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 (20Hz26kHz, +/-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 29Hz25kHz, +/-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
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
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
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.
Preamplifiers: Ayre K1x, Conrad-Johnson Premier 17LS, Krell KCT
CD players/transports: Krell KPS-28c, Sony CDP CX-400, Musical
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 its 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.
Dynaudio Evidence Temptation Loudspeakers
Price: $30,000 USD per pair
Warranty: Five years parts and labor
Phone: (45) 86-523-411
Fax: (45) 86-523-116
Dynaudio North America
1144 Tower Lane, Bensenville, IL 60106
Phone: (630) 238-4200
Fax: (630) 238-0112