Dynaudio Excite X14 loudspeaker

In the March 2010 issue I reviewed Dynaudio's Excite X12 bookshelf speaker ($1200/pair), then the least expensive speaker in Dynaudio's line. It mightily impressed me, and I wrote that it had "become my new benchmark for speakers costing under $2000/pair." Despite the many newer, competing bookshelf speakers costing somewhere between $1000 and $2000/pair that have visited my listening room since then, my enthusiasm for the Excite X12 has not waned—I've used it as a reference against which to compare all of those of those models. So when Dynaudio USA's Michael Manousselis contacted Stereophile to tell us that the entire Excite line had been redesigned, and offered review samples of the Excite X12's successor, the Excite X14 ($1500/pair), I jumped at the opportunity.

New Design
Except for its grille, the two-way, rear-ported Excite X14 looks identical to the two-way, rear-ported Excite X12. (The X14's grille is attached with concealed magnets, the X12's with plastic snap locks.) The 1" fabric-dome tweeter in both models features a proprietary Precision Coating that Dynaudio declines to describe. In the X14, however, this coating is applied by a high-precision machine that allows it to be deposited more evenly than was possible in the X12. Like the X12, the X14 has a long-throw, 5.7" woofer with a small, lightweight voice-coil. However, in the X14, the spider suspension and voice-coil have been redesigned to improve headroom and the accuracy of the cone's motion. The tuning of the bass port has been refined, and the crossover is a new design trickled down from Dynaudio's more expensive Focus line.

Finally, while the X12 was a 4 ohm design, the X14 is a truly linear 8 ohm design, in an attempt to make it an easier speaker to drive—the X14 will draw less current from the amplifier.

The Excite X14 is available in real-wood veneers of walnut or rosewood, as well as lacquer finishes of Satin Black or Satin White. I found the tiger-striped rosewood of my review samples particularly sexy.

To listen to the X14s, I set them on my Celestion Si stands and left their grilles off; I felt that the latter revealed a tad more detail.


The Excite X14s' dead-neutral, detailed, and holographic midrange made them a perfect showcase for well-recorded voices. In "The Losing End (When You're On)," from Neil Young's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (LP, Reprise RS 6349), Young's voice was silky, every sibilant reproduced with crystal clarity and no trace of spittiness or harshness as it floated on a bed of air above the interplay of Billy Talbot's bass and Ralph Molina's drums. Higher in the audioband, the upper-register melodies in "Donatella," from Lady Gaga's ArtPop (CD, Streamline/Interscope B0019295-02), were reproduced with an airy sense of body over a foundation of electronic instruments. Woodwinds were equally intoxicating. In Seven Standards 1985, Volume 1, master composer and reed player Anthony Braxton deviates from his usually abstruse original work, cranking through straight-ahead covers of jazz standards (LP, Magenta M0-0203). Through the Excite X14, his slightly forward alto sax was vibrant and lyrical, and the speaker was able to reveal every subtlety of his unique phrasing.

The X14's reproduction of high frequencies was extended, pristine, uncolored, and delicate with all recordings I listened to. The many colors of Bill Frisell's electric guitar in an early (1987) recording, The Paul Bley Quartet (LP, ECM 1365), were easy to dissect throughout his instrument's entire register. Miles Davis's trumpet in Workin' with the Miles Davis Quintet (LP, Prestige P7166) had the requisite bite of burnished brass throughout its upper register, and his rich melodies bathed the rhythm section in a golden glow. The acid test of a speaker's high-frequency capabilities is its reproduction of the strings in a good recording of a baroque chamber ensemble. The massed violins in Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Trumpets in C, RV 537, from the Academy of Ancient Music led by Christopher Hogwood (LP, L'Oiseau Lyre DSL 0544), sounded extended and airy, and revealed an ideal and delicate balance of bowed string bite and silky seductiveness.

Very impressed with the Excite X14's bass performance throughout a wide range of recordings, I mined my collection of jazz vinyl for bass solos. My notes for Paul Chambers's solo in "The Theme Take #1," from Miles Davis's Workin', and for Scott La Faro's solos in Bill Evans's Live at the Village Vanguard (LP, Riverside RS 3001), read the same: "clean, clear, warm, and resonant." But these little bookshelfs were also quite capable of handling dramatic passages in the lower bass. The opening organ-pedal motif in Philip Glass's score for Godfrey Reggio's film Koyaanisqatsi (UK LP, Island ISTA 4) was blooming, airy, and powerful, with no overhang or loss of definition in the lower notes.

I'm quite taken with the interesting synth patch Lady Gaga uses for the bass line in "Donatella." It has an organic and intoxicating yet artificial buzzy quality, and the Dynaudio untangled its unique textures with clarity.

Finally, the Excite X14 was able to unravel a considerable amount of bass detail from difficult recordings. On Last Exit's first eponymous live recording (LP, Enemy EMY 101), contains many busy passages in which bass saxophonist Peter Brotzmann and bass guitarist Bill Laswell play rapid-fire improvisations in the same register while guitarist Sonny Sharrock and drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson thrash about in full throat. The X14 was able cut through the instrumental density to clearly delineate and separate Laswell's and Sharrock's riffs.

And for its price, the Dynaudio did a spectacular job of laying out inner details. It unfurled the blockbuster recording of Krzysztof Penderecki's Polskie Requiem, with Antoni Wit conducting the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra (LP, Polskie Nagrania Muza SX2319/20). In the mid-1980s, a year after this recording was made, I heard, from a choice seat at Carnegie Hall, the composer and the Cracow Philharmonic perform it in what became one of the three best concerts I've ever heard (footnote 1). This long work features dense, complex vocal and instrumental textures replete with subtle dynamic inflections and dissonances that resolve into beautifully simple sonorities. Throughout, some of the hairier choral parts are very difficult for a speaker and/or phono cartridge to make sense of. (My Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood perfectly tracked the entire LP.) But the Dynaudio was able to precisely resolve each nuance of even this work's most complex passages.

The Excite X14 resolved all transients with lightning speed, and with no trace of edge or blunted attacks. The rapid-fire electronic blasts from Laibach's Nova Akropola (LP, Cherry Red BRED 67), and singer Milan Fras's guttural growl, were clean and crisp. In the title track of Metallica's Master of Puppets (LP, Elektra 60439-1), the speaker resolved all of the subtleties of the delicate acoustic-guitar introduction, and didn't smear a drop of the gut-slamming fortissimo speed-metal passages in the rest of this track.


I was very impressed with the wide dynamic contrasts the Excite X14 was capable of. Playing "Starless," from A Young Person's Guide to King Crimson (LP, Editions EG KC10), the speaker revealed the entire dynamic range of ppp to fff in linear and organic fashion. Although I thought I knew this track intimately, I realized for the first time that it has the dynamic capabilities of a typical classical orchestral work.

And these little bookshelfs were great rock speakers—they had no problem ripping it loud if I wanted them to. I put on the greatly underrated, eponymous first album of the Vanilla Fudge (LP, Atco SD33-224)—it was way head of its time—cranked up their unique arrangement of Holland-Dozier-Holland's "You Keep Me Hanging On," and reveled in the crisp, coherent dynamics and heavy slam of the rhythm section, bathed in Mark Stein's distorted Hammond B3. And my high-volume spin of Jeff Beck's Beck-Ola (UK LP, EMI 8 55665 1) reproduced the rhythmic interaction of Beck's guitar, Ron Wood's bass, and Tony Newman's drums with perfect coherence. My notes read: "Pow! Sock! In the pocket!" Finally, I cranked up to 11 My Bloody Valentine's first album, This Is Your Bloody Valentine (LP, Creation CREEEP 060)—the band's name should be My Bloody Eardrum—and let my entire house bathe in the sustained wash of distorted guitars.

I compared the Dynaudio Excite X14 ($1500/pair) with my original review sample of the Excite X12 ($1200/pair), as well as the Epos Elan 10 ($1000/pair).

The Excite X12 had a richer lower midrange but less midrange detail, and its highs were less delicate and less detailed. The X14's high frequencies were cleaner and more articulate in high-level passages. The ability of either Dynaudio to articulate sounds at low levels was excellent; I heard little difference between them. The X14's midbass was much cleaner and clearer than the X12's, which sounded a bit sluggish and warm by comparison. At first I thought the X12's bass went a bit deeper than the X14's, but I believe that impression may have been created by the older speaker being slower and less articulate in the bass. I look forward to seeing John Atkinson's measurements of the bass extension of the two Excite models.

The Epos Elan 10 had clean, clear, deep bass and excellent midrange detail. Its highs, however, were less detailed and less delicate than the Excite X14's. The Epos's articulation of low-level dynamics was almost as good as the Excite X14's, but the Elan 10's ability to produce high-level dynamics and slam was the best of the three.

With the Excite X14, Dynaudio has taken all of the aspects of the Excite X12 that I liked and improved them across the board. At $1500/pair, this speaker is an extraordinary value. It has become my favorite bookshelf speaker for under $2000/pair.

Footnote 1: The other two, both from the same time period, were: 1) John Zorn conducting a 25-piece ensemble in his arrangements of works by Ennio Morricone. Imagine guitarists Bill Frisell, Fred Frith, Arto Lindsay, and Robert Quine, and drummers Anton Fier and Bobby Previte, all onstage at the same time! 2) The Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense Tour. The night after that performance, I bought another ticket and saw the show a second time.
Dynaudio A/S
US distributor: Dynaudio North America
1852 Elmdale Avenue
Glenview, IL 60026
(847) 730-3280

Anon2's picture

This product looks interesting, as does the Stereophile-endorsed Focus 160. Any thoughts on what some minimal amplification/digital requirements might be for this speaker -vs- the Focus 160?

This comment section holds a lot of promise to be a good forum to exchange pre-purchase advice. This is especially true since dealer visits have become less tenable due to time constraints, and less comfortable since the economy has headed south.

I'm just waiting for the day when Dynaudio relents and puts the Focus series on e-commerce; the DM series is already there, as is all of KEF's products. I'm sure B&W probably gets regular calls from e-commerce sites. How long until they relent? Once this happens, then we'll have regular comments and testimonials from actual users, versus the decreasing amount of knowledge obtained from increasingly tense and rare dealer visits.

Any thoughts on the Excite X14 -vs- Focus 160 would be good. We "can trust our ears" in the end, but advice before we spend the entire Saturday driving to the dealer would be good (for us and the dealer). Even in large cities, dealer visits aren't what they used to be. Let us hope that the comments section in Stereophile can help.

DarkStar_64's picture

I'm sure the Epos are very nice, but I would like to see, or hear rather, how the Excite 14's stack up against the Stereophile Class A rated KEF LS50' s. The KEF' s have the same price point as many, many other stand mounts, and Stereophile has tested quite a few stand mounts since the LS50' s debut, but have yet to use them as a comparison model. Are the KEF LS50' s so good that they would simply blow away the competition?

Xyriut's picture

The LS50 has excellent mids, but weak lower mids/upper bass. They do vocal well, but not rock, r&b, or even country. This is in a well treated room, and proper placement (the most optimal for what the LS50s could reproduce).

On the flip side, the cheaper KEFs don't do bass or mids very well because it seems their emphasis is on bass (ie: Q300).

The Polk mentioned below would fare better against both KEFs, IMHO of course.

Casmar's picture

I had the KEFs in my room for a month, so I could compare them with the Spendor LS3 5a, and the Dynaudio excite X14. Well, the KEF reproduce voice very well, not as well as the LS3 5a, but a bit better than the Dynaudio. Between the KEFs and the Spendors, I preferred the latter in my smallish room. But overall the Dynaudios were by far the best reproducers of a vast range of music. They can reproduce piano quite well, while the KEFs distorted heavily. By now, I tend to read a lot bewtween the lines when reading product reviews. Needless to say I returned the KEFs.

slowpoke's picture

How would you say that these compare to the Polk Audio RTI A1? Very similar types of bookshelf speakers, and I'm having a hard time deciding.

MacProCT's picture

Every year, we at the Connecticut Audio Society have a speaker shoot-out of 'monitor' speakers (although occasionally some small floor standers sneak into the competition).

During our 2015 blind speaker comparison (speakers hidden behind speaker grille cloth, level matched with white noise) we had 8 speakers in the running, including the Dynaudio Excite XC 14. Our listening panel of approximately 25 members, ranked the XC 14 below the average for this collection of speakers.

That collection included two speakers that ranked highest: KEF LS-50 (which is at the same price point) and Dynaudio Confidence 1 (which is much more expensive).

Another interesting point is that, in studying the members rankings of the speakers (on 1 to 10 scale), the XC 14 was among the speakers to have the widest range of rankings on their performance. That means that there was no consensus among our members on this speaker. Unlike the LS 50, which earned a very close grouping of member opinions -- indicating much more of a consensus of opinion.

Chris Hart
VP & Secretary, Connecticut Audio Society
Where Connecticut's Music and Hi-Fi Enthusiasts Connect

Xyriut's picture

Otherwise, perhaps you'd make the results of these meetings available...