Andrew Simpson finds out if Dynaudio's refreshed X34 mid-price tower is a speaker worth getting excited about
Eagle-eyed readers will no doubt have spotted that an almost identical looking Dynaudio floorstander graced these pages back in the October 2013 issue and earned itself a prestigious Recommended badge. That speaker was the Xeo 5, an active design with a wireless receiver. Its cheaper passive cousin, the X34, comes minus the Xeo’s internal amplifier, freeing it up to be drivenby one of your choosing.
The X34 model shares air-moving hardware with the Xeo 5, so you get a pair of Dynaudio’s 5in MSP (magnesium silicate polymer) long-throw woofers with aluminium voice coils and die-cast aluminium frames. Working in parallel, these drivers cross over to the 27mm soft dome tweeter, which also sports aluminium voice coils.
When upwardly comparing the X34 to Dynaudio’s other passive ranges, an extra £1,100 buys you the equivalent model in the Focus range, the Focus 260. This employs a heavier cabinet construction and uses larger coils within its drive units, with stronger double magnets. With a claimed 4ohm load, it also demands a more capable amp to really drive it. Thanks to its more amp-friendly claimed 8ohm load, matching should be less of an issue with the X34. That said, with a quoted sensitivity of 86dB, I expect the X34 will still lend itself to amplifiers with a bit of muscle, but maybe not the arc welding type that their more costly brethren demand.
Like the Xeo 5, the X34 is constructed from 18mm MDF and each cabinet is internally strengthened by two braces. Unlike the Xeo 5, the X34’s front baffle is without visible mounting holes for its front grille, thanks to hidden magnets that hold each in place.
Also unique to the Excite floorstander models are cast alloy outrigger feet that broaden their footprint and aid stability. These are a superb design, with recessed rubber feet housing hidden spikes that can be wound into action from above (via a supplied hex key) when citing the speakers on carpets. Finally, the bass is reinforced through a tapered rear port tuned to 41Hz, which can be blocked using the supplied bungs.
For such a relatively lean-looking speaker, I’m surprised by how much punch this packs from its slender profile, and my ears are convinced that the size of the Dyn’s mid/bass drivers are larger than specified.
Exploring the X34s with a 16-bit/44.1kHz rip of Elbow’s Asleep In The Back, I’m instantly gripped by the low kick-drum ‘thump’ within the Red track, as it sucks the air from my room with surprising authority. This palpable sense of sheer grip beyond what you’d expect from such a small speaker is illustrated further, as the Dynaudios dig deeper into the album. The thick looping piano and bass guitar rhythms of Powder Blue swirl around my ears with an articulate midrange that has all the confidence of a much larger multi-driver three-way speaker. Although there’s plenty of juice on tap via my 260W Musical Fidelity M6PRX amp, they have me winding up the wick more than usual to drive them to realistic levels, so a healthy supply of clean power is needed to make them sing.
Dynaudio describes its range-topping X38 as “the mother of all bass” and listening to the X34 suggests that they are indeed a brother to that mother. Thankfully however, the bass isn’t just a case of low-end bravado. The dreamy alt-rock melodies of Mazzy Star aren’t at the top of my low-frequency test tracks, but via the X34s, the deep notes of Fade Into You possess so much presence and finesse I’m left asking myself why I haven’t noticed this dynamic within the track before.
The X34s also welcome space to breathe, and in my room the rear port craves little rear-wall reinforcement. If space permits, moving the speakers further into your listening room helps prevent the lower frequencies from conjugating within the soundstage. If space is of a premium, I’d recommend calling on the supplied bungs (in my room, around 12cm between the speaker’s back panel and the rear wall is the tipping point). Thankfully the bungs work well as acoustic tuning devices, by taking away a little bass depth in return for culling boom and keeping the music nicely balanced.
Integration between the X34’s midband and its top end is of a seamless quality befitting of a speaker in this price bracket. Without being overly bright, the treble is clean and crisp, requiring only a few degrees of speaker toe-in towards my listening position to find their sweet spot. Tracy Thorn’s unmistakable voice on Massive Attack’s Protection sounds pure and natural, and how the X34s render its slight echo in the mic is hairs on the back of the neck stuff.
Firing the speakers almost straight down my 4 x 5m room allows the soundstage to expand well wide of their physical footprint. Within the soundstage, the X34’s treble is a tad forward, illustrated by Tracy’s voice emanating from a good few inches in front of the X34’s front baffle, which gives the music a heightened sense of immediacy and realism, as it brings the performance closer to you.
The uninhibited treble combined with its layered midrange also helps emphasise soundstage depth, by placing instruments and sounds deeper in the mix, illustrating again how the Dynaudios invoke such a three-dimensional soundstage.
Quickening the X34’s pulse via a 1973 vinyl pressing of Led Zeppelin III shows that they aren’t afraid of letting their Nordic locks down when they hit the hard stuff. The X34s hold the steady acceleration of Gallows Pole with ease and hit their stride as the track reaches full throttle courtesy of Messrs Page and Bonham. As the track’s tempo shifts, the X34s consistently maintain a sense of vitality, as though they’re eager to show off how much they like to be pushed. While they perhaps don’t head too far into raucous territory as some speakers that favour the harder brand of rock tend to, the way they present the raw energy of this music in an even-handed manner makes them a composed all-rounder.
The £2,000 floorstander market has plenty of worthy contenders, but thanks to its impressive sense of scale and energy combined with an even nature, the X34 isn’t fazed by the competition. Its recommendation does come with two caveats though: firstly, despite Dynaudio’s efforts to make these a more amp-friendly speaker, you still need a decent amount of grunt to really open them up, I’d suggest upwards of 70W. Secondly, like with any serious floorstander, be prepared to spend time and effort positioning these speakers to focus their bass, which means a home demo is even more essential. Get these elements right and you have a speaker that will breathe life into even the most restrained recordings, with an enrapturing sound that’s blessed with plenty of detail
LIKE: Powerful and refined sound; great quality finish
DISLIKE: Careful positioning required to tune lower bass; needs plenty of power
WE SAY: Big sounds from a modest-sized speaker that has plenty of detail
PRODUCT Dynaudio Excite X34
TYPE Two-way floorstanding loudspeaker
DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 170 x 929 x 270mm
• 27mm soft dome tweeter
• Bass/mid drive units: 5in polymer woofer
• Quoted sensitivity: 86dB
• Quoted nominal impedance: 8ohms