Dynaudio Excite X12 loudspeaker
There was always a number of manufacturers who regularly displayed their wares at the Stereophile show and always achieved good sound, no matter what they demoed. One was the Danish loudspeaker maker Dynaudio. Over the years, I spent many hours listening to splendid sound in Dynaudio's roomsthe kinds of spaces where you just want to kick back, listen for an hour, and throw your notebook away.
There hasn't been a Stereophile show since 2007, and I haven't listened to Dynaudios for a while, save for the speakers in my friend's Volvo (footnote 1). Invariably, the Dynaudio speakers I heard at shows were their more expensive lines, but I began to wonder: Does Dynaudio make an affordable bookshelf model? The answer was a resounding yes, and soon a pair of Excite X12 loudspeakers ($1200/pair) were headed my way.
The X12 is the entry-level speaker of Dynaudio's Excite series, which includes three other models ranging up to $3600/pair. The rear-ported, two-way X12 sports a 5.7" cone made of a proprietary magnesium-silicateloaded polymer (MSP), with a voice-coil and die-cast basket both made of aluminum. The cone's material is designed to offer an optimum combination of stiffness, inner damping, and low mass. This drive-unit also features a longer voice-coil excursion than previous Dynaudio designs, to allow higher dynamics at high volume. The 1" silk-dome tweeter is made with a proprietary doping compound that benefits from a new precision coating process intended to achieve a more natural high-frequency response. The X12 also includes an impedance-correction circuit that is claimed to make the impedance completely linear above 100Hz. This presents the amplifier with very small inductive and capacitive loads; the X12 should be easy to drive for a wide range of amplifiers.
The X12 is available in real-wood veneers of Maple, Cherry, Rosewood, or Black Ash; high-gloss white or black are available for another $75/pair. My Cherry sample looked quite elegant and unassuming. I set the X12s on my Celestion Si stands, and though I felt the speakers' timbre was the same with or without their grilles in place, their resolution of detail and retrieval of ambience were dramatically better with the grilles off. Off they stayed.
Even as I began setting up the Excite X12s, I had some reservations. In the past five years I've reviewed many speakers at or near the X12's price, most of them bookshelf models. All have been excellent in different ways, and I was concerned that this review would be yet another repetition of "amazing bass and dynamic slam for an affordable bookshelf with no meaningful colorations." These days we're blessed with an embarrassment of riches, as creative manufacturers churn out more and more compact, affordable loudspeakers that can reproduce music with surprising realism. I hoped there'd be something special about the Dynaudio Excite X12 that would set it apart from all the other affordable bookshelf models I've heard recently.
That something special arrived during my very first listening session. The layers of detail revealed by the X12's rich, glorious, silky midrange made me want to listen to female singers. There was a quality in the lower end of the alto range that made particularly luscious Cassandra Wilson's rendering of Robbie Robertson's "The Weight," on Belly of the Sun (CD, Blue Note 35072). Further up the frequency range, there was a rightness to Madeline Peyroux's voice on Careless Love (CD, Rounder 11661-3192-2) that made her the perfect foil for Larry Golding's upper-register colorings on Hammond organ. I speak here of rightness of harmonic structure. From the mid-midrange to the lower highs, the X12 had such a "rightness" of timbral reproduction that I could almost see the drawbar settings on Golding's instrument.
Footnote 1: Dynaudio also supplies the speakers for the new Bugatti Veyron. Now there's a system I'd like to review (hint).