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  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
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  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)

Note: Measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.

Reviewers' ChoiceDynaudio takes a lot of pride in the fact that it makes its own components, including its drivers, crossovers, and cabinets, and manufactures its loudspeakers in its various facilities in Denmark. But when I think of Dynaudio, cutting-edge industrial design is not the first thing that springs to mind. Their more affordable offerings of the past 15 years, such as their DM and Excite product lines, are unmistakable: simple, modest boxes with bolt-through drivers, including the company’s signature soft-dome tweeter. The drivers’ mounting bolts remain visible, despite most of Dynaudio’s competitors making efforts to shroud this unsightly and inelegant aspect of hand-built speakers.

Dynaudio Emit M10

Dynaudio’s Emit series is their least expensive, and their little Emit M10 bookshelf model anchors the line at the quite reasonable price of $799 USD per pair. Don’t assume, as I did, that Dynaudio cuts many corners to get their speakers into more listeners’ homes. Unpacking my review samples, I was shocked at what Dynaudio has produced for the audiophile on a budget. The 11.5”H x 6.7”W x 9.5”D, 12-pound loudspeaker is finished to an admirable degree. Its cabinet of 25mm-thick MDF can be had in the Satin White finish of my review pair or in stealthy Satin Black, and the quality on offer is staggering. The M10’s cabinet feels dense and highly inert, while the finish is flawless to look at and to touch; it wouldn’t look out of place on a speaker costing twice as much. The front panel has contoured edges to give Dynaudio’s least expensive speaker a more interesting profile, and the contrasting gray grilles are the first I’ve ever chosen to keep in place for my critical listening. This little guy is downright handsome, and, unlike most inexpensive speakers, actually looks nicer the closer you get to it. Visually, Dynaudio has made no concession in the M10, short of their insistence on leaving the hand-made drivers’ mounting bolts exposed. The M10 is a bass-reflex design; foam port plugs are included, along with a brief owner’s manual.

Dynaudio Emit M10

With the M10, the Emit range comprises the larger M20 bookshelf ($999/pair) and M30 floorstander ($1999/pair), and the M15 C center-channel ($699). Each model includes drivers unique to the Emit line, not units borrowed from Dynaudio’s pricier lines. Still, the M10’s 1” soft dome is largely based on the tweeter used in Dynaudio’s pricier Excite and Xeo lines: this one has a simpler rear chamber and housing material, while the magnet and the dome itself remain unchanged. Similarly, the 5.5” midrange-bass driver -- made from Dynaudio’s longstanding preferred cone material, a magnesium silicate polymer (MSP) -- differs from its counterparts in the Excite and Xeo lines in its simpler voice-coil and less-costly spider suspension.

The M10’s drivers are crossed over to each other at the unusually low frequency of 1.8kHz, made all the more remarkable by Dynaudio’s first-order (6dB/octave) filter. That puts a great deal of strain on both tweeter and woofer to operate linearly at the fringes of their performance envelope. Dynaudio chooses its crossover components by ear; the internal wiring is OFC Litz.

Other specifications include a nominal impedance of 6 ohms, a sensitivity of 86dB (about average for a two-way of this size), and a frequency response of 50Hz-23kHz, ±3dB. Our anechoic measurements of the M10 should verify these figures, but for now I’ll say that a small bookshelf speaker that’s reasonably sensitive, easy to drive, and puts out generous bass would be something of a unicorn.

Dynaudio Emit M10

The rear panel of the M10 is where Dynaudio’s cost-cutting catches up with it: Below the small port is a pair of five-way binding posts that accept only banana plugs or bare wires; spades are out of the question. Still, if not being able to use my spade-terminated speaker cables is the only obstacle to getting a pair of Dynaudio speakers into my listening room for just $799, so be it. As always, the proof is in the listening . . .

Setup

I perched the Emit M10s on generic, 24”-high, 20-year-old speaker stands in the spots usually occupied by my reference Monitor Audio Silver 10 floorstanders: about 1’ from the long front wall of my living room, 9’ apart, and 9’ from my listening position. I found that a slight inward tilt toward my listening seat yielded the best combination of clarity and imaging. I used the M10s with my reference Hegel Music Systems H360 and Devialet’s Expert 130 Pro DAC-integrated amplifiers, and Exogal’s two-chassis Ion PowerDAC power amplifier. Speaker cables were DH Labs’ Q10 Signatures terminated in Emit-friendly banana plugs, while I wired the various electronics to my MacBook Pro music server running Roon via DH Labs’ Silversonic USB link. I also use an Emotiva CMX-2 power conditioner to eliminate annoying DC hum from the electrical system of my century-old house. My reference bookshelf speakers, KEF LS50s, served as my points of comparison.

Listening

Last year, when I reviewed Dynaudio’s Xeo 2 speakers ($1299/pair), I was blown away by what those little DSP-enabled, powered speakers could do for the money. And wouldn’t you know, the Emit M10 offers a surprisingly high proportion of the Xeo 2’s sound quality for a little over half the price. Trading in the sound of my Monitor Silver 10 floorstanders ($2500/pair) and KEF LS50 bookshelfs ($1500/pair) for the M10s should have meant trading in a composed, involving, articulate listening experience for sound that was a bit watered down.

That’s not what happened. The Emit M10 is epic.

Dynaudio Emit M10

From the first song I listened to, I heard a broad, deep soundstage that suggested excellent treble extension. I heard a vibrant, exciting midrange that exhibited unexpected levels of transparency and microdynamic delicacy. Most impressive from this two-way design was a top-to-bottom cohesiveness that belied the M10’s modest price.

“Tazawako,” from French producer Les Gordon’s Abyss EP (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Kitsuné), is ambient music that includes electronic and acoustic elements as well as a Ping-Pong ball that’s batted all around the soundstage: left, right, and straight back. All manner of sounds flit about in quick-fire fashion as a healthy synth hits home with real authority from the mid- to upper bass. Not only was the illusion of space enormous -- I could hear that Ping-Pong ball echoing way back in the soundstage -- I was surprised at the M10’s composure through the bass: there were texture, impact, and control easily down to 60Hz. Moreover, I was struck by how clean and concise this baby Dynaudio sounded. Ordinarily, an inexpensive speaker struggles to motivate its budget drivers and underdamped cabinet to escape the land of hazy, veiled sound, but the M10 proved a surprisingly transparent transducer. Imaging of this complex track’s rapid transients, crooning female accompaniment, and hauntingly reverberant interlude for piano were, while not laser focused, firmly planted in space.

Dynaudio Emit M10

Nor was the illusion of spaciousness produced by the Emits a parlor trick of a tipped-up treble response masquerading as fine detail. In “Dancing Flute & Drum,” from Dr. Chesky’s Sensational Fantastic and Simply Amazing Binaural Sound Show! (16/44.1 AIFF, Chesky CD355), the sound of the clapping drumsticks in the right channel that announce the arrival of the bass drum was tight, with rapid attack and decay, and a lingering echo in the huge New York City church in which the recording was made. There was no harshness or edginess to either the striking of the drumsticks or the decay, just smooth, effortless extension. That narrow line of smoothness at the possible expense of fine detail was masterfully tiptoed here -- the M10s offered an abundance of each in fatigue-free sound. The subsequent rhythmic drumming in the right channel was taut and satisfying, while the flute seemed to dance about outside of and behind the left speaker -- proof that audiophiles need not spend thousands of dollars to get genuine audiophile thrills.

Adele’s opening lines in “Hello,” from her 25 (16/44.1 FLAC, XL), were no match for the Emit M10’s midrange prowess. The Tottenham-born Londoner -- a solitary strike against the talented songstress from this rabid Arsenal fan -- sounded superb through the Dynaudios: airy and detailed, yet at the same time supple and hearty. I heard no spurious tonal emphasis through the midrange, only Adele’s wavering, breathy singing in all its glory. While her voice hovered squarely between the M10s, I did note that the speakers’ imaging abilities weren’t quite as overachieving as their other talents. The outline of Adele’s voice was not millimetric in its accuracy, though its borders seemed less indistinct than a subtle blooming of her sound. In a similar vein, I heard a small amount of looseness and give when the Dynaudios were challenged with “Hello”’s deeper bass elements. In fairness, any passive two-way loudspeaker would do the same, but it was a reminder that the M10 had clear limits: It could only hint at reproducing prominent midbass energy. Nevertheless, when I played “Hello” through Devialet’s Expert 130 Pro, goose-bumps sprouted on my arms from the power and detail of Adele’s performance. If that’s not convincing evidence of my level of engagement with these $799 speakers, I’m not sure what is.

Dynaudio Emit M10

Finally, I prodded the little Emits with Max Richter’s reimagining of the first movement of Vivaldi’s violin concerto Summer, from Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, with André de Ridder conducting the Berlin Concert House Chamber Orchestra (16/44.1 FLAC, Deutsche Grammophon 002037502). Tinkering with such a classic may be sacrilegious to many, but I would argue that Richter’s more deliberate, less polished take on the piece lends the old standby greater emotive quality. The Dynaudio’s control of the sound of soloist Daniel Hope’s violin was excellent, as it captured the nervous ebb and flow of the performer’s bowing with consummate ease, despite the rest of the orchestra yammering away in the background. If the M10 has a main talent, it’s surely its ability to have a singer like Adele, or Richter’s soloist, “pop” from the soundstage at the pleasure of the listener. To my ears, this is a marked deviation from Dynaudio’s house sound of 10 to 15 years ago, which was more metered. The company’s older models were no doubt neutral performers, but they didn’t sound as exciting or as urgent as the Emit M10. At the very limit of loudness and common decency, the solo-violin part in Summer did turn a little hot for my taste. Listeners who prefer a more rolled-off top end may want to look elsewhere, but I could detect no other compression artifacts when pushing the M10s hard.

Comparison

The true measure of the Emit M10 could be found only by comparing it with a true benchmark product: KEF’s widely lauded LS50. This, my reference bookshelf speaker, costs a penny shy of $1500/pair -- a little less than twice the Dynaudio’s price -- and features a pretty, heavily damped cabinet and one of KEF’s signature Uni-Q drivers: a coaxial drive-unit comprising a 1” vented aluminum tweeter mounted concentrically within a 5.25” magnesium-aluminum midrange-woofer. Visually, the LS50 looks and feels to be the more sophisticated of the two models, with a glossy finish and curved front baffle and corners. Both bass-reflex designs also appear to have about the same interior volume, though the Dynaudio’s larger, 5.5” midrange-woofer would appear to work in its favor in the bass department. The KEF’s sensitivity of 85dB/2.83V/m and nominal impedance of 8 ohms align closely with the Dynaudio’s 86dB and 6 ohms, though the LS50’s frequency response of 79Hz-28kHz, ±3dB, compared to the M10’s 50Hz-23kHz, ±3dB, makes the KEFs seem less capable in the bass.

Dynaudio Emit M10

Sonically, the LS50 does everything the Emit M10 could, but more convincingly. Adele’s singing in “Hello” was reproduced with greater precision, in terms of both specifying where, exactly, her voice appeared in the soundstage, as well as the minute details of her delivery: it was faster, lighter on its feet, and seemingly more effortless for the KEFs to reproduce. With Richter’s recomposition of Vivaldi, Hope’s violin sounded more focused, and more distinct from the orchestra behind it. With the KEFs, I could also hear deeper into the recording. The orchestra sounded more like a collection of individual instruments rather than an amalgamated whole, with better separation among players. The Emit M10s were able to match the LS50s in soundstage width -- both pairs of speakers sounded far larger than I expected -- even if I could ultimately make out more inner detail with the KEFs. Finally, the LS50 sounded a little punchy through the upper bass, while the M10’s response was more linear. Both speakers offered modest midbass extension, though the LS50 was the more controlled in this region.

The Emit M10 seemed to tread much of the same ground as the LS50, if a bit less gracefully. Both speakers were broadly neutral, threw out huge soundstages, and got the important bits right. Each was easy to drive, offered satisfying, unembellished bass, and possessed a deeply engaging midrange.

Conclusion

Dynaudio’s most affordable loudspeaker wouldn’t be very good if it didn’t bear all the hallmarks of the brand’s identity; thankfully, it does. The Emit M10 is built to a gratifyingly high standard in the same factory as every other Dynaudio speaker, with a high-quality satin finish and an inert cabinet. This bookshelf model’s vibrant sound is excellent for $799/pair -- I found it exciting no matter what music I threw at it. Strong, linear bass, a beautifully clear midrange, and terrific soundstaging are just a few of the qualities that make the Emit M10 a bombshell of a minimonitor. Strong recommendations don’t come much easier.

. . . Hans Wetzel
hansw@soundstagenetwork.com

Associated Equipment

  • Speakers -- KEF LS50, Monitor Audio Silver 10
  • Earphones and headphones -- NAD Viso HP50, Pryma 01, PSB M4U 4
  • Integrated amplifiers -- Devialet Expert 130 Pro, Exogal Ion PowerDAC, Hegel Music Systems H360
  • DAC-Headphone amplifier -- Oppo Digital HA-2SE
  • Source -- Apple MacBook Pro running Roon
  • Speaker cables -- DH Labs Q-10 Signature, Dynamique Audio Caparo
  • Analog interconnects -- Dynamique Audio Shadow RCA, Nordost Blue Heaven LS XLR
  • USB links -- DH Labs Silversonic
  • Power conditioner -- Emotiva CMX-2

Dynaudio Emit M10 Loudspeakers
Price: $799 USD per pair.
Warranty: Five years parts and labor.

Dynaudio A/S
Sverigesvej 15
8660 Skanderborg
Denmark
Phone: +45 8652 3411
Fax: +45 8652 3116

Website: www.dynaudio.com

North America:
Dynaudio North America
1852 Elmdale Ave.
Glenview, IL 60026
Phone: (847) 730-3280
Fax: (847) 730-3207

E-mail: sales@dynaudiousa.com