Dutch & Dutch 8c Speakers

tmallin

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Given the wide range of "walk on water" reviews and comments, I just had to get a pair of Dutch & Dutch 8c speakers to further simplify my system. I suggest reading the review by Mitch Barnett (mitchco) first--it's the most thorough and rigorous by far, I think. But there are reviews in Stereophile, 6 Moons, Soundstage, Darko (the only reviewer who had a lot of problems getting them to work), Sound on Sound, NextWeb, Hi Fi Knights, and HiFi+ to name a few others. The 8c is the current darling of sound engineers and there are a number of very long threads discussing it on pro-audio forums like Gearslutz.

If these work out, it would be another step and perhaps ultimately the final step in simplifying my system. They are internally triamped and have integral subs, a DAC, crossovers, parametric EQ and room optimization, network connections, and eventually they will be a Roon endpoint. Right now, I can feed them either balanced analog or AES digital signals from my Lumin X1 streamer. I would eliminate the Benchmark Amps and speaker cables.

Once the Roon endpoint bugs are worked out (soon, they keep saying), even my streamer and the cables from the streamer to the speakers could go. At that point, the equipment rack could also go since I would no longer need the Lumin Streamer. The system would consist of the speakers, their associated cabling (power and ethernet), my P.I. Audio Group UberBusses, the P.I. Audio Group AQD sound diffusors room treatment, and my iPad Pro to control everything.

I ordered the speakers from Vintage King Audio, one of the USA dealers, and worked with David Fisk, one of their sales people. I happened to order them at just the right time when a couple of pairs were making the voyage by ship across the Atlantic from the Netherlands to Dutch & Dutch's USA distributor in Florida. Thus, I only had to wait about three weeks for delivery. They got here around dinner time. I expected them much earlier in the day so before they arrived I busied myself that day disassembling the system and reconfiguring it for the new speakers.

I no longer need my pair of Benchmark AHB2 amps since the D&Ds are self-powered. I also decided to go back to my old blue Absolute Power Cord Mk IIs (a Ching Cheng-manufactured power cord marketed many years ago by GTT Audio), putting them in place of the relatively unwieldy Triode Wire Labs cords. Only five power cords are needed now: one for each P. I. Audio Group UberBuss, one for the Lumin X1 streamer, and one each for the speakers. I added a TP Link ethernet switch to accommodate running three ethernet lines now: one for the Lumin and one to each speaker. That ethernet switch is powered by a 5-volt iFi aftermarket wall-wart power supply also plugged into one of my UberBusses.

I moved the two UberBusses to the bottom shelf of my three-shelf Salamander Archetype rack, where the amps were previously. That freed up the floor space for putting the new speakers close to the wall behind them, as they are designed to be. I moved the new speakers further apart so that they are 85" tweeter to tweeter when toed in to point at my ears. I still had to move my listening position forward more than 16" to maintain an equilateral triangle, so my ears are now about 93.5" from the wall behind the speakers. The backs of the speakers are 8" from the wall behind them and the center of the wall side of the speakers are 16" from the near side wall.

I removed all the P.I. Audio diffusors from the wall behind the speakers since the D&D speakers supposedly like an untreated wall behind them. I left the diffusors on the side walls and the wall behind me.

Ordinarily, such near-wall/near corner speaker placement would muck up the bass quite a bit. But with the D&D, you just dial in those distances into their control app, and that adjusts the internal DSP to make the bass response correct for such positioning. The bass below 100 Hz is handled by the two subwoofers on the back side of the cabinet so they are the drivers benefiting from the close-to-wall placement.

I mounted the 8c's on cat-litter-filled 28"-tall Monoprice Monolith stands. El cheapo, at $59 each, but these stands (admittedly 24" and sand- instead of cat-litter-filled) are what Mitch Barnett used with them in his rave review so I thought I'd give them a try. No problem so far . . . none at all! There may be better-sounding stands for the D&Ds, but these Monoliths will due for now, and they look good with the speakers to boot. I'm using four of those tiny transparent vinyl bumpers to interface the speakers with the stands. These provide just enough clearance to prevent the screws on the bottom of the speaker from scraping against the top plate of the stand. (The 8c's bottom is a metal plate with fan and cooling slots and lots of protruding screws to hold down all the internal electronics which are built into the bottom part of the enclosure.)

I put the seat cushion back in my listening chair and added an old Target shelf board under that cushion to raise by ears to the desired 38.5" above the floor. The design axis of the speakers is 10.5" above the bottom of the cabinet (smack dab between the woofer and tweeter), so with 28" stands, that puts my ears at the proper height. I really missed having the tweeters of the speakers above ear height. Tweeters up a bit higher tends to enlarge the vertical height of the stage a bit, and I like that effect.

The only hitch I encountered with my initial set up was that I couldn't get the speaker-setting-control web app, www.lanspeaker.com, to find/recognize my speakers on my network via my old-school Windows 10 desktop computer. I was about to email the distributor for help, when I thought I'd try it on my iPhone. That worked instantly, as did my iPad that I usually use to operate Roon and the Lumin app for streaming in my system. So, problem solved.

The only remaining problem with the 8c's is cosmetic. What you think will be a nice tidy set up ends up with a lot of wiring. (In truth, other reviewers have mentioned this as well, so this was not really unexpected, but expecting it and seeing it are different matters.) There are four wires going to the left speaker (power, ethernet, digital in, and digital out to the right speaker) and three wires (power, ethernet, and digital input, plus an XLR terminating plug) to the right speaker. I will get longer versions of these cables so that they can be routed straight down the back of the stands, then along the floor to tidy up the look as much as I can. The power cords are long enough at 8 feet each (that's one reason I swapped the Absolute Power Cords into the system since they are two feet longer than the TWL cords I have). But by getting the other cords as short as possible, there are a lot of mid-air cords--probably good for sonics, but not so good for cosmetics.
 
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tmallin

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Okay, so how do they sound, Tom?

These are so good, so obviously better than any other speakers I've owned or heard, that I'm quite embarrassed to have highly praised any other speakers. What was I thinking!!!!???? My only defense is to plead ignorance.

My constant thought when listening to the D&Ds is, "Where have these been all my life?" Well, I know that they didn't exist until a couple of years ago, but these are just SO much cleaner, and have SO much more dynamic life (think K-horn without any of the irritations). They image better and stage better than anything else as well, despite (or maybe because?) being close to the wall behind them. They do not sound muffled from anywhere in the room, but the sound never seems to splash off the walls. These can play louder than I can stand and they just keep putting out more and more clean sound over the whole audible band which never gets muddy or distorted.

I hear absolutely no issues with the mids or highs. Spectacularly natural and oh so well defined and transparent without any hint of being over-etched! The mids and highs are models of what speakers should sound like in these regions. I realize that I said basically the same thing in those first three sentences.

And THE BASS!!! It's scary good! No, these are not tiny speakers, but they look small from the listening position when toed in to face my ears. Given how small they look when listening, the bass is all the more amazing. In every way I can think of (extension, definition, punch, power, evenness of tone without EQ, dynamic ebb and flow, etc.), the bass from these puts to shame the bass from any other speakers in any home room I have ever listened in. The power and "room lock" from the pipe organ on the Pictures/Gnomus cut on the Dorian Jean Guillou recording must be heard to be believed. My impression of the bass excellence is the same with symphonic music, electric bass, kick drum, and electronic music. And this bass quality and quantity fully keeps up with the rest of the spectrum, no matter how loud I care to listen.

It's as if all the other speakers I've owned are little league players, and these D&D 8c's are the major league champs. There's really that much difference!

All these sonic comments are BEFORE measuring the speakers and applying any of the on-board parametric DSP filters. This is what I'm hearing with the speakers right out of the box with just the wall distances specified in the control app and no other modifications to the default frequency response. That makes the sonics yet more remarkable!

Oh, yeah, the white baffle/natural oak finish combination I chose looks very nice as well. Cosmetically outstanding.
 

tmallin

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I made minor adjustments to my set up to more closely match the available back wall and side wall distance choices in the www.lanspeaker.com web app that controls the speakers. The choices are in 10 cm increments. Thus, I moved the speakers a bit farther apart, a bit closer to the wall, and moved my listening position a bit backward.

The back center of each speaker is now 20 cm from the wall behind it and 40 cm from the near side wall. That translates to about 7 7/8" from the back wall and 15 3/4" from the near side wall. The distance between the tweeters of the speakers as toed in to face my ears is about 87". The listening position, to maintain an equilateral triangle with the tweeters is about 75 1/3 " from the plane of the tweeters. The listening position is 94 29/32" from the wall behind the speakers.

This positioning allows the 20 cm from back wall and 40 cm from side wall positioning choices in the lanspeaker app to be "right on" for my physical set up. Unbelievably good sound with the bass yet smoother and more natural--and this is still without dialing in any parametric bass equalization!
 
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Brucemck2

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Can one speaker be configured for close to a side wall (near corner placement) while the other is configured otherwise? (I tried to look at the app but it‘s looking for a non-existent speaker.)

Any comparison/experience with the Kii3’s? Those too are dsp-based and highly configurable re placement and room characteristics.
 

tmallin

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Yes. Most of the controls provided by the lanspeaker.com web app are on a per-speaker basis, including the distance from the wall behind and to the side of each speaker. I have no opinion on how well those controls can deal with such situations, but asymmetrical set up was definitely involved in Mitch Barnett's (mitchco) review and he nonetheless raved about the 8c's abilities. My own set up is much more symmetrical so I have the same distances dialed into both speakers.

The qualities you can control for both speakers at once, after you group them, include a personalized name, volume (in half dB increments), input (analog at consumer or pro audio levels, or AES digital), overall treble, bass, and subwoofer levels (this is called Active Room Matching--in half dB increments), front LED on/off, and night mode.

Several of the reviews I mentioned offer comparisons of the D&D with the Kii3. There is also a lot of comparative discussion of these speakers on forums such as the Gearslutz one I mentioned. Other speakers which are often discussed in pro-audio circles in comparison to the D&D are some Genelec and ATC models.

My only listen to the Kii3 came at AXPONA 2019 where I heard both the unassisted Kii3 as well as the speaker plus it add-on woofer module. The Kii's were okay either way. In that set up and room, I did not think the add-on woofers added that much quality to that of the basic speaker. And I certainly did not get the impression that either Kii configuration could touch the bass response I hear from the 8c in my small room. The Kii3 also did not sound as clean in the mids and highs nor as "generous" in the lower ranges as the D&D. I much prefer the sound of the D&Ds in my room to what I heard from the Kii3 at AXPONA, but I'll gladly defer to those who have heard both in the same room with the same sources.

One thing not talked about much in the other reviews is the fact that the D&Ds need some space around them for the cardioid cancellation from the side vents to work properly. My initial set up had the speakers a bit too close to my P.I Audio Group AQD sound diffusor panels on the side walls. These panels are polystyrene and extremely lightweight. Even so, they are up to six inches thick and apparently tend to be seen by the speaker as a "wall" and thus tend to interfere with the wrapping of the sound around the speaker cabinet from the vents on the sides if the diffusion panels are too close to the speaker. I detected this problem upon listening to some pink noise through the speakers. I noticed that the upper bass sound of the noise was different on the left and right speaker. The panels near the right speaker are a few inches closer because the baseboard heating register on that side of the room forces me to place those panels another three inches or so away from the wall.

I solved this problem by just removing the diffusors nearest the speakers on the side walls. Those diffusing panels aren't needed with this set up anyway, because of the waveguided tweeter and because with this set up that part of the wall is not where there is a specular reflection of any part of the speaker as viewed from the listening position. The bass further improved and the pink noise now sounded fine without those panels in place.

One other thing not talked about much in other reviews: you can still use the 8c's digital AES input even if your streamer or transport lacks an AES/EBU digital output. While my old Lumin U1 Mini had such an AES digital output, my current top-of-the-line Lumin X1 oddly enough does not have such an output. It only has a BNC coax digital connector. Never fear, just get an impedance transformer to convert the 75-ohm coax digital output (either the RCA jack type or the BNC jack type like I have) to the 110-ohm AES standard. I'm using a Blue Jeans Cable SDI coax cable, Belden 4505R with BNC connectors at both ends paired with a Canare BNC-to-Male-XLR impedance transformer at the speaker end. I purchased the impedance transformer from Benchmark here. Works like a charm.

 

tmallin

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I did get longer ethernet and digital cables to clean up the look of the set up. No more wires hanging in midair across a blank wall behind them. Whew! My visual sensibilities are no longer offended. And as far as I can tell, the sound is every bit as good as with the shorter wires.

The more I listen to these speakers, the more I'm amazed at the fundamental difference between their sound and what I've owned or heard before. While I can't prove this, I think the differences primarily relate to phase accurate presentation that is lacking from most speakers, together with fairly smooth frequency response from bottom to top, and totally adequate dynamic capability at all frequencies at the reproduction levels which sound realistic to me.

For a good primer on the sonic and measurable advantages of flattening both frequency and phase response, I refer readers to Robert E. Greene's review of the Arion/Essex Acoustics Digital Loudspeaker Correction System, an early DSP unit. REG's emphasis there is on the frequency domain advantages, and with good reason. Frequency response colorations are what wears out a speaker's welcome the fastest and variations in that response are by far the most important factor in our judgment of the quality of reproduced sound.


Thus, for decades I've heard that audibly special something which time coherent speakers--those whose impulse and step response indicates that all the frequencies are getting to your ears at the same moment in time--have. Voices, single and massed had a special coherence and especially when centered hung in space just so vividly. Cymbals of all kinds sounded less like a steam valve opening and closing, with much more stick-strike sound and following shimmer where the highs are marvelously differentiated. Depth of field is continuously delineated. Leading transient edges of all tones from all instruments just seem to be more a part of the tone and specifically associated with their particular instruments--on other speakers, by comparison, leading transients tend at least a bit toward sounding like undifferentiated and detached noise.

But such speakers with analog crossovers, in my prior experience, proved so flawed in other ways that the audible advantages of the time alignment were ultimately, if not immediately, outweighed. Examples of such speakers I've listened to carefully over the decades included Thiels, Vandersteens, Spica, and Quad.

For example, I owned two different Thiel models, but these proved relentlessly bright sounding, both because of a lack of fall off (and in some professional measurements, actually rising) on-axis response at the top and because Thiels maintained such a definition of flat response over a very wide polar angle, splashing a lot of high frequencies off room boundaries.

The Spica TC-50 and Angelus were superb soundstagers, but were lightweight in overall tonal balance with tweeters that could easily self destruct if driven too hard because of the necessity of having only a shallow 6 dB/octave crossover to the tweeter to maintain time coherence in the analog domain.

Early Vandersteens were rather richly balanced, much more to my liking and imaged and staged in a spectacular fashion. But they never felt totally comfortable with higher SPLs, starting to sound dynamically constricted before reaching what I thought were natural levels. Again, this was probably the 6 dB/octave crossovers putting limits on the levels at which the speakers were low distortion devices. Still, I came very close to purchasing several Vandersteen models over the years.

Quads 63s and their descendants are another speaker I've almost purchased a number of times. What stopped me with those, was the lack of realistic low frequencies (a humped up midbass and no bottom octave or more) and a fear of damaging them by overdriving them on orchestral power music played at realistic levels. They can sound fabulous, but only when I'm not tense about playing music of the type I knew might harm them. And then there is the fact that they only sound full-bodied used on the floor, but then the acoustic center is so low you are looking down on the images from any reasonable seated position.

DSP and the other technologies incorporated into the D&D 8c--active Class D tri-amplification, "constant directivity," smooth downsloping frequency response on and off axis, leveraging the Allison Effect to allow strong bottom-octave bass at adequate SPL and low-enough distortion with a reasonable enclosure size--have changed all that. Gone is the necessity of using a 6 dB/octave crossover to allow the drivers to be time coherent. The off-axis sound is free from wild peaks and dips in response compared to the on-axis response that went with such 6 dB/octave analog crossovers. The wave-guided tweeter, passive cardioid bass, and Allison-leveraged subs provide dispersion which is fairly constant above 100 Hz and which is basically hemispherical below 100 Hz. This relatively constant polar pattern, together with the engineered-in smooth slope down in response of about 10 dB from 20 Hz to 20 kHz allows the speaker to sound naturally balanced in room right out the box without heroic room treatment. The DSP allows adjusting the timing of the wavelaunch from the drivers so that all frequencies reach the listener's ears at the same moment, producing measurable time coherence on step and impulse response graphs, as well as providing that audible special something such coherence provides.

In the D&D 8c, what I'm hearing is that special something without the distracting artifacts that were present in my prior experiences with time coherent speakers. The sound is "together" in that special way on any material and at any SPL at which I care to listen.
 
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tmallin

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Speakers like the D&D 8c drive home for me, once again, that speakers and their interaction with your listening room are what really matters in domestic sound reproduction.

I mean, the built-in amplifiers, DACs, crossovers, and DSP can't possibly be built to the parts quality of audiophile separates and they obviously aren't very expensive by comparison with high-end audiophile separate components. The D&Ds retail for about $6,250 each and that price includes the speakers and all those other components. The cabling inside the speakers and what I'm using to hook everything up is quite modest in cost and there are no special internet routers or switches. And yet due to the extraordinary engineering of the D&D speakers I'm getting sound quality which far eclipses anything I've heard from any set up I've ever had before.

All the Audiophile Angst spent pursuing better amps, cables, DACs, and all the rest seems kind of secondary and really beside the point. Oh, I'm sure that the sound could be further improved by "better quality" components and cables, but the speakers, as is, out of the box, are so fine that using them is by far the biggest leap in the quest.

Once these speakers become Roon Ready--and, despite the long delays in the achievement of this goal, I'm certain that this will happen--the entire system could be these speakers, their stands, Roon, a few inexpensive cables, and a controlling tablet. Such simplicity and yet such quality!
 

tmallin

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An alternative explanation of the extraordinarily high subjective quality of the D&D 8c experience is the "system" approach. If a designer is a good listener, he can pick electronic components and design techniques which complement and synergize with the acoustical design of the speakers.

I've owned a couple of "one brand" systems in my life (Audio by Van Alstine and Cello [Mark Levinson's second company]) and have heard a few others. The two I owned were in fact special in that they seemed to minimize flaws and maximize strengths in unusual ways.

But listening tells me that while the system approach to the electronics may well complement the acoustic properties of the D&D speakers in the room, the acoustical aspects are what really set this design apart. I've heard a number of quite fine speakers in my current room, but have never remotely approached this level of natural sounding acoustical performance while reproducing a wide variety of musical material (all forms of jazz and classical, space and electronic music, folk, country, hard-hitting pop and rock, etc.) played at everything from late-night whisper-quiet levels to average measured levels of up to a very-much-louder-than-you-think-unless-you've-measured-it 95 dB (C-weighted, slow).
 

tmallin

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Early on I experimented with temporarily mounting some 2' x 2' pieces of 4"-thick absorbing foam in the first reflection spots on the wall behind the speakers as viewed from the listening seat. I figured that since the D&D speakers are so close to the wall, this might be helpful or even necessary to avoid reflections from that wall.

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But the effect on the sound was small. And even that small effect may or may not be beneficial. I couldn't decide. I've not heard such a small effect from absorption before. With other speakers it has been instantly audible. The wave guiding of the tweeter (above 1.2 kHz) and the cardioid polar pattern of the woofer (100 Hz up to 1.2 kHz) seem to really keep the sound from going back to the wall behind the speakers, even though the rear of the speaker cabinet is just 8 inches away from the wall. The tweeter is less than 20 inches from the wall. And the speakers are toed in by 30 degrees.

I then did some preliminary measurements of this set up. I found that the high frequencies measured a bit smoother without the two absorbers in place on the wall behind the speakers. Also, the step response was cleaner that way. There was a significant reflection from the foam piece that was showing up a millisecond or so after the speaker drivers. That went away when I removed the foam.

I also discovered that some of the EQ functions of the speaker appeared at first to be non-functional or getting stuck when I once changed the setting. For example, I changed one speaker from time coherent to low latency. That changed the step response graph considerably. But when I tried to change it back to coherent, the app was saying it was back to time coherent, but the measured step response graph didn't change back to the time coherent way the other speaker looked. Rebooting each speaker by turning them off and then back on after a minute or so fixed all those problems. Then I remembered that I had rebooted my modem the other day so when the modem came back online it may have caused a problem. I've noticed problems with my Lumin streamer and other components caused by modem reboots in the past. With all things digital, when in doubt, turn it off and then back on again after a minute or so. Rebooting solves most glitches.

But rebooting did not fix a bass anomaly in the measurements that I've noticed with some prior speakers--the one I remember best was the Stirling LS3/6. As with the Stirling, there was a deep (25 or 30 dB) dip around 58 Hz. None of the boundary adjustments or parametric EQ built into the speaker did anything to counter this dip. I then discovered that it is related to the null in the 11-foot room width bass mode. By having the microphone at exactly the center of the room, it was in a deep null for that frequency. Moving the microphone even a few inches to either side of center removed that dip and generally further flattened the measured bass response. I'll have to alter my measurement technique and move the mike at least 3 inches off center, to correspond to actual ear positions.

See what I mean about the connecting cables in mid-air?
 
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tmallin

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So, how do the Dutch & Dutch 8c's compare with the Gradient 1.4 speakers I had in this room previously?

Generally, the D&Ds are sonically better in every way. I couldn't have described the ways the Gradients could be bettered until I heard the D&Ds, but then it was so immediately obvious.

One possible exception is depth of field. There is a bit of a learning factor in hearing depth of field to full advantage when the speakers are mounted close to the wall behind them. But given a bit of practice in a semi-darkened room, it's easy to then ignore the physical wall behind the speakers and hear into the space they are creating from apparently beyond the wall. I found it helpful to make the wall as featureless as possible--just a plain painted wall. The audible distance cues are stronger than with any speakers I've owned including the Harbeths and Gradients--it's just that learning to focus one's eyes on images beyond the wall takes a bit of learning, but just a bit. Of course, for eyes-closed listeners, there would be no problem at all.

Physically, compared to the Gradient 1.4s, the D&Ds are relatively heavy and require stands. And, of course, you are locked into D&D's choice of amps, DAC, crossover, EQ, etc. But the bottom line sonic result is that none of that matters a whit as long as you, or a friend, are physically able to set up stand-mount speakers that weigh more than 50 lbs each and have to be lifted up two feet or more off the floor with good control. It's all relative; the 8c's are easy to move and mount compared to my old Harbeth M40 .2s. The Harbeths weighed half again as much and were much bulkier and more difficult to get my arms around to pick up and move with any degree of control onto their 14-inch-high speaker stands.

The D&Ds do look bulkier seen from the side than the Gradients, but from the listening position, they look petite enough. I've attached pictures of my current set up as seen from the listening position, and another so you can see the side of the speaker.

These pictures also show the improved look of the longer wires set up. The wires are actually pretty well hidden when I'm sitting in my listening chair. From the perspective of one of the head-on shots this is not so on the left channel, but that's because I couldn't move the camera quite close enough and still capture both speakers in the scene. The other head-on shot uses the wide-angle mode of my iPhone camera to show a view from nearer the actual listening position.

The type of stand they are on may also affect how bulky the D&D speakers look. D&D's own stand has four pillars at the four corners of the speaker, making the footprint as large as the speaker. I have not seen that stand "in the flesh," but in drawings it looks wrong in the sense that it doesn't follow the curved lines of the speaker. On my stands, the speakers seem to kind of float in the air.


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tmallin

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Some may wonder about the order of my sonic preferences. Frankly, I'll gladly skip detail if it's over-etched and I love immersive, surrounding recordings (in two-channel, of course, not "real" surround sound:)). One way the D&Ds are fabulous is that they never sound over-etched, but convey detail better than the Gradients or Janszens and spaciousness better than the Harbeths or anything else I've had in this room. With the D&Ds I can have my cake and eat it, too. And tonally, I have yet to hear anything amiss, but I don't claim to be as concerned, let alone perceptive, about tonality as some, REG, for example. For instance, I have no idea what different brands of violins sound like compared to one another; that's just not part of my musical experience.

I know that many like wall reflections and want everything to sound very open and spacious. But such systems betray what they are doing when they make a radio announcer sound like he or she is in a very reverberant room when the announcer is actually speaking inches from a microphone in a small padded studio.

I also am a fairly eclectic listener. I listen to classical music a lot, but also a lot of jazz as well as big doses of electronic space music (think the kind of stuff on many of the Soma FM channels), together with folk, country, and some pop and rock. I also have a fondness for the Greatful Dead and all their derivative groups. I prefer live recordings and listen to a lot of internet radio sources as well as my own library, plus Qobuz and Tidal. To be a sonic hit for me, speakers have to sound fine on all those genres of music and music sources, not just on a few audiophile spectaculars.
 
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tmallin

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Some have asked me to compare the sound of the D&Ds a bit more to some of the other speakers I've owned.

Going back to my original M40s, out of the box they had waaaay too much bass for my the basement concrete bunker audio room. REG seems to be one of the few people who have a room which suits the inherent bass balance of those speakers. I had to EQ the midbass down about 16 dB in order to make them work in my room. My later 40.1s had about 8 dB less bass than the originals and while still needing EQ in that basement room, sounded balanced in my open-floor-plan living room. My M40.2’s were balanced quite well out of the box for my current small audio room, benefiting just a bit from bass EQ, but certainly acceptable without any equalization. They M40.2 (along with the Gradient 1.4) were and are one of the best-sounding passive loudspeakers I've owned or heard

The D&Ds are, I think, even clearer/more transparent than any Quads I’ve heard and l’ve listened carefully to most models over the decades, including the original ESL 57 which most think had the most midrange clarity. The timbre is also even better than that of the Quads, and not just in the mids. I know that may be hard to believe, but that’s how I hear it. And of course there is no comparison in terms of their relative ability to play all types of music at healthy, satisfying SPL levels.

The Linkwitz Orion were bright and edgy by comparison in the lower highs . They also could barely play loud enough in the bass even on orchestral power music, much less electronic music with hard hitting bass lines. The Orion’s went plenty low, but like all dipole bass speakers, lacked some punch, although they were among the best dipole bass speakers I've heard in the bass punch department.

Even with the SW-T bass towers I added to the Gradient Active Revolution I had, bass punch was barely adequate. Overall, the Gradient 1.4s are better than those Revs, I think. Overall, I think the Gradient 1.4 speakers are the best I’ve owned, except for these new D&Ds. But it’s not even a close contest performance-wise.

Of course, I never had my Gradient Revolution Active speakers in my current room. However, the room I had them in was larger and the bass still did not go as measurably deep, nor did have nearly as much punch or impact as the D&Ds. This, I have found, is an inherent flaw with dipole bass. I've owned a number of dipole bass speakers with heroic woofer area (e.g., Legacy Whisper, Carver Amazing Platinum Mk IV, in addition to the Gradient Active Revs + SW-T bass towers) and yet this has been a consistent problem. Yes, such speakers seem not to activate bass room modes so the bass is smoother. But no matter how deep they measure (and the Rev Actives with or without the SW-T towers were flat down to about 22 Hz in that room), the bass just doesn't subjectively have the power the measurements indicated it should have. Yes, the Rev Active bass could go at least as loud cleanly in that larger room as the 1.4 does in my smaller room, but it never sounded like it was "enough."

The measurements I show in my Gradient 1.4 thread show that the speakers go flat to well below 20 Hz in my room with significant output down to 10 Hz. The speakers have excellent punch, as well, within their volume limits. This is all from a single 8" woofer and port. The reason it has so much bass capability is because it is floor loaded. As with the Dutch & Dutch speakers, they are gaining output capability by being close to a room surface. In the Gradient both the port and woofer are only a couple of inches from the floor.

However, nothing punches like a sealed box woofer (which the D&Ds have in their rear subs) and the fact that the subwoofers are centered right behind the mid and tweeter drivers means that with DSP the designer has been able to build in time alignment of all the drivers. D&D just takes into account the actual path length to the wall and back to the front of the speaker to allow the rear subs to be time aligned with the woofer and tweeter on the front.

A similar thing might be done with a theoretical active DSPed Gradient 1.4, but the wide physical separation of the floor-facing woofer from the coax mid/tweeter drivers plus the higher 200 Hz crossover might make this harder to pull off, especially since from the near field the distances and angles from drivers to your ears will vary a lot.

With the D&Ds, once your ears are on the design axis of 10.5 inches above the bottom of the speaker and you toe in the speakers to aim at your ears, the time alignment will be close to perfection from whatever distance you listen. And whatever sound the D&Ds bounce off your walls is very similar in tonality to the on-axis frequency response, differing only in the greater amount of treble rolloff, which makes the reflections less audible and not obnoxiously colored even if they are audible.

The D&Ds get all the essential things so right:
  • very smooth natural sounding frequency response, the overall best I've ever heard anywhere
  • time alignment
  • little reflection off the side walls
  • little reflection above 100 Hz off the wall behind the speakers
  • what room reflections they produce have very smooth tonal roll off from bottom to top, just a more rolled off version of the on-axis sound
  • because of all the above, the best clarity/transparency I've heard from top to bottom of the audible spectrum
  • they can play the most challenging music at SPLs up to at least 95 dB subjectively cleanly from 20 Hz to 20 kHz
  • their subjective macro dynamics is excellent, much like a large horn speaker but without any horn speaker colorations
Granted, the D&Ds will not play as loud as large horn speakers. But, according to my quick and dirty measures of their SPL at the listening position (Audio Tools SPL meter on my iPhone, C weighting, slow), I cannot stand to listen to music for more than a few seconds at volume levels beyond the measured 95 dB average levels the D&Ds can put out all day. So they go plenty loud enough for me. Respected pop music mastering engineers such as Bob Katz tend to do their work at a listening level of about 83 dB, less than one half the subjective loudness of 95 dB. See https://www.digido.com/portfolio-item/level-practices-part-2/

None of the other speakers I mention above are bad speakers in any way. I would not have purchased any of them if they were and I praised their merits while I owned them. They were or are in fact some of the finest sounding passive speakers available at anything like a reasonable price. It’s just that the Dutch & Dutch 8c’s are SO much better than anything else I’ve heard, in most every relevant way I can think of.
 
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kswanson27

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I'm going to demo a pair of these late next week. A couple of questions; I use Roon. Do I have to get out of the Roon app to control the 8C volume? I'll be using an iPad. Also If I do the initial set up on my desktop will my iPad be able to control the 8Cs?
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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I leave the 8c volume at unity gain--zero dB. Then I control the volume through the Roon app. That is certainly the handier way to control the volume if you are using Roon. I stay in the Roon app to control volume, in other words.

In terms of figuring out how to configure your system volume control when using Roon, I think the place to start is Roon's own discussion of this topic at https://kb.roonlabs.com/Audio_Setup_Basics

In my own system, since I don't have a preamp, I've always used either the Roon volume control or the Lumin App's control. I currently have my Lumin X1's Leedh DSP volume control active since I think it sounds best. With this configuration, the volume slider within the Roon app on my iPad controller operates the Lumin X1's Leedh DSP volume control. I also have the Lumin X1 set up so that its volume control is active to allow this to occur.

There are probably several ways you can control system volume in your system. I suggest exploring those possibilities to create a list. Then test each set up mode to hear which method of system volume control sounds best and otherwise meets your volume control needs. Such needs could include, for example, how much range in terms of upper and lower SPL limits each method gives you and what you want for your system in this respect, how easy it is to adjust the volume quickly via each method, and how much fine control of SPL each method gives.

Ideally, I suggest that you pick your quietest source material and with the 8c set at zero dB on its volume control see if you have more than enough volume range in Roon to achieve the highest SPL you'd ever want to listen at. If so, then lower the 8c volume below zero dB until with Roon at its max volume the 8c's are plenty loud enough. That way will arrange the gain structure of your system so as to maximize the signal to noise ratio of your system. You always want the amplifier (in this case the 8c's built in amps) operating at as low a gain as possible.

As other reviewers have noted, at the zero dB setting of the 8c's volume control, there is a bit of noise audible from the 8c's tweeter if you put your ear near the tweeter. Reducing the 8c's volume control should minimize this noise compared to your music signal.

I have not been able to get the lanspeaker.com app used to control the D&D speakers to work at all with my Windows computer. Thus I could not set up the speakers via my desktop computer. Maybe that is an oddity of my particular computer. That computer controls the system volume via Roon just fine. It's not an issue for me since I usually am listening via Roon.

To set up the 8c speakers I thus used my iPad or my iPhone. The lanspeaker.com app used to control the speakers works fine with either of those Apple devices. When I'm listening in my music room I always control Roon, system volume, and 8c speaker set up via my iPad. There have been no hitches with controlling the 8c speakers other than what I mentioned above when I rebooted my Xfinity Advanced Gateway modem/router--those hitches were immediately solved by just turning off the power switches on the speakers for a minute and then turning them back on again.

The latest lanspeaker software allows integration of the REW system with the speakers. Thus, you can supposedly use REW to measure the speakers and compute parametric EQ settings which are then imported to the speakers. Since I don't use REW for measuring or control, I haven't tried it.

If I want to add parametric EQ to further adjust the already very fine tonal balance I'm hearing with just the basic distance-to-walls measurements I've dialed in via the lanspeaker app, I would use Roon and OmniMic V2. I would run both those programs on my desktop computer, plugging the OmniMic measuring microphone into that computer using a long USB cord. I'd play the appropriate short sine sweep test tone for left or right channel on repeat and look at the real-time graph of the response in OmniMic. I would then add parametric EQ filters via the lanspeaker.com app on my iPad and adjust the OmniMic-graphed response to taste as viewed on my computer monitor. One could also use the DSP functions of Roon to add parametric filters, but it's probably preferable to do the EQ via the DSP built into the speakers.
 
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kswanson27

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Thanks for the in depth answer, it clears up a lot. I'll be interested to hear if the 8Cs can perform in my room anywhere close to my existing system. If so, I'm not opposed to look at downsizing.
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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As an experiment, I tried altering my set up just a bit. I like what I hear from the experiment a lot. I think I'll keep it this way for now.

All I did was move the speakers forward about four inches (10 cm) further from the wall behind them and the listening position the same distance further from the wall behind the speakers. Thus, the speakers are now 30 cm from the wall behind them (they were 20 cm away before) and are still 40 cm from the nearest side wall.

My goals in this experiment were:

  1. put the speakers at the midpoint of the recommended range of 10 cm to 50 cm from the wall behind them for taking advantage of the Allison effect leveraging of the wall behind the speakers which gains up to 6 dB of output in the range below 100 Hz
  2. avoid having the speakers at distances from the back wall and side wall which are an even multiple of each other; I figure avoiding this can't help but improve bass smoothness; the prior side wall distance of 40 cm was an even multiple of the 20 cm distance of the speakers from the wall behind them
  3. move the speakers far enough forward so that the woofer and tweeter are in front of the front edge of my equipment rack so as to minimize reflections from that rack
  4. reduce further the amount and thus the audibility from the listening position of sound bouncing off the wall behind the speakers from the tweeter and passive cardioid bass/midrange driver
  5. bring the side-wall specular reflection of the front drivers as viewed from the listening position further into the area of the sidewalls covered by the P.I. Audio Group AQD sonic diffusors.
Listening tells me that the bass is in fact yet smoother; I no longer hear any midbass notes standing out even a little on bass scales. The bass also actually seems a bit further extended and is certainly better defined, probably because of the further reduction in bass peaks.

Center focus is yet further improved, probably from the reduction in reflections off the equipment rack, the wall behind the speakers, and the side walls. Depth of field also is further improved--very pleasingly so.

The overall stage seems yet larger and more open--not that it was small or closed in before!

I should also mention that, as before, image height is outstanding! Both in terms of the images on the soundstage seeming to be straight in front of my eyes and also in the sense that they are not vertically squashed, but not vertically stretched either (as is often the case with large dipole panel speakers like Maggies) the images seem ideally placed and sized. People and instruments seem naturally sized in height. Well-recorded massed chorus recordings allow the ranks of choristers to be seen as arranged not only in depth but also with the voices further back appearing higher above the floor of the stage. With well-recorded operas, the orchestra is a bit down (in the orchestra pit) and the singers are a bit up. I have not encountered this degree of pleasing accuracy with image placement and vertical height since my days with the Legacy Whispers and their large rectangular "point source" created by their unusual arrangement of drivers on the front panel.

There is an increased "ease" about the presentation--not that it needed that at all--but that's what I hear. An easier, yet lower in distortion presentation.

Man, these sound good!!!

Not that this set up looks much different from before, but here are a couple of pix anyway from a bit behind and right at (wide angle) the listening position.


IMG_7686.jpg

IMG_7685.jpg





 
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kswanson27

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Nov 22, 2018
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I understand the D&D's downsample everything to 44 khz and will accept up to 96 khz. Have you tried playing a 192 khz sample? What happens? Will they accept an MQA signal if it is unfolded in Roon?
 

kswanson27

Active Member
Nov 22, 2018
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Another question. Did the 8C's show up in Roon settings as connected to the core?
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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Newer versions of the speaker's firmware play 24/192 material just fine. Yes, it is downsampled to 48 kHz, but, as my sonic comments indicate, that matters not a whit.

What mainly makes for a fine sounding recording happens at the recording through mastering phase, not in the sonic differences between 44/16 and 24/192, PCM vs. DSD, or further upsampling in the encoding process. At least that's my take on things. A fine recording/mastering job sounds fine on any system and even a low-bit-rate version of such a recording on internet radio sounds fine. A poor compressed and otherwise highly processed recording sounds awful on any system, more awful as the system gets better.

A recent exploration of recordings available through Roon in which Bob Katz was involved in production gives an example of this. In addition to my own CD collection, a search in Roon for such recordings available through Qobuz and Tidal shows about 279 Bob Katz-involved productions. This number does not include many of the Chesky recordings since most are not available for streaming on these platforms. Katz was involved in producing a lot of the Chesky catalog. A random sampling of these from 1968 productions to the present show a basic honesty about the sound of most of these recordings. And focusing on the output of a single artist, comparing the Bob Katz Chesky recordings of Clark Terry outings to all others shows just how much difference in realism a good recording/production/mastering can make. The Cheskys (along with the Reference Recordings discs done by Keith Johnson) are far and away better, more natural sounding recordings than any of the others; the difference in sonic realism is huge.

Yes, the speaker will accept the MQA first unfold via Roon or the Lumin App. Neither of those apps do the final unfolding which MQA DACs do. MQA files sound fine through these speakers.

The current firmware does not yet make the speakers a Roon endpoint. Thus, the the speakers do not yet show up in Roon. That functionality is said to be coming soon. But that has been promised for well more than a year now. I'm sure it will happen eventually, but I did not purchase the speakers with the idea that I would only be happy with them once they become Roon endpoints.

Even after the speakers are Roon Ready, you still will need (or at least I will need and want) some way to send music to them which isn't available via Roon. I'm thinking of certain internet radio sources such as Sirius/XM, Jazz Radio, and many others which cannot be programmed to be Roon Live Radio stations. Perhaps D&D will build in an AirPlay feature. That would solve the problem nicely and allow owners of the 8c speakers to truly break free of any external streaming boxes. Only the controlling iPad would be needed to complete your library of streaming sources.
 
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kswanson27

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Nov 22, 2018
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We're in complete agreement about what makes a good recording. I was just trying to determine what to expect since I have a variety of redbook, hi res and MQA recordings in my library. I use an Extreme server which also streams Roon to my Berkeley DAC. I run USB to a Berkeley Alpha USB and AES out to the DAC. I'll run that AES cable to one of the 8C's and another AES to the other 8C. Both will be on my LAN. I'm trying to figure out how Roon will pick up the 8C's.
 

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