Dutch & Dutch 8c active loudspeaker system

At first glance, this active, DSP-controlled loudspeaker system, with dynamic drivers firing to front and rear, may seem an alien invader from the world of recording and mastering monitors made by such brands as Neumann and Genelec. I wouldn't dispute that perception, but I offer another perspective: The engineering that has gone into the Dutch & Dutch 8c ($12,500/pair) is an all-out attempt to meet the goals that all designers of high-end speakers hope to attain: wide, smooth frequency response; sufficient and linear dynamic performance; crossover management; a cabinet free of audible resonances and edge diffraction; control of the dispersion of sound energy throughout the audioband.

This last challenge is one that is of increasing interest to me, as illustrated by my reviews of Bang & Olufsen's Beolab 90 and Kii Audio's Three speakers (respectively published in January and September 2017), which also employ built-in amps, active crossovers, DSP, etc. It has also been paid vigorous attention by such builders of passive speakers as Bryston, Dynaudio, Paradigm, and Revel/Harman (footnote 1).

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What is it?
The Dutch & Dutch 8c is a clean, rectangular box meant to sit on a stand, though it's rather large and heavy for that application. The upper portion of its front baffle, made of injection-molded damped acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and polycarbonate, is formed into an 8"-diameter waveguide, or acoustic lens, for the 1" aluminum-magnesium–alloy dome tweeter; in the lower portion is an 8" aluminum-cone midrange driver. The two 8" aluminum-cone "subwoofers" (D&D's word) on the rear panel are similarly symmetric, although diffraction effects will be minimal at the low frequencies, from 100Hz down, sent to them by the 24dB/octave Linkwitz-Riley low-pass filter.

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On each side panel is a small (ca 5" by 2") rectangular port covered with a metal grille. These ports provide precise acoustical venting of the back radiation of the front-firing 8" driver, to cancel much of that driver's forward radiation and shape it into a cardioid pattern. Thus, the front driver, with a bandwidth of 100–1250Hz, radiates most of its energy forward, and minimal energy to the sides and rear, where it would reflect off and interact with walls and other room structures. This dispersion pattern is similar to that created by the 1" tweeter and its acoustic waveguide.

On the 8c's underside are a small vent and a variable-speed fan that kicks in when needed to ventilate the amplifiers. I never heard it.

While the 8c is big for a stand-mounted speaker, its cabinet isn't big enough to develop a lot of bass; Hofmann's Iron Law has not been repealed (footnote 2). The 8c's bass amp is specified to output 500W, but if your goal is to fill a large room with a lot of bass energy, a pair of 8" drivers presents displacement problems.

D&D takes advantage of placing the speakers close to the front wall with what they call Boundary Coupled Bass. When the 8c is positioned from 4" to 20" from the wall, the direct output of the rear drivers is acoustically coupled to the energy reflected by the wall such that they act as a single source. The potential downsides of positioning the speakers so close to the front wall are midrange colorations, but those are minimized by the highly controlled cardioid dispersion of the front drivers.

All connections and controls are on the lower edge of the rear panel. Beginning at far left, there is a plate with the serial number, followed by four signal connectors, the first three XLRs. The first of these is the main audio input, which can function as a balanced analog input or as an AES3 digital input. When used as the latter, the adjacent output provides throughput to another 8c (footnote 3), and each speaker can be assigned the left, right, or both channels of a stereo source. The third XLR is a full-range, DSP-controlled subwoofer output. (At review time, the software supporting this was not yet available.) The last connector, an RJ45, is essential for setting up the 8c's DSP functions and can also support playback via the local network. Next is a small pushbutton for selecting analog and digital inputs, analog input sensitivity, and choice of digital channel; next to this is a column of LEDs that indicate the user's selections. At far right are the inlet for the power cord, the fuse bay, and the main on/off switch.

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Setup
It took a bit of wrestling, but I managed to place each 8c atop a sturdy 24"-high Sound Anchors stand. The combination looked top-heavy but felt stable and welded to the floor. I began by placing them where I usually place stereo speakers: about 6' from the front wall and about 8' apart. While that wasn't nearly as close to the front wall as D&D recommends, it was a familiar starting point and made it easy to access the controls on the back panel.

First, I plugged my Audio Research MP1 preamplifier's L/R analog outputs into the D&Ds, but at either sensitivity, even with the MP1's prodigious voltage output, I could barely hear anything. It wasn't going to be that easy. I plugged an Ethernet link into each 8c and, following instructions, I used my computer's web browser to visit lanspeaker.com, the site where Dutch & Dutch's web-base app resides. The website found both speakers and told me that their volume controls had been set very low at the factory. I linked the two speakers so that I could control them as a pair, turned them up, and they sang. The sound was clean and sweet, with a narrow soundstage with solid center fill. Sorta small.

I left the speakers there while I continued to learn how to use them. I learned that I could play a stereo AES3 signal straight from my Baetis Prodigy-X server or from my miniDSP U-DIO8 at resolutions of up to 24-bit/96kHz PCM. I learned that there were controls for boundary distances and bass and treble levels, and options for more parametric filters than I would ever need. I also learned that my review samples included beta-version software that let them function as a Roon Advanced Audio Transport at up to 24/192 PCM for that application.

After this education process, and having cleared the other speakers out of the way, I repositioned the 8c's and Sound Anchors closer to the front wall, positioned as D&D recommends. I switched to the AES3 input (and, ultimately, to Roon via LAN); there's no justification for using an analog connection between my digital server and these speakers—they'd redigitize the signal anyway.


Footnote 1: I wrote about my participation in blind listening tests at Harman International in the February 2019 issue.

Footnote 2: Josef Anton Hofmann (1924–2010), the H in KLH Audio Systems, defined three desirable parameters in speaker building: bass extension, efficiency, and small enclosure. He demonstrated that any one or two of these can be optimized only at the expense of the other(s): If you want a small enclosure and high audio output, you pay for it with limited bass extension. If you want a speaker with high output and extended bass, you better build it big.

Footnote 3: After the output of the first 8c is connected to the input of the second 8c, a termination plug (provided) must be inserted in the second speaker's Throughput output.

COMPANY INFO
Dutch & Dutch
US distributor: Dutch & Dutch USA
PO Box 294, Cape Canaveral
FL 32920
(877) 388-2465
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
BillBrown's picture

Clearly "wow." Oh my.

I followed this speaker as it was developed and have been hoping for a review with JA's measurements, so I am now very thankful. Quite an achievement for the developers.

EverymanAudio's picture

So is this just about as good as it gets as far as measurements? If so, I'd like to see pretty much everyone review this, especially Herb and Art to see what the reaction is to a virtually perfect speaker.

medtner's picture

The short answer is no. There is measurements of 8c's THD and the harmonic distortion of its bass is much higher then a truly hiend speaker (Magico S5 or Vivid g2) or other passives at its price-range. Having listened to 8c, I would say that measurement difference is clearly audible.
That being said, the sacrifice in THD or some other untested area seems to be vastly rewarded in other area.

je26's picture

Yet other listeners who have heard both the 8Cs and big audiophile speakers (including Magicos, Vivids, JBL M2s, Revel Salon 2s, Beolab 90s, Wilsons, assorted ATCs, MBLs, Goldmunds, and FM Acoustics' giant pyramids) do not hear these distortion components in the 8Cs, at least at reasonable listening levels. I am among those listeners.

The measurements taken for Soundstage in the NRC chamber were methodologically flawed, but they have conveniently provided a basis for contending that traditional audiophile speakers are better than these loudspeakers, which of course are not perfect but seem to represent a significant step forward.

medtner's picture

I agree that speakers like 8c or kiii would never sound "very distorted" yet their bass and midrange does comes "bigger" and "thicker" ( also to my ears less "transparent") than the more expensive active Grimm Audios, or the less expensive passive Contour20s. This is very evident on small listening levels (60db), but how each listener interprets sound of course is different. I still think 8c and kiii are excellent values and all-around players if you listens 70-90db, just perhaps not as perfect as some measurements show.

ms142's picture

Very curious about this comment:
> The measurements taken for Soundstage in the NRC chamber were methodologically flawed

Would you mind explaining some more?

je26's picture

On another forum, no less an authority than Floyd Toole, who developed the NRC's measurement facilities, pointed out that measurement of a non-monopole speaker (which the 8C is at lower frequencies) would require recalibration for accurate readings at low frequencies. Soundstage did not do that, nor did they buy from the NRC the measurements that Dr. Toole felt would provide the most compelling indication of how the 8Cs would perform in a real listening room.

Kal Rubinson's picture

There is measurements of 8c's THD and the harmonic distortion of its bass is much higher then a truly hiend speaker (Magico S5 or Vivid g2) or other passives at its price-range.

I have emphasized the last phrase because neither of the mentioned passive speakers is anywhere near the price of the 8c. In fact, they are 3x-5x more expensive and that's even without power amps!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

The red trace in the bass frequency response measurements are taken with the parametric EQ engaged, used by KR ......... JA1 mentions that in the measurements section ........ For some reason measurements after dis-engaging the EQ, were not shown :-) ........

JHL's picture

This probably is about as good as measurements go, measurements related to amplitude (and in this case, time). However such data cannot automatically conflate to "the perfect loudspeaker". One is an assortment of eye-pleasing metrics that describe specific behaviors and engineering aims, while the other offers a rhetorical presumption.

That's not intended to be pedantic: We simply have to detach the presumption from the suite of available data visuals and then go right back to considered and considerable hearing. If hearing the thing induces a strong sense of being in the presence of the original recorded event, then the metrics will be proved out.

Given the enormous importance of the excellent sounds coming from wildly disparate speakers than these, the notion of "the perfect speaker" remains challenged. I'm sure the field will benefit from this particular approach, but whether that approach serves the music over the long haul remains to be seen.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Since word "perfect' does not appear in this review,* your comment is a bit of a red herring. Just go and listen to it as you are advised in all cases.

*Yes, JA does say "an almost perfectly time-coincident shape," in a precisely limited statement.

JHL's picture

My remark was a reply to verymanAudio, Kal.

Kal Rubinson's picture

That was not apparent to me. OTOH, I would curious to hear what Herb and Art would say about this.

JHL's picture

A large, von Langa-class speaker can and does have a distinctive, undeniable relationship to the recording that I suspect technophile speakers cannot match. There must be good reason for the following such things accumulate ... including when it appears in these pages.

Kal Rubinson's picture

If you say so. Not my cuppa.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Art and Herb may say that, that kind of a review is outside their 'purview' ........... Just kidding :-) .........

medtner's picture

I also read somewhere that an amp designer said that the performance of an amp at 0.001w is crucial in replaying the micro details of music and he has a unique way testing showing many solid-state that measures well on 1w and 100w measures badly on 0.001w comparing to tubes. I would guess that for speaker it's quite the same that a speaker performs so well on 80db can be said to be "quite accurate" but not "accurate" unless it can reproduce 40 db signal faithfully. That could be also why some dac that test the same sound so different.
However I still wonder if the previous statement have a scientific base on that : )

MZKM's picture

Most residential rooms are like 35dB-50dB, 40dB is super quiet, almost inaudible, especially if louder sounds are being played at the same time. There is also no meaningful information that is being recorded into the music that low (roughly -65dBFS), maybe you’ll hear a fly buzzing in the recording studio.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

According to Google search, flies buzzing can be loud ........ However ultrasonic pest control generators may repel flies :-) .........

rt66indierock's picture

My office is currently about 40 dB now during the day. I can certainly hear things in the background when I play music.

At night the background drops to under 27 dB and I can still hear things.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Wow .... You must be capable of hearing 'Johnson Noise' in the electrical circuits ......... Just kidding :-) ........

MZKM's picture

Are you using a measurement mic with slow C-weight? A phone app won’t do. It is highly unheard of for an office space to be 40dB, most are 70dB.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

One thing for sure ....... He probably doesn't work on the trading floors of NYSE or CME :-) .........

Jason P Jackson's picture

Yeah. "Low level detail" and what a system is doing at .001w is a major one. On a similar note, there exists a couple European made ribbon tweeters that are held in high regard and have found their way into some revered multi-ways. Yet they measure pretty average when subjected to high level steady-state sweeps. However, it's with the quieter sweeps these tweeters surpass most domes. Their spectral decay (or at least the variants that have come my way) is up their too.

TJ's picture

Thank you Kal and John for such an informative review. Fascinating. Eager to see your review of the B&W Formation Duo, as a long-time B&W 800 series listener.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

If D&D could come up with a floor standing model with a couple of larger diameter subwoofers, say 10" or 12", priced around $25k/pair, with similar type of DSP control and web access, they will have another world class loudspeaker :-) ........

JRT's picture

I think that you are in the right ballpark, though maybe a little low for the parts cost to MSRP multiple that Dutch and Dutch is charging on these.

The well developed performance may be worth the extra money, at retail.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Check out Eikon Audio Image-1 ........ Somewhat similar concept ........... Around $25k :-) ..........

AJ's picture

Go figure ;-)
Now someone please get Kal a heftier pair of stands, he must not have kids!

Kal Rubinson's picture

I don't really have or need any stands. And while I do have kids and grandkids, they are all adults. (I wish I could see better what is in your tiny picture.)

AJ's picture

I confused the article photo with glass windows behind speaker (and bicycle) with your room described "with glass windows". The stands in that pic looked a bit small given the heft of the speaker. Maybe you don't have a bicycle either ;-).

Larger photo (where I got it from)
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/soundfield-audio-suncoast-audiophile-society.1813/

Kal Rubinson's picture

Ah. Those are fantasy photos and not from my room but I used to have a bicycle. Consequently, the stand is one I have never seen or used. This is a poor picture of what I used for the D&Ds. http://soundanchors.com/uploads/6764906e5780fb15c75269479f3bc9be4bc74c93.JPG

symphony1010's picture

Having returned to Stereophile in the last few months I was interested to find any active loudspeaker reviews. I have been seeking quality and simplicity in music reproduction because this ultimately ensures that I can focus on the music. A few years ago I purchased some actives from a UK manufacturer and these have replaced the mix of boxes, wires and dust(!) from before.
I can see that it is in the interest of manufacturers to sell more boxes but sometimes it does seem as if they prioritise profit over the best result for the serious listener. Magazines play their part here also I fear.
It's therefore good to see these actives positively reviewed here. I agree that they are the future, although for me they are the present.

Kal Rubinson's picture
  • I can see that it is in the interest of manufacturers to sell more boxes but sometimes it does seem as if they prioritise profit over the best result for the serious listener.
  • Isn't this an issue for any manufacturer? The best result for the serious listener is not always coincident with the product that will garner the most sales and profit. A business must make money to survive.

  • Magazines play their part here also I fear.
  • Sure but there is a parallel. What do our readers want to read about? It should be apparent that Stereophile readers have strong opinions about what they want.

    P.S.: Welcome back.

    ednazarko's picture

    I've used studio monitors for years from various manufacturers, for providing music at photo shoots in rented locations, in guest bedrooms, and in a gallery I partly owned. Had a Y connector to plug into the jack on my portable music player or phone, and they were great for that purpose. But - I listened to one of the nicer sets I had for almost a month, M-Audio 8 inch, while my main system speakers were out for repair, and I can tell you I was very, very happy to get my regular speakers back. The M-Audio weren't bad... but they weren't as good as my other passive speakers.

    Recently got a set of KEF LSX - needed something small for a small room - and I'm floored by how good they sound. Yeah, they're small, probably miss the bottom two or three keys on a piano keyboard, but they're precise, musical, decent enough bass, and actually image when used in a pretty sub-optimal setting. When I'm listening to them, I find myself looking at them and thinking... I could swap 5 boxes out (DAC, pre, amp, two speakers) and replace them with two powered speakers. Not LSX, which are great in a small room, but something bigger.

    With these, or the Kii, I could also ditch the subwoofer. Now I'm surfing the second hand market trying to figure out how much I'd get from dumping those six components in my studio/print shop to pick up a powered setup.

    symphony1010's picture

    This is my experience also. As a busy professional musician and educator I simply haven't got time to evaluate whether cable 'Y' makes a difference with amplifier 'X'. However, recently, I took some time out to read, explore and, above all, listen.
    If the high-end audio industry is to find a wider customer base then it surely has to find straightforward in-roads to the best quality without complexity.
    Active speakers seem to be part of that answer but I would suggest that wireless playback was also, until recently.
    Instead of continuing to improve Chromecast Audio and Airplay both Apple and Google have discontinued the simple, straightforward (and cheap) products that are essential to follow the simple route. As things stand, Airport Express and Chromecast Audio are only supported in 3rd party devices and many of these include unnecessary features or poor remote control.
    To cut to the chase I suggest that the best high-end system could be produced with a streaming service from Tidal/Qobuz feeding an improved Airplay type system connected to active speakers. Job done and no need for cables, DACS, pre-amps or any other add-ons.
    What is more important? Access to well-reproduced music? Or a complex route that may still fail to satisfy and induce yet another bout of upgraditis?
    We have a lot of this with instruments. 3rd-party manufacturers develop all kinds of add-ons to 'improve' clarinets but, watch most professional players and you see simplicity with few frills. Like
    wise in pianos, a Steinway Model 'D' from Hamburg or even New York(!) just needs a good tuner/technician and the job is done. Why are audiophiles still messing around with so much kit in the 21st century?

    jeffhenning's picture

    Sorry for all of you fans of passive speakers and those that are digi-phobes in general, but this has been where speakers have been heading for a while. This is just another example of how you can use DSP to make a great speaker.

    The only thing I can see as a "design flaw" is that they are attempting to cram too much into one box. Not having your tweeter and mid shaken about by subs in the same box is preferable. For a one box solution, though, this is pretty impressive.

    If this thing is profitable, I imagine they will have a version where they have separate subs and, maybe, a MTM mains cab.

    When you consider all of the things this speaker offers, it's a great deal.

    Ortofan's picture

    ... already good sounding/measuring passive speakers - such as the Revel Performa3 F208 - when driven by an amp with a built-in DSP room acoustics correction function - such as the Yamaha R-N803 - compare to the D&D speakers reviewed here?

    Would the D&D speakers be worth twice the price?

    https://www.stereophile.com/content/revel-performa3-f208-loudspeaker

    https://audio.com.pl/testy/stereo/amplitunery-stereo/2984-yamaha-r-n803d

    Bogolu Haranath's picture

    Another passive speaker, Vandersteen Model 3A Signature ($5,500/pair), are also in the price range of Revel Performa3 F208 ........ Vandersteen speakers can also do time-coincident wave launch ........ KR could probably review the Vandersteen 3A Signature :-) ............

    Lorton's picture

    JA wrote: "DSP operates at a fixed 48kHz sample rate, and that digital data with a higher sample rate are downsampled"
    Is that true? Do you want your input to always be down/upsampled to 48K? I certainly don't. What am I missing?

    Kal Rubinson's picture

    First hand experience, perhaps.

    jmsent's picture

    ...simply means that the upper frequency cutoff of the system is 24kHz. Given that the aluminum/magnesium (mostly aluminum) tweeter's "oilcan resonance" is at around 25kHz, what point is there in going higher than that? Frequencies fed to the tweeter at or above its resonance run the risk of creating IM products in the audible band. The specs also state the SN ratio as 118dB. Though not verified, this suggests that the built in DAC's are probably 24bit. So, I can't see where this setup would be a limiting factor.

    Lorton's picture

    but that will be like arguing that lossy digital audio signal is good enough (and all cables/amps sounds the same, etc.).
    Kal, the pro-audio world has been using 48K sampling rate back in the DAT days (they don’t do that anymore for a good reason). It is a problematic rate as far as 44/88/176 sample rates are concerned (uneven multiplier = lossy conversion), you are basically arguing against all hi-res formats, and compromising Red Book, the majority of the media. Not an ideal, anachronistic, way to run a DSP.

    Bogolu Haranath's picture

    Most of the Hi-Res PCM digital recordings made these days are 24/96 and 24/192 ....... They can be down-sampled to 24/48 :-) ..........

    Kal Rubinson's picture

    I am not arguing it one way or the other. I am advocating that you try to listen to it with an open mind despite your knowledge and experience.

    garmtz's picture

    Normally, speakers are to be measured at tweeter height, but this design is meant to be listened to midway between the tweeter and woofer. The reason is simple: it eliminates any path length differences, regardless how far you are sitting from the speakers. This might have slightly influenced the vertical and lateral responses as well as frequency response and especially the step response.

    Bogolu Haranath's picture

    These D&D speakers are DSP controlled 'time-coincident' ....... JA1 mentions that in the measurements section ....... Most of the conventional dynamic speakers are 'time-coherent' :-) .........

    nadeauu's picture

    hi

    nadeauu's picture

    Selling 2 months used dutch and dutch 8c with Sound Anchor stands and Aurender N10 streamer.

    JRT's picture

    There are other websites aligned to sales of used audio gear, decidedly not the focus of this website.

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