Dynaudio of Denmark builds a staggering array of speakers, seeming to follow Alfred P. Sloan’s dictum for General Motors: “a product for every purpose and purse.” For Sloan, it was five major car brands; for Dynaudio, it’s eight lines of home speakers, plus numerous active studio monitors, and automotive and multimedia sound systems.
The focus [ahem] of this review is firmly on the middle of Dynaudio’s gaggle of “Advanced High-End” lines of home-audio speakers. The 260 is the smallest of three floorstanding speakers in the Focus line, which also includes a minimonitor and a center-channel model.
The Focus 260 ($4900 USD per pair) is a narrow, mid-size tower measuring 39.1”H x 7.9”W by 11.6”D and weighing 42 pounds. The review samples were finished in Dynaudio’s Black Piano Lacquer; the 260 is also available in White Piano Lacquer, or a veneer of Maple, Walnut, Rosewood, or Black Ash. Especially with their black grilles attached, the review samples looked very trim, very spare, very Scandinavian.
The base of the Focus 260 is attached to a metal plinth that accepts spikes or round-bottomed feet; I used the latter for my carpeted floor. Lock washers let you level the speaker. The 260 is tall, with a narrow footprint and a high center of gravity -- it’s not ideal for homes with rambunctious children (or, as in my case, clumsy adults). They were fairly stable but not immovable.
The Focus 260’s drivers are designed and made by Dynaudio. Handling the bass and lower midrange are two 6.7” (170mm) woofers, while the upper mids and highs are the responsibility of a 1.1” (28mm) soft-dome tweeter. When we spoke, Dynaudio’s Michael Manousselis emphasized several features of these. The woofer cones are made of a magnesium-silicate polymer that combines low mass and high rigidity with ideal internal damping. The woofers’ voice-coils are made of aluminum, whose lighter density makes possible more windings and coils of very large diameter. As is Dynaudio’s standard practice, the tweeter’s soft silk dome has a special coating that makes possible a more perfectly shaped and uniformly coated dome. The result, Manousselis said, is a smoother, more open sound with ideal radiation over the tweeter’s working range.
The woofers are crossed over to the tweeter at 2kHz. The low-pass slope on the woofer is 6dB/octave, the high-pass slope on the tweeter 12dB/octave. Each Focus 260 has one pair of speaker terminals; no biwiring of these babies.
When I first listened to the Focus 260s, I thought the effect of their grilles was pretty benign; still, I did all of my critical listening with the grilles removed. The speakers didn’t seem to be particularly fussy about placement, so long as their and my positions described an equilateral triangle. In my listening room, they ended up about 5.5’ apart, 2’ from anything to their sides, and about 4’ from the front wall.
My initial impressions were of a general openness and airiness -- a sense of space around performers that was quite pleasing. They belied their bass capabilities until called for, as in the Allegro Affetuoso (La Notte) of Ole Bull’s Concerto Fantastico for violin and orchestra, with violinist Annar Follesø, and Ole Kristian Ruud conducting the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, in a digital recording from the 2L-TWBAS 2012 Sampler (24-bit/176.4kHz FLAC, 2L/SoundStageRecordings.com). The bass drums come on quite vigorously in the opening, and the 260s did right by them. The openness was very evident in the violin solo, a beautifully sonorous episode that the 260s reproduced extremely well.
Also from that sampler, Eugène Bozza’s Children’s Overture, performed by the Norwegian Armed Forces Band conducted by Ruud, brought forth another fine aspect of the 260’s performance: speed. The rapid snare-drum rolls in this piece were very detailed, with no smearing of the sound. And there was good detail from the prominent trumpet parts that never compromised the fine sense of ensemble.
So the 260s sounded fine with well-recorded music -- how would they sound with less pure recordings? I pulled out a classic Top 40 tune, “Don’t Pull Your Love Out,” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds, from the Rhino collection Super Hits of the ’70s, Vol. 5: Have a Nice Day (16/44.1 FLAC). Through most speakers, the hot and heavy trumpets in the introduction sound blatty; this track is not the peak of recording technique even for the ’70s, when the attitude seemed to be, “Let’s goose the processing so the tune sounds really powerful on AM radio.” Well, even I was surprised. The horns were well controlled, and even the emphasis on the vocal band in the processing couldn’t completely ruin the performance. My respect for these speakers was growing.
For the ultimate test of “Can this record be saved?” I selected the “enhanced stereo version” of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, from The Motown Box (16/44.1 FLAC, A&R). Motown was never at the cutting edge of recording technology. Their equipment was old, for the most part, and not treated gently. Plus, their main studio, “The Snakepit,” was an old garage, originally with a dirt floor. But this remastering has the company’s tunes sounding as good as possible, a point that was not lost with the Focus 260s. They handled every over-the-top Motown flourish with aplomb: the double drum sets, the ever-present (and loud) tambourine, and James Jamerson’s incredible bass line.
A cappella voices brought out the best in the Focus 260s. The speakers had a remarkable clarity that even my reference speakers, a pair of Acoustic Energy Radiance 3s, couldn’t quite match. For instance, the eight voices of the 1990s edition of the Swingle Singers must be nimble to navigate the lyrics of the “Country Dances” medley on their If It’s Music, We’ll Sing It! (16/44.1 FLAC, Swing). This collection of old American folk tunes -- “Buffalo Gals,” “Old Dan Tucker,” “Yankee Doodle,” “Turkey in the Straw” -- is sung very quickly but with extremely precise enunciation. The 260s passed this test with flying colors, all the words sounding crisp and perfectly understandable.
Blown away by the Dynaudios’ ability to reproduce light voices, I wanted to hear how they’d do with prodigious bass. I pulled out an old recording of J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, with organist Hans-Christoph Becker-Foss (66 Bach& Masterpieces, 16/44.1 FLAC, BWV). The bass line was full and meaty, though I might have been missing the very lowest pedal notes (but perhaps not -- the 260 is claimed to reproduce down to 32Hz, and sounded it). But even if I were, I didn’t feel as if I were missing part of the performance: everything sounded right. And the excellence of the tuning of the Focus 260’s bass-reflex enclosure was emphasized by the total absence of the johnny-one-note bass one hears from many bass-reflex speakers, in which one bass pitch is always louder than all others. All in all, the Focus 260s put out very fine sound.
My reference Acoustic Energy Radiance 3s are similar to the Focus 260s. The AEs are three-way speakers, with two 6.3” woofers, a 5.1” midrange, and a ring-radiator tweeter. They’re a bit shorter than the Focuses, but otherwise not too dissimilar. There’s one major difference: the Radiance 3s cost $3000/pair, the Dynaudios $4900/pair.
The Focus 260 slightly emphasized the upper vocal ranges: sopranos sounded exquisite. The Radiance 3, on the other hand, seems voiced to favor altos and tenors. The difference wasn’t huge, but it was noticeable.
On the other hand, even without my subwoofer in the circuit, the AEs outperformed the 260s in terms of apparent bass. In fact, the difference was rather startling. It’s quite possible the 260 is the more accurate speaker, emphasizing extended and even response over volume.
One other point: At 87dB/W/m, the Focus 260 is only moderately sensitive. The AE Radiance 3 is specced at 90dB. That 3dB difference means that, for a given sound-pressure level, the Focus will require twice the amplifier power. And with a nominal impedance of 4 ohms, the Dynaudio will need to be connected to an amplifier that can throw a lot of current at it.
As befits Dynaudio’s reputation for producing excellent speakers, their Focus 260 is among the best I’ve heard. This is a speaker that brings out scads of detail, and so needs associated equipment that’s up to the task. Their modest size, perfect for many listening rooms, belies the quality of their output. With their neutral voicing and adequate but not prodigious bass, I would favor them for classical and acoustic music and small-combo jazz. If you’re into speed metal or something equally raucous, look elsewhere. But if your tastes match their impressive capabilities, the Dynaudio Focus 260s belong on your shopping list.
. . . Thom Moon
- Sources -- HP Pavilion dm4-1160 laptop with HP 1tB external hard drive; HRT Music Streamer II+ DAC; Cambridge Audio 650C CD player; Dual CS-5000 turntable, Shure M97-xE cartridge
- Preamplifier -- Linn Majik 1-P
- Power amplifier -- Carver TFM-15cb (100Wpc)
- Speakers -- Acoustic Energy Radiance 3, Advent ASW-1200 subwoofer
- Interconnects -- Linn (CD player), Straight Wire (DAC to preamp), Dayton Audio (USB and analog preamp to amp)
- Speaker cables -- AR 14-gauge with Dayton Audio banana plugs
- Power conditioner -- Panamax 1000+
Dynaudio Focus 260 Loudspeakers
Price: $4900 USD per pair.
Warranty: Five years parts and labor.
Dynaudio International GmbH
Phone: +49 (0)4108-4180-0
Fax: +49 (0)4108-4180-10
Dynaudio North America
1140 Tower Lane
Phone: (630) 238-4200