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Friday, January 8, 2016

Dynaudio Excite 14 and Marantz HomeTheater

The Excite 14 bookshelves are a new acquisition in our house, coming to join us after the big Audio Den clearance sale (please see below).

They are in a really beautiful walnut finish with a typically Dynaudio super high-quality cabinet.  They are beveled at the front edge in a fashion similar to the Focus series, but not tapered to the rear, like the Focus.

For new year's they were on short stands in our listening room, being run by the Yamaha A-S2000 and CD-S2000 combo. They threw a huge sound stage with clear highs and surprising bass for a speaker with a very small woofer (14 cm or about 5 1/2 inches). I typically listen to Dynaudio Focus 220 (series one) in the stereo set up, and whereas the Excites can't compete in the bass (they are not meant to) they easily equaled the treble clarity.  Plus they did that cool thing small monitors do- they "disappeared" into the sound stage while listening.  In my room, the 220s are just too big to avoid notice.  The speaker stands belong to the surrounds in our home theater though, so after the holiday, the Excites left that set up and went into the closet for a few days. Yesterday though i had an itching to hear them again, so i brought them out to our living room where they could occupy some space with our home theater, which incidentally is also made up of Dynaudio Focus series speakers.  (there is a story behind this set up, which I will share at a later date).

I do not intend to use the Excites as home theater speakers.  Frankly, I hate home theater for music.  Case in point it took me a few minutes to remember that I had to go into the Oppo BDP 93 menu and change the default SACD setting from multi to stereo before I could listen to the Excites without the rest of the set up.  Valuable listening time wasted.  At any rate, the Excites were set on small rubber feet from my old B&Ws, plopped down roughly equidistant on the cabinet and hooked up via Audioquest speaker cable to our Marantz AV 8801 pre/pro and Marantz M7055 multi channel amp.  
Interestingly, the speaker binding posts are mounted very deeply in the Excite 14 cabinet:

The upside is that the posts are very easy to access and the recess gives you something to grab when you are moving them around.  Not that that is a big problem, as these are very small speakers.  Our Focus center channel dwarfed them. I only had time to listen to tracks from four discs, which were the new Allman Brothers Idlewild South Blu-ray, the Rush Moving Pictures Blu-ray, something by Norah Jones the title of which i can't remember but can easily be found on the demo disc shelf at every Stereo store in the FREAKING UNIVERSE and the Yes Fragile DVD-A.  

Cutting to the chase, these speakers belong on ear-height stands, 12-24 inches away from the back wall, and in a room roughly 20 by 12.  Our living room afforded them none of these criteria and it showed.  they still sounded very, very good, but they were no better than our Dynaudio DM 2/7 in this arrangement.  I think that there were reflections from the cabinet that prevented the Excites from performing that magical disappearing act, especially on the Norah Jones disc and during Steve Howe's solo acoustic from Fragile.  The larger room also overwhelmed the small woofer, just not enough air could be moved on Moving Pictures.  That being said, the percussion on Midnight Rambler on Idlewild South still sounded very realistic if somewhat distant, and the treble effects in YYZ on Moving Pictures were phenomenal.  

I did not buy these speakers to use in a big home theater system, however.  I bought them (because I am clearly ill) to play great 2 channel music in our dedicated listening room, and there they sound the best. The night we bought them I played the first 3 or 4 tracks from another Yes album, the more recent "Fly From Here."  I like this disc a lot even though Jon Anderson does not provide the vocals.  It is very reminiscent of Drama, another album minus Jon Anderson (in fact I had heard that Fly From here was originally written to be a second disc on Drama.  Anyone know about this?).  Fly From Here is a very nicely recorded progressive rock album and the vocals are ideally suited to small monitors like the Excites.  The great thing is that in the smaller room you get the vocal magic plus the impact of Alan White and Chris Squire- the Excites can really rock in reasonable surroundings.  More to come.            

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