The Davina Loudspeaker Prototype

There are always a few truly eccentric rooms at audio shows. And at FIAX 2024, the Davina Loudspeaker commanded one.

I first became aware of this speaker system because my hotel room was adjacent to it, and I noticed the unusual intensity of the sound coming through the walls. My first thought was "so this is what it's like to have a bass addict as a neighbor." I am usually the offender when this happens, but I wasn't in Tampa. Anyway, I am drawn to good bass when I hear it, like bugs to a lightbulb.

Once I saw the speaker system and grasped the concept, I knew I had to give it a full demo even though it's a noncommercial project, which probably will never be on sale. For one, it's a labor of love (hence the name). And having dabbled in DIY speaker design in the past—and gone down a similar open-baffle path once—I'm always curious what concepts are being explored and how the results sound.

The speakers, or more accurately speaker concepts—showcased in a room with Tonnen acoustic treatments and Viablue cables—were born from the DIY spirit and clearly informed by experience. It is an all-active, open-baffle speaker system. Built by one of the show's four founders, John Chait, and named after his daughter, the Davina uses a 15" Lii Song Audio F15 full-range driver suspended from a tubular frame making it totally baffle-free. The concept is to leverage the figure-eight cardioid dispersion patterns of an open baffle design to achieve consistent high-fidelity sound in the listening area. In practice, a hotel room could barely contain this behemoth.

To compensate for the inherently weak bass response of the full-range Lii Song Audio F15, each speaker features four 10" Dayton PA55-8 drivers mounted on an open baffle. To deal with the narrow dispersion pattern of high frequencies, the speakers use four Dayton 1/2"-wide planar-magnetic ribbon tweeters arranged in a line array. There's another tweeter line array at the rear, operating out of phase.

For bass below 80Hz, the system features six subwoofer drivers arranged in open baffle, dual-opposed (force cancelling) configurations, achieving an in-room response down to 28Hz, ±3dB.

The sheer size of the speakers points to one of the compromises of open-baffle designs, which is that bass soundwaves self-cancel. The deeper you go, the more pronounced the effect. The only way to compensate is through sheer displacement. You need an abundance of surface area and excursion to move the air and overcome the loss. But if you can muster it—as this system does—the dividend is clean, tight output at live concert levels, unaffected by enclosure coloration or dynamic compression.

When I first walked in, "It's A Long Way There" by Little River Band came across as a bit strident, but later listening on other systems made me realize that the stridency is in the mix. I requested "The End" by The Doors and felt the song got the full high-fidelity treatment, each instrument reproduced in crystal clarity with no harsh edge.

The Davina Loudspeaker reminded me of the joys of DIY. It also reminded me that the results often sound quite different than they look. Despite the proliferation of bass and sub bass drivers, the suspended, ribbon tweeter–enhanced Lii Song Audio F15 driver was the true star of the show, delivering organically coherent soundstage and imaging.

If there's a lesson to be learned from seeing and hearing the Davina Loudspeaker, it's that high fidelity comes in all shapes and sizes, and if you know what you are doing—as seems to be the case with Mr. Chait—the results of a DIY project withstand scrutiny, even when demoed in a show filled with high-end speakers that achieve excellent performance.

For a glimpse into the listening experience this prototype system offers, check out the video below with a decent pair of headphones.

Anton's picture

"The End" sounded pretty good.

There is a 12 inch 'maxi signal' from the Apocalypse Now! soundtrack that has a very good mix of this song.

It's got those added helicopter sounds, too. A good system work out!

Video of the single....

DaveinSM's picture

Actually not surprised to see they were demoing Litte River Band’s ‘It’s a Long Way There’. The original extended version on the first album (can’t vouch for radio remixes on greatest hits compilations, only the original debut album) is surprisingly high fidelity and well recorded. I don’t find it shrill, as much as having great instrument separation in space, excellent, consistent stereo imaging, and clear sound.

The extended guitar solo at the end is a treat, though it is relatively high in the mix, and played on a Stratocaster type single coil guitar - emphasizing the highs. I guess it might seem shrill to some. But it’s a surprisingly great sounding album overall, and hard to find nowadays, especially CD.

rayventor's picture

I'm wondering what the Wife Acceptance Factor for these speakers would be. I think we all know the answer. Aesthetics matter, and not just to wives. I can't remember ever seeing main speakers with a lower W.A.F. number.