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I interviewed Duntech's principal, Kiat Low, for the low-down on the DSM-15 and the direction Duntech will be taking in the future: Past famous Duntech designs have been the result of a singular driving design force, John Dunlavy originally; who is driving Duntech now?

You are correct in saying that when John Dunlavy was with Duntech he drove the design singularly. These days, we have a panel of at least three people. The two principle persons would be James Galloway and I.

John Dunlavy was claimed to have said that he designed speakers with very heavy dependence on measurements and if a design measured well, he would conduct very minimal fine-tuning via listening sessions. Does that philosophy still apply with the new Duntech designers?

We still use measurements a fair bit and that depends on what you mean by measurements. If you mean a flat frequency response, well we do like to achieve that but the design has to sound correct. A flat response does not mean it is right, there are other factors. Generally if we follow the prime directives closely and it measures flat, we know we are moving in the right direction. From then on we listen a lot, not just internally but with a whole bunch of Duntech-philes. There are a fair few closet Duntech experts out there. We listen to the speakers and the comments from these Duntech experts, but the final design decisions are ours. As it is so far and luckily, all our design responses have been very flat.

Duntech has always held strict adherence to certain design principles; namely phase and time coherence tied to first-order crossovers and physical driver stepped alignments. Do the new designs and the DSM-15 in particular comply with these criteria?

Yes, we still follow the prime directives laid down by John many years ago. It would be inconceivable to design a Duntech that is not phase and time coherent. John would turn in his grave and may even haunt us if we were to do that. And yes it is still a first order, minimum phase effort. The new DSM-15 differs in only one aspect in that it does have a rear-firing port, which makes it non pulse coherent. Other than that, it completely follows John's directives. The decision to incorporate a port was in order to extract as much bass as we can from such a small cabinet. We felt that if the cabinet and port are tuned correctly, the gains outweigh the compromise and we believe we have achieved that.

Has Duntech considered active and digital correction and crossover technology for implementation in upcoming releases?

Yes, we are evaluating active and digital crossovers and correction. So far we have not committed; there are several shortcomings and we are trying very hard to come to terms with them and hopefully plot a solution some time in the future. The reality is that it is the correct way to go but there are still problems. In fact John was working on this idea before Dunlavy Audio Labs wound up. Apparently it was the high cost of implementation at that stage, similar to 256MB of RAM costing over $10,000 over 15 years ago. These days 1GB of RAM costs a mere $65.

One of the biggest hurdles for digital crossovers is the 'game over scenario' and this is not helped by digital technology manufacturers. They keep making claims that with their technology, it does not matter what amps are used. I feel this is self defeating. Imagine telling that to a high-end player who loves spending thousands on his latest component that all of a sudden, Whammo, the game is over, amps no longer matter! Many high-enders tend to resent digital technology. I feel digital proponents should be more flexible and involve other players or else nobody wants to play. We are also interested in active crossovers.

Is there a replacement on the cards for the legendary Sovereign?

Yes, there will be a new King in due course and so will there be a new President. Have to please both sides you know.

The matching dedicated stand for the DSM-15 is beautifully constructed and styled. Does it serve any acoustic purpose?

Oh yes, the stand is an inherent part of the design. It serves to augment the bass although it is decoupled. Without the stand, the bass is still good but not as punchy and fast. Besides, the design looks incomplete without the dedicated stand. It also serves as a sentinel lookalike, guarding its highly-prized high-end gear. Actually, it looks like one of those figures from Easter Island.

Will there be further models based on larger versions of the DSM-15 that can be expected and if so, when?

Initially we were working on the DSM-25 but that got canned and now we are looking at a possible DSM-17.

What else does Duntech have in store?

Well, we have almost completed designs on the all new Senator and we are looking at cabinet designs at the moment. We are testing various materials and hope to have that available towards the end of the year. As I said, there will be a new Sovereign and so will there be a new Princess and Marquis. The Senator fits into a line-up starting with the Senator followed by the Governor and culminating with the President.

Listening Impressions
Positioning the speakers in our listening room was a reasonably straightforward exercise. In fact, after a short listening session with Kiat when delivered, I schlepped them around for a bit but they ended up in similar spots to the reference speakers.

It's easy to mistake the DSM-15 for a floorstanding speaker, the visual cohesion between speaker and stand is that seamless. But it's just as easy to make he same mistake based on the amount of bass depth and power that emanates from such a small box with a 5-inch driver. That really is the first striking quality that hits the listener in the stomach when firing up the little Duntech. And it's not exaggerated midbass trickery; it is quality bass all-round, down to the lower limits of the driver itself and the laws of physics. The speculation here would be that this level of bass quality and extension is due to the collective contribution of the stand's solid face (a low frequency soundboard much like Wilson's original WATT 'Beard' 2'pi steradian speaker load), the Mecado interface and of course the high-power driver.