Dynaudio Excite X12 loudspeaker Page 2

Woodwinds, too, shone with perfect purity and verisimilitude. As I listened to accordionist Richard Galliano perform "Aurore," from his Love Day (CD, Milan M2-36398), the Dynaudio reproduced that most underrated of polyphonic woodwind instruments with breathy, linear, low-level dynamics and flawless timbre. This speaker also loved piano recordings—Marilyn Crispell's rich but minimalist mid-register textures on her introspective Amaryllis (CD, ECM 1742) reminded me of a concert of hers I attended about the time this disc was recorded, in 2000.

The Excite X12's reproduction of the lower high frequencies let electric guitars shine, perfectly capturing Bill Frisell's distinctive solo tone, electronically slightly altered, on "Mandeville," from the Paul Motian Band's Psalm (CD, ECM 1222). Similarly, the metallic bite and rich warmth of Liam Sillery's trumpet on every track of his Minor Changes (CD, Oa2 Records 22020) inspired me to note: "Here there is a coherent realism, delicacy, and force."

But the most impressive strength of the X12 was how the combination of its extended, airy upper register and perfectly natural but lightning-sharp transients made the most difficult instruments sound startlingly lifelike. I'm thinking of Keith Jarrett's clavichord improvisations Nos. 2, 4, and 8, from Vol.2 of his Book of Ways: The Feeling of Strings (CD, ECM 1344/45), as well as the captivating solo marimba in Joseph Schwantner's Velocities, as performed by Evelyn Glennie (CD, RCA Victor Red Seal 68692-2).

At the opposite end of the frequency spectrum, the Dynaudio dared to dazzle. Tiny speakers—even ported ones—aren't expected to produce dramatically realistic bass in my large listening room. But with all the rock-'em, sock-'em Blu-ray discs I threw at the X12s (my home theater is integrated into my two-channel reference system), I kept looking around the room for the subwoofer that wasn't there. It didn't sound like that fake upper-bass bump that makes you think it's deeper than it is. Nor did it sound like that farty, discontinuous, "port-like" chuffing bass. No, it sounded like real bass even with the Schwantner disc, when Glennie plays the bass drum during the high-level intro to New World in the Morning. And on Crispell's Amaryllis, Gary Peacock's double bass was prominent, lifelike, woody, and linear throughout the instrument's range.

I was also taken enough with the X12's rhythmic coherence to mine my collection of classic rock recordings for challenging interactions of bass guitar and drums. During the head of "Out Bloody Rageous," from Soft Machine's Third (CD, Columbia CGK 30339), bassist Hugh Hopper and drummer Robert Wyatt churn through an uptempo shuffle that had me shaking my thighs. I was shocked at the transparent, master-tape–like quality of "Come Together," from the Beatles' recently remastered Abbey Road (CD, Apple 382468 2). Ringo's dramatic textural colors, spanning his entire kit, locked in perfectly with McCartney's melodic underpinning on bass, the latter seeming to have been cranked up a bit from the original mix.

And don't for a minute think puny bookshelf speakers can't do dramatic orchestral music. You can't get much more dramatic than Louis Andriessen's De Tijd, with Reinbert De Leeuw conducting the Netherlands Chamber Choir,†the Schoenberg Ensemble,†and The Hague Percussion Group (CD, Nonesuch 79291-2). The Dynaudio perfectly reproduced the wide, deep soundstage with a tremendous sense of hall sound, air, and orchestral ease—and with those shocking, sudden entrances of all sorts of high-level percussive "shatters," I felt more of a sense of an orchestra in the room than I have when I've listened to this recording through several floorstanding speakers.

I compared the Dynaudio Excite X12 ($1200) with the Amphion Helium2 ($1200), the Monitor Audio RS6 Silver ($1200), and the Epos M16i ($1995). (All prices per pair.)

The Amphion Helium2's midrange was very close to the Excite X12's, if a touch less silky. The highs were a little less detailed, delicate, and airy, but low-level dynamics were equally lifelike and linear. The bass was almost as clean as the Dynaudio's, but the X12 had much better high-level dynamics, despite the fact that the Amphion has the slightly larger cabinet.

The floorstanding Monitor Audio RS6 Silver's midrange was nearly identical to the Dynaudio X12's in timbre and detail, and its highs were more extended but not as delicate. However, the RS6 Silver's bass extension and high-level dynamic slam were far superior to the X12's.

The Epos M16i, another floorstander, had a gorgeous, silky midrange and the most detail and ambience retrieval of all four speakers. Its highs were as extended as the Dynaudio's, but the X12 sounded a bit silkier. The Epos's bass extension and high-level dynamics were also a little more deep and "bloomy" than the Dynaudio's.

Wrapping up
I frequently receive e-mails from readers who ask me to weigh the tradeoffs of the various speakers I've reviewed. With the Dynaudio Excite X12, there are no tradeoffs. It sets a high standard of excellence in every meaningful sonic parameter, whether in absolute terms or with respect to its price and size. Having heard so many excellent speakers in recent years, I thought it would be hard to find an affordable bookshelf model that would stand out from the pack. I was wrong. The Dynaudio Excite X12 has become my new benchmark for loudspeakers costing under $2000/pair.

Dynaudio A/S
Dynaudio North America
1140 Tower Lane
Bensenville, IL 60106
(630) 238-4200

Sandm0n's picture

thank you for the helpful review.
can you please describe how the X12 compares to the focus 110?


magigie1.7's picture

Both of these (X12 & 110) are no longer made but I'm sure you can still purchase. As far as performance, the Focus line (4ohm) is a whole new ball game and a big leap in performance over the Excite line (8ohm). I auditioned the X14 & X34 and they sounded very, very good but the Focus 160's were outstanding. There's probably not a big difference between the X12 & X14 or the Focus 110 & 160 especially to justify the price difference. Just remember if you went with the Focus you'll need good clean POWER. (ie. Separates rated for 4ohms) Actually both of these deserve good clean power.