My first TAS review assignment, around this time two years ago, was the Dynaudio Excite X32, a speaker that outwardly resembles the subject of this review. Both the Excite X32 and the brand-new Focus 260 ($4900 per pair) are small, two-way floorstanders with a tweeter positioned above two mid/bass drivers. And so, I have the pleasure of revisiting both a Dynaudio speaker and my TAS beginnings.
Dynaudio has discontinued nearly all of its earlier Focus models and issued new models with revised cabinets, crossovers, and drivers. The new model numbers don't scream “new” or even “update.” Unless one was familiar with earlier Focus numbering, how would one know that the 260 is brand-new and, more or less, replaces the older 220 II? I think most other companies would have signaled such a significant change by at least tweaking the line name. Something like, “Focus2.” (Maybe this is why I am not a marketing guy.)
When I spoke to Dynaudio North America's Michael Manousselis, I could sense his enthusiasm for the new speakers. He mentioned that some of the technology in the new Focus line was borrowed from the substantially higher-priced Confidence line. The new 1** soft dome tweeter features a damped rear chamber to absorb backwave energy, and the dome benefits from a new precision coating technique. This technique is said to make the consistency of the dome more uniform and therefore make the dome’s performance more even across its bandwidth. In typical Dynaudio fashion, the tweeter uses large neodymium magnets and pure aluminum voice-coil wire, the latter for a lighter moving assembly, and thereby, more accurate response.
The two new mid/bass units feature a 6.7** (17cm) cone made from MSP (magnesium silicate polymer) which Dynaudio says combines low mass, high rigidity, and very good internal damping characteristics. (Dynaudio uses MSP in most of its cones, I believe.) The driver has a 2.9** (75mm) aluminum voice coil, which is wound around a former made from polyimide (DuPont Black Kapton) for extra stiffness and low mass while maintaining operating consistency even at high temperatures. (The new former is one of the Confidence line trickle-down parts.) The spider has also been updated for more linear, pistonic movement of the cone and former, and the first-order crossover has been optimized for greater phase linearity and a more uniform impedance.
The new cabinets have a sharper-angled front-baffle bevel, and the cabinets are thicker and stiffer, with MDF damping panels instead of bitumen. (Bitumen is apparently less environmentally friendly.) Retained cabinet elements include non-parallel side panels (narrower toward the back) and a metal plinth, although more of the plinth is now hidden for a subtler look. The only visual differentiators to the new Focus line are the new logo (now just silver on black), a slightly concave tweeter fascia, narrower cone bezels, and shiny mounting screws. Pretty subtle...like much the Danes themselves.
Manousselis said the design goal of the 260 was to deliver the performance strengths of a stand-mounted monitor but also improve bass extension and dynamic range. The Focus 260 does, indeed, have the sort of sonic purity we often associate with a mini-monitor, and it also extends a good deal of that purity lower in the bass—keeping the bass clear, agile, and defined as it descends to frequencies that small stand-mounts simply can't plumb. Sometimes the floor-standing sibling of a smaller stand-mount design will sacrifice some bass clarity for more extended bass and greater dynamic swings. The Focus 260 seemingly just extends its overall resolution to a greater portion of the bass than any stand-mount speaker I know of, including my own Dynaudio Confidence C1 II.
In fact, the 260 just plain outperformed the C1 II in both bass extension and bass clarity, although the C1 II still has remarkable bass extension for a mini-monitor. Macro-dynamic range was also bettered by the 260. The 260 is the first speaker I have used that can outperform the C1 II in the bass. By “outperform,” I mean extend lower than the C1 and still provide taught, tuneful, focused, pitch-defined bass, and do so at a lower price. Several other speakers I have heard can go lower and exhibit greater dynamic impact, but they either have worse bass definition and clarity or cost a lot more. In my small, solidly-built, and slightly bass-augmenting room, the 260 could recreate most of the low notes of a full orchestra, including fairly low organ pedal notes, but could not approximate the bass power or anything close to the dynamic force of an orchestra—very few loudspeakers can, even very large ones. The lower end -3dB point is listed as 32Hz (possibly extending lower in my room) which is a credible specification and impressive for the 260's modest dimensions (something Dynaudio is known for). Still, the 260 will likely not be a head-banger's cup of tea or satisfy devotees of full-range bass and wide-open dynamics. As rewarding as I found the 260's bass and dynamic performance, it has its limitations.