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With its mix of distorted children's voice, opera song, piano washes and horse whinnies, clock and bicycle bell samples, even the third album The Adventures Of Ghosthorse And Stillborn by Cocorosie becomes acquired taste. But without the constantly croaking sick cockerel of their debut effort La Maison de Mon Rêve, the musical dream scapes of the Casady sisters perhaps have become more approachable? Whatever, it ended up one of the first albums I fed the Dynaudio and it sufficed to demonstrate that one here deals with a highly resolved monitor. Quite as naked and immediate I've rarely experienced Cocorosie's noise collages.

Special about this small speaker is that its resolving power drew me more into the music rather than keep me at bay with artificial or effortful notes. For me, the key word resolution often implies more abstract fascination or a kind of sound awe rather than music involvement. I'm not 100% sure about the cause but of course have numerous notions. Routinely high detail tracks back to a presence region emphasis which gets fatiguing over time. Or, sounds are magnified as though under a loup to increase in size, perhaps interesting for isolated instruments but not in ensemble situations. Or, the perspective is forward, with everything apparently closer to the listener to appear clearer. But that too can become tiring. Be that as it may, none of it applies to the Focus 110A. No hyped presence, no sonic zoom and definitely no frontal staging. Au contraire, here there's always respectful distance between auditor and virtual stage, albeit with extreme visibility for no-veil transparency. While nothing separates the listener, the sounds aren't projected below her nose which could cause involuntary stress - and a protective listener never fully relaxes to go with the musical flow. So the Focus 110A offers fascination over details and sonic nuance while maintaining discrete distance to stay relaxed and in pleasure consumption mode. Otherwise, Cocorosie can really wreck your nerves...

This speaker starts its imaginary stage behind the ground line, perhaps a half meter back. While this could risk undue distance to the listener, in practice it's anything but. I felt invited to enter a far flung panorama rather than feel separated from the performance. The latter might be possible if a certain filmy opaqueness inserted itself but since the Dynaudio is ultra transparent, that's simply not the case. About sheer stage scale, if bigger is better, you'll really like these small Danish actives. I was quite unprepared by their fabulous stage width well beyond their outer edges, particularly because depth layering wasn't compromised. This becomes a special virtue. Hats off to how this debutante manages to erect a drum set well in the far stage distance while maintaining incisive rhythmic fidelity. And, things project higher than usual, creating a kind of dome between the speakers where images don't stop at their upper baffle edges. I assume the particularly airy and open Dynaudio tweeter is to thank for that. Now add that the Focus focuses, i.e. image lock or localization sharpness are very high. Everything is assigned its proper place and address and when in doubt, you can start your count. This occasionally irritated me in the bass range where I'm more used to spatial spreading rather than compacted, clearly localized focus beams. Perhaps reduced cone area was involved. Regardless, next to high-level detail retrieval, the Dynaudio Focus 110A counts exceptional soundstaging as her second fat trump card.

If one overlooks the lowest 1.5 octaves, this small active box is exceptionally neutral, with an overall tendency towards minor leanness. That's inherent to the concept and no particular demerit since a CD has more surface area than this woofer and more than one shoe carton more volume than the enclosure. In fact, for once I'd sign on that infamous dotted line of "for her size, unbelievable bass power" which ties directly to being an active, direct-coupled design. At least I'm short on other explanations. But way down low, there's very diminished action. Take Tuxedomoon's "A Home Away" [Cabin in the Sky] whose bass run occasionally drifts into infrasonics. That range is mostly MIA here. Compared to other while bigger compacts like Quadral's Rondo or Thiel's SCS4, those also don't reach fully into the abyss but they still hint at it. I estimate that the Dynaudio falls off steeply around 50-60Hz where others still push air to eliminate the sub region less sudden.

That's nothing more than a reporter's thoroughness. The upshot is utterly mundane. Those in need of true sub bass don't buy compact speakers; or add an active subwoofer. It's not as though Dynaudio's lineup had no options. The bass quality of the Focus 110A is clearly of the 'fast', dry and highly articulated kind, the polar opposite to full, soft and behind the beat. To likewise paraphrase her midrange and treble qualities in a few short words is rather more difficult since, in a positive sense, those are mostly without identifying self flavor. With such neutral and monitoresque speakers, results are directly contingent on source and cable quality. The only tendency really is that bass veers into the sportive/lean rather than sumptuous. A simple D/A converter swap however (from HifiAkademie to Benchmark) already diluted that statement by half. Admittedly not voluptuous yet, it certainly was no longer lean, simply neutral. A special mention goes to the treble which is exceptionally open and liberated and utterly free of artefacts way into the stratosphere to play without hold backs or highlights. Which is veritably implied by the word neutral, is it not?

Interesting was the comparison between €1,800 Dynaudio and €2,200 passive Thiel SCS4. The first A/B attempt was a bit off since amplification relative to the speaker was way top-heavy. The Thiel chain included the Logitech SqueezeBox Streamer, Benchmark D/A, Octave HP300 tube preamp and SAC il piccolo monos. The Dynaudios in that comparison tapped straight into the Octave pre. A more realistic attempt N°.2 reached for the €2,200 Electrocompaniet PC-2 for the Thiel, then fled the scene for the Focus 110A since the Benchmark DAC has a quality variable output which suffices for the Dynaudio.

Dynaudio and Thiel share certain traits. Both are highly resolved, both stage like champs and both count microdynamic finesse among their true virtues. I hadn't gotten around to mentioning the latter for the Focus 110A but it deserves a fat emphasis. How the petite Dane locks onto guitar strings and tracks the most minute ebb and flow of their vibrations, how it reveals the softest of level changes in vocals - it's really high class. Ditto for the Thiel. And both speakers book similar limitations. There's not enough oomph for true macrodynamic violence and max SPLs are best pursued elsewhere.

Despite such similarities, both speakers sound quite different and those offsets were stable regardless of chain 1 or 2. In the final analysis, the Thiel is more even-keeled, the balance between resolution and charm even more uncompromised. That's primarily due to its more
substantial bass foundation. Related to that, the Thiel soundstage seems more anchored, more 'earth-bound' whereas the Dynaudio's seems airier and hence, even more open and transparent.

The Dane offers more upper-range air, the American more sex appeal due to a more fully developed low end. In short, both systems ending in Thiel sounded to me somewhat more mature or high-endig but the advantage was certainly not great and a matter of taste. This was my take and others could respond in the reverse since it's not entirely debatable that the tiny Dyn is even more highly resolved. Unbelievable. Of course this could kick off discussions about resolution über alles. Or not. Presto, we'd be knee-deep in subjective preferences and philosophies. Utterly beyond personal opinion is the fact that a system with the active Focus costs substantially less money.

Eliminating redundant electronics is great fun. Is it etched in stone that a dedicated preamp is essential? Nyet. With at least half of all the tested music, I preferred running the Focus 110A directly off a DAC or CDP. Such savings are compelling. Hence this active box is positively ideal for minimalists or those who don't yet proudly own a whole stack of hifi gear. If your audio collection lives on a PC but you eye PC speakers with mistrust, then Dynaudio's Focus 110A could be heaven sent. Simply invest in a decent external soundcard and somewhat palatable interconnects -- no sense to go overboard -- and presto, a hifi of the other kind for ca. 2000 smackers. And if that's arguably not yet synonymous with the ultra high-end, there's plenty of room to upgrade since the Dynaudio is far from the bottle neck.

Examples of hifi rigs of the other kind include: Laptop + soundcard + focus 110A; a music server + Focus 110A if you detest a computer in the living room; add a DAC with volume control to improve sonics like the Benchmark. My personal darling in the minimalist races around the Focus 110A was the HifiAkademie cdPlayer which adds four digital inputs to eliminate a preamp if you don't have analog sources. This player has variable outputs to leash directly to the active boxes. That system's sticker is three-six and if you asked me for sonic competitors, I'd be scratching my head for quite a while, never mind duplicating the high WAF.

Dynaudio accomplished a small coup d'etat with its compact Focus 110A. Sonic return on investment is very high and additionally relevant since the active concept "saves retroactively" by eliminating electronics. At the very least, you don't need power amplifiers -- four are included -- and personally, investing into a quality source is likely smarter than a separate preamplifier. Obviously such a source must have variable outputs and ideally should duplicate minimal preamp functionality by offering inputs for additional sources. To maximize the listening fun, a room facing the Dynaudio Focus 110A should not exceed 20 square meters by much as the tonal balance will be more even than in larger spaces. And, you should fancy a highly detailed, de-fatted monitoresque presentation over emphasized fullness. That handled, Dynaudio's active is a veritable hammer.

  • The Focus 110A plays mostly neutral, with a minor tendency for leanness in the low bass. Otherwise its bass is a lot more potent than outer dimensions would suggest and even the lower octaves are blessed with grippiness, speed and articulation.
  • Midrange and treble are exceptionally clear and distortion or grain positively absent. Transitions are seamless.
  • Resolving power is very high.
  • Microdynamics are excellent, macrodynamics (inherent in the concept) obviously limited.
  • SPL stability is impressive but this is no outright party animal. It's more a speaker for civilized listeners than AC/DC at concert levels.
  • Soundstaging is truly convincing, begins behind the ground line and then expands exceptionally wide and deep, with precise sorting and image allocations. The spatial abilities of this speakers are amongst its most powerful virtues.


  • Concept: Active 2-way bass reflex
  • Weight and dimensions: 8.5 kg/ea. - 173 x 305 x 322mm (WxHxD)
  • Trim: Maple, Cheery, Palisander and Ash veneer, high-gloss black or white
  • Other: Variable input sensitivity; bass, mid and treble trim; high-pass filter at 60 or 80Hz for subwoofer pairing
  • Website
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