Danny Richie tears the Dynaudio Special 40s apart

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by Puma Cat, May 9, 2021.

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  1. JayC

    JayC Resident Crash Test Dummy

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    its funny you bring this up, and I've heard you say it a lot around here but it never really clicked until recently. A month ago I rearranged my living room, re-setup/positioned my speakers and started doing some measurements on REW/Dirac. I made 4 profiles - the first of which did the least, just sticking to dealing with a peak at 50Hz due to a room mode and a touch to remove the slight over-emphasis of bass on the S40. The next two were varying degrees of making the speakers measure absolutely perfect up to 300Hz, and the last one went further trying to deal with the stuff around 1/3kHz. The last one measured perfect, I was amazed at the end result and couldnt be happier looking at the plot

    Guess what I preferred when i looked up from my screen and heard them? the first profile.
     
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  2. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    Thanks, Jay, I was not aware of that distinction between SPL and "perceived loudness."
     
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  3. Metro

    Metro Friend

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    I'm discussing with @JayC on PM, but I wanted to leave a quick comment. The issue about the Buchardt S400 is its large waveguide which improves off axis-response. However, it also makes the tweeter a diffused wide source instead of a point source, which is needed for pinpoint imaging and making the speakers "disappear". This is a weakness of the S400.
     
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  4. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    Two way bookshelves? That much money for 6.5” woofer to 1” dome hifi is stupid unless you get the best ones around. You’re better off with a three way or horn with big woofer if you want to sit far away. Otherwise, you risk blowing something up at real volumes. For two way, The ATC SCM20/19 and Soundsmith Monarchs are just the best ones. Want an 8” woofer? The very limited amount of 8” pro monitors that don’t suck (Questeds, JBL 708, HS8. The Questeds are the best at it but not euphonic at all besides the staging and potentially bass. Bad productions with unclear midranges are really bad and and you’ll soon learn to hear the distortion through the dark morel dome. ) are it. Sorry I’ve never heard an 8” woofer hifi crossed over to 1” soft dome hifisound decent. Upper mid black holes.You’ll always need a sub if you want lower bass or any bass further away than nearfield. you go horns, you’ll just blow most of them up at real volumes without an insane amp.

    Proac SM100 if you like boom tizz and are using one of the ultra powerful meme amps for it. Otherwise, you’ll just blow the drivers. The same with the even less efficient Amphion bookshelves.

    The PMC bookshelves and nearfields sound okay shift the delayed bass even further up in frequency, making them weirder. The crossover dip and 10khz sear peak is audible.

    Focals are okay but colored and the Beryllium tweeters are fragile and a 500 dollar replacement.
     
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  5. Taverius

    Taverius Smells like sausages

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    The ATC sealed cabinet models do have a pretty distinct advantage of being way easier to locate in a room designed to be lived in rather than listened in; so much more than ported, dimensions aside.

    For the same reason they're much more livable without a sub - I can't stand ported cab bookshelf without a sub.

    They sound like ass if your listening position is above the midpoint of the drivers though, so you generally want something like an isoacoutics stand so you can tilt them.
     
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  6. JayC

    JayC Resident Crash Test Dummy

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    I've got about 3m between me and my speakers right now. Its not a big room, hence my choice for bookshelves. Its not what I consider nearfield euther though, and I plan to move to a larger place in the near future, hopefully with more space in my living room. Large woofers in the current room tend to overwhelm it in size and sound/bass. Having said that, I'd be curious about your choices in a 3 way speaker to point me in a direction to look at if I can consider them. Are you mostly a fan of actives? I'd assume you would end up sending me towards 3 way active midfield studio monitors based on the conversation so far

    I kind of figured if i eventually had the space I would try an OB like the PAP trio/clone..
     
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  7. Pancakes

    Pancakes Friend

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    Danny's entire philosophy is that a "good" speaker should be flat. You may or may not agree but once you understand that, you can understand what his business is based on and the reason he shits on a lot of speakers.

    He also puts a lot of effort into controlling resonances and general CD shittyness. I consider this a good thing in general but on some speakers, it's actually a design feature and shouldn't be fucked with. The classic LS3/5a for example depends on some cabinet resonance for its sound signature (which happens to be loved by many).

    If you agree with his philosophy, he's the guy for you. If not, might as well skip his videos.

    He does take it too far imo though with his level of disdain for most speakers he comes across - it reeks of either desperation or a holier than thou attitude.
     
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  8. nishan99

    nishan99 Friend

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  9. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    I have at times thought the same thing about some (not all of course) of the modding that goes into HP's. It's not for me as I would rather just spend the extra $ (in most cases) on a different HP/speaker, but it obviously scratches an itch for many.
     
  10. Boops

    Boops Friend

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    There are a few people here that have done his modifications (cabinet, driver damping, crossover) to the Forte 3s with satisfying results. Of course the cost of the mod kit is only a fraction of the cost of the speakers in this case.
     
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  11. wbass

    wbass Almost "Made"

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    With respect to the OP and the YT channel, I'm going to chime in with more skepticism.

    An honest question here, but how hard is it to accurately measure speakers in a home or home workshop scenario? Aren't the larger speaker manufacturers, whatever their strengths or faults, more likely to have the proper facilities for measuring? Anechoic chambers, etc.? If you're measuring in a typical at-home scenario, aren't you measuring room response as much as anything? (Edit: I guess one can measure outdoors?)

    Going on the assumption that a modder or someone offering a mod has measured accurately to begin with, as others have expressed, is the speaker, subjectively, going to sound any better? People might say they want neutral, but even audiophiles may like more coloration than they expect to. I confess that most of the studio monitors I've heard have been in, well, recording studios, and I can't say that I'd much want to listen to them relaxing at home.

    A little warmth and a mid-bass hump would seem, to me anyway, to be a pretty desirable feature in a stand-mount. There's going to be a lot of audiophiles interested in a speaker like the Special 40, but I bet equally as many folks will just go into a hifi shop, listen to a few things, and buy the one that sounds the sweetest or the richest or whatever. And a nice finish will entice, as well. Dynaudio doesn't just make speakers for those who hang out on hifi forums.

    I listened to the Special 40s when I was auditioning speakers--I went in a completely different direction in the end--and I thought they sounded quite good. Again, can't claim to have heard a ton of monitors, but I did hear a fair number of speakers, generally, through the process. Would it bother me to learn the total cost of the parts, materials, etc.? No doubt it's nowhere near the MSRP, but, well, ain't that everything out there? And, hell, they have to design the thing, pay their employees, market it, ship it, dealer mark-up, etc. These are, to a greater or lesser extent, luxury goods, and cost and value are slippery things in such a world.

    And why buy a relatively expensive speaker like the Special 40 only to go wild tinkering with it? Why not just buy a different speaker? I would be incredibly hesitant to go modding anything that costs more than, say, $500. To my mind, I'm as likely to make it worse than better. At best, I would hope for different.

    Also, I've seen plenty of threads elsewhere of people modding expensive amps and preamps and things. Replacing ordinary caps with expensive caps, mostly. Fair enough if it gives you pleasure, but I've also talked to experienced repair techs who advise against such things. Not all components end up affecting the final sound (they tell me anyway), and, again, does an amateur or a hobbyist really have a better chance at sonic perfection than the people who engineered the piece in the first place?

    Perhaps I'm naive about the goodness of hifi manufacturers, but I'm guessing most are always looking to improve in a crowded, competitive market. Their motive is also profit, sure, but it's also a small enough world that I'm guessing most people are in it b/c they're geeks about this stuff.

    The chances of me hearing a Special 40 next to the YouTuber's modded Special 40 are pretty much next to nil. So, I reserve judgment and give the benefit of the doubt. Could be that the modded version sounds great! But there'd be slim chance of ABing... Anyway, FWIW, IMHO, and so on....

    Interesting discussion though!
     
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  12. Pancakes

    Pancakes Friend

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    Measuring flat in room is relatively easy. You just cut the response from the graph after a few (usually under 5) milliseconds and that removes the room. For lower frequencies and ports it's better to take a couple of more measurements - normally directly in front of the woofer or port. You limit the time to a few milliseconds again and that removes the effects of room modes. You then normalize and overlay/combine the 2 or 3 measurements you have and you're left with a FR independent of the room.

    Obviously any decent speaker manufacturer will have an anechoic chamber and they measure all that. But, they don't necessarily voice flat because they usually have a house sound their customers prefer.

    As I stated above, Danny's philosophy is that flat is correct. If you like how that sounds or agree with the philosophy, he's your guy.

    I would guess the majority of his customers are just looking for an improvement and see him as a figure of authority so they buy his services. I would also guess some are ecstatic with the results while others (whose FR preferences differ) are not (at some point in time after the "improvement" dopamine hit has worn off). Danny is like any other speaker manufacturer - he has a methodology, a philosophy and, a house sound (flat) he strives towards. And like any other business, he makes a case for why HIS product is superior.
     
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  13. wbass

    wbass Almost "Made"

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    Thanks for the words about measurements. All interesting.

    Yeah, I agree with everything you say here and elsewhere. I guess I'm responding to the tone of the marketing or something. Or perhaps I'm also reflecting on a recent trip to a dealer to hear a certain turntable. I usually expect those kinds of visits to be fun, but all this particular guy did was shit-talk the stuff I have. "Audio Research makes terrible preamps. They're just a corporation," etc. I find that bashing the competition thing off-putting.
     
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  14. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Regarding the Special Fortys, they are a very good sounding speaker. They do have some flaws though, and I think it’s possible Danny has addressed some of them with his mod kit. However like @purr1n said, some of these FR anomalies/discrepancies may be deliberate design choices by the manufacturer. Danny’s notion of his kits “fixing” things in some cases is making an assumption that the folks who designed it didn’t know what they were doing and sold you a broken speaker that they couldn’t build a decent crossover for - that’s BS. These companies have many excellent competent engineers and designers, and the corporate bean counters are not necessarily driving things that affect frequency response - certainly they could/would affect the selection of crossover parts and wiring/connections quality and enclosure choices.

    Dynaudio has been recycling their designs for many many years now, tweaking and using parts from various upper and lower ranges and putting them together in various combinations and calling them a new speaker. The Special Forty is a perfect example of this - if you look at the other offerings they have, the Special Forty is essentially a Frankenstein product of various other speakers put together in one of their standard bookshelf speaker enclosures with a super fancy veneer/paint job. Does that mean they don’t sound good? No, but they certainly charged a premium I think that was not justified for what you get - the overall value is low, but it’s still a good speaker that excels at certain aspects and has some flaws.

    Personally I would love to hear Danny’s mod kit on these becuase I feel like they would correct some of the main issues I had with them. And I believe I generally prefer a flat response. However, I would also fear the nature of the speaker might change in a way that loses some of the aspects that made them great (the liquid clear vocals and sweet highs). Or maybe it would retain those aspects and get most of the flaws resolved - who knows. If I had paid full retail for these and was generally committed to them, I would try the kit for the price he’s asking (assuming I could pull off the soldering work or find someone who could).

    So yeah, I don’t have any issue with Danny’s business model, other than his attitude that his mods “fix a broken speaker”. No, not in all cases and aspects - they change and maybe improve a speaker in certain objective /measurable ways, but which may fundamentally change some aspects that effectively make it a different speaker. Of course some of the speakers he does look at and do mod kits for I will say look pretty poor and could qualify as ‘broken’ from an objective standpoint.

    Also he is essentially designing a speaker by measurements. Where is the final listening and voicing that is the critical last step in almost every speaker’s design cycle? He doesn’t do this (at least not to my knowledge). I’m not sure any of us would buy a speaker that we were told was designed purely through measurements without listening and tweaking to achieve something that is actually pleasant to the ear.

    @purr1n, what’s your feeling on Danny’s assertion that improved x-over parts quality (expensive caps, inductors etc) increase the transparency/resolution and other aspects (even given the same values as the manufacturer) as Danny claims?
     
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  15. Aklegal

    Aklegal Almost "Made"

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    Danny definitely designs by ear and by measurements. I have heard enough of his designs and they all have a similar sound - tight bass, clear mids and neutral highs. The highs are not rolled off but they are intentionally not aggressive - he has said as much in his audiocircle forum. Tonal balance is just that "balanced". I don't think I have ever heard a warmish or coolish Danny speaker. This goes for all of his designs whether they were sealed, ported or open baffle. Even the original Decade line of speakers he designed for Tyler acoustics more than 10 years ago have this same sound signature. He definitely listens.

    I do agree with you though. Buying these kits will get you a "Danny speaker" not necessarily a superior one depending on one's goals of course.
     
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  16. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    For his own speakers, sure I would expect this. But what about his upgrade kits? I can’t imagine he has time to listen and tweak every single crossover mod kit he puts out there, at least not to any significant degree. Regardless, as you say, you’re ending with a Danny speaker, which you may or may not align with relative to the original.
     
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  17. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    I really can't say because I don't have the mod kit or the stock Dynaudio Special 40 x-overs in front of me. Generally better parts will equate to better sound quality. Cheap poly caps are not as good as good quality film caps. Electrolytics are not as good as film caps. But the difference isn't a huge as most people think - most of the time it's different than better. For me, it's usually using the right cap rather than the "best" cap. Heck, just take a look at the descriptions of various caps at http://www.humblehomemadehifi.com/Cap.html and you will understand what I mean. Sometimes there little choice but to use electrolytics, unless you want to go insane.

    And really, most people don't have upstream components good enough to make things so discernable. When you design speakers, you can up end suffering from the same disease as audiophile's myopic, where we hone in and small little things start to be a BIG thing.

    Finally, air core inductors aren't always more suitable than iron core. For the same gauge wire and value, iron core inductors will have significantly lower DCR. DC resistance can be substantial, sometimes a few ohms. Depending upon where you put that air coil inductor, that 6-ohm woofer is now suddenly 8.2 ohms. This can be bad for low power amps because a ton of that power just gets converted to heat in the coil rather than feeding the speaker. Sure air coil is better, but getting the same DCR will require much bigger gauge wire and suddenly you have an inductor as big and as expensive as a power toroid.

    With respect to "sand-cast" resistors, sometimes this is needed to dissipate the power. You see these used by the guy at Humble Homemade Hifi. You see iron-core inductors used too. The Humble dude doesn't exactly use cheapo drivers either - and you'll see him make modest xover designs still to accompany his crazy balls to the walls boutique parts xovers.

    It's tradeoffs and how much stupid money you want to sink in. It's easy to make a great speaker but throwing money, lots of money at the problem.
     
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  18. Puma Cat

    Puma Cat Almost "Made"

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    I'd agree with your asseessments of GR-Research general priorities and design objectives: flat and neutral, with good horizontal and vertical off-axis response.

    With respect to the Dyn Special 40, I think you've also nailed the design objectives and how the product embodiment was achieved: basically what we motorcyclists have long called "parts-bin engineering" (an approch the Japanese m/c manufacturers have long used).

    I've owned Dynaudios since Dec. 2008, and my Contour S3.4s since Q3, 2009. They've served me well and display the historically long-held Dyn quality of being very neutral and free of coloration, but engaging and enjoyable to listen to. OTOH, "Special Edition" Dyns, e.g. the Special 25s, have had a "reputation" for being somewhat bright, and "energetic"-sounding. And that might be case here based on what I've read in reviews and Jay's comments. I'd be interested in what your experience is with the stock speakers and their specific strength's and weaknesses. We know that Danny documents the problems of speakers he gets in to improve (presumably sent in by owners of the speaker) for a "fix", by performing a standard and consistent set of measurements and then creating a kit of parts and mods that address the measured problem areas, and then sharing the data after modifications. Whether he performs subjective listening tests on these, we can't make an assertion that he does or does not in the absence of data, nor should we. My view is he's been doing this long enough in his multi-decade career to trust that he knows what he's doing, and how and where a speaker should end up to provide an engaging listening experience. Whether individual folks agree or disagree with the design objectives of a flat, neutral response...that's up to the individual listener. Some folks like extremely neutral products like CH Precision and Magico, and other folks, like me, enjoy some warmth and tonal color, which is why I like tube components. No one way or other is right or wrong.

    Also, rlow, if you decide to buy the upgrade kit, and are willing the ship the speakers to me, I'd be happy to do the soldering and install the mods for you and ship the speakers back to you. I could also take some real-world REW measurements before and after for you. Just PM me if you're interested.

    Oh, one last point in the interest of accuracy; the upgrade kit for both speakers is $245, not $295, as stated by Marv. Everyone has their own definition of what constitutes a value proposition, but for me, but if I owned these, spending $122.50 per speaker to make a nice speaker even better would likely be worth it. YMMV.
     
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  19. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    I got the pricing info from his site, so I dunno what the price really is.
    upload_2021-5-11_21-50-16.png

    It may be a good idea to ask Danny what's in the kit. For that amount of money, I better see better than those white SonicCaps. The most expensive part will be that big coil, which isn't that big. Would be curious to put all the parts together and price it out on Parts Express, keeping in mind that Danny's costs are 1/3 to 1/2 of retail.

    Also, I finally watched the video. He puts an inline notch in the tweeter section. More parts. Again, it's like what I said: this is his vision of what sounds good. Dynaudio may have elected not to do this because more parts to achieve flatter response could be more dead, less immediate, less lively sound, less clear sound. Doesn't matter how good the parts are. My personal approach is to take the hit to frequency response if I can get more immediacy.
     
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  20. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Let's do an analysis. I'd say it's different, not necessarily better. Stock FR in the highs is smoother, the rolloff after 14kHz is totally forgivable unless you are younger than 16. Note slightly off-axis on stock over, orange line, is very smooth from 2kHz to 13kHz!!!

    Modded FR is better in the mids, but there's a peak at 5kHz with a dip at 7.5kHz with a rise back up at 12kHz. The mod takes care of the 1kHz peak with dip at 1.5kHz, but also results in slightly rising response with bumpy highs.

    upload_2021-5-11_22-3-35.png

    upload_2021-5-11_22-5-48.png

    Better parts will bring better clarity, however there's now a notch circuit in the highs, which will reduce clarity. Let's call it a wash.
     
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