Dynaudio Focus 200 XD powered loudspeaker
Until the completion of renovations to our future music room, my reference system would have to be my desktop system, built around a pair of Dynaudio Focus 110A powered loudspeakers, now discontinued. The quality of that system is limited by the fact that my large, triangular desk sits in a corner, which necessitates placing both speakers fairly close to the walls behind them. The compromises in setup are many, their ramifications audible. The new Focus 200 XDs, which are larger than the Focus 110As and include an adjustment for placement close to walls and corners, proclaimed their promise with great force.
Three Ways to Play
Dynaudio's Focus 200 XD is the entry-level, compact model of a line that Dynaudio claims is optimized for high-resolution digital playback. At $6999/pair, including remote control and Connect wireless transmitter, the two-way, reflex-loaded Focus 200 XD is the smallest and least expensive of three Focus XD models, all of which are manufactured in Denmark.
Connected by means of a coaxial interconnect to an outboard DAC, CD player, etc., the Focus 200 XD can play signals of up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution. However, to take full advantage of its digital amplification, you can ditch the outboard DAC and directly feed it digital signals: according to Dynaudio, all signals are processed digitally in the amplifier without analog conversion, and remain in the digital domain until the latest possible and most ideal momentright at the drivers. When I asked Dynaudio USA's Mike Manousselis and Mick Tillman for more information, they told me that the amp is based on Texas Instruments' True Digital Audio Amplifier (TDAA) and TAS5015 Digital Audio PWM Processor, based on Toccata's Equibit technology, which accept a PCM digital audio stream and convert it to a PWM audio stream to drive the speakers
To create a fully digital, 24/192 signal path, you need two digital coaxial interconnects, one from your source to one speaker, the other to link the two speakers. If your source has only USB out, as my computer does, you'll also need a USB-to-coax adapter capable of transmitting 24/192 data. Once connected to a digital source, the Focus 200 XD's PWM amplifiers do all the work. Dynaudio says that the all-digital signal path is far more direct and "puristic" because the signal remains in the digital realm, "absolutely unchanged, without conversion or manipulation, until it [is] converted into music directly at the woofer and tweeter, and the volume is adjusted digitally by remote."
The Focus 200 XD also offers high-resolution wireless playback via its powered Connect wireless transmitter (supplied). Music sent wirelessly to a single zone (one pair of speakers) can have a resolution up to 24/96; sending it to up to three pairs of speakers in multiple zones limits the resolution to 16/48. There's also an optional iPhone/iPad Control app to select inputs and adjust the volume from a distance, should you exceed the range of Dynaudio's remote control.
Appearance and Controls
The Focus 200 XD is available in walnut or rosewood veneers, or satin-finish lacquers in black or white. Its drive-units are proprietary to Dynaudio: a 1.1" (28mm) coated-silk soft-dome tweeter and a 6.7" (170mm) mid/woofer with a specially developed magnesium-silicate polymer (MSP) cone. The drivers have lightweight aluminum voice-coils, "extra-strong" Ferrit+ magnets, and low-resonance cast-aluminum frames. Dynaudio says that each driver is "perfectly optimized" to its own "perfect amplifier" via DSP. Volume is controlled digitally directly at the amplifiers"perfectly," of course.
Things get really interesting on the back of the enclosure. Below the rear-mounted reflex port on each Focus 200 XD is a control panel that offers a choice of 24/192-capable, 75 ohm, digital coaxial inputs and outputs, or an analog coaxial input. Use the former when driving the Focus 200 XD digitally, direct from the source, and the latter in a conventional setup connected to preamp or a DAC with a volume control..
Four three-position switches adjust Input Sensitivity (+6, 0, 6dB), Treble (+1, flat, 1dB), Zone (Red, Green, Blue), and Channel Mode (Master, Slave, External). In addition to the Power On/Off switch, two-pronged IEC power receptacle, and a USB service port for software upgrades, the Focus 200 XD has a Speaker Position knob (Neutral, Wall, Corner) that adjusts its low-frequency response to suit the port's interaction with surfaces close to it.
The 14-button remote-control handset offers lots of choices for wired and wireless playback, as well as Mute.
Dynaudio's wireless Connect hub is a black box measuring 5.5" wide by 1.3" high by 4.1" deep and weighing just under half a pound. On its rear panel are five inputs: mini-plug, L and R coaxial line in, optical in, digital coax in, and computer soundcard/USB in. You can select Bluetooth or WiFi setup, and choose among three zones. On the bottom of the Connect is a tiny switch that toggles between two settings, one labeled High Resolution/1 Zone/24-bit/96kHz and the other labeled Multiroom/3 Zones/16-bit/48kHz. Power is via a supplied DC adapter.
Once I got the hang of it, playback was pretty easy. Use of an outboard DAC is straightforward, and requires setting both speakers' channel modes to External. For direct digital and wireless playback, you make the speaker that receives the initial signal the Master and the other the Slave. The terminology is odious, but it works. According to the manual, you then either connect the Master's digital output to the Slave's digital input with a cable, in which case the system will operate at 24/192, or use the wireless connection, in which case the system is limited to 24/96.
Hint 1: Make sure that when you change inputs, or switch from wired to wireless operation, you turn the speakers off and then on again. Otherwise, you may end up pressing buttons over and over in an endless circle dance.
Hint 2: As you've presumably already turned the speakers on via the switch on the rear, do not press the remote's On button. If you press this button when the speakers are already powered up, the system gets very confused. But I'm sure this button is there for a reason.
Hint 3: When you use the Connect hub to wirelessly send music to a single zonewhich is all that's possible with a single set of Focus XDsyou need to use the remote to select which input you're using (mine was digital coax). Then, make sure you use the remote to select the hub ID you've arbitrarily chosen on the Connect (mine was B). After only a short lag, music will begin playing through the speakers. Once everything is synced, the lag time virtually vanishes.
Hint 4: If, no matter how many times you're sure you've pushed the right buttons, sound still comes from only one speaker, raise the volume level until both speakers are engaged. Once they are, you can lower the volume. If they still aren't engaged, scream.
Thought I'd never get to it? Yes, there's a lot to take in. But if you don't take it all in before listening, you may end up doing what I did, which was to ignore the digital processing the Focus 200 XD system did oh, so well, and simply connect it to an outboard DAC. In my case, I connected it to the analog outputs of my Benchmark DAC1 USB, fed by computer.