soloed, he or
she came across brilliantly. (Janis Siegels scatting of her closing notes is nothing
short of amazing.) Compared to the Celestion 3s, the usual speakers in my office system,
the Dynaudios showed a bit more restraint, even without the port plugs -- as if they were
following along with the score. I was impressed by the accuracy of the sound.
On "The Shadow of Your Smile," from In Tune,
by the Oscar Peterson Trio and the Singers Unlimited [CD, MPS 821 850-2], the harmonies
are some of the best ever. Peterson is ever sensitive to whomever he accompanies, and here
he does a delicious piano solo as well, accompanied by the Singers with heavy echo. The
Dynaudios reproduced all of this just as I wanted it. Maybe thats subjective, but
doggone, they sounded wonderful. By contrast, the Celestion 3s, as good as they are,
sounded just a touch artificial in comparison: a tiny bit muffled, although, given the
price difference, still in the ball game.
I then listened to Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops
perform Leopold Stokowskis arrangement of J.S. Bachs "Little" Fugue
in G Minor, from The Fantastic Stokowski [CD, Telarc CD-30338]. The piece begins
very softly, gradually adding members of the reed and string sections. By a third of the
way through, the basses and cellos have joined in, and the overall volume has increased;
when the violins then enter, the volume increases significantly. But even when the first
violins reached for the heavens, the Dynaudios reproduced them without sounding screechy.
This was a real ear-opener, with, again, great articulation and great imaging. I
couldnt imagine much better imaging from any other pair of speakers.
But dont play the Audience 42s too loudly -- they
began to break up at about 105dB. Then again, so do my ears, and the Celestion 3s bail out
even sooner. With full orchestral music, the Dynaudios sounded a wee bit confused, though
not so much that Id kick them out of my listening room.
"Finally Found a Reason to Believe," from Art
Garfunkels Fate for Breakfast (Doubt for Dessert) [LP, Columbia JC 35780],
sounded very good through the Dynaudios. Garfunkel was in front, but the backing voices
were up close too -- perhaps an artifact of my JVC L-F41 turntable and Grado Green
cartridge. The accompanying guitars were nicely up front, and the spread was very
left-and-right. The overall reproduction sounded very natural and very satisfactory.
If you want to hear how your system reproduces a nice
variety of acoustic music, mostly guitar and vocal, get Jazz Moods: Twilight in
Rio [CD, Concord CCD-5224]. My wife and I treasure this low-priced compilation of
tracks by mostly great artists who record for the Concord Jazz label: Charlie Byrd, Karrin
Allyson, Toots Thielemans, and a few Ive never heard of, such as Manfredo Fest,
Tania Marie, and Carlos Barbosa-Lima. The sound on this disc is excellent. If you listen
to the attacks on the guitar strings and the general sound of Tootss harmonica (he
appears on several tracks), youll get an idea of how well your speakers can handle
voice and some unusual instruments. With the Audience 42s, I was treated to a great sense
of intimacy with the performers. These werent the ultimate "right in the
room" speakers or recordings, but both were darn close. Listening to Twilight in
Rio through the 42s, both with my NAD living-room system and my hodge-podge office
setup, I was very pleased.
Still, the Dynaudios didnt like being overloaded by
really bad recordings, such as vintage Motown singles. Playing Edwin Starrs "25
Miles," the 42s began to overload at about 100dB. Those badly overdriven Motown
recordings sound as if recorded on some wind-driven piece of 1960s Japanese junk by an
engineer had no concept that "0VU" means tape saturation. But thats also
part of their charm. Youll never hear a recording as raw and natural as an early
All in all, the Dynaudio Audience 42 is a fabulous small
loudspeaker. Over the years, Ive been exposed to any number of fine small speakers
-- the KEF Coda 7, Celestion 3, Advent 3, Monitor speakers from the UK, and PSBs
Alphas and Minis -- but I dont believe Ive heard one as fine as the Audience
42. Its not inexpensive; for $850/pair, you can find any number of other good
floorstanders. But few offer the immediacy of performance and the smooth character of the
Audience 42. If it fits your budget, dont miss hearing it. I believe youll
find it among the best youve heard.
Price of equipment reviewed