Dynaudio Focus 200 XD powered loudspeaker Page 2

I listened to the Dynaudio rig both on my desktop and in the large classroom at nearby Peninsula College, where I taught classes in "Voices that Touch the Heart." Finally, I gave the setup a workout in my large, cathedral-ceilinged living room using Dynaudio's Stand 6 stands ($499/pair.) No matter where I played the Focus 200 XDs, they inspired a mixture of profound appreciation and disappointment. While the sound was clear, powerful, laudably neutral, and free of distortion, I consistently heard a bit of dryness at the centers of the voices of singers I've heard in person. That dryness lay in the core of the voice, between its overtones and undertones, and could not be ameliorated by flipping the Focus 200 XDs' Treble switch to +1.

True, the unique quality of each singer's voice came through loud and clear. But they all sounded as if in need of a spray of wild cherry bark syrup. Nor was this phenomenon limited to classical singers: it carried over to Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan in various resolutions, and to Cécile McLorin Salvant, Melody Gardot, Tony Bennett, and many more. I couldn't help but wonder if this dryness was endemic to Dynaudio's digital amplification.

It wasn't. After upgrading the speaker firmware and receiving from Dynaudio the loan of an M2Tech 192kHz USB-to-S/PDIF adapter ($170, widely available online), I ditched the Benchmark DAC and used two Nordost Odin 1 75-ohm cables (BNC) equipped with BNC-to-RCA adapters to send digital signals directly from my computer to the Focus 200 XDs. Only then were the Dynaudios' strengths fully revealed.


In my normally dry-sounding living room, what had sounded even drier with the Benchmark-Focus combo now came to life. James Taylor singing Christmas music (burned from CD) sounded lovely. Tenors, basses, and sopranos performing arias from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte sang gloriously. Ditto for everyone from Janet Jackson and Joss Stone to pianist Murray Perahia. When I compensated for the dryness by clicking the Dynaudios' Treble switches to +1, every recording and artist sounded right.

The most convincing comparison came in class, when I played Colin Davis's recording of Die Zauberflöte, with the Royal Opera House Covent Garden (BD, Opus Arte 7002), through the Oppo BDP-93. The first week, I fed Act I into the Benchmark DAC. The following week, I played Act II digitally, sans DAC. Save for a change of identical-level Nordost interconnects, everything else was the same. Yet feeding signals directly to the speakers replaced the dryness in voices and instruments with brighter colors and eminent liquidity. After I'd turned down their bass, which can be overwhelming even in large, unbounded spaces, the Focus 200 XDs delivered the best sound of the semester.

The next revelations arrived via wireless playback. It took a while to upgrade the Dynaudio Connect to the current firmware. Despite following all directions, I couldn't get it to transmit 24/96 signals. With Mike Manousselis on the phone, I tried reinstalling the upgrade. This time, a light on the unit kept flashing, and refused to stop until I'd unplugged it.

Things looked dire. Days later, when I dared try again, the Connect failed to sync with the Focus 200 XDs. That's when Manousselis told me to turn everything off and then turn it back on. I did. Music finally played wirelessly, from laptop to speakers. Remember Hint 1!

The best was still to come. Dynaudio's manual doesn't mention the Connect's range of operation, but I found this in their online FAQs: "The typical range in normal, open living areas is minimum 20 to 50 meters. The range also depends on the environment, in particular existing WiFi networks, other radio and wireless devices, walls as well as unknown interference from adjoining rooms, as Focus XD uses the same transmission frequency as many of these devices."

Given that different countries and cultures have very different living environments, who knows what "normal" is? But 50m=164', which is a considerable distance. Then again, most of us have a helluva lot of wireless devices that are capable of decreasing that range.

Party Time
We're having a holiday party tomorrow. We expect 44 guests, and I'm certain that streaming some sweet, placid, New Age music via Tidal will help with our pre-party panic. Quickly, I wire the Connect to the iMac in the second-floor office. To reach the Focus 200 XDs wirelessly, the signal must traverse 10' of office space, a standard-width doorway, and the thick, solar-plexus–high guard wall of our second-story walkway, then go all the way down through the cathedral-ceilinged living room to the Focus 200 XDs in the far corner.

"Holy shit!" may not be a New Age exclamation, but proclaim it I did when I heard New Age musician Deuter through the Focuses. At first, the music was a little on/off, with occasional skips. But once I'd moved the Connect in line with the doorway opening, and farther from my router, the music played without interruption. It wasn't the most colorful depiction of Deuter's music, not by a long shot—but as relaxing background music, it worked just fine.


I would be remiss if I failed to mention how well the Dynaudios projected in the living room. True, their vibrancy was dimmed by the carpet and furnishings. But I could hear them all over the house: in the office above, in the adjacent dining room, and even around the corner, in the kitchen. Their 300Wpc strained not one bit to fill a large, two-story expanse with volume to spare. In fact, in my classes, they had to be placed some distance from the students, to prevent them from asking me to turn the volume down during dynamic swells. These are very powerful, full-voiced loudspeakers with a wide dynamic range.

Before and After
I was very curious to compare the sound of my original combo of Focus 110As (footnote 1) and Benchmark DAC1 USB with that of the Focus 200 XDs, the latter fed digital data. On my desktop, using the same Dynaudio speaker stands (they work well with the 200 XDs), I compared the setups with recordings of four very different pieces of music. Since the second two confirmed what the first two so clearly revealed, I'll limit discussion to those.

For classical, I chose two 24/96 tracks: the final movement of Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony's recording of Dvorák's lyrical Symphony 9 (24/96 download, Seattle Symphony 1006/ HDTracks), and soprano Maria Callas's 1958 studio version of the blood-curdling Sleepwalking Scene from Verdi's Macbeth, with Nicola Rescigno conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra (24/96 download, Warner Classics 634015/ HDTracks).

The differences were striking. While both systems sounded neutral and musical, the Focus 200 XDs had considerably more force behind them. The Dvorák's midrange was fuller and more fleshed out, hence more compelling. The dynamic contrasts in Callas's voice, even though compressed by the recording engineer, increased the bone-chilling impact of Lady Macbeth. Even though the soundstage was compromised by the computer screen between the speakers, the Focus 200 XDs allowed me to hear deeper into the music, and discern details and layering smudged by the Focus 110As.

Reality check
The Focus 200 XDs comprise a great system, but one with limits. When I recently covered a demo at Music Lovers Audio, in Berkeley, I played the Callas track through two systems: Vivid Audio's Oval B1 Decade speakers with Luxman and Spectral electronics, and Wilson Sasha 2 speakers with dCS and Ayre Acoustics electronics. Through both, everyone could hear a frighteningly dark churning in the middle of Callas's voice—one of the many features that make her Lady Macbeth so convincing. "Who would dare ask this woman to babysit your child or pet?" I asked. All agreed that to do so would invite disaster.

While the Focus 200 XDs conveyed the essence of Callas's artistry, they couldn't flesh out that intentionally dark, knife-wielding middle of her voice. Instead, it was homogenized into the rest of her sound. Nor was that sound anywhere near as colorful and nuanced as it sounded through my own Wilson-dCS-Pass Labs-Nordost reference system. To hear it "all," or a convincing facsimile of same, requires speakers with more drivers, high-level electronics, and a whole lot more. But for what they are, the digital Dynaudios performed superbly well. When, in class, we played recordings of Beverly Sills as Maria Stuarda, people sat spellbound, and teared up at the beauty of her voice. These speakers really can sing.

The Dynaudio Focus 200 XD self-powered digital loudspeaker system is an amazingly versatile, relatively lightweight, surprisingly powerful (300Wpc) high-resolution system that can deliver wired and wireless music reproduction that's fully digital-all-the-way-to-the-drivers. Its versatility includes treble, bass, and sensitivity controls for fine-tuning the sound to suit different environments.

While the Focus 200 XD yields its best sound in its wired, all-digital configuration, it can also wirelessly transmit impressive sound quality. Given how easy it is to transport the 200 XDs from place to place, and how adjustable they are, their versatility is self-recommending. If you've got room for them on your desktop, or are looking for stand-mounted speakers for a medium or even a large space—and especially if you want to dispense with several component boxes—they deserve an extended audition.

Footnote 1: Stereophile hasn't reviewed the Dynaudio Focus 110A but we did report on the similar Focus 160 in January 2012.—Ed.
Dynaudio A/S
US distributor: Dynaudio North America
1852 Elmdale Avenue
Glenview, IL 60026
(847) 730-3280

brenro's picture

$7000 computer speakers connected via $20,000 worth of digital cables. Abundant software glitches. Lacking in sound. Still "deserve an extended audition." In other words one of the brands that always gets a pass.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

They sounded fabulous in my class today, and worked without a hitch. In retrospect, I think some of the connection issues had to do with the M2Tech USB to coax adapter, which tends to lose its connection to my laptop when it isn't well-supported. Since I've taken my laptop off equipment supports, and simply rested it on a Symposium platform, the speakers have worked flawlessly every time I've used them.

A reminder that, as opposed to other publications, Stereophile reviewers always list the problems they have with gear. We cover nothing up, including our set-up frustratons and, as I review this post, our spelling errors. It's "frustrations."

There is no reason why anyone has to use $20,000 worth of digital cables to get these speakers to sing beautifully. But good Lord, if you've got the cabling on long-term loan, and it sounds far, far better that the stock stuff, why not enjoy it and use it in a review to hear everything a component can produce?

JoeinNC's picture

My, my. Looks like benro struck a nerve. Methinks thou dost protest too much.

R.Dobson's picture

I bought a pair of these in 2017 and had nothing but problems - electrical connection problems. After pleading with Dynaudio for no less than 8 months, they finally replaced that pair with a pair of the Focus 20XD (the models that replaced the problematic 200 XDs), and this pair has the exact same electrical glitches! The warranty people will not even respond to emails since March! Steer clear of Dynaudio!

untangle's picture

Could you give a bit more feel for the dynamics - more in terms of the excitement and force lent to transients than to max SPL? Thanks.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

This is a tough one, Bob, simply because the review was written months ago, and most of my listening of late has been confined to either Tidal streamed wirelessly (inherently compromised) or, in the vocal music class I taught today, to redbook quality transfers of very old recordings. The system is very revealing, but I would never pretend a small two-way can convey all the undertones and complexity of a full-range loudspeaker system. (Then again, this speaker is at the bottom of the Focus XD line. This leads me to expect that the others do a better job.) At the same time, we had no problem catching every nuance of shading and dynamics that tenor Tito Schipa recorded in 1932, nor differentiating his performance from one by Juan Diego Florez on DVD. It was easy to hear how beautifully Schipa caressed and spun his tone, how bright Florez's voice is, and, in the case of a 1907 recording by baritione Giuseppe de Luca, how much warmth he conveys in the center of his voice. Just wonderful.

Sometimes I think people put too much emphasis on discussions of transients and microdynamics, as though hearing them somehow earns them bonus points in the knowledgable audiophile department. Sure, I hear a range of different colors, as well as the undertones and overtones in a voice through these speakers. In fact, I noticed today, when listening to a transfer on Nimbus Prima Voce label, how much body the light and charming Amelita Galli-Curci had to her voice. This is on an acoustic recording (pre-1925), mind you. Having said that, the review includes the example of what was missing from the reproduction of a hi-rez file of Callas' voice.

Ultimately, I think I am most concerned with the emotional impact of the music - its ability to touch me - and a component's ability to leave me feeling satisfied. On that score, I was smiling at the end of the class, that's for sure, and all of my students left elated. When a speaker system can do that for me, I give it a major thumbs up.

tonykaz's picture

Sure thing, Active is the way to go!

You could've had Genelec , Focal or quite a few others but these DynAudio are fine.

I sold the Meridian Actives in the 1980s, they were superb and still are but not loved by "genuine" audiophiles who need infinite options and are afflicted with excessive Neurosis & Psychosis.

Actives are simple, clean solutions to very complex problems, I love em.

Recording Engineers love these things for their accuracy, the Mastering guys still prefer stuff like Revel.

Denmark make Superb Actives!!!

Nice choice in loudspeakers, I continue to discover more things to admire about you. Well done!

Tony in Michigan

tonykaz's picture

I just learned that L.Bernstein finally got around to doing an Operatic version of West Side Story, on Polygram, around 1985ish.

Can you offer an opinion on the recording?
It's rather hard to find a CD copy but some are on eBay for $5. I don't have one but will buy if you green light it.

Rather nice to get those Loooooooong Term loaners, I used to get Cars and I know our "Fav" Car reviewers all got em. Travel Reviewers get Free ( 1099'd ) Trips.

Do your Reviewers get Free Singing Lessons?

Tony in Michigan

John Atkinson's picture
tonykaz wrote:
I just learned that L.Bernstein finally got around to doing an Operatic version of West Side Story, on Polygram, around 1985ish. Can you offer an opinion on the recording?

I am sure Jason will offer his opinion, but I feel this is a dreadful recording, not the least because of the miscasting of Jose Carreras as the anglo lead Tony. Stick with the original cast recording (Broadway, not movie,in my opinion).

There is a notorious documentary available on the making of this recording. Well worth watching.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

The recording was a mistake. And to see Lenny yelling at poor José, berating him for his pronunciation when in fact it was Bernstein's mis-judgment that cast him in the first place, is quite the eye opener. Stick with the documentary.

georgehifi's picture

I'm a little worried why Jason (the reviewer) has termed the amps inside to be PWM, which is technically correct, but for those not informed, these are Class D amps and I believe should be worded as such, as there are many amongst us that give Class D a wide berth.

Cheers George

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Hello George. A technical whiz I am not. That I will leave to JA. But what I can tell you is that simplifying matters by calling these amplifiers Class D does not begin to explain what they are.

Portions of my review needed to be cut for space considerations. Here is more information on these speakers:

As stated in Dynaudio’s literature, the Focus 200 XD’s PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) amplification “negates the need for a separate DAC, as all signals are processed digitally in the amplifier without analogue conversion, and remain in the digital domain until the latest possible and most ideal moment – right at the output at the drivers.” When I questioned Dynaudio USA’s Michael “Mike” Manousselis and Mick Tillman about this technology, they sent me a 15-year old, 20-page white paper [http://www.ti.com/lit/ds/sles006a/sles006a.pdf] that describes Texas Instruments’ True Digital Audio Amplifier (TDAA) and TAS5015 Digital Audio PWM Processor.

In his accompanying email, Mike wrote, “Really, the first page is a good explanation of the technology platform.” Mick Tillman of Dynaudio USA even was more direct when he told me that the information is extremely technical, and most people stop after the first page because they aren't equipped to make sense of what follows. I was extremely grateful for this advice, because when I searched Google for “TDAA,” the first thing that came up was “Teacup Dogs Agility Association.” Our terrorers were not impressed.

The white paper’s first page states, “The true digital audio amplifier (TDAA) is a new paradigm in digital audio. One TDAA system consists of the TAS5015 PCM-PWM modulator device plus a discrete back-end TDAA power output. This system accepts a serial PCM digital audio stream and converts it to a 3.3-V PWM audio stream (TAS5015). The discrete back-end TDAA then provides a large-signal PWM output. This digital PWM signal is then demodulated, providing power output for driving loudspeakers. This patented technology provides low-cost, high-quality, high-efficiency digital audio applicable to many audio systems developed for the digital age. The TAS5015 is an innovative, cost-effective, high-performance 24-bit stereo PCM-PWM modulator based on Equibit technology. The TAS5015 has a wide variety of serial input options including right-justified (16, 20, or 24 bits), IIS (16, 20, or 24 bits), left-justified (16 bits), or DSP (16 bits) data formats. It is fully compatible with AES standard sampling rates (Fs) of 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz, and 192 kHz. The TAS5015 also provides a de-emphasis function for 44.1-kHz and 48-kHz sampling rates.” It gets far more complex from there.

I will leave it to JA to comment further, if he feels called to do so.

Michael Manousselis's picture

The descriptor Class D amplifier is often misunderstood, and the review is basically communicating the 'exact' type of amplifier that is used in the Focus XD.

Anon2's picture

At least these speakers, with their built-in power supply answer a long vexing question to those of us who love the Dynaudio sound but harbor deeper concerns: will I have to buy a new amplifier to support these speakers?

I recently had an opportunity, in a dealer show, to sample the other spin-off of the Focus 160 (of which this model under review is the more luxurious). I was able to sample this other successor of the Focus 160 with the successor model of my own integrated amplifier.

In a rare treat, I was able to man, responsibly, the volume knob with the Dyanudio speaker connected to the equivalent of my home amplification. I loved the sound of the speakers. I was, as I feared with this brand, unnerved by how much more I had to turn up the volume knob to get an appreciable volume out of the speakers.

Yes, watts/channel -vs- current/stability, I've heard it all before, though I would not claim to be the world's expert on the subject. This brand of speaker requires watts per channel if you listen to music with low sound level passages (a'la Murray Perahia's/Radu Lupu's Schubert Impromptus, Kissin's Rachmaninov 3rd Concert, Emil Gilels' sampling of Grieg's Lyric Pieces).

Moreover, now that I'm trying to become a more diligent student of JA's measurements and bottom line assessments of integrated amps, I learn that ("see your dealer" exhortations aside) many models, even among the "recommended components," are probably in the "don't try this at home" category for this brand of speaker.

Perhaps, getting back to the main point, this self-powered unit puts to rest the question of how to match amplification with these speakers. If you buy some Wilsons, you know what you are signing up for in the amplification realm. With this brand--and it's sad since the products sound so good--it's a murkier proposition to knowing what you may need to buy to power this brand of speakers.

According to the manufacturer's site, newer models are more "amplifier friendly." With my hand on the knob test, the second greatest test after "trust your ears," I found little amplifier friendliness.

georgehifi's picture

They are either Linear amps or they're Class D amps inside. I think Class-D


Cheers George

Anton's picture

I have heard some lovely class D amps at recent shows.

tonykaz's picture

Audiophiles are the only ones that worry about Class D.

The Focal Actives use Class AB, I think. A few others too.

However the World's leading Actives ( Genelec ) are Class D.

We are at the point where most of the Recording Studios use Class D Amplification.

Hi-End Audiophiles are the hold out, clinging to Class A ( even I still own and use a Class A Amp ) but we're willing to spend mega bucks to get it. I'm not certain it's worth the expense, the Class D stuff is brilliant.

Still, the Focal Be6 is Class AB with heat Fins along the back, about the same price, it's rather industrial looking, by comparison.

Performance should be the issue, not Amp Class.

Tony in Michigan

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Years ago, in my pre-Stereophile era, I had to review an early Class D amp. I hated the sound so much that I stalled on the review for months, not knowing what to do. Every time I put the thing in my system, the sound was so flat and lifeless that I couldn't wait to remove it. I certainly couldn't sit through an entire symphony.

But that was over a decade ago. The technology has improved. The analogy of baroque violin performance, which went from squeaky irritating to glorious, is appropriate here. Class D implementation may not have yet reached its Golden Age, but it need no longer serve as a warning to music lovers to stay away.

tonykaz's picture

I think we're heading into a new World and Age, Class D is part of it.
LED lighting is another part.

Head-Fi has a very popular thread covering the V10 Audiophile Phone. Headphone audiophiles are describing it's musical abilities in complimentary ways, comparing it to the Chord Mojo, for god's sake. Focal introduced the Utopia headphone that needs only a few milliwatts ( on Stereophile's Front Cover ).

The Big Amps & Preamps we see (today) at Audiophile Shows reminded me of my Ham Radio days ( 1950s ), full of tubes and making plenty of heat. Those were wonderful memories from 70 years ago.

Friday ( two days ago ) waiting for a Flight, I was watching & listening to Hilary Hahn playing "Live" at the Detroit Symphony O . I was enabled by a pocketable ( and highly portable ) Music System, I could've been nearly anywhere.

Your Tyll will be at RMAF ( next weekend ) doing Seminars on the Future of headphones!, I think he'll be describing the Future of Consumer level Music reproduction gear.

Things are moving quite fast now, there's a tremendous amount of intellegent energy being released to discover new solutions to age old problems, I'll be here reading your reporting of it.

Bon Voyage,

Tony in Michigan

JRT's picture
J.V.Serinus wrote:

"But that was over a decade ago. The technology has improved. The analogy of baroque violin performance, which went from squeaky irritating to glorious, is appropriate here. Class D implementation may not have yet reached its Golden Age, but it need no longer serve as a warning to music lovers to stay away."

In this case, TI's press release announcing their then-new TAS5015 was dated March 30, 2001, which was more than 15 years ago. There was and is nothing very wrong with the TAS5015 in consumer audio applications, if used in a well engineered design that accomodates its moderately low PSRR. TI has since come out with many newer chipsets. 15 years is rather old for a mixed signal processing chipset, and TI no longer recommends using this one in new designs, though they still do continue to provide support for it.