Not Exactly an Echo

It wasn't the first time I'd been beneath a loudspeaker. The Onkyo D-TK10 Guitar Speaker had been causing me some grief. Though it really is handsome with its freckled mahogany cabinet, curving at the top and around the back to even resemble the sensuous body of a guitar, and the gleaming cottony weave of its 4" woofer offering an unforgettable smile, I had been having trouble coming to terms with its unusual sound. That is, of course, when I could actually hold onto its unusual sound long enough to identify it.

Onkyo states that the D-TK10's cabinet was built by "closely following the methods used in the making of Takamine guitars," featuring bracing within the cabinet to achieve a special tone. As I've mentioned before, I was immediately intrigued by this idea, but skeptical of its success in the listening room. What really concerned me was this whole vibration thing. The speaker utilizes "Takamine Voicing Acoustic Technology," whereby the speaker's interior is reinforced with MDF in an attempt to remove any unnecessary vibrations, and is either a salute to Takamine's contributions, or a way for Onkyo to wriggle free from sonic responsibility. Perhaps Onkyo's been stuck beneath a speaker, too. Who knows?

I mentioned the D-TK10's woofer. It's good-looking, for a woofer. It utilizes Onkyo's "Micro Fiber." The Onkyo site goes into some detail:

As the latest development in Onkyo Micro Fiber (OMF) for woofer diaphragms, A-OMF Monocoque forms one continuous cover from the center cap over the whole diaphragm's surface. Like Advanced Onkyo Microfiber (A-OMF), A-OMF Monocoque comprises three layers: an outer polyethylene naphthalate (PEN) layer, an inner aramid layer, and a flexible cotton weave layer between the two. The PEN has a twill (textile weave) that enables the fiber’s weight to be reduced by 30%. By forming one continuous layer over the surface of the diaphragm woofer, A-OMF Monocoque helps prevent breakup (occurring when the cone flexes instead of moves as a perfect piston). Essentially, the fiber is an integral part of the woofer unit, and it serves as a perfect complement to the woofer unit's piston motion range.

I'm really not sure what any of that means, but it does seem kind of cool. Perhaps it means more to you. I do know that the speaker is very light. The two of them together probably weigh less than my old Magnavox boombox (each D-TK10 actually weighs only 6.4 pounds). And I do know that, even at loud volumes, the sound produced by the Onkyos remains intact. I am surprised by the amount of sound offered by such a small, lightweight design.

But that, I think, is enough about quantity. Quality is what I'm interested in. And Onkyo has something to say about that, too. The D-TK10's network circuit (I don't know what this is) has a ground potential (again: no idea) that is said to be free from fluctuations (I shrug my shoulders), "making it possible to generate high-quality audio playback." Okey dokey. Parts included are a German-made WIMA film capacitor, a leakage-free cable, and gold-plated banana-plug compatible speaker posts (I do really like these). But I'm stalling. What about the speaker's sound?

When I initially set them up, I heard what I expected to hear: echo. Everything seemed to have an echo to it. Or, not exactly an echo, but a kind of veil or cloud. The sound was foggy. The sound was not crisp or clear. The sound was not tight. The sound was not controlled. The sound was loose and soft and a little bit murky. Well, this wasn't good. I decided to get up from my orange couch and mess around with placement. To begin with, I had them set exactly where the DeVores had been set before them. Now, I moved the speakers much further into the room, maybe four or five inches closer to my listening position. Due to their small size, the drastic change was not at all imposing. I didn't feel crowded in any way. Kelli, though, would later complain that the room was cluttered. "The speakers are awfully close, aren't they?" I didn't try to explain that bringing them closer to the listening position improved their sound. That echo chilled out a little bit. Things sounded tighter and not as murky.

I would later compare the Onkyos to the DeVores. I listened to a track, switched speakers, listened to the same track, switched speakers again, and took notes. You read a little about here. After one particular listening session, a listening session that probably lasted too long into the night, I remained stumped. I ended up questioning myself, not trusting myself, hearing something, and then, not hearing something. Inconclusive. And, so, a few nights later, I went back and did it again. With fresh ears and fresh mind, I listened. I was surprised to hear just what I thought I'd heard the first time around. I can go back now to what I wrote a few days ago...

Through the DeVores, Folias antiguas had a more adequate-seeming proportion of slither and roll, moving forward steadily, while still teetering and hissing and sighing. It sounded better. And while enjoying Folias Gallegas, I got the sense that I was hearing more of the music, and less of the speaker. I could more easily imagine the instrument and musician living within the performance space. And I'm just about certain I could even hear some birdies chirping somewhere in the background. Do you hear that? [Seriously, Clifton, do you hear that?] Where'd those birdies come from? The DeVores imparted the movement of the dance, gave the dance sway, and used the strong hand of love to neaten the overall presentation, adding life and intensity to the music. The Onkyos, it seemed, left things just the slightest bit loose and ragged. Just as I expected!

...And say, "Hey, I was right! And you know what else? I think I said that pretty well, actually."

Just to be certain, though, I conducted a few more tests.

Al Marcy's picture

I like reading about comparisons. I don't know why. I like listening to different bits and pieces and just being amazed how such different noises can make me think I am hearing the same old warhorse, only better, sometimes ... it is a great hobby even if I don't take notes ... OK, do take Eb, occasionally.

Clifton's picture

Yes. I could hear the birds. Lovely. No, you didn't get hit upside the head with a blunt object -- they really were birds.