It is no exaggeration to say that Duntech loudspeakers are Australia's best-known audio export product, and it is the Duntech company that single-handedly pinned both Australia and South Australia very firmly to the world's audio map. Now, when audiophiles overseas see the 'Made In Australia' tag on a piece of hi-fi equipment, they expect quality.
The Ambassador XL, although one of the lowest-priced speakers in Duntech's range, is a perfect example of the principles of quality manufacture in action, from the individual wooden packing crates in which the speakers are supplied, to the high-quality of the literature and accessories (Duntech even has its own Duntech Owners Club Newsletter) and, of course, not forgetting the loud-speakers themselves, which are perfectly finished. There's not a blemish anywhere, be it a mismatched wood veneer or even an almost invisibly-burred driver mounting screw.
Firstly, don't confuse this new Ambassador XL with the old Ambassador. The XL (it stands for Extra Low) has the same two 200 mm diameter drivers mounted vertically on the front baffle, between which is a single 25 mm tweeter, but unlike the original Ambassador, the XL version sports an extra 200 mm woofer on the side of the cabinet, positioned right down at floor level, where it can take advantage of the loading provided by the floor, as well as that provided by the floor, as well as that provided by the rear wall. Famous American designer Roy Allison was amongst the first to promote the use of side-firing woofers. They have the very significant advantage of allowing additional bass tuning, depending on whether you have the drivers turned inwards or outwards (by reversing the speakers), and how far away from the side walls you locate the cabinets. The side-firing woofers also tend to reduce the effects of room modes.
Although the XL sports an extra woofer, it handles only the very, very low frequencies, so the front-firing drivers still take a lot of the music's case-load. Duntech rates these drivers with a diameter of 170 mm, but the distance between the mounting holes is just 165 mm and the diameter including the roll surround is only 142 mm. Best Buys calculated an effective cone area for each driver of 117 cm2 based on the actual measured cone diameter of 122 mm. Because Duntech uses two drivers, this gives a total of 234 cm2 of ECA, equivalent to having a single bass driver with an effective cone diameter of around 172 mm. So, if you add just under 40 mm for a roll surround and frame, it's about what most manufacturers would call a 210 mm driver.
These drivers cross over (via a first order, minimum-phase crossover) to a 25 mm diameter soft-dome tweeter that uses a voice-coil made from silver wire, which operates from a magnetic gap that is saturated with ferrofluid, to increase power handling and efficiency, as well as damp the tweeter's resonant peak. The tweeter is surrounded by Duntech's trade-mark star-shaped felt-cut-out. This felt is designed to reduce or eliminate any edge effects from the cabinet, while the star shape minimises any interference effects from the felt itself. In the Ambassador XL, all three front-panel mounted drivers are surrounded by multiple thick layers of felt. This tends to hide the fact that Duntech has gone to considerable trouble to off-set the drivers on the front baffle to ensure they are properly time-aligned for correct phase response. Proper time alignment is essential "to re-create an accurate sound stage with good location and depth" according to Duntech, and it's a credo with which Best Buys wholeheartedly agrees. Duntech claims the phase of the Ambassador XL varies less than 25° across the audio band, which is an exceptional achievement in a four-driver system - even one that has such a minimalist crossover (which, by the way, can be bi-wired of bi-amped).
The grille is attached to the speaker by magnetic catches, which means you will never snap a mounting pin, and the rear terminal panel has the upper and lower terminals bridged by large, gold-plated metal strips.
It's worth remembering that every driver in any Duntech speaker is individually measured before being installed in the cabinet, and a record of its frequency response and impedance is kept by Duntech so, in the unlikely event that you need to take advantage of Duntech's five-year warranty to obtain a replacement driver, you will get one that is a perfect match for the other drivers in the cabinet, and for the other speaker. Even if the speaker is out of warranty, you will still be assured of receiving an 'ideal' replacement driver. And it's not only drivers that are measured. In fact, every component in every Duntech speaker is measured...right down to the humblest high-power, wire-wound, ceramic resistor.
All Duntech speakers are designed to be 'pulse coherent' to an accuracy that is better than 10 microseconds, a figure that is obtained exactly 3.65 metres (12 feet) from the speakers. This, then, is the ideal position to listen to a pair of Duntech speakers.
The height of the tweeter in the Ambassador XL cabinet is optimised for listening from a seated position, so make sure you don't make the mistake of standing up while you are auditioning these speakers in a dealer's showroom!
Sheffield's Drum Record proved to be the ideal CD to sort out the contribution from the XL's side-mounted bass driver, and the listening panel was rewarded with stunningly real-sounding drums, particularly the kick-drum. (Regarding positioning, after some trials, our panel concluded that in Best Buys' listening room, the woofers operated best when the side-mounted woofers fired outwards, at the side walls. The speakers, however, were also angled inwards slightly, aimed directly at the listening position, so the bass was 'bounced' off the side walls at an angle.)
Things only improved with organ music, the Duntech's side-mounted woofer proved easily up to the task of handling the lowest pedal notes of the Melbourne Concert Hall's organ (Move MD 3180), even at high volume levels. And speaking of volume, we didn't have to push the Ambassador XLs hard at all to achieve sound pressure levels far in excess of what would be required in most suburban living rooms. The Ambassadors are very efficient, and could easily provide acceptable listening levels even with a low-powered valve amplifier.
Yet another Move release, Phoenix Songs, (MD 3165) proved perfect for evaluating midrange and treble, being a beautifully-recorded CD of Australian compositions for recorder. The recorder is a perfect instrument for evaluating midrange and treble, because of its range (through a number of varieties) and the audibility of the breath and fingering, plus the familiarity of the sound itself and its relative invariability, due to the simplicity of the instrument. The XL Ambassador's ability to make the performers on this CD sound like they were in the room with you is mesmerising. (Note, however, that in some pieces you will hear the most un-recorder-like sounds you have ever heard.) The piano sounds, the harpsichord sounds and even the pure electronic music sounds were also reproduced effortlessly by the Ambassador XL, irrespective of volume level, from a whisper to a roar. The ending of Amanda Baker's Rhapsody is almost ethereal in its beauty, and was perfectly captured by the Ambassadors.
In the past, Best Buys has learned that the name Duntech has invariably meant good sound, good build quality, high reliability and excellent after-sales service. We can report they were all evident in this new Ambassador XL. Usually, such attributes go hand-in-hand with a high resale value but, curiously, the name of Duntech rarely figures in the columns of the Trading Post or even in the second-hand listing posted by hi-fi dealers. We guess this speaks for itself.