Dynaudio Xeo 6 System Review
The Dynaudio Xeo 6 system is often misrepresented as a pair of wireless loudspeakers. The reality is that the Xeo 6 is a system that takes the place of a DAC, audio cables, amplifiers, and loudspeakers. The only piece not included with the Xeo 6 is the source such as a music server or traditional computer. What's more, the Xeo 6 system includes all of these elements in a sleek design. The visual minimalist can even place a music server and the wireless transmitter in another room, so the only visible piece of the audio system is the Xeo 6 loudspeakers. In addition to flexibility, the Xeo 6 system offers true high end audio sound quality. There are so many things right with the design of this system that it’s no wonder the sound quality is so impressive. From the full digital signal path to the loudspeakers to the active design with perfectly matched amplifiers for each of the three drivers in each speaker, the system technically hits many high notes. The Xeo 6 system simply makes sense on several levels and delivers the goods when it comes to sound quality.[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]
The Xeo 6 System
The average consumer seeking to equal the performance of the Xeo 6 system with a traditional HiFi system would need a DAC > audio cables > amplifier(s) > speakers cables > loudspeakers. In addition to the extra pieces and cost of a traditional system, the user’s placement options are limited because of cabling and aesthetics. We’ve all seen those advertisements for loudspeakers sitting alone in a room without any components and speaker cables. In the case of traditional loudspeakers the advertisements are misleading to say the least. Fortunately, with a wireless Dynaudio Xeo 6 system consumers can bring the ideal of a majestic advertising image to reality.
Not only is the Xeo 6 system easy to place in any room because of its design, its design is much preferred by many people in the industry. The reason I say that is because I’ve talked to hundreds of people who’ve been in the high end audio industry for decades and many of them say the same thing. Active loudspeakers are inherently better than traditional passive speaker designs. All things being equal, an active design will outperform a passive design every time. Why isn’t the industry full of active loudspeakers you may ask. The answer is simple, active loudspeakers don’t sell nearly as well as traditional passive designs. Digging deeper into the reasons why they don’t sell as well is a can of worms I will not open in this review. However, many more consumers are starting to see the benefits of active loudspeakers, especially when combined with wireless capabilities. Back to the preference for active loudspeakers. Traditional amplifiers and loudspeakers are designed to be somewhat universal in that they will work with almost any connected component. But, the price one pays for universality is that the loudspeaker or the amplifier can’t perform to its maximum ability. On the other hand, active systems like the Dynaudio Xeo 6, are created as a matched set. Each driver unit in the Xeo 6, two woofers and one tweeter, is paired with its own custom amplifier designed specifically to power the driver (each loudspeaker contains three 50 watt amplifiers). In addition to this perfect match, the active design bypasses all the inherent problems of a passive crossover. Talk to many loudspeaker designers and they will tell you that passive crossovers are the bane of their existence.
In addition to the smart active design of the Xeo 6 loudspeakers, the system includes excellent DSP fine tuning to maximize room placement options. Each loudspeaker features a switch on the back for Neutral, Wall, or Corner placement. I tested all configurations during this review period and really liked the sonic improvement the DSP fine tuning made. I even setup a stereo pair of Xeo 6 loudspeakers with the left channel against a wall and the right channel in a corner. I figured this is a real world scenario for many people. I flipped the switch on each loudspeaker to the appropriate position, Wall for the left channel and Corner for the right channel, and was very happy with the sound quality. Switching back and forth between the Neutral position and the custom Corner / Wall positions, without moving the loudspeakers, only amplified my love of the improvement the Xeo 6 DSP made. If you’ve ever listened to a system with and without room correction you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. The differences are not subtle and once you’ve heard them you can’t go back and live without them.
Sending music from nearly any source to the Xeo 6 system is very easy with the Xeo Hub. The Hub features optical (TosLink), coaxial (RCA), and USB (mini-B) digital inputs. When using the USB input the Hub can be powered over the USB cable. The digital inputs support audio playback up through 24 bit / 96 kHz. A nice feature of the Xeo 6 system is that one can play music at higher sampling rates and the system will simply down-sample the audio. For example, I played Supertamp’s Crime of the Century album at 24/192 through the Xeo 6 system just fine. Sure the quality of the down-sampling is likely not as good as if the albums played at its native sample rate, but at least I was able to play all y music without thinking about the sample rate. I much prefer this as opposed to a system that simply wouldn’t play music unless it was under a certain sample rate much as 24/96. In addition to digital, the Hub features two analog inputs. One for traditional RCA inputs and the other mini jack for devices like phones and tablets. Dynaudio advertises a maximum distance of 20 meters for the wireless signal from the Hub. I was able to send the signal from the Hub to the loudspeakers in different rooms and on different floors of my house without an issue. Users with many wireless devices will be happy to lean the Xeo system supports three different GHz frequencies, 2.4, 5.2, and 5.8. This enables the user to move the Xeo 6 system to a less used frequency if necessary. Users should also know that the Xeo 6 system doesn’t connect to one’s personal wireless network. The system automatically sets up its own point-to-point wireless network. Thus, there’s no need to worry about the frequencies supported by your current router or wireless access point and no need for the SSID and password.
Some readers may have noticed that this system is the second generation of Xeo from Dynaudio. This second gen product has some very nice upgrades not found on the original product. For example, the AutoPlay function that automatically detects a source and activates it, the speaker position EQ settings, a really handy interface display on top of each speaker that enables the user to power On/Off the speaker, control volume or select source, multi-band wifi, coaxial digital input, improved remote control, and magnetically attached speaker grills are all improvements from the first gen product. According to Dynaudio's Mike Manousselis, "we are a few weeks away from having the forthcoming Dynaudio Connect transmitter, price TBA, which will be an upgraded version of the Hub that will also stream Bluetooth (A2DP, apt-x and AAC compatibility) to the Connect, will also feature Spotify Connect and DLNA, and will also facilitate control of the Xeo system via the Dynaudio control App." Not only is the section generation of the Xeo much better than the first, it looks like the Xeo series will improve even further wit the Connect transmitter.
The price for the Xeo 6 system is $3,999 ($3,700 for the pair of speakers and $299 for the Xeo Hub). If readers are looking for a little less expensive approach or simply a smaller loudspeaker, with all the aforementioned benefits and functionality, the two-way Xeo 4 system retails for $2,399 including Xeo hub.
I setup the Xeo 6 system several ways during this review period. The sources I used were a Windows computer running JRiver Media Center, a Macbook Pro running Roon (video), and an Aurender N100H music server (review). Each of these sources has pros and cons, but none of the cons are associated with the Xeo 6 system. The Xeo 6 is nearly agnostic as to what source it’s connected. I used the Hub’s driverless USB input for all my listening. Whether I connected the Hub to Windows, OS X, or Linux it just worked without any installation. The source I used most frequently with the Xeo 6 system was the Aurender N100H. I placed the N100H, connected to the Hub via USB, in a utility room about twenty feet from my listening room where the loudspeakers were located. The flexibility of the Xeo 6, being wirelessly connected, enables placement of the source component (Aurender & Xeo Hub) out of sight and out of mind.
Peter, Paul & Mary - All My Trials - Sounded fantastic. The harmonies sounded super seductive and sucked me right into the music. More than anything, this track pushes a system to reproduce vocals and midrange. It’s not bombastic and doesn’t contain highs that only a bat and dog can hear. This track has a feeling of real life and the frequencies that were not only encounter most but to which we are most sensitive. The Xeo 6 system reproduces this one wonderfully.
Fiona Apple - Limp - I like this track not only because it’s a great tune, but it also features several elements I like to listen for when evaluating audio components. Fiona’s opening vocals have a wonderful gloss to them when played through the Xeo 6 system, and when played through my $100,000+ reference system for that matter. No the systems aren’t in the same sonic league, but that doesn’t mean both systems can’t produce wonderful sound. The percussion solo that begins at 2:05 into this track reveals both strengths and weaknesses of the Xeo 6 system. Reproduction of the midrange and high frequency bells and cymbals is crystal clear with a nice realism. However, the lowest bass frequencies in this track come across a touch boomy. That said, the Xeo 6 system isn’t shy on bass and for the most part it’s nice and tight.
Moving to a little hip-hop and much more bass, I selected Jay Z’s Holy Grail featuring Justin Timberlake. This track has a great beat with deep bass juxtaposed to the opening piano and high pitched vocals of Timberlake. When the bass kicks in the Xeo 6 system performs wonderfully. I expected to hear more boomy bass, but do to the tack’s inherently boomy beat it sounded very right. I enjoyed every minute of this track, bass and all.
On Shelby Lynne’s Just A Little Lovin’ title track I was surprised at how well the Xeo 6 system reproduced the air around the percussion instruments and delivered a sense of space while the sounds trailed off after the initial strike. On the other hand, the touch of boomy bass heard earlier was back in a bigger way with the opening bassline of the track. Fortunately this boom was, for the most part, only present during the opening 45 seconds or so of the track. Overall the sound of the track through the Xeo system was really nice.
Joni Mitchell - California - Maybe because I just returned from a trip to California I have this track on my mind, but nonetheless it’s a wonderful song. To me this track is all about the vocal. The other instruments sound funny to me on any system. Through the Xeo 6 system Joni’s vocals sound really nice and perhaps a bit more forward than I’m used to hearing through my TAD CR1 loudspeakers. Switching to Joni’s track Woodstock, written by her even though she never made it to the festival. On this track Joni’s opening with a tremoloed Wurlitzer electric piano just has this authentic sound to it through the Xeo 6 system. In addition to Joni’s main vocal, her multi-tracked backing vocals are terrific and remind me of the incredible backing vocal by the “girls” in Lou Reed’s Wild Side. The Xeo 6 system does a great job of reproducing these Joni Mitchell tracks.
The Xeo 6 is another true high end wireless audio system from Dynaudio’s much loved Xeo product line. Whether replacing a traditional HiFi system or starting anew, the Xeo 6 is a system that can’t be brushed aside. The combination of form and function serve the end user very well. Functionally this system can be placed almost anywhere and sound very good given its DSP options. This flexibility in placement is due to form / design. The inherent advantages of an active loudspeaker system improve sound quality but also enable all-in-one designs housing a DAC and amplifiers inside the loudspeaker chassis. Connecting the Xeo Hub to the source of your choice, in my case an Aurender N100H, and placing the loudspeakers in any reasonable position is all that’s required to get rocking in one’s home. Great sound quality, no cables, no separate digital to analog converter, no separate amplifier(s), and no digital source component within view is enough for me to suggest you “add to cart” given the opportunity.
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