Henry Mancini’s The Pink Panther Theme and Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy, recorded in 1963 and 2019 retrospectively, are both instantly familiar – but have you actually heard every nuance captured in the original recordings?
That’s the question posed by Otto Jørgensen, Training Manager and Dynaudio company historian.
Streamed from Tidal to Dynaudio’s new Focus 50 flagship floorstander, a premium wireless active speaker, it’s difficult to believe the two tracks were recorded more than half a century apart.
As he plays them, you don’t just hum the Pink Panther theme, you’re in the room with saxophonist Plas Johnson, and the dynamics of the track will knock you off your seat. Similarly, the finger snaps in the Eilish mix stand apart, crisp and clear. The imaging is almost three dimensional.
These Dynaudio speakers sell for €10,000 a pair, but given they come close to the sonic performance of a conventional Hi-Fi system at 40 times the price, I’m left thinking their value seems unquestionable.
The Dynaudio speakers sell for €10,000 a pair, but their value seems unquestionable…
I’m in Denmark to listen to the brand’s new Focus series, a fully active wireless Bluetooth speaker range designed for the streaming era. These are not your typical smart speakers, but beautifully finished enclosures with audiophile DNA.
The appeal of the Focus models is that they work straight from the box, with minimal setup required. Welcome to high-end audio demystified.
All the Focus models have a built-in streaming platform that supports Spotify, Tidal, Apple AirPlay, Google Chromecast, Qplay and UPnP. There’s also provision for physical playback, so you can hook up a vinyl turntable or CD player. They even double as a high quality sound system for your TV, using WISA wireless technology.
The range is available in a choice of four premium finishes: White High Gloss, Black High Gloss, Walnut Wood, and Blonde Wood. Partnering a pair with your room décor should not be a problem.
The technology inside is top notch. The Focus 50 and its stablemates use the same driver technology that Dynaudio employs in its professional studio reference monitors, including the brand’s fancy 28mm Cerotar tweeter.
The Focus family comes in three sizes, known as the Focus 10 (a compact two-way standmount), Focus 30 (a stylish two-and-a-half-way floorstander) and Focus 50 (an impressive three-way tower).
In addition to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, there are coaxial and optical digital audio inputs plus analogue.
Build quality is impeccable, with MDF cabinets and aluminium driver surrounds. Design has always been a Dynaudio strong point.
A trip through more than 40 years of speaker design reveals how tropes resurface and are updated. Dynaudio has repeatedly gone back to previous eras, releasing limited edition Heritage Specials of its most iconic models. These anniversary releases signal advances in design and materials, as high end drivers trickle down through the range; they’re deemed highly collectable.
Dynaudio was formed in 1977 by Wilfried Ehrerholz. A music obsessive, he began building loudspeakers in Skanderborg, initially assembling enclosures using off the shelf components. His pursuit of musical clarity soon led to the development of proprietary drivers and cabinets. Dynaudio now makes all its components in house.
In 1994, Dynaudio branched out into automotive audio, partnering with Volvo. Today it’s a world leader when it comes to in-car entertainment, providing systems for multiple marques.
The brand was an early pioneer of active digital speakers. In 2017, it launched Music, which introduced the concept of intelligent spatial tuning able to optimise performance for wherever the speaker was placed in a room.
The design team tells us how sustainability and a return to classic Scandi design ideas are guiding its visual language.
“We are looking into trends and diving into the interesting stuff that is Scandinavian contemporary furniture, exploring more organic shapes,” says Marcus Abrahamsen, Industrial Designer. “But we are sticking more to the classic stuff for our high end Hi-Fi…”
“That’s why some of our stuff might seem more retro, I guess. We have a classic loudspeaker look, because we have that visible drive unit. That’s something you don’t see with lower tier, lifestyle products. It’s an interesting spot to hit when you try to merge these two worlds.”
An interesting insight into the design process reveals that very early concept designs are fine tuned in foam, milled on an industrial CNC machine.
Abrahamsen says: “We get quite a nice surface finish and then we take speaker drivers off the shelf, to get a more realistic expression of what the product will ultimately look like.
“We also implement virtual reality in these prototype stages. Before we get to the foam model, we use VR goggles to get a perspective view of our models. It actually helps quite a lot when it comes to size and finish.”
The brand has another significant tool in its development arsenal – Jupiter, one of the largest measurement rooms in Europe.
This 13m square space is home to a robotic arm able to haul loudspeakers into the air where their performance can be measured by an arc of highly sensitive loudspeakers. It enables Dynaudio to test speaker performance and finesse as required.
“What we’re doing here with Jupiter in terms of acoustic performance of the loudspeaker, is probably about 30 percent of what we do in terms of making loudspeakers sound the way they sound,” explains Stephen Entwistle, Chief Engineer.
“We are able to measure a loudspeaker from around 12Hz, which is quite low, up to 96kHz. Typically a human can hear from about 20Hz to 20kHz, so we can measure outside what we can hear.”
Each microphone on the Jupiter array is worth about £1,100, he notes.
“It’s quite technical, quite scientific. We use Jupiter to evaluate objective parameters; how the loudspeaker puts energy into the room, at what angles. But the bulk of the work we do is in the listening room, where we subjectively assess the loudspeakers – we do a lot of listening!”
To get a sense of the craftsmanship involved in the production of the Focus models we’re given a tour of Dynaudio’s factory and production processes. I’m even allowed to hand assemble a high-end speaker myself, under close scrutiny obviously! This level of audio precision is painstaking, skilled work.
Back in the listening room, I’m blown away by the new Focus 50. It’s clear that there is magic at work here. This is Hi-Fi defined by art, technology and design.
I wonder if there’s time for one more track before I leave?
Available now, the Dynaudio Focus 10 sells for £4,399 (€5,000 / $5,500 ) a pair, with the Focus 30 priced at £6,499 (€7,500 / $8,250) and the Focus 50 £8,699 (€10,000 / $11,000 ).
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