Martijn delivered our review samples personally. Measuring 48.5 x 27 x 38cm and weighing just 32kg, getting them upstairs was no big deal. He also brought a pair of simple mass-filled stands. The speaker's side and top panels are 19mm solid blond oak. Sheet metal creates the bottom and back panels while the outer baffle is injection-molded black ABS. Molding their own baffle allowed the integration of a custom wave guide for their Seas 1" aluminium/magnesium alloy dome tweeter crossed in at 1'250Hz. Below the tweeter sits an aluminium cone 8" midrange. This driver occupies its own chamber which communicates with the outside world via two 5 x 20.5cm slightly curved vents per side. These vents plus the chamber's internal construction pass the driver's rear radiation into the room. Out of phase with the front radiation, this causes a lateral null or cancellation zone. Because only the front wave reaches the listener, the resultant dispersion is called heart-shaped or cardioid. This kills two birds with one stone. There's no need for internal cabinet damping; and front/side-wall reflections are avoided. The illuminated company logo sits beneath this open-backed midrange driver. With its bright orange color against a black background, it is not strange that some people would ask whether this is a JBL.

It's not often that we look at a speaker's bottom but we did in this case and found not only two large rubber strips as footers but the intake vent of a built-in fan. With normal use the fan is inoperative. Still, one needs to take its presence into consideration to not block the opening. At the back the 8c gets quite busy. Two aluminium-coned 8" woofers in their own sealed compartment cross in at 100Hz for down-to-20Hz coverage. Next to the bottom woofer and between the metal panel and edge of the oak sides are narrow fan-outlet slits. Underneath the same driver are three XLR for audio input, audio thruput and additional subwoofer output. There's also a pro RJ45 Ethernet port, an input selector switch with 4 indicator LEDs and the mains switch with IEC power inlet.

There's no mechanical volume or any other control except for input selection. So volume control must be done at source level. With an analog feed by variable DAC, that's preferably with attenuation in the analog domain to avoid resolution losses. With a digital feed, 64-bit dithered volume control in one of the many software players for Windows and Mac would be better than iTunes. With huge power on hand, it's impractical to attenuate the incoming signal to almost nothing to keep one's ear drums safe. Fortunately Dutch & Dutch provide a web-based control app. Once the loudspeakers connect to your home network, the router will assign them their own IP address by means of DHCP, likely in the 192.168.x.y range. Now the speakers are part of the home network from which one connects to a website where the app resides. Of course you can also connect via WiFi over a smart phone or tablet. The first thing the app does is scan your network for the presence of the speakers. In our case Windows took a while while Mac and smart phone were near instantaneous. Once detected, the app connects to the 8c's DSP. Now max volume can be set just like fine DSP adjustments to the treble, midrange and woofers.

Before we made any sound, we had to set up the speakers in our room and connect sources. Dutch & Dutch strongly recommend no more than 80cm from the front wall to properly couple their woofers for the intended loading. We started at 30cm from our glass doors, 2.85 meter apart and with no toe-in. In the DSP software there's a function for room placement. For time alignment, front wall distance can be set just like vicinity to the side walls or, as in our case, 'free' placement. Our first source was the SGM 2015 streamer running a stripped-down version of Windows 10 with HQPlayer which connected to the T+A DAC 8. Though this DAC has an excellent built-in volume control, we employed our Music First passive preamp not only as magnetic volume control but input selector so we could play from multiple sources. At the back of the speaker we used the small input switch to select the analog low level input at -10dBV. Other options are analog high level +4dBu, AES3 left, AES3 right and AES3 mono. The last three options are for digital inputs. The 8c are active so we needed AC. The 8c is also networked so we needed two Ethernet cables. From the router another Ethernet cable went to the SGM 2015 streamer to enable Tidal and Qobuz next to disk drive. A third cable pair formed a balanced connection from the Music First that itself had two balanced cables running into it from the DAC. Quite a few cables in a permanent setup beg would beg for nice concealment.

Play time. With max volume attenuated to -30dB via web app, we had plenty of room to play at decent and incidental crazy levels (the gain limit of the software is -60dB). We selected a wide range of music and used Roon to handle selections. The SGM 2015 was our player of choice with an external USB disk loaded with a few thousand albums in .flac and other formats; and via the Internet's Tidal where Roon managed our favorites as well as the USB files. HQPlayer running on the SGM 2015 converted all tracks to x 8 DSD which then fed to the T+A DAC8, thence the 8c. We were in the mood for the Hadouk Trio and started with Baldamore. This album is rich in very low frequencies from Loy Ehrlich's gum bass and keyboards while Steve Shehan uses a wide range of percussion instruments and Didier Malherbe tops it all off on flutes and signature duduk. It's an album with lots of dynamics, overtones and melodies that are enchanting and captivating. Playing the first tracks we noticed that though the bass was rich and snappy, the sound wanted a little more oomph.

Remembering the Dutch & Dutch advice, we placed the 8c a little closer to the front wall, now at 20cm proximity, and adjusted the DSP setting to reflect that value. That did the trick. Now the drums and bass were much more in balance with the rest when listening quite close. Farther at the back of our 14 meter long room where our dining table sits, the sound still wanted a little extra. With the app at hand, we dialed the bass level up by just 3dB. Wow, that was all the sound needed. Remember, we're used to physically large loudspeakers like the Avantgarde Duo Omega. Even those we still pair with two Zu Submission subwoofers because we have them. Already in the first round these two little 8c actives proved to be strong contenders. They acted much like a hornspeaker and no doubt the wave guides did their bit. In the most important frequency range of the midband, choosing an aluminium cone is a step to match a fast tweeter but the cardioid dispersion really sealed the similarity to a horn's restricted lateral output. Meanwhile the front wall became a virtual radiator far larger than just the twin woofers per channel, albeit in phase with the fronts. Proper timing was a result of very close wall proximity and DSP delays.