Dayton Audio B652 loudspeaker Listening to the AIR

Listening to the AIRs
I auditioned the Daytons with my usual high-end rig. It is a fair criticism that no one will use these speakers in a system costing upward of $50,000, but it's important to change as little as possible when inserting a new component in a reviewer's reference system. Connection is via a pair of spring-clip speaker terminals; to connect the Daytons to my usual speaker cables, I used pigtails with bare wire at one end and dual banana plugs at the other. The Daytons were used well out in the room, though it's fair to note that they could well benefit from some boundary reinforcement, the low and midbass, of course, being suppressed with such a small speaker. Phil Lesh's majestic bass-guitar lines in "I Used to Be a King," from Graham Nash's Songs for Beginners (24-bit/48kHz ALAC files ripped from DVD-A, Atlantic/Rhino R2 35257-2), were mostly missing in action, and Pino Palladino's Fender bass in "Every Day I Have the Blues," from the John Mayer Trio's Where the Light Is: John Mayer Live in Los Angeles (16/48 ALAC ripped from DVD-V, Sony 722727), was both a little lightweight and had a somewhat "grumbly" quality.

"Believe it or not, music through the little Dayton B652s was always very enjoyable," wrote Stephen in his review of the original version. "Its sins were of omission: Though it could sound big and dramatic enough to fill my listening room, the Dayton lacked deep bass, high-frequency extension, and ultimate control, sounding a bit hard and bothered during the most complex passages of music and when pushed to high volumes."

I didn't go all the way with Stephen's like of the earlier B652—its top octaves were too spitty for my taste. By contrast, the B652-AIR's high treble sounded very clean, if slightly suppressed in absolute terms. Steve Jordan's cymbals on the John Mayer video had a little too much of a sshh rather than ssss character. The cymbals in Nash's "I Used to Be a King" sounded slightly too metallic, and there was a slight emphasis of vocal sibilants in "Going Home," from Leonard Cohen's Old Ideas (ALAC ripped from CD, Columbia 88697986712). Similarly, Yo-Yo Ma's cello was a little too wiry on top in the Aria from J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations, in an arrangement for cello and organ on Simply Baroque II (ALAC ripped from CD, Sony Classical SK 60681).

Though the B652-AIR's treble definitely had some character, its midrange sounded surprisingly natural, even after I listened again to that lively enclosure with a stethoscope. The piano in Busoni's arrangement of Bach's Chaconne for solo violin, performed by Wolf Harden (CD, Naxos 8.555699), sounded convincing, as did Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's rich contralto in "Deep River" (ALAC ripped from CD, Wigmore Hall Live 0013). However, her voice acquired a shrieky quality in the song's bridge, when she sings loudly. At high levels, the speakers did start to sound "shouty" and midrange textures coarsened, which made me want to turn down the volume with recordings that are brightly balanced to begin with, such as Miles Davis's We Want Miles (CD, Columbia 469402 2). Soundstages on naturally recorded orchestral music were relatively flat, with little depth.

Fig.8 Dayton B652-AIR, spatially averaged, 1/6-octave response in JA's listening room.

Following my listening, I performed my usual spatially averaged measurement of the speakers' in-room response. The result is shown in fig.8. The balance is commendably flat through the upper midrange and treble, other than a significant peak between 3 and 4kHz, this no doubt giving rise to the coloration I noted. The low frequencies roll off below the tuning frequency of the woofer, of course.

At $59.80, a pair of B652-AIRs costs less than I spend to refuel my '84 Benz—even with the current low price of gasoline. But despite its low price, the Dayton speaker is, overall, a well-balanced design, provided it isn't played too loudly. Recommended for those looking for the least-expensive way to share our enthusiasm for recorded music.—John Atkinson

Dayton Audio/Parts Express
725 Pleasant Valley Drive
Springboro, OH 45066
(800) 338-0531

Skyrider's picture

I will tell this story often.  My roommate had a pair of Celestion Ditton 110 bookshelf speakers, probably $100 or so apiece.  They were hooked up with skinny wire to my JVC boombox and all was sitting on my living room carpet. I was listening to a classical FM station and was absolutely riveted to the music.

This is what matters most: "Does it make Music"? Does the music draw you in and keep you there.  Scintillating highs and earth-shaking lows don't mean beans unless your system makes MUSIC.

Don't ever forget that.

kevon27's picture

This industry has built itself on the notion that It's about the gear. You can spend $100000 on speakers alone so you can finally hear that cow bell in the far background being struck by the drummer no more than 10 times during the entire song. But it's all about the fine detail you say. REALLY, you need to get a life.

We need to get back to the music..

JIGF's picture

PeterHH's picture

I can't begin to afford 90% of the stuff reviewed in stereophile but reviewing a $40 pair of speakers is silly. If all you have to spend is $40 buy something on ebay or at a flea market. There are some decent speakers for around $100 from Cambridge Soundworks, whose late founder Henry Kloss made cheap but good a specialty. But really if all you have to spend is $40 you are a pretty unusual audiophile.

I have heard very enjoyable sound from unlikely systems, like the car radio in my father's 62 Cadillac - far superior to the one in his 67 Cadillac! But there is no science or system of finding such setups: they are just stumbled upon. There would be no point in reviewing them. You just have to hear them, and if you do hear them you may not share the owner's enthusiasm.

One of the great mysteries of audio is how mini-speakers can sound good enough to justify their price tags. These speakers are simply incapable of giving you the music on the record. Never mind the explosions or bass drum whacks; they can't even give you the bottom notes of the piano or cello. And yet we often prefer them to perfectly fine full range systems at the same price or a much lower price. Maybe we tell ourselves we're going to add a subwoofer (doubling the price before we're through!) But the little speakers sound good without a sub and sometimes adding a sub ruins it. Maybe the question is whether you listen to the equipment or to the music. If the latter you will probably want something that can produce bass notes from time to time. But if you just like to marvel at the clarity of your tweeters, the hell with the bass!

ashwinsrf's picture

You are shortsighted if you think anything can be too cheap to review.These speakers can give 300 usd speakers a run for their money. So to hell with your too cheap to review comment.

Get your facts right before posting. Your post just sounds like the rambling of a man who thinks money makes everything right.

ralphgonz's picture

I kind of agree that if you're broke you should be buying used audio gear on ebay. But you better have the DIY chops to repair a DOA purchase. Shipping can play havoc on 20 or 30 year old speakers, breaking crossover components loose from the cabinet and breaking soldered connections.

For everyone else, these Dayton speakers look like an amazing deal. It would cost twice this amount to build your own entry-level speakers.

tubeampking's picture

After some hemming and hawing I figured I'd drop the $40 and get a pair of these. They should be here in a day or two. I honestly am eager to hear them after all the press surrounding them.
First let me say that I'm a working class schmuck who can't afford speakers costing in the thousands, although I have heard some "high-end" gear and am considered by some to have a very good ear. That being said, I was surprised to see that the B652 has a sealed cab...anyone have any feelings or insight on this that they'd want to share.
I have yet to own a speaker that does all things current set up has a pair of Optimus Pro LX10s, a pair of Infinity SL 20s, a pair of JBL 2500s, a pair of Optimus Pro LX4 with the crossovers tweaked a la Black Dahlia site. Low end is delivered by a pwered Polk Audio sub. I can say that each of these have strengths and weaknesses. The LX 10s have a mushy midrange ( I hope to improve that with some tweaking ), the 2500s have fizzy tweeters, the SL 20s are great for live recordings...very open and airy...and the tweaked LX4s have made more than a few people soil themselves. I'm thinking about building my own cabs for the SL 20 woofers and a pair of Linaeum tweeters...more on that later. Any input on any of this would be well appreciated...

yogacraig's picture

One of my first enlightening listening experiences, regarding audio equipment anyway, was when a roommate's friend counseled him to buy a used Dynaco stereo 70, the corresponding preamp (I forget the model of Dynaco),and a mostly plastic Lenco TT with a Linn Basic cartridge, the sum of which played through a pair of 1970's Lloyds speakers that the roommate already owned. No mods, no expensive cables. I would never have guessed those speakers had any music in them, but they sounded musical and enjoyable, despite still having limitations. Music and fun making things sound better.

Johnda's picture

I enjoy seeing what can be found for folks at the lowest prices available but can give them an enjoyable experience. The Dayton B652 sure caught my interest! Being under 12 inches high, and a sealed system , it can fit in a lot of small spaces for today's apartment dweller. I have a living room credenza that holds my living room system and if we eventually downsize to a condo from our home, it would be my only system. It is nice to know that choices such as the Dayton B652 are available today.

BAbuoy's picture

There's a reason why the appeal to snobbery is a logical fallacy and I love it when products like the B652 are so revealing of said fallacy within this hobby.

The B652s paired with any number of inexpensive class D amps are excellent speakers for those that like to actually listen to and enjoy music. Imagine that concept.

For those desiring to measure SPL and stare at graphs while scoffing at the idea of spending so little money. Move along. The hifi marketing bus has left the station.

bbqjoe's picture

I really love this speaker.
I'm using this on my desk, which is rather large, and built with quality woods.

There are speakers out there that are just too in your face.
Then there are some that are just way too laid back.
To me, this speaker is somewhere in the middle.

I personally don't need 10,000 db's of 20hz bass ripping my windows out and cracking my foundation.
But I do like bass.
Maybe a bit more than bass, I like the punch of low mids.
My lust for for super high tweeters has faded over the years, but I still love clear high end, and the snap of a well tuned snare.

This speaker represents all of those elements to me.
At a moderate level, maybe 25 watts, these speakers sound excellent.
The 6 1/2 inch woofer behaves its best with a bit of power behind it, although it really isn't bad at lower levels.

The bass is clear and tight without flab.

I have some decent "audiophile" quality Dahlquist speakers, and quite frankly when I want to hear some full drive, I sit behind the Daytons.
These speakers do have some resonance, and whatever that frequency is, I like that too! To me, it's perfect.

Do these speakers have "soundstage" and paint a "holographic" image?
I'd say probably not, at least the way I have them set up with 2 foot triangulation, but still, they just sound good to my ears.
They possess a sound that my ears are hungry for, and I never tire listening to these. They just make me want to find more stuff to listen to.
They may need to be EQ'd to the sound you like, but what do you want for a $50 dollar pair of speakers?

I've listened to speakers costing many hundreds more than these, and yet, these beat them for overall sound.
I just wish I could find a house sized floor speaker that sounds like these do.

I have no idea how these might sound spaced apart in your 8x12 bedroom, but I just love sitting right in front of them.
I'd suggest wiring them up with a bigger gauge wire than they come with.
I'm running them with 12 ga.

I'll go as far as to say you won't find any better audio experience for $50 anywhere new.
I'd still be happy with these if I paid $150 ea.

Thanks Dayton.
To the doubters: Give them a try. If you can't wrap your head around them, give them to your kid, and you're only out the price of a few happy meals.

Mike Bradley's picture

Nice review Stereophile. Guys these are standard 6.5 inch woofer 2" tweeter "bookshelf" speakers which blow the doors off my 22' trailer using my old Sony 575W receiver. Gets loud enough at max that you have to take the dogs for another walk outside. Most reviews don't match the system to the environment - Stereophile probably has several dozen article re how to match your system to your environment -- like you don't really need Stadium Concert Cerwin Vegas and Marshall Amps in your dorm I'm old school and once had the apartment manager complain that she could hear my stereo where she lived "down the street." Those were jamming Led Zep etc., days....we blew our paychecks on stereos back then, now kids blow their paychecks on the latest 6" Apple or Samsung S10-5G.....only $ 1200 at your local Verizon (well, you pay over a two year contract anyway, who cares???) I just tore my hair out with eBay finding a cheap BT Speaker for my new Echo Dot, All the Chinese want to sell you is a Pill Box which means 6" x 2.5" with 2" crap speakers, worse than the built-in Echo. Finally found a cheap Sylvania BT with 5" speaker "10A" (at 2 Ohms marketing BS) which can hang with the Echo. Curtis still knows what guys REALLY want even if lots of their stuff is old-school boom boxes, etc. The only reason for a $10,000 dollar system these days is to put in your $ 1M mansion to impress your off impressing HER with a tennis court / pool.