Dynaudio BM5A Powered Monitor Review - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

 
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Dynaudio BM5A Powered Monitor Review

Dynaudio BM5A Powered Monitor Review




With the release of the Dynaudio Focus 110A speakers, Dynaudio seems to be revisiting some well know territory. The Focus seems strikingly similar to their BM5A series; they look almost identical and share many of the same specs. They are not, however, the same speaker. According to Dynaudio, the Focus series is specifically designed for home use; it employs "upscale" drivers specifically "voiced" for the home environment as opposed to near-field monitoring. The cabinets also offer a range of various "real wood veneers and glossy lacquers allow(ing) the Focus to easily fit into every room and décor scheme." The BM series, like the Ford Model T, is available in any color that you want...as long as it is black. The 6As are slightly larger than the 5As but share the same drivers and amplifiers. I happen to own three BM5As that I could use for left, center and right channels, so I thought that I would give them a critical listen as home speakers. Although they are not identical to the Focus 110A monitors, the BM5As should still provide some clue as to what can be expected from the Focus series.

HISTORY:

Denmark’s Dynaudio released its first speaker in 1977. Their first design used drivers from a different company but employed a cross-over of their own design. Today Dynaudio uses its own drivers and even makes its own cabinets in Urhoj, Denmark. Dynaudio drivers can be found in speakers by respected companies like Wilson and Duntech; their monitors are used by engineers and recording studios across the world.


The “A” in BM5A indicates that it is an amplified monitor (it has built-in amplifiers). Like the Focus 110A, the BM5A uses two 50 watt (RMS) amplifiers. One amp drives the Esotec 1.1” (28mm) soft dome tweeter, and the other powers the 6.5” (170mm) midrange/woofer. Each monitor is 7.3” x 12.5” x 12.5” and weighs 19.2 lbs. The cabinet is angled at the front to reduce reflections and has only a small plastic “triangle” to protect the tweeter. There is no speaker grill cover at all, but there are two LEDS. One indicates power on (green) and the other will light-up orange to indicate too high of an input signal or red if the amp gets too hot. I never saw anything but green during my listening, and I pushed the speakers quite hard (>100dB!) at times.

A peek at the monitor’s rear panel reveals a single balanced input for a female XLR cable and an array of stitches. The switches allow you to set level trim (+4, 0 and -10) to help match the level of other components in your system. You can also engage a high pass filter “allowing a higher undistorted sound pressure level” (60 and 80 Hz. options) or set it to “flat” for full range sound. The LF switch engages a “shelf-type eq” to help compensate for proximity effect; you can set it at -2dB if the monitor is close to the wall and has excessive bass. It has a 0 (flat) setting and a +2 dB setting to accommodate speaker positions well away from a wall (or corner) or personal taste. Mid and high frequencies can also be adjusted by the respective MF and HF switches. The MF switch uses a notch filter and offers 0 (flat) +2 dB and +4 dB adjustments; the HF switch has +1 dB, 0 or -1 dB options.

There is also a fuse protected AC power cord (IEC13) like you would find on a PC; it is detachable for those who want to experiment with after market power cords. There is also an On/Off rocker switch and a fairly large heat sink. The heat sink does not seem to be cosmetic as it gets quite warm when the speaker is driven hard.

Manufacturer's Specs:
Please expand spoiler tags to view, hidden to save space.

Spoiler
  • MSRP (Mk.IIs) $1250 pair.
  • Frequency Response 48Hz-21kHz +/- 3dB.
  • Input level for 85 dB SPL @1m 16dBu RMS @ 0dB setting.
  • Internal Cabinet Volume 9 liters.
  • Crossover Frequency 1500 kHz.
  • Crossover Slope 6 dB/oct.


Switches as described in text to "fine-tune" the sound

ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT:

Emotiva UMC-1 processor, Kef PSW2500 subwoofer (stereo), SVS and DIY sub, Kenwood KM-Z 6-channel THX amp (surrounds, rears), Kef KHT 2005.2 satellites (surrounds, rears), fat PS3 (Blu ray, Netflix and SA-CD), PS1 CD player, APC UPS power conditioner and various cables from Monster, Mono Price, Vampire, DIY, etc.

POSITIONING:

The left and right speakers were placed on Pangea 24” sand filled stands; Blue Tack was applied to help hold them in place. They were ~ 5’ apart and toed-in toward the listening position. A wall runs behind the TV and equipment rack, but there are doors on each side so the speakers are >5 feet from any wall. Any reflections would come from the TV and equipment rack between the speakers. The listening position is ~8 feet from the center of the speakers. The center was placed horizontally below the TV and angled up slightly toward the primary listening position. I used 3 identical 16 gauge RCA-to-XLR cables to connect the monitors to the UMC-1. Stock power cords connected them to the APC. I only used the "stereo" and "direct" modes on my processor for music.




MUSIC:
  • Pink Floyd-Wish You Were Here (EMI/Acoustic Sounds SA-CD)
  • Roger Waters-Amused to Death (Sony Japan SRCS 5913)
  • Dire Straits-Brothers in Arms (Warner SBM Re-masters)
  • Joe Williams with the Count Basie Orchestra-Live at Orchestra Hall (Telarc Jazz CD-83329)
I started-off listening with all of the various adjustments set flat. The midrange was clear, but the speakers were a bit bass shy. I set the LF switch to +2dB and listened some more. In stereo, the speakers seemed to disappear. The soundstage was extremely wide and deep, extending well past the speakers on each side and seemingly into the room behind the speakers. I listened to each disc in its entirety and made notes as the music washed over me.

Pink Floyd-Wish You Were Here
Imaging is defiantly a strong point of these speakers. The chimes at the beginning of Shine on You Crazy Diamond Pt.1-5 hung above the right speaker as if suspended in space; the treble was clear and, perhaps, a bit bright. Cymbals were distinct; you could hear both the different sound and placement of various cymbals in Mason’s drum kit. Their attack and decay sounded real. The midrange was clean, distinct and very detailed. You could clearly hear that some vocals are double tracked. David Gilmour’s vocals are sometimes doubled by the late Rick Wright, and both voices were clear and distinct. Bass had punch, but not much depth. For example, Waters’ bass lines were easy to follow and had great pitch definition, but they did not have a lot of weight. The kick drum had kick, but it lacked the deep fullness that a kick drum actually has. The bass did not fill the room, but what was there was both clean and detailed. I found that the BM5As sounded best when the high-pass filter was set to 80Hz. and a subwoofer (Kef PSW2500 in this case) was used. With all other settings at 0 (flat), the addition of the subwoofer let the Dynaudios really shine-clean, crisp highs, a revealing midrange and articulate, deep bass.

Roger Waters-Amused to Death
As I mentioned earlier, these monitors image extremely well; at times it sounded as if 5 (or more) speakers were playing instead of two. The recording’s sounds effects (crying babies, dripping taps, dogs and even a mooing cow) were distinct and well defined. I would have bet that the speakers behind me were playing had I not known otherwise. At one point it sounded as if I had a piano in my kitchen and a baby in the bathroom! The female vocals were sweet and involving. Although Roger Waters doesn’t have much of a vocal range, his voice was also very clearly and cleanly reproduced.

Dire Straits-Brothers in Arms
The drums on Money for Nothing and Your Latest Trick reminded me of what a drum kit really sounds like; I’ve been on-stage (and off-stage running the board) many times while playing in bands, and the Dynaudio/Kef subwoofer combo reproduced the drums accurately. Cymbals have a metallic quality to their sound and shimmer after being struck. I stated earlier that the treble seemed a bit bright. If you’ve ever been on-stage close to a drummer, then you know that drums can be quite bright…even biting. The highs, lows, punch and placement were all as they should be. The speakers were never fatiguing, either. I found it hard to not sing along with the recordings and very easy to put-on another disc!

Joe Williams with the Count Basie Orchestra-Live at Orchestra Hall
I really enjoyed the way the soundstage was presented. When I listened to Summer from the Joe Williams/Count Basie CD, I could close my eyes and almost “see” where the musicians were located. I actually made a mental note of where I thought the musicians were and later verified it with the picture packaged with the CD.

MOVIES:
  • Roger Waters In the Flesh-Live (DVD) DD 5.1
  • U-571 (DVD) DTS 5.1
  • Avatar (Blu Ray) DTS-MA 5.1
  • The Killing (Netflix HD) DD 5.1

I put the BM5As through their paces with a variety of surround material. I used live music, various disc formats and even streaming HD 5.1. The center channel was ran with all of its controls set flat but a HP crossover point of 50Hz set by the UMC-1. Since only the front channels are Dynaudios, I concentrated on the front soundstage and dialog clarity. I did, however, notice that the BM5As meshed well with the surround channels.

In the Flesh-Live
All three front channels blended seamlessly on Another Brick in the Wall Part 2. I did not notice any change in timbre even though the center was placed horizontally. Waters' Martin 000-28ECB sounded bright yet even from high to low during his performance of Mother. I was drawn into the performance to such an extent that I often forgot that I was reviewing speakers. As a guitarist, it was quite interesting to watch Doyle Bramhall II play his Strat upside down, but I thought that his use of an electric guitar on the backing chords of Wish You Were Here detracted from the song. Also, I noticed that Snowy White attempted to mimic Jeff Becks vibrato laced work with a gold top Les Paul (!?) on Perfect Sense. Falling back into "reviewer mode," the Dynaudios worked just as well for live music on DVD as they did for stereo music. For example, in The Bravery of Being Out of Range cymbals were not as crisp on the DVD as they were on the CD. I wonder if this is a result of the mix or the lossy AC-3 compression of Dolby Digital?

U-571
The scene at the beginning of U-571 is a great test of both low end extension AND imaging. As the Germans are being depth charged by the British, the dialog echoed slightly as if the actors were inside the tight confines of a WWII U-Boat. You could clearly hear the creaks and groans of protest against the pressure as the sub descended deeper into the ocean. Even more impressive were the depth charges exploding above them; the explosions truly seemed to be coming from above! Although truly low frequencies are non-directional (and the explosions go LOW), they also covered enough of the upper frequency range to include spatial cues that conveyed the depth charges exploding above the German crew. Steph (my girlfriend) looked up at our ceiling and uttered an audible, "Wow!" Sound effects through-out the film blended well with the Dynaudios despite the fact that the rears and surrounds were Kefs with Uni-Q drivers.

Avatar
The narration through-out the film never sounded as if it was coming from a center channel; it was localized as it should be, but its tonal balance never drew undue attention to itself. Dialog was simply "there," always clear and distinct. Left-to-right pans were seamless; even sounds like arrows flying around the fictional world of Pandora seemed real. The sound was immersive and detailed, and no one speaker seemed to stand-out from the others. The dialog was never lost in the cacophony produced by wailing animals, falling trees and huge explosions.

The Killing
Although quite detailed, the Dynaudios were not the least bit fatiguing. Steph and I watched ALL of Season 1 of The Killing (almost 10 hours!) on Netflix in one evening! The dialog was always clear and articulate. Sound effects were mostly subtle, but scenes with rain and other effects filled the room with a "you are there" sense of realism. The film-score was often panned to the rear, but it never overpowered the dialog. Even "quiet" moments clearly conveyed sounds like the stridulation of crickets, the closing of car doors, footsteps through puddles of water, and waves lapping onto the shore. For lack of a better word, everything sounded "real."

Not once in my listening (or viewing) did the front stage sound as if it was being reproduced by three speakers. It was always a seamless sound that never wavered regardless of what was happening on-screen.

CONCLUSION:

I admit to being a bit biased as I own these speakers. I’ve owned Kef Ref. 104.2, B&W Nat. 802s and other quality speakers. The Dynaudios image at least as well but do not have the deep bass of the B&Ws or Kefs. The midrange was more revealing than any speaker that I’ve ever owned. This may be due to the BM5As being designed for use as studio monitors. 50 watts may seem a bit modest in these days of 500 watt monoblocks, but I never lacked power or volume. The one weak point was the deep bass; it just isn’t there. The speakers have plenty of punch and are quite articulate, but they need a subwoofer for true full range sound reproduction.

Perhaps the highest praise that I can give them comes from someone who knows nothing about audio at all-my girlfriend. Every time she came into the room, she would dance and sing! I did get her to sit-down and “listen” for a few minutes; even though only two speakers were playing she thought that “the surround around sounds really good.” They must image very well indeed!

Despite of their ability to be hyper detailed, they were never anything but engaging. They suited the audiophile and musician in me while never neglecting both music lovers in the home. Steph was forced to admit that she loved how the speakers sound, but she did add that she wished that the "wires really would disappear the way the speakers seem to do."



NOTE: Dynaudio has recently announced their XEO line of wireless amplified speakers! Considering the sound quality of the BM5As, I am extremely intrigued at the possibility of true "high-end" sound without a single speaker wire across (or under) the floor! Their WAF alone makes them worth a look (or listen ) in my book!

Please see the Dynaudio BM5A Powered Monitor Review: Discussion Thread for Questions and Comments
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