Dynaudio is in its 40th year, with a product range that includes speakers for cars and pro audio alongside all manner of domestic designs. The Danish company also expanded into wireless technology back in 2012, with its Xeo range; the only decent sounding wireless speaker I have heard thus far. The brand first made an impression on me in the mid 1990s, when B&W organised a visit to the Whitfield Street studio in Soho to meet Airto Moreira who was recording for their label at the time. The sheer volume level that the Dynaudio monitors were pumping into the well-damped control room only became apparent when a pair of B&W Silver Signatures were substituted and struggled to maintain the level. This was an active to passive transition, but nonetheless it illustrated how much power a pro monitor can deliver while maintaining an even keel.
Dynaudio’s Emit series is their latest entrant into the hotly contested affordable end of the market. The range is made in Denmark, so it’s not beer budget, but the three stereo models and a centre channel in the range are the most affordable that the company makes. The Emit M20 is the larger of two stand mounts and has a 17cm (near 7inch) main driver combined with a soft dome tweeter in a matte black (or white) box that is largely devoid of styling save for a chamfer around the front baffle. It’s a conservative piece of industrial design that should ensure it remains timeless. The back panel is a little plain for the price with basic single wire terminals, but the flared reflex port looks solid enough. The driver side of the cabinet has grille fixing sockets, so the Emit M20 looks better fully clothed in its grille cloth and doesn’t seem to suffer sonically as a result. A Bowers & Wilkins 685 S2 at £100 less has shiny bi-wire terminals, but that feature is not necessarily a great sonic benefit; one run of £100 speaker cable beats two runs of £50 cable every time.
Dynaudio continues to use magnesium silicate polypropylene (MSP) for its driver cones, a material that the company developed for its earliest products and maintains to have the best combination of stiffness and self-damping that it has found. Some credence is given to this claim by the amount of other speaker companies around the world that have incorporated Dynaudio drive units into their designs. The UK arm of the company suggests it gets a steady stream of demand for replacement drive units that the brands concerned can no longer supply but which Dynaudio can build from scratch because it still has all the original tooling.
At £599, the M20 is only £100 more expensive than its brother the M10 which seems an odd approach in marketing terms at least, as the M10 has a 14cm main driver and a slightly easier 6 Ohm impedance than the 4 Ohm nominal impedance of the M20. All of this makes the smaller speaker an easier load that does not require a big amplifier, but the M20 is claimed to have an even impedance load that, allied to its 86dB sensitivity, means you shouldn’t need more power than an integrated amp at the same price can deliver. The question is how does Dynaudio manage to keep the price of the M20 so close to the M10? Clearly not in the construction; the closest to cost saving on the inside is the use of a steel rather than cast aluminium basket on the mid/bass driver. This driver still has a large (75mm) aluminium voice coil and a double symmetrical magnet with the aforementioned MSP cone, so no (other) corners have been cut in driver quality. Similarly, the tweeter has an aluminium voice coil and uses ferrofluid to keep things cool at high SPLs. The crossover incorporates air core inductors, low loss dielectric capacitors, and zero compression resistors, all of which bode well for sound and longevity. While some similarly priced alternatives have more luxurious finishes and terminals, Dynaudio spends the money on the bits that matter to the sound – a brave move in an era when so many listen with their eyes.
In the listening room sitting atop Dynaudio’s attractive stands with their sandwich construction top and bottom plates, the Emit M20 is a remarkably effusive and bold sounding speaker. It delivers bass, dynamics, and energy that are not expected at the price. And I wasn’t using a high end, high power amplifier to achieve this result; rather I used a Rega Elex-R (72W/8 Ohms), which is my go-to affordable integrated amp. Speaker set-up (courtesy of Dynaudio UK) was with the Emits toed in such that the axes crossed in front of the listening position; I also tried pointing them straight at the listener but this proved to be a little bright, so they were returned to the original orientation. The rear port did what such things sometimes do in my room, and caused certain bass notes to be amplified to the point of discomfort. This happened even with the speaker well out from the wall (front baffle at 90cm), making the M20 a try before you buy speaker or one that will suit drier sounding rooms at least. I tried blocking the ports with the supplied foam bungs and that did cure the excess, but as ever with bungs it also restricted dynamics and the sense of openness that are among this speaker’s strong points.
And there are many of many of those strong points. The M20 is remarkably good at reproducing drums, for a start, with the playing by two drummers on ‘Bermuda Blues’ by the Henry Threadgill Sextett [You Know The Number, Novus] reveals just how much dynamic range and bandwidth this speaker has to offer by sounding very convincing. This is achieved while delivering the swing that this very able band delivers in the context of a muscular performance. The quality of timing on offer is likewise better than you might expect of something so large for the price. It illustrates the advantage that standmounts have over their more elegant floorstanding brethren; the smaller the box the less it colours the sound and the faster the speaker can stop and start. The M20’s cabinet is not totally inert, but it’s quiet enough to get the job done quick smart.
Jan Lisiecki’s Chopin Études [DG] illustrated how well it deals with dynamics as well; the piano has real body and power, but it keeps the distance between quiet and loud notes as wide as they should be, doing so whilst revealing the shine of the instrument’s tone and the fluency of the playing. Keith Jarrett’s piano on ‘Part VII, London’ [Paris/London – Testament, ECM]is bold and strong, the thump of his foot on the stage is convincingly low, and the timing that is the key to his appeal is right on the money. A smaller speaker might give you a cleaner, tighter result, but it’s the bandwidth that makes live recordings like this sound so real. There is always a balance to be struck with loudspeakers and the more affordable they are the tougher it is to get it right, but Dynaudio has done just that with the M20.
With more subtle pieces like Arvo Pärt’s sublime Tabula Rasa [ECM] this speaker’s dynamic range allows the music to build and build without losing composure. This is not an easy album to reproduce well, as the string tone is quite harsh in places and the power it requires when things get to a crescendo is pretty demanding, so you need a speaker that is tonally even handed and that does not start screaming when the going gets tough. I don’t usually play this music on relatively affordable speakers for this reason so I was pleasantly surprised at how well the M20s coped. The icing on the cake was how good Astral Weeks sounded [Van Morrison, Warner Bros]; there is a lot going on in ‘The Way Young Lovers Do’ but it’s a brilliant piece of music if the system is up to the job. This proved to be the case so comprehensively that I had no choice but to listen to the rest of the album, and would happily have done so again.
Dynaudio has done a fine job of combining low colouration, wide bandwidth, good timing, and dynamic range in such a competitively priced loudspeaker. The rear porting might be an issue in some rooms, and bigger spaces will be best, but that aside it’s hard not to like this loudspeaker. It may not look particularly fancy, but it sounds better than much of the competition at £600 and several hundred pounds more. Combine this with the company’s reputation and you have a speaker that will keep any music lover away from the TV forever more.
- Type: 2-way, two-driver stand-mount monitor with rear‑ported bass reflex enclosure
- Driver complement: One 28mm soft dome tweeter, one 170mm MSP mid-bass driver
- Frequency response: 50Hz – 23kHz
- Crossover frequency: 2.6kHz
- Impedance: 4 Ohms
- Sensitivity: 86dB/W/m
- Dimensions (H×W×D): 355 × 214 × 265mm
- Weight: 7.5kg/each
- Finishes: Matte white, matte black
- Price: £599
Distributor: Dynaudio UK
Tel: +44(0)1638 742 427
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