We had an grossly over-priced Arcam AVR running them until that crapped out (which was in a very short period of time), followed by a less exciting but considerably more reliable Denon. A mistake was made however, the day I bought the B&W 603S3 mains. On a lark, I listened to a pair of Dynaudio bookshelves that were in the same room, I think while they were retrieving the B&W speakers on which I had just pulled the trigger. For the life of me, I cannot remember what model they were, although I would not be shocked to discover they were small Contours, or maybe Focus 110s. If they were Contours, they were an older model as they had none of the science fiction front plates later and current models of the Contour series are sporting. I recall asking neither what they were nor the cost. I just remember thinking: "Wow, that's a small speaker to sound that big." But then they wheeled the boxes for our B&Ws to the counter, and my wife was looking at her watch and away we went.
You see where I went wrong, don't you?
I thought about those little Dynaudios quite often, even when listening to our fancy (and very good) B&W set up. So, fast forward again to the Spring of '08, and I found myself in the listening room again, this time to hear Dynaudio speakers. Not knowing what I had listened to before, I spent a bit of time listening to the Focus 110, which was a very impressive speaker for its size. But when we switched to the 140, which is the next model up, I was really just blown away. I had never heard a two-way bookshelf speaker carry a room like that. The Focus 140 has a 1 inch Esotec + tweeter, and a 6.5 inch woofer, ported in the back and weighs about 19 lbs. On the shelf in the store's listening room, this little speaker was KILLING my B&W 603S3. I distinctly remember listening to a number of Peter Gabriel tracks, and the 140s handled all of his high-intensity use of percussion and bass with no trouble PLUS they had no hint of treble harshness whatsoever. There was a visceral quality to the low end that many towers do not reproduce except at awful levels, much less bookshelves. (or monitors, I recognize that there is a difference between the two). They threw a wide sound stage that I really believed could be even better with proper set up. So, without giving thought to the craziness that would ensue, I ponied up an (even for me) insane amount of $1600 and bought them in Rosewood.
My pictures do not do the veneer finish any justice.
and here they are next to a pair of B&W DM602S2 that we acquired in the pouring rain in NYC one afternoon (which is another story altogether):
Everything was wonderful. I didn't even really experience the tortuous break-in period I was warned about. The 140s definitely got better with age but they never, never sounded bad. I figured that somewhere in the collection of Sony ES gear I would find an amp that suited them ( TA-F444 ES, TA-F630 ESD, TA-F80 and 77ESD combo, STR-GX9 ES) or maybe an old NAD . . . but what was the worst that could happen, I'd buy a new amp at some point, right? But through no fault of their own, I wound up replacing them with a pair of Focus 220 series 1 2-way towers. This was definitely a case of being lured in by price- $1995, new in box, shipped, thank you, Dan at Dedicated Audio. I thought if the 140s are great, how much greater must the 220s be? And the 220s are great. Really, really great. They move an incredible amount of air on orchestral works and big progressive rock stuff, and they can be delicate. They never really "disappear" though, which is something I miss in a stand mount. Nonetheless I have had the 220s since 2010, which for me, says a lot. And frankly, I have not really heard anything short of some Wilson Audio speakers recently that would make me give them up. The Wilson's cost $13,000 or something ridiculous like that, mind you.
But there is something about small, stand mount speakers that I really, really dig, which is why no one should be surprised that the Excite 14s came to live here two weeks ago (see below, and more to come on this killer little guy). As of today, I have not heard the Dynaudio Focus 160, the speaker that replaced the Focus 140. I am telling myself that I don't like the way it looks.
We shall see how long that lasts. Any bets?