Dutch & Dutch 8c Speakers

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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I think that most people who have actually heard the speakers come away being very impressed with the sonics.

It's too bad that in most markets these speakers seem to be sold primarily through a few pro-audio outlets rather than the usual consumer high-end stores. Many audiophiles are either intimidated by pro-audio stores or so unfamiliar with the ancillary components that they might not trust their judgment at an in-store demo. That leaves in-home demos arranged through dealers and distributors as the only way most audiophiles might hear these.

And even then, there are many who are reluctant to "put all their eggs in one basket" with a product embodying speakers of unusually innovative design principles, tri-amplification of a non-traditional type, DACs, very flexible and powerful DSP equalization, and perhaps someday even streaming via Roon Readiness. That's despite the obviously very high value represented by the asking price in terms of the sonic performance and the usual cost of "competitive" separate audiophile components the D&D 8c replaces.

Resistance comes not only from those who worry about having a failure of one part of the D&Ds taking down their entire system pending replacement or repair (as if that doesn't usually happen with most systems when a component fails!) but also those who worry that acquiring the D&Ds will take the fun out of the hunt for ever-more-performance-enhancing separate components.
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
713
240
495
68
Chicagoland
Roon Readiness

It's been a long time coming, but the dawn is finally approaching. Since the very first reviews a couple of years ago now, Dutch & Dutch held out the tantalizing possibility that the 8c speakers would "soon" be Roon Ready. In fact, some early reviewers apparently were treated to an experimental version of Roon Readiness in the speakers they were reviewing. They reacted to it with favor, stating or at least implying that the speakers provided their best sound this way. Some reviewers even said something to the effect of "by the time you read this" the speakers will be Roon Ready.

Well, that was not to be the case. The problems D&D has encountered along the very long way to this goal are explained at this link:

https://dutchdutch.com/software/#Notinthisupdate

If making a pair of active stereo speakers a Roon Ready endpoint were an easy proposition, you probably would find such already on the market. If there are any, I'm not aware of them.

System Implications for Roon Ready Speakers

What would it mean to you for your D&D 8c speakers to become Roon Ready? In my case, it will allow me to dispense with my existing streamer, the Lumin X1. Now, let me state right up front that even if your existing system, like mine, is a streaming-only system, you may lose some program sources you may be used to if you do this. The program sources you might lose are mostly less-than-CD-quality internet streams.

While Roon has a very nice internet radio function called Live Radio which seamlessly integrates thousands of internet radio stations worldwide into Roon, Live Radio does not allow you to include all the stations or services you might want. For example, without a streamer, you will lose AirPlay capability (the D&D 8c speakers are NOT AirPlay receivers) and thus the ability to stream some services such as Sirius/XM and Spotify into your system. Spotify is not a big deal to me since most of its content relevant to me is duplicated in higher quality via Qobuz and Tidal. While I would miss playing a few Sirius/XM streams (primarily the Grateful Dead Channel, Real Jazz, and Siriusly Sinatra), I can play them via my NAD Viso HP50 headphones direct from my M-1 iPad (2021 edition) in my stereo room (see this thread) and from my computer desk via the NAD or other headphones or computer speakers—not to mention in my car.

Where We Are Now

We now appear to be closing in on the official release of the Roon Ready firmware for the Dutch & Dutch 8c. Martijn Mensink kindly has recently made available to me a pre-release version of this firmware and I have now listened to it, comparing the sound in Roon Ready mode to the sound I was getting with the digital output of my Lumin X1 feeding the digital inputs of the 8c's. More specifically, up until now I was using a Blue Jeans Cable Belden 4505R SDI BNC/BNC digital link from the Lumin's BNC digital output (the X1 lacks an AES/EBU digital output) to the left speaker, a Canare BNC to XLRM 75-ohm to 110-ohm transformer to connect that digital link to the left speaker; a Blue Jeans Cable Belden 1800F AES/EBU cable for connecting left to right speaker, and a D&D-supplied XLR terminator plug in the "Thru" socket of the right speaker.

[Continued in next post]
 
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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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Set Up Issues

I suspect that the set-up issues I encountered implementing the pre-release version of the Roon Ready firmware for the Dutch & Dutch 8c will go away with the publicly released Roon Ready version. I regard these as "teething problems" even though Dutch & Dutch has been working on this firmware for at least a couple of years now.

First, keep in mind that, as I understand it, with the production version of the Roon Ready firmware the current Ascent Audio set up app will be replaced with a native Dutch & Dutch app available from the Apple App Store. As indicated below, the Ascent Audio set up app seemed to be one of the causes of the set-up teething problems I describe below.

The other issue seems to be the incompatibility of Lanspeaker, which has been the D&D control app up until now, with the new Roon Ready D&D firmware. Martijn describes the current status of the Lanspeaker control as "end of life." That issue, too, should go away with the official release of the Roon Ready firmware for the D&D 8c's.

Here are the problems I noted when I first tried installing the new pre-release Roon Ready firmware, which is called version 1.5.210:

1. Despite several power cyclings, I could not get sound out of the right speaker. Also, I could not get the LED on that speaker to turn off. I did get sound from the left speaker and the LED on that speaker did turn off when set for disabled.

2. The Lanspeaker volume control which I've been using to control my system volume, did not work on either speaker.

3. In Roon, while Roon saw the two speakers, the message I got said they were Uncertified. Roon would not let me enable either speaker as a Roon Ready endpoint device because they were Uncertified as Roon Ready.

4. There was a problem with nomenclature in Lanspeaker. On some screens, the newly installed firmware was identified as 1.5.199, while on others it said 1.5.210.

5. I was not sure what the new D&D control website, http://beta.ascend.audio, was supposed to do. It did see the speakers once I installed the 1.5.210 firmware. It did play a test tone through each speaker. But after just a few steps, the screen went blank and no controls for the speaker were available. Restarting/refreshing that site merely went through those few steps again with the same blank screen result at the end.

6. Also, it was unclear what type of speaker input I should use in the beta.ascend.audio site. I chose AES, which is what I've been using when running Roon to the D&Ds via my Lumin X1 streamer. But I thought the speakers would be using a native connection to Roon, so I thought ethernet should have been an available choice, but that choice was not available. Since Roon would not enable either speaker, I would still need to use the AES connection via the Lumin X1 anyway. With the AES input, the volume of the test tone through the speakers was startlingly high so the Lanspeaker volume control which I had set to -65 dB was not operating.

After reverting to 1.4.65 for both speakers (Lanspeaker allowed this), everything was working normally again.

I told Martijn about the problems I had encountered. It was at this point that Martijn told me that Lanspeaker is end of life and that it doesn't work with 1.5.x firmware. Lanspeaker is being replaced (at least temporarily) by Ascend, which I could access at http://beta.ascend.audio. Martijn also told me that my speakers will not yet be recognized by Roon. My account needed to be added to the early access/beta list by Roon first. Martijn couldn't do that himself, but he immediately sent Roon my email address so that Roon could add me to the early access/beta list. Maritjn urged me to try again by updating both speakers to 1.5.210 and then firing up the Ascend web-app.

There followed several more attempts at set up. The major problem continued to be 5. above, the blank screen I encountered when attempting to complete the speaker set up in the Ascend Audio web app. I tried different devices (iPhone, iPad, two different iMac computers, one an M-1 and another an earlier version, but still had no success. I also tried using different Web browsers to access the Ascend Audio site.

Finally, I was successful. As far as I can determine, success came when I accessed the Ascend Audio web app via the Safari web browser on my M-1 iMac computer after the following process:
  • I updated the firmware on both speakers in Lanspekaer to 1.5.210
  • I went to beta.ascend.audio but it wouldn't load properly
  • Then I rolled back to 1.4.65 by means of Lanspeaker
  • I updated the firmware again using the app hosted on the speakers themselves (http://8c-xxxx where xxxx represents the serial number of one of my speakers) This is the other method for setting up the speakers mentioned on page 9 of the D&D 8c online manual.
  • This time around the ascend website did work and allowed me to complete the set up of the speakers. It allowed me to import into the 1.5.210 firmware the prior ARM settings as well as all the parametric filters which resulted from measuring the speakers with REW and importing those filter calculations into the 1.4.65 firmware.
  • After rebooting both speakers and Roon and refreshing the list of Roon Ready devices found in Roon's Audio Settings, everything worked as intended. Roon found the speakers as Uncertified Roon Ready devices, but I was then allowed to enable the 8c's and set them up for Roon.
Another fly in the current pre-release Roon Ready firmware ointment:

REW integration is not yet ready for 1.5.210. (This new firmware will be dubbed Firmware 2.0 in the official release, by the way.) This means that if I wished to redo ARM or the parametric settings (such as if I decided to move the speakers) with REW, I would have to downgrade back to 1.4.65, change the ARM settings, re-run the REW measurements and import the newly calculated filters back into firmware 1.4.65. Then I would upgrade the firmware to 1.5.210 again and import the new settings from 1.4.65.

The problem in my system with that process would be how to play the REW test tones through the D&D speakers once I downgraded to 1.4.65. Since under firmware 1.4.65 the speakers are not recognized by Roon as Roon Ready endpoints, I would have to reconnect my Lumin X1 streamer (or another streamer) and all the associated cabling to the speakers just to play the REW test tones and make new measurements.

However, Martijn says that REW integration in Firmware 2.0 is currently being worked on. "Won't be very long," he said. I will keep the speakers in their current locations. They have worked extremely well there anyway from very soon after I installed them in my room.

[Concluded in next post]
 
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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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The Sound

Now, the Lumin X1, by all accounts, is a very fine sounding streamer. I'm on record as saying that a lot of program material sounds better played back via the Lumin App than via Roon. Thus, why would I even care that the D&D speakers are now becoming Roon Ready endpoints? How could it be possible that eliminating that streamer could be sonically beneficial compared to listening via the Lumin App? After all, doing so means relegating all the Roon and streaming functions to hardware and firmware built into the 8c speakers, hardware and firmware which already were performing many other functions, such as driver time alignment, crossover, active tri-amplification, active room matching, and potentially many bands of parametric equalization. Were it not for the positive comments in many early reviews of the experimental version of the Roon Ready firmware, I would have been very skeptical as well.

But, for whatever reason, now that I've heard even this pre-release version of the Roon Ready firmware, I can confidently say that while there is not night-and-day difference between the sound I was getting streaming through the Lumin X1 and what I'm now hearing, there is no doubt to my ears that eliminating the Lumin X1 and allowing the D&D 8c speakers to function as the Roon Ready endpoint yet further improves the already stellar sound I was experiencing from the 8c's, either via the X1's native Lumin App or via Roon from the Nucleus+ through the Lumin.

I believe most would regard the improvements as subtle rather than significant. That is probably true, but the improvements I hear are subtle in ways which to me ARE significant in that they further reduce the vestiges of "digital" sound we're all familiar with by making the sound both easier on the ears and more "analog."

I hear yet greater high frequency smoothness, a "blacker" background, and yet firmer, clearer bass. Image focus and all aspects of staging are at least as good as before. Different recordings sound more differentiated from each other in terms of sound quality. The low-resolution internet radio versions of tracks compared with the FLAC versions of those tracks from Qobuz and Tidal evidence greater sonic differences. (Roon allows quick comparison of the "broadcast" version versus the FLAC or Hi-Res versions on Qobuz and Tidal in many cases.) There is greater dynamic ebb and flow, and the pace and rhythm of music is more infectious. The sound at higher SPLs seems yet cleaner with yet less edge without losing—in fact seemingly gaining—high frequency extension and airiness.

The sound of material via Roon is thus now higher quality than what I was hearing via the Lumin App. How much of the improvements I'm hearing is actually from the Roon Readiness of the D&Ds and how much is just from the physical and electrical elimination of a stage in the signal path (the Lumin X1) and its associated cabling and connections is impossible for me to know.

Roon Ready Functionality

Now that everything is working smoothly, the D&D 8c speakers' implementation of the Roon Ready endpoint seems rock-solid stable in terms of basic Roon functionality. All the Roon features I've become accustomed to using seem to work as expected and as quickly as expected. There are no even momentary interruptions in streaming. In addition, once an internet radio station is tuned and playing, it stays playing for at least overnight from one day to the next without stopping. That is superior to the internet radio station stability I was getting before with the Lumin X1 acting as the streamer either for Roon's Live Radio function or the Lumin App's radio station integration of Tune In radio stations.

My New System Configuration

In my case, removing the Lumin X1 and its associated cabling means that my system basically is now down to the Roon Nucleus+ as the source and the D&D 8c speakers for everything else. Details on my current system description can be found at this link and this link. I have just updated my system description to account for elimination of the Lumin X1.
 
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