Dynaudio Evidence Master loudspeaker Page 3

Vocal recordings—my favorite type of music—were especially enhanced by the Evidence's focus. Sarah McLachlan's subtle vocal shifts on the bittersweet "I Will Remember You" (Mirrorball, Arista 19049-2) gave that song a raw emotional power. On "Getting Over You" and "What Was it You Wanted" (from Across the Borderline, Columbia CK 52752), Willie Nelson's clear, sweet baritone free of honk, hollowness, and grain. The Evidence captured the building tension and utter resignation of Emmylou Harris' showstopper, "The Maker," also from Spyboy. Detail abounded, rendering a complex, dramatic portrait: Harris' strained vocal cords and sense of exhaustion, the layered effect of the male backing vocals, the gunfire rim shots in the drum solo, and the gradual crescendo of voices, synthesizer, drum, guitar, and crowd noise.

That open Evidence window allowed me to hear subtle music details and to understand each word sung. This was true whether the singer was the male soloist in Elgar's Dream of Gerontius (Test CD 2, Stereophile STPH004-2); the men's chorus singing Rutter's Requiem; the sound of a soft, light waterfall that refused to be drowned out by the louder drone of Bao Li Zhang's Er-hu on I Ching's Of the Marsh and the Moon (Chesky WO144); the faint, thready voice of Sinead O'Connor singing "Don't Give Up" with Willie Nelson (Across the Borderline); or Emmylou Harris' thin, birdlike voice singing "Deeper Wells" over a vortex of bass synthesizer (Spyboy).

The Evidence seemed immune from distortion or dynamic compression, something proved every time I played percussion transients at lease-popping levels. One of my favorite selections is the opening of Tito Puente's timbales solo on "Tito," from Arturo Sandoval's Hothouse (N2K 10023). Because of the Evidence's high sensitivity, both Mark Levinson amplifiers could easily power the speakers to very high levels, projecting images of three separate drum kits. Rim shots and conga beats sounded sudden and explosive, with no congestion or softening. At levels equaled only by the Revel Salon driven by the Bryston 7B-ST monoblock, the Evidence's sound quality and levels in my room were breathtaking—fast, dynamic, and clean.

Although I've emphasized the Evidence's crystal-clear midrange and transparent top end, its bass response was equally superb. The speakers' ability to render a wide soundstage with depth and height, along with its crystalline upper register and its tight, tuneful bass, made it the best full-range floorstander for playing pipe-organ recordings that I've yet heard in my listening room. I realized—and was stunned by the revelation—that what I had sought all along in pipe-organ reproduction was not subterranean bass, but a realistic sonic portrait of the instrument's size, its upper registers, and how these interact with the surrounding acoustic space.

Yes, the deep pedal notes in "Gnomus," from Jean Guillou's organ transcription of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (Dorian DOR-90117), pulsed through my room, but this were enhanced by the height of the pipe organ's sonic image and the utter purity of the flute and treble pipes. The same you-are-there ambience and deep, solid, massive pipe-organ notes were heard on César Frank's Piéce héroïque, from the CD reissue of Marcel Dupré's Recital (Mercury Living Presence 434 311-2). And the Evidence easily revealed the deep pipe-organ notes that are the tonal underpinnings of Elgar's Dream of Gerontius (Test CD 2).

Reproduction of stand-up acoustic bass was topnotch, adding pace'n'rhythm to the title track of Natalie Merchant's One Fine Day (Columbia CK 53146). The very low synthesizer pulses on the Casper soundtrack (MCA MCAD-11240) throbbed and surged, causing cabinet doors to rattle. Bass drum sounded tight, tuneful, and defined, with speed and impact. And when I heard them through Evidence, the dramatic bass-drum beats that open the "Prelude and Aztec Dance," from H. Owen Reed's La Fiesta Mexicana (Reference Recordings RR-38CD), stunned me.

The Evidence's excellent bass response was neither exaggerated nor highlighted. As a result, its ultra-low response (25Hz and below) was not always dramatic or impactful. The bass lines on Massive Attack's Unfinished Symphony (Circa WBRX2) were driving, taut, and tuneful, but did not dominate. The tightening of the heavy, sinister, ultra-low synthesizer notes of "Assault on Ryan's House," from James Horner's Patriot Games soundtrack (RCA 66051-2), gave them sledgehammer impact, but with less bass emphasis than through the Revel Salon. In similar comparisons, David Hudson's raw, pulsing, raspy bass didgeridoo (Didgeridoo Spirit, Indigenous Australia IA2003 D) sounded brighter and less dense.

Even with its abilities to open up the sound and reveal inner detail, the Evidence was less demanding of associated electronics than are most other high-end speakers. While differences in driving electronics and cables could be easily discerned, the Evidence kept most of its remarkable clarity, speed, and imaging when driven by different high-quality amplifiers. And I know I've heard the advantages of more expensive amplifiers and preamplifiers than were used in this review—all I need do is recall hearing the Jerome Harris Quintet play Duke Ellington's "The Mooche" (from Rendezvous, Stereophile STPH013-2) on Evidences driven by Mark Levinson No.33 Reference amplifiers at HI-FI '99!

Even after 18 years of writing reviews, I still approach loudspeakers costing this much with some degree of naïveté, expecting them to deliver an otherworldly, transforming listening experience. Needless to say, I'm often disappointed.

That was not the case with the Dynaudio Evidence, even though my epiphany—that deep-pedal organ passages benefit most from ambience retrieval, not simply a greater quantity of bass—didn't happen until I'd listened to them for more than a month.

I also learned that I had to pay attention not only to what the Evidences did, but what they didn't do. What they did best was to expand the soundstage until they had created a wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor spaciousness and openness. At the same time, the Evidence didn't compress the music on dynamic peaks, didn't produce listener fatigue, didn't pump up the bass response, and didn't muddy separate lines in complex musical passages. When it comes time for these towers to be returned, I will definitely miss them.

Regardless of your wallet's comfort level, I recommend strongly that you audition the Dynaudio Evidences when shopping for speakers. Their fit'n'finish must be seen, and their big, tall soundstage has to be heard to appreciate how high a flagship speaker's reach for the stars can be. Of course, if your Internet company has just gone public and you simply must own a flagship speaker, look no further than the Evidence.

1144 Tower Lane
Bensenville, IL 60106
(630) 238-4200