October has been quite busy for me, with trips to Capitol Studios in Hollywood, RMAF in Denver, and finishing at Dynaudio in Denmark. I'm on a Delta flight home from Copenhagen, sitting next to my five year old daughter and some Norwegian guy I'll call Mr. Chatty (need I say more?). I was fortunate enough to visit Dynaudio on the first half of my trip and enjoy the company of my wife and daughter for the second half of the trip.
Flying into Copenhagen ten days ago, I was surprised to see a hot dog stand right next to the baggage claim, then several more hot dog stands on the city streets as the taxi drove me to the hotel. I found out there is no Uber in Denmark shortly after landing, but this turned out to be totally fine. The taxis and drivers on the entire trip were much better than most of the people Uber is putting out of business in other countries. The hot dogs were also cool, said like only a vegetarian can say. I tried a couple of them because I love to immerse myself in the culture of whatever country I visit. I was told these hot dogs are a thing, as well as chocolate milk, so I enjoyed a little of both.
After acclimating to the time change from central standard time to the Central European Time Zone (GMT+1) Denmark time, it was off to Skanderborg, home of Dynaudio. Founded in 1977, Dynaudio released the model 100 in 1978. The Dynaudio 100 was its first speaker engineered in-house and included drivers made of MSP (magnesium silicate polymer) material and soft dome tweeters.
Over the years many loudspeaker manufacturers have sung the praises of technologies while espousing others. We all know how this story ends through, the same manufacturers end up using the very technology they previously said was so inferior. The reasons for these flip-flops are many, but the reason Dynaudio has stuck to its formula is because the company does everything in-house. For a couple days this week, I was fortunate enough to see everything in person and have access to the engineers designing the speakers and the craftsmen and women assembling the final products. By my estimation, it was more women than men handling the assembly of everything from magnets to driver cones.
Dynaudio is one of those rare companies in HiFi that is vertically integrated. Everything from design to manufacturing to assembly is done by the Dynaudio team. I'd say 90% of everything is done in Denmark, with small pieces done in Latvia (cabinet assembly for less labor-intense cabinets like Focus XD, Excite and others). A new Dynaudio owned factory in China will soon make drivers for the Volkswagen models which are made in China. If the factory can achieve the identical quality level because it doesn't make much sense to ship drivers from Denmark to China. Dynaudio's patented MSP material that's used in its drivers is made in Denmark for all its loudspeakers.
As I walked the factory floor, I saw sheets of the MSP material being turned into woofers and mid-range drivers. The sheets were of varying thickness, depending on the specific designed being created. One point stressed over and over by the Dynaudio team was the fact that Dynaudio drivers for different speaker series are different. The company doesn't use the same 7 inch driver in one series and simply move the 7 inch design over to a different loudspeaker altogether. Many companies are forced to do such things because they don't control any of the design and manufacturing process.
Creating the perfect driver for each loudspeaker model in each series is something Dynaudio has done forever. Vertical integration enables all of this to happen. An engineer at the Denmark R&D facility can come up with a driver design in his head, model it in his computer, and have it manufactured next door on the factory floor. The entire process is far quicker than any manufacturer that depends on drivers from another company. At Dynaudio, designing, building, and testing is all done at lightning pace. I can only imagine that the engineers feel very lucky to have the ability produce prototypes shortly after thinking of the idea which may or may not be an improvement. Even if the idea doesn't pan out in the end, the entire process cuts down dramatically on the time it takes to cross a design off the list of potential improvements.
Speaking of R&D, Dynaudio recently built an entirely new building next to the building in which the company was founded back in 1977. The R&D facility is named Dynaudio Labs, while the measurement room is named Jupiter. The name is because of its size and because Jupiter in mythology is a god, the purveyor of the truth. Dynaudio doesn't have an anechoic chamber in the traditional sense, rather the company has a very large room (13 meters x 13 meters x 13 meters) with absorptive materials on the walls and a rotating 30 microphone array, in addition to an elevating and rotating speaker platform. This room is what could be called the smart anechoic chamber because it only measures the direct signal from the speakers before cutting off the measurements prior to the reflected sound reaching the microphone array.
Watching a loudspeaker being measured in a full 360 degree space is a geeks dream. The microphone array rotates between completely horizontal and completely vertical, while the speaker spins on its raised platform. The more traditional approach to this type of measurement is to use a single microphone and move it each time a different measurement is needed. In this new facility the Dynaudio team can shorten the time it takes to measure a loudspeaker from three days to thirty minutes.
Think about that. An engineer can come up with a design, have it manufactured next door, and brought back to the R&D facility for measurements, all within a very short period of time. As any loudspeaker designer if he or she would like this capability and if this would increase the quality of work, and I'm willing to bet the answer would be an unequivocal YES.
I have a large amount of respect for speaker manufacturers who just don't have the ability to create their own drivers. Some of them have been very successful at buying parts from companies such as Scan-Speak and assembling them into a custom cabinet. Many HiFi consumer the world over have been very happy with these designs. However, when I think of the R&D involved at Dynaudio, it makes me think of the letters T&E for some of the other manufacturers. Trial and error must play a big part of designing speakers if a company doesn't have the vertical integration and experience of Dynaudio. Again, that's not a slight on other manufacturers. Many just don't have the expertise and capital to invest in such an undertaking.
Given the speed and quality at which Dynaudio can create a loudspeaker, the company should have tons of models available and the products should never be on backorder, right? Wrong. I saw first-hand the process of crafting a Dynaudio driver and cabinet, and the lengths the company goes to when putting the finishing touches on each speaker. Not each series or each mode, each loudspeaker is made by craftsmen and women, largely by hand. The company uses technology when it makes sense and demands a human touch for all other aspects of speaker creation.
A development I've been waiting to talk about for months, is the new Dynaudio Music series of speakers. The Music series has four models, the Music 1, Music 3, Music 5, and Music 7. These speakers are in my favorite category of HiFi, the all-in-one. I've used the Naim Mu-so and Klipsch One for years and swear by the power of products in this category.
No civilian I know, other than my father-in-law, has any interest in entering my cave in the basement to listen to music on a great HiFi system. My answer to this issue, is to bring the HiFi to the people I know. All-in-one speakers are what my wife and five year old daughter use to jam Beyonce, Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, and my daughter's new favorite album the Bill Evans Trio's Waltz for Debby. When I'm at a trade show and my daughter calls asking me to put on her Jazz album, it pleases me to no end to one Spotify and start the album from thousands of miles away. Even better, is when I hear the music pumping upstairs, while I'm working in my office downstairs. It's good music and it sounds really good through proper HiFi all-in-one speakers.
The new Dynaudio Music series has options for battery power (Music 1 and 3), DSP that adapts to the environment, HDMI input (Music 7), a really nice looking iOS and Android app, and many other great features. Based on my somewhat limited time spent with the Music series of products, the sound quality is really good. It's what I expect from a company with Dynaudio's capabilities.
I always get a bit leery when traditional HiFi companies embed computer technology into their devices. The Dynaudio Music series initially gave me this same cautiousness. How can a speaker company do the digital part of a wireless all-in-one and a mobile app? Who did they get to do the work for them? What WiFi tech are they using? Did they just white-label an app and cal it their own? All serious questions.
Dynaudio's vertical integration doesn't stop at loudspeakers. The company initially worked with a third party to develop the mobile app, but shortly thereafter purchased the company. This brought all activity in-house, enabling this great vertical integration about which I keep talking. The wireless tech used in the new Music series is also proprietary to Dynaudio. It's different from what was used in the Xeo series, which will cause some loss of interoperability between Xeo and Music series.
I've been on many factory tours over the last ten years. Some loudspeaker manufacturers, some component manufacturers and some who do both. I've yet to see a company as vertically integrated and with as much R&D capability as Dynaudio. Other equally as capable companies certainly exist, I just haven't been on the tour.
Before signing off, I must mention a little about the rest of my time in Denmark. The people of Skanderborg, Aarhus, and Copenhagen were wonderful. My family and I walked the street named Srøget several times and enjoyed eating at the cool one-off restaurants down little alleys and shopping at Danish retailers. I even found myself a new Borsalino cap to cover my head for the foreseeable future. By far the biggest and most pleasant suppose of the entire trip was Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. It's an amusement park that was founded in 1843 and inspired Walt Disney to create his own amusement parks. I've been to Disney World, Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris, and must say these parks don't even come close to Tivoli Gardens. I(t's by far the best park I've ever been to and I can't recommend it enough for families, kids, and even adults.
I can see why Denmark is often the happiest place on Earth.
One Dynaudio listening area at the factory.
Dynaudio Consequence loudspeakers.
Cabinet manufacturing and finishing.
The special coating on the soft dome tweeter is white when applied, then turns transparent after drying.
From the B&O Store on Strøget.
Pringles giving away free speakers!
I couldn't resist a DAC Cafe :~)
Inside Tivoli Gardens at night.
Peacock at Tivoli Gardens, that later walked right up to us.