Back to Baldamore. "Parasol Blanc 2" features Nicolas Genest on trumpet. During the track's 6:11 minutes, one feels transported to an 80's Miles Davis concert. Fragile trumpet accents rather than really long notes, sparse keyboard chords, lyrical percussion and live-size kick drum impact make this memorable. Over the 8c, the recording venue of the Cabaret Sauvage in Paris beamed into our space. This venue felt decorated like a round and heavily damped vintage circus tent. Next up was Steve Hoffman's compilation of remastered Elvis 24 Karat Hits. As part of our lives' early soundtrack, we grew up with Elvis. With his 40th final day in late August, it felt appropriate. There was not much fantasizing required to pretend the King was in the building. Here we felt the 8c to be as neutral as can be. There was no hint of coloration, accent or emphasis. Whatever we put in is what came out, just louder. From Elvis to Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden on Beyond the Missouri Sky was a smaller step than expected. Though Elvis was more outgoing and the Missouri duo more introvert, both albums forced us to sit down and pay attention. Subtle acoustic guitar and sparse upright bass notes worked deep like a magnet. Closing our eyes, the musicians with their instruments were present at real-life sizes; even at low volumes. The longer we listened, the more we understood the 8c and what it stood for. This was neutrality. The literature includes a few frequency response graphs which show nearly straight lines for the treble and midband, on axis and off axis up to 45°. With such linearity, it was clear that the 8c without any toe-in would cater to a wide sweet spot. Contrary to pin-point solo entertainment, social listening is so much more fun.

Many more albums and tracks found their way from SGM 2015 to 8c. On each and every one, from Mediterranean to Manouche Jazz, from Rock fusion to large classical works, the 8c performed extremely well. Classical music could approach the mythical in fact. We are not the biggest opera fans but our collection of Crazy Arias with amongst others Natalie Dessay's Mad Scenes including the iconic aria from Lucia de Lammermoor sounded so overwhelming and grand that we kept on playing these roller coaster pieces until the wee hours. It is funny how a loudspeaker can help one rediscover music. So far we had only used the SGM 2015 streamer and T+A DAC8 or Mytek Brooklyn as DACs, the latter with a lower DSD setting. But Dutch & Dutch not only put amps into their 8c, there's also a complete set of DSP and DAC aboard. Time to investigate. Martijn had left us with an XLR plug. With this and some recabling, we configured the following. From a PS Audio PerfectWave transport we connected the left 8c loudspeaker with a balanced XLR link. Then we connected its thruput to the input of the right loudspeaker and put the terminator plug into the thruput of that. Next we selected AES3 left and AES3 right for the appropriate 8c. Then we almost made a serious mistake. It so happened that when changing inputs, in this case AES3, the software defaults to 0dB attenuation. That means full throttle. Presumably this won't fry the drivers but it sure could rip an ear drum or two when these 8c can play really really loud. Just in time we lowered max output with the web app. Phew.

Once again we were pleasantly surprised. Instrumental sizing in real 3D was mesmerizing. Joel Grare's Paris Istanbul Shanghai is a musical journey through diverse styles, instruments and eras of Europe, the Middle East and Asia. How about mixing standards from Turkish, Chinese and Spanish repertoires played like jazz with a theorbo and flamenco dancer? This fabulous music projected amazingly into our listening room. Different but equally musical was Live in Montpellier with brothers Boulou and Elios Ferré; great Gipsy Jazz with lightning-fast finger work between two guitarists and guests violinist Didier Lockwood, guitarist Philip Catharine and others. Another great was Dave Brubeck's Concord on a Summer Night. If not overplayed when this music can get a bit boring, the interaction of the quartet's members and audience was heartwarming. Alas, we learnt that the 8c would not lock to hi-rez recordings. The PS Audio PWT transport contains a computer spinner that will read beyond the Redbook standard. We tried 24/88.2 wav files and even 24/176 wav files but the 8c stayed mute.

After living for a few weeks with the Dutch & Dutch 8c, we became very attached to its capabilities. With a small footprint, easy placement in normal living rooms as well as dedicated music rooms, with DSP coping with boundaries, the 8c delivered music that was untainted, uncoloured and unprettified - as is. Dutch & Dutch achieved what many look for: an affordable system that is physically unobtrusive and a master of playing to even four listeners on a couch due to its excellent dispersion. With the 8c, Dutch & Dutch enter the league of Dutch builders who have set the current standard for real-world solutions. The 8c comes close to the much costlier Grimm LS1be and is also a tough competitor for the Æquo Audio Ensis at twice the price. Both are great at creating a realistic musical portrait with deep stages and the Ensis adds height to the portrait.

When we enlarge Holland's borders to include Kii Audio, competition gets even fiercer. We've not hosted the Kii Three but heard it at a few shows. With six 250w amps per side, DSP, six drivers in a cab roughly half the size of the 8c, there are similarities. Kii have two drivers fire to the front and rear each, then add one per cheek. Both designs fight impulse smearing and front-wall interference. Both are equally priced; a tough cookie when it comes to choice. But there's more. Even though the Dutch & Dutch 8c sounded truly fantastic, we missed a few things that would make life with them even peachier. First was the lack of USB. Both Grimm and Kii offer it via external box. Both include a direct volume control. Then there's hi-rez. Dutch & Dutch are already at work on Roon connectivity and offer remote software updates. That and the fact that the speakers connect to the Internet through your home's intranet make them part of the IoT, the internet of things. For many that could be an issue. We make our living from cyber security. We know what the IoT can be. For us then no smart meters, smart TV or fridge. We like our privacy. We have serious doubts about 'others' being able to see what we're doing, in this case noticing the plain fact that we're at home playing music. But these sorts of issues are food for a separate article. Which brings us to the verdict. The 8c is a great loudspeaker and could become a personal winner if the few things mentioned were still added. Already strong points were ease of placement (adaptable to any room size or shape), huge imaging capacities, lack of colorations or time smear, impressive bass and general ease of use!

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