Danish Digital Delights
On a sunny and bright winter day the delivery guy arrived with a small cardboard box, containing what he said was a complete HiFi system. Yeah right, I thought. After a closer look I could see what he meant, and that these small boxes actually contained active speakers, so no need for anything more then maybe a good CD player or a computer-sourced system? I was intrigued!
Stand by me
Unpacking these small (8.5 kg) speakers is easy-peasy, but remember placing them on good stands is a necessary for a peak sound performance. Focus 200 XD comes in satin white, black, rosewood or walnut. Our review speakers where in an attractive deep black finish.
This is an active speaker, so all your precious pre and power amps and cabling can be put aside, because everything is already build into the XD’s itself. The only thing to get them playing music is a source, i.e. your CD player or a streaming device. “Your source of choice is your weapon of choice” as Grace Jones sang years ago - if I remember the lyrics right.
The remote is made of black aluminium, and works like a charm. Earlier on I tested the remote for the smaller Dynaudio Xeo 3’s with a worse result - at least compared with this black beauty. This one really WORKS, you don’t have to point it towards the speakers, just lay it on your table somewhere and it does just what it’s supposed to do. Mute, On/Off, Volume Up/Down all are similar functions that you already know. We found some more features, though, including a DIRECT mode and some A B C Hub knobs meant to be used with the optional Hub, which do transform the speakers into a wireless system. The DIRECT button is used when the signal you feed to the speakers is via a digital cable. That’s also where you get the highest performance, bit wise. Ah, I did not come to this point yet.
Master & Slave
The XD 200’s can either be fed through a SPDIF digital signal, or wireless or analog. Or you can feed the Master with a 75 Ohm digital cable, and then either connect the corresponding other speaker (The Slave) with either another cable, or just via the in built wireless receiving system. You can also connect an analog input (with cable), but if you want to go all wireless you have to add the Hub to your expenses. This little black box has five inputs, Aux, Line, Optical, SPDIF and USB IN and will set you back approx. 270 Euros/310 USD, and will thus transform the Focus into a completely wireless system, because the receiver for this is already built into the speakers, as mentioned before.
Going wireless means you now can transmit 24 bits and 48 kHz at a maximum resolution. If you go with a (preferably good) digital cable to the first speaker, and then wireless to the second one, the highest rate possible is 24/96. If everything is wired you have the maximum performance of 24/192, which should do for the most of us.
Music for your ears
“You Take My Breathe Away” from the 2014 mastering of Queen reveals small changes in the recording of Freddy Mercury’s voice, details I have never heard before. I can now hear the well known vocals not was recorded in a one-take session, which was difficult to hear, and maybe even impossible with other speakers. But the sound is gorgeous, all of the layers are pictured perfectly. The ease and the flow of the music is seductive, to say the least. And the piano actually now stands in my room - sound wise, of course.
“Low” from the outstanding bass player Jonas Hellebore´s album The Silent Life shows just how precise the deep frequencies are being reproduced, and without any noise from the loudspeakers cabinet itself. One can of soda on the table nearby rattled a bit, though..
“The Man’s Too Strong” with Dire Straits.
When I now listen to this remastered track, I go back in times to my glorious childhood days when I heard this song a few hundred times or more. But then again it is like a new way to hear Mark Knopfler and the rest of the bands way to deal with sound details and his guitar playing I never heard before, at least in this reviewers system that is. The way the guitar and the drums explode and really get in your face is definitely not heard when mixed on the old Auratone or Yamaha NS10 speakers in the studios of the 90s (this one was recorded at AIR Studios on the island of Montserrat, which was devastated by Hurricane Hugo, which destroyed 90% of the island’s structures and brought the studio’s glittering story to an abrupt end).
“Love, Put On Your Faces” by Patricia Barber from her Modern Cool album in a 24 bit/88.2 kHz recording is wonderful, homogenous, harmonious and intimate.
The depth and the spatial sound image are produced the most convincing way - world class. The brushed drums are just playing along, the acoustic bass is rendered close to perfection, and Barber´s voice is smoky, delicious and sexy as h…
Chen Mami´s “Gualbak K’ssah” has some deep bas drums, and lots of delicate percussion details. The transparency is just gorgeous when we listen with these Focus XD’s, and the lows are thunderous. Very, very impressive! Thrill your wife or your friends with a blind testing with this track, to see if they can guess the size of this speaker. I bet they can´t!
Gary Jules and Mylene Farmers live version of “Mad World” is just stunning when played through these two active speakers. It’s as if you can actually feel the audience and the presence of the artists is unbelievable - and the goose bumps are definitely guaranteed.
Haydn: “String Quartet in D major, Op. 76, No. 5 - Finale - Presto” from 2L is joyful and with a perfect timbral balance, captured in a 24 bit and 96 kHz resolution from the Norwegian HiRes specialist Morten Lindberg. All the beautiful rendered and performed stringy instruments are accomplished, and reproduced, with an unheard joy, presence and glory. One often and overseen (heard) thing is, that music like this sometimes just gets to hard, to squealed to listen too. And as a result, the tracks are often skipped by the listener to the next, and the next track… Just a shame that music like this, which is not easy to learn and to understand, often gets put aside because the remembrance of your childhoods sound of nails scratching on the teacher’s blackboard when you were a kid still is present in your head. But not so with these Dynaudios. There are no hard or screech high frequencies radiating from these speakers, I definitely promise you that.
Danish artist Allan Vegenfeldts interpretation of The Rolling Stones´ “Wild Horses” we absolutely do enjoy because of the singer´s emotional voice which reminds me of a newborn Mick Jagger. This is a live recording, done in the Copenhagen Tivoli garden back in 2011. The Dynaudio´s puts the sound exactly where I want it, in the room and in front of me.
“Dolce De Coco” performed by my favourite cello artist Yo-Yo Ma is just incredibly wonderful to listen too. A smile on my face, and some five minutes later I forgot all about typing this review, I was just listening and relishing the music.
Nabiha’s “Perfectly Human” is mixed with little to much bass, and slightly to much Aural Exciter and compressor on her vocals. If you on the other hand can remove your analytical spectacles and just enjoy the track, it reveals a new Danish shooting star artist. Nabiha has a great voice, smokey yet soft and dark. Cool, calm and collected she is.
“Arch’” performed by the multinational band Outlandish, comes with a punchy struck of a bass drum - deep, dry, heavy and fast. Sam B’s beautiful rendered lead vocals stands out in the room, the Focus 200 XD do make a very good impression of what was actually recorded and mixed in the studio. This is Hip Hop meets World Music meets Cat Stevens meets Singer Songwriters meets … It´s just beautiful.
The Dynaudios play a VERY deep bas, the 17 cm MSP woofer/midrange might be working overtime when you hear thunderous low frequency notes (rock`n`) roll through your listening room. The DSP has been optimised, inter alia, to do just this, to deliver a efficient way to get an enormous amount of bass from such a small speaker. Eureka the designers must have been shouting, dancing and celebrating and having a blast in the small township of Skanderborg in Denmark.
But also the extremely important middle and treble frequencies are a joy to listen to - and again with the total freedom from screech. The midrange strength is top notch! The music is soft, but precise and joyful all the time, partly due to the crossovers´ time coherent phase linear FIR filters, aluminium voice coils and clever programming and designing. Oh… and one more thing, the Esotar2 tweeter is the same as the Danes use in their flagship Evidence series. Look up the price for yourself, it’s NOT for people like you and me.
The bass energy can be reduced to suit the speakers proximity to the wall, as well as the high frequencies can be levelled up/down one dB.
Hit me with your rhythm stick …
When there is a new software release (it could be some improvements for the LED display, adjusting the steps for the volume or another possible way of raising the bar bitwise to even further resolution) the Dynaudios let you do just that with a small USB stick of yours connected to the back of the speakers. Power them up, count to five, and you´are all set. It´s very easy and takes just seconds.
Down down, deeper and down
So what are the downside of this speakers, you may ask. And yes I am still looking for just ONE single small detail that I don´t like, even after an intensive use for more than 3 months with these speakers.
You can easily tweak them small wonders by adding new power cables (while writing we have them all powered up with the brand new Ansuz X-series power and digital cables, as well as Mad Scientists Footers (in depth test will follow). These new wires are very good with the Focus XD´s, but the Footers are doing even more magic. The sound is just getting even more precise.
As Yusuf Islam aka Cat Stevens puts it in his beautiful song “Heaven”:
“The moment you walked inside my door
I knew that I need not look no more,
I’ve seen many other souls before - ah but,
Heaven must’ve programmed you”
It’s like the same feeling I have with these small speakers, delivered into my house that same winter day in early 2015.
A rewriting of an old Beatles song also could be: You say you wanna more resolution. Sound, and bit wise you have it right here at your fingertips.
But please don’t just take our word for it, go out and have a listen to these beauties for yourself. We think you´ll fall in love too.
Text and photos: © Kurt Lassen 2015
Dynaudio Focus 200 XD
Price: approx. 4700 Euro / USD 5400