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This review first appeared in the June 2009 issue of hifi & stereo magazine You can also read this review of the Dynaudio Focus 110A in its original German version. We translated it through a syndication arrangement with our German colleagues. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of or Dynaudio. - Ed.

Reviewer: Ralph Werner
Sources: Analog - deck - Acoustic Solid MPX; tone arms - Phonotools Vivid-Two, SME M2 12 Zoll; pickups - Denon DL-103, Ortofon MC Rondo Bronce, Shelter 201, Zu Audio DL-103; digital - CDP - audiolab 8000CD, HIFIAkademie cdPlayer; Computer & Co - Logitech Squeezebox, Readynas Duo NAS-Server, HP Notebook; DA-converters - Aqvox USB2DA-MKII, Benchmark DAC1 USB
Amplification: Preamp - Octave HP 300 MK2; power amp - SAC il piccolo monos; integrated - Electrocompaniet PC2
Loudspeakers: Quadral Rondo,Thiel SCS4
Racks & Stands: Creactiv, Taoc, Liedtke Metalldesign Stand, Shale audio base
... plus diverse cables
Review Component Retail: €1.800/pr

I get nostalgic just staring at small Dynaudio boxes. An Audience 10 faithfully accompanied my study days when things chez Werner weren't exactly audiophile. Loudspeakers worth 3 months of government student subsidies came later. But that little speaker helped create the foundation for a little personal neurosis which nasty folks call hifi madness. That speaker wasn't half bad and definitely party approved. I always lit up when guests in my mondo 12.5sqm estate looked in vain for the subwoofer. Yeah, special memories. But enough history.

The former Audience range as the entry level of the Danes has since become the Excite Line. Today is about the next step up however as our tester sits just above the Excite models - the Dynaudio Focus 110A. Its passive version has been available since 2005 but the active 'A' variant just launched 3 months ago. An active monitor by Dynaudio? You bet.

One might express surprise two ways. Why is a maker known exclusively for passive home speakers suddenly keen on an active model? Or, how come a maker so dominant in the pro field took this long to sneak a fully active nearfield monitor into the consumer range? The first question is readily answered. For reasons I won't belabor, the hifi sector has traditionally shown little demand for such beasts to make them a real niche proposition. Not every maker wants to go niche. So much for tradition. Now enter iPod & Co., all-in-one players and PC audio. Their ilk present variable output sources en masse which promote "to hell with that
bloody component stack, let's go straight into an active box!" While conservatives still speculate whether this form of signal-path shortening might be advantageous, others already delight at the mere proposition of dumping 20 kilos worth of stuff off their shelves - or not having to acquire said stuff in the first place. So the second question is just as easily answered: Better late than never.

Dynaudio Focus 110 A tech
Our Danes practice a somewhat counter-current insourcing whereby they even make product brochures and similar themselves. In an era where the 'out' in sourcing is king, this stimulates sympathies. Naturally, it also and primarily relates to their loudspeakers. Be they transducers, enclosures or electronics, everything is designed and manufactured in-house. "Typical Dyn" will be the first response upon spying the Focus 110A with its trademark soft-dome tweeter wedded to a mid/bass unit with an uncommonly large central dome as the maker calls it.

Dust cap wouldn't capture it insists Dynaudio. That is glued to a membrane to create material discontinuity with sonically deleterious side effects. The Danes prefer crafting their membrane from one piece inclusive of the dome to eliminate the transition issue. This Ø 7.5cm dome doesn't merely hint at the overdimensioned voice coil behind it but, as per Dynaudio, also optimizes the radiation pattern of the driver whereby its upper coverage band is primarily handled by the "dome within the cone" whereas bass involves the entire surface. The membrane is made of a composite Magnesium Silikat polymer (MPS) to combine the three desirable traits of self damping, low mass and superior stiffness. Why the voice coil diameter for the Focus 110A ended up this gargantuan was explained by product manager Herr Hoffmann:

"As they do with most their mid/woofers, Dynaudio relies here on their so-called Center Magnet System. The magnet is central, the voice coil surrounds it. This creates a very large and even magnetic field and thermal linearity is much improved. Usually this size coil diameter would create a very heavy lazy voice coil but every Dynaudio model relies on very thin pure aluminum windings. Contrary to the ubiquitous heavy copper, this allows very lightweight coils of unusually large cross section at twice the size of copper without mass increase. Advantages include optimized transfer of voltage input to movement output, i.e. motion is far better controlled and tracks the amplifier signal with precision."

Above 1,300Hz, the treated fabric dome takes over. It's so thin as to be mostly transparent. To improve cooling, damping of undesirable resonances and to lower its resonant frequency (which allows sooner roll-in or broader operational bandwidth), this tweeter runs ferrofluid. For the former advantages, the delayed break-in time and lowered efficiency from the magnetized fluid become acceptable. The Focus 110A enclosure uses 18mm MDF panels which are veneered also internally to avoid asymmetrical deformation over time. There are braces too to undermine cabinet talk and additional damping plates are applied to the inside cheeks. The fact that the chassis narrows towards the back won't be lost on standing waves either.

Fit 'n' finish are first-rate. My only nit pertains to the Spax screws which affix the transducers as well as the integral amp to the MDF skeleton. Proper metal counter T-nuts would be stronger. Hence don't overdo retightening during your quarterly inspections. You never do? Oh well. Access to amp and active crossover are around back. The mother board is densely populated with predominantly SMDs to make the most of the crammed quarters. Herr Hoffman further cited shortened signal paths and reduced microphony effects, the latter quite vital seeing how the amp module is fully exposed to the internal sound pressures and not housed within its own discrete sub enclosure.

Both 50-watt amps (the active 2-way network requires discrete amplification, hence two amps) run off a palm-sized toroidal transformer. The 2 x 50 power spec might appear unimpressive but should suffice. Active designs are inherently more efficient because they eliminate the higher-loss parts their passive brethren present to the signal. Here just shy of 30cm of hookup wiring separate the amplifier outputs from the driver inputs. Unlike predicted perhaps, these aren't class D amp modules but 'conventional' class A/B circuits. With longer sessions, you'll notice that the heat sink isn't just for looks but warms up substantially.

Practical advantages come by way of adaptable frequency corrections. Treble output can be tweaked +/-1dB, bass +/-2dB. Derived from studio applications that often have a mixing console between the speakers whose reflections create tonal unevenness in the vocal range, midband output can be attenuated by up to 4dB. If one parks these minis on a table top or console, this option might be useful. These trim facilities offer tonal flexibility to account for room acoustics, setup variables and listener preferences. Otherwise there's not much more to discover. To include a subwoofer, a switch can high-pass the Focus 110A at 60 or 80Hz and to adapt to various source output voltages, amplifier input sensitivity can be lowered by 4dB or raised by 10dB. Input connection is via RCA and since we're not in a studio but living room, an XLR has been omitted.