SOUNDSTAGE! ON HIFIHot Product Archives

Published February 1, 2002


Dynaudio Evidence Temptation Loudspeakers

"If you think you're boring your audience, go slower not faster," said master conductor Gustav Mahler. In the rough'n'tumble world of high-end audio, sometimes the best way to make yourself heard is to whisper.

Not a week goes by that I don't receive a press release announcing a new audio product that re-establishes the state of the art. New products are "orders of magnitude" better than old ones. Minor circuit changes challenge "the bleeding edge" of what's possible.

And I'm the queen of Roumania.

So you can understand how different it was when Dynaudio unveiled its $85,000 Evidence Master loudspeaker at Chicago's HIFI 99. Other than publishing the speaker's specifications (20Hz–26kHz, +/-3dB), Dynaudio made no claims. They didn't need to -- the speaker spoke for itself.

Even under show conditions, the Evidence Master sounded special. Best speaker in the world? I don't know. One of 'em? Without a doubt.

So I wasn't surprised to see the Evidence Master anchoring the Dynaudio display at the Home Entertainment Expo 2001 last May. After all, when you've got something that works, you stick with it. But when I asked Dynaudio's Mike Manousselis for a price rundown of the demo system, he told me the speakers were $30,000. Wait a minute! I thought the Evidence went for over twice that.

They do. What Dynaudio was demoing was a speaker designed to offer all but the last iota of Evidence performance at a fraction of its price: the Evidence Temptation. The Temptations are slightly smaller than the Masters and lack some of the Masters' labor- and material-intensive modular construction (not to mention having slightly smaller woofers), but their performance is embarrassingly close to that of their more expensive siblings. In some rooms, in fact, they may even work better.

There's no question about it: They're the best loudspeakers I've ever lived with -- and by a wide margin.

God delights in our temptations

The Dynaudio Evidence Temptation is a tall, slender, but deep tower (78.5"H x 7.9"W x 19.3"D) that houses two 1.1" soft-dome tweeters, two 6" polypropylene-cone midrange units, and four 8" polypropylene-cone bass drivers with 3" voice coils and hybrid magnet systems. The five-way first-order crossover (300Hz, 500Hz, 2.3kHz, 8kHz) -- in concert with the mirror-image woofer, woofer, midrange, tweeter, tweeter, midrange, woofer, woofer driver array -- makes the speaker's vertical dispersion uniform over its entire frequency response, which is said to be 29Hz–25kHz, +/-3dB.

The crossover is stuffed with polypropylene capacitors; large-gauge, multi-wire air-core inductors hand-wound to a tolerance of less than 1%; and zero-compression, low-inductance, low-capacitance, wire-wound resistors with high heat stability. The individual components are arrayed upon double-thickness, multi-layered, fiberglass-reinforced printed circuit boards with thick copper traces. Internal wiring consists of high-purity, matched-crystal, oxygen-free, silver-coated copper. No detail was too small for Dynaudio to obsess over.

Dynaudio is almost unique among speaker companies in that it designs and manufactures its own drivers. The Temptation's drivers evolved out of Dynaudio's six-year R&D for the Evidence Master. The 1.1" soft-dome tweeters are nakedly exposed on the speaker's aluminum center section -- protected only by a single titanium-wire "guard." They employ pure-aluminum-wire voice coils with magnetic-fluid cooling, vented pole pieces, 72mm neodymium magnets, and aluminum-alloy rear chambers designed to disperse heat. The 6" midrange cones are molded from single pieces of polypropylene and sport 38mm pure-aluminum-wire voice coils. The four 6.8" woofers are, again, cones molded from a single piece of polypropylene, driven by a 75mm pure-aluminum-wire voice coil with massive neodymium magnets.

The Temptation sits upon a square steel plinth outfitted with adjustable spikes. The bottom woofer cabinet sports a super-sturdy pair of WBT binding posts, which were a joy to use. The speaker's cabinet is solidly constructed, with separate internal chambers for the various drivers. The center module (the speaker is not modular like the Evidence Master, but is constructed from separate modules bonded together at the factory) is milled from solid aluminum, carefully chamfered for superior dispersion. The casework and finish quality on the speaker towers is first-rate -- my pair came with side panels of beautifully finished Birdseye Maple veneer with black lacquer contrasts. Including the steel plinth, each Temptation weighs 249 pounds.

It is good to be without vices, but it is not good to be without temptation

There's a frequent mistake committed in high-end audio reviews when we assume that first-rate components are all that it takes to create first-rate products. Oh, it helps -- just as it helps to use the freshest, purest ingredients when cooking. But, the most memorable meals you've ever eaten probably have more to do with your physical and emotional surroundings than the quality of the ingredients. Mine sure do -- they include supping on cold water, canned sardines and saltines while sitting in an underground chamber after a five-mile crawl through a streambed, gazing at fossil evidence that the Blue Ridge mountain cave I was in was once under water, and the cava and chocolate cookie "lunch" I wolfed down with my new wife after my lunch-hour wedding, before returning to work.

Designing a good loudspeaker has far more to do with the judgment of the designer than it does with its parts list. Loudspeakers, even more than other components, require a complex series of compromises in order to achieve a balance of elements. You could even claim that the deliberate choice of performance tradeoffs is the equivalent of the setting for memorable meals -- it's what puts the sound out where you can consume it. Seriously flawed designs can nonetheless express certain levels of musical truth that transcend their shortcomings. The classic examples of this sort of "compromised" performance are the original Quad ESL 57 and the venerable LS3/5A.

The Temptation is an even rarer speaker -- not only does it sport an impeccable list of ingredients, its compromises were so astutely chosen that they seem to fade to insignificance. It's rare in another sense, as well. We all know of loudspeakers that sound far better than they measure. Well. The Dynaudio Evidence Temptation measures almost perfectly -- and it sounds even better than it measures!

I never resist temptation . . . the things that are bad for me do not tempt me

Despite the Temptation's actual size, its apparent size within a listening room is not that overpowering, thanks to its narrow width and its ability to be placed nearer to the side walls and front wall of the listening room than most full-range loudspeakers. In my listening room, I ended up placing the speakers 26" from the side walls, with the speakers' back panels 40" from the front wall. The Temptations were toed-in to the point where I couldn't view their side panels in order avoid the first side-wall reflection points. As long as I kept the toe-in adjusted so I could see only the face of the speaker and not the side panels from my listening position, I could adjust my distance from the speaker from a relatively close-in 8' to a comfortable 15'. My perspective changed, but not the quality of the soundstage or imaging.

What the speaker delivers is detail, detail, detail. Not some details at the expense of the others, but -- seemingly -- all of them. I've never heard a more seamless top-to-bottom presentation of music. The degree to which an instrument's sound was informed by its environment was remarkable. I never heard the instrumental sound superimposed upon the room sound, as the popular cardboard-cutout-in-front-of-a-painted-background analogy; rather, the two were indivisibly intertwined.

And yet, for all of my sense of infinite detail, I never felt as though the Evidence Temptations were "ruthlessly revealing" or some sort of audio microscope. I've heard audio products that seem designed to reveal just how hard it is to make a good recording. You could be sitting there entranced by the performance and they'd practically elbow you in the stomach, pointing at clumsy edits or loud breathing or fretting noise.

Oh, you can hear all that through the Temptations all right -- just as you would were you present at the event -- and just as though you were present at the music making, it's such a minor part of the experience of enjoying music, its importance is insignificant. No, the Temptations aren't an analytic instrument, they're a musical instrument. That is not a trivial distinction -- it harks back to the design choices made in the speaker's genesis. Dynaudio got the balance right.

The best way to get the better of temptation is to yield to it

Maybe it's a character flaw, but when confronted with big, honking speakers like the Temptations, I dig into my record collection for performances I reckon will, ahhh, challenge them. Recently, my weapon of choice has been the CSO/Barenboim Le Sacre du Printemps [Teldec 8573 81702-2]. From the opening bassoon notes, I knew I was in for a treat -- they floated in space like a zephyr. As other instruments join in tentatively -- a sustained note here, some twittering and chirps there, the piece builds an incredibly living picture of a world awakening. As sound builds upon sound and rhythm beats against rhythm, that world becomes wild and explosive. It was pure theater -- I was as engrossed as if I was present at the concert. Conventional measures of audio greatness seemed meaningless. There was the music and there was me. Speakers -- what speakers?

And the ritual dance of the chosen one? I was jelly. The sound buffeted me with wave after wave of pounding, penetrating rhythm -- all completely informed by its Orchestral Hall acoustic. What's that almost meaningless critical phrase? I was transported. No, really -- my room just ceased to exist.

To tell you the truth, after listening to La Mer and Notations VII, I was ready for something a lot less challenging. To me, I mean; the Temptations hadn't even raised a sweat.

Associated Equipment:

Preamplifiers: Ayre K1x, Conrad-Johnson Premier 17LS, Krell KCT

CD players/transports: Krell KPS-28c, Sony CDP CX-400, Musical Fidelity A3CD

D/A converters: Bel Canto DAC1, Perpetual Technologies P-3A

Power amplifiers: Ayre V-5, Krell FPB-300c, Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista 300, VTL TT-25

Cables: AudioTruth Midnight, DiMarzio M-Path interconnect, AudioQuest Dragon, DiMarzio M-Path, DiMarzio Super M-Path speaker cable, Illuminations Orchid digital cable, Kimber KCAG

Accessories: Osar Selway Audio Racks, AudioQuest Big Feet and Little Feet, Vibrapods, Audio Power Industries Power Wedge Ultra 116

Room treatment: ASC Tube Traps, Slim Jims, Bass Traps

So I pulled out Together at the Bluebird Café by Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, and Guy Clark [American Originals AMO 4006-2], thinking that solo troubadours would be a welcome emotional contrast. What was I thinking? The Temptations beamed life-sized Guy/Townes/Steve into my living room. And, while you laugh a lot at these guys' concerts, they aren't exactly up kind of guys -- and listening to a seemingly alive, seemingly present Townes Van Zandt was an emotional wrench of a completely different sort.

But that's life with the Dynaudios. They are an intensely communicative loudspeaker -- and what music communicates most of the time is emotion. If that's not what you signed up for when you bought your hi-fi, you won't like the Temptations because you can't turn it off. With most speakers there's a specific loudness where the "real" pops into focus -- this is what prompted Peter Walker's famous comment that there is only one correct volume for any given record. Nobody bothered to inform the Temptations of this, however, and when you turn them down they don't relinquish their emotional stranglehold on you.

I offer this for what it's worth. Maybe it's a sign of how low their inherent distortion is, or perhaps it’s a sign of their complete lack of music-sapping resonances. I couldn't even begin to guess. If you want background music, though, you'd better play a radio in some other room -- the Temptations are hard to ignore at any volume.

In my case, ignoring them was the furthest thing from my mind. I wanted to hear everything through them. If it wasn't for deadlines -- which are as implacable as Death his own self -- I'd probably never have left my listening chair. Oh, I just got it! That's why they're called Temptations.

I can resist anything but temptation

So there you have it. In a world filled with claimants to the throne, the Dynaudio Evidence Temptations are as close to the perfect loudspeaker as I have ever experienced. If they have a flaw, it's that I can't afford them and will therefore have to live without them. (I will confess that I contemplated cashing in my IRAs and worrying about my old age sometime later -- but after Enron, I'm not sure I could actually swing a pair.)

If you can afford them and you relish the emotional intensity of experiencing live music on a daily basis, I wouldn't even think about it. Just buy 'em. But make sure you have the strength of character to continue going to work and spending time with your family -- listening to 'em is as addictive as crack cocaine.

Only a lot better for you.

...Wes Phillips

Dynaudio Evidence Temptation Loudspeakers
Price: $30,000 USD per pair
Warranty: Five years parts and labor

Dynaudio A/S
Sverigesvej 15
DK-8660 Skanderborg
Phone: (45) 86-523-411
Fax: (45) 86-523-116

US distributor:
Dynaudio North America
1144 Tower Lane, Bensenville, IL 60106
Phone: (630) 238-4200
Fax: (630) 238-0112


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