Duntech Baron D300

Duntech, one of the most respected brand names world-wide with their Sovereign 2001 model, (which made it to a Mk II version), also offer a variety of other products based on their philosophy. This involves optimising all controllable listening aspects such as phase, frequency response, dispersion, to obtain a sound which is precise to the extreme.

In view of our test results we can only endorse their approach, to corollary of which is a reconstruction of the imaginary scenario which is extremely broad and exact. It cannot help but draw you in. High efficiency and a special kind of graciousness in the delivery of the sound message, construct a mosaic which allows the Baron speakers to be included among the most interesting in their price range. If you are planning to buy speakers in the higher price range you must hear them before you reach for your cheque book.

by Andrea Von Salis

I had been invited to lunch by Sergio Pozzi, Duntech's Italian importer. He wanted to introduce me to Dr Enrique Gomez-Soto, (no, not some Gabriel Garcia Marquez character - he's a consultant for Duntech Audio Pty Ltd, as well as a lecturer in literature at Adelaide's Flinders University in Australia). During the exquisite meal in a fine restaurant in the Cremasco region, where already on previous occasions truffles and superfine Chianti in numbered bottles had graced my palate and that of my most affable host, I was struck by his enthusiasm not only for Mediterranean food but also for his Duntech 2001 speakers. You always become involved in a more meaningful way when another living, breathing human being involves you in their emotional response and their enthusiastic description of some object - when it is not some article in a British or American magazine trying to do the same thing. His enthusiasm and his charm made me want to try the speakers built by this company on the other side of the world (something in any case that I'd been meaning to do for some time). I decided to conduct the first Italian audition of the Duntechs - more precisely the Baron 300s. At an asking price of ##,###,### lire they are still within the price range of a large number of enthusiasts.

The Duntechs are a rather large, tall speaker (height 144cm). The pair I received was finished in black cloth with a black laqured wood base and top. This gives the speakers a decisively elegant and high-tech look, which will match any domestic decor. The cloth is easily removed and can be pulled down to reveal the speakers. First you simply remove the black-lacquered medite rectangle and trim at the top of the speaker, which allows you to slide the cloth down. You can then see the structure of the cabinet which is actually a point of major interest. Duntech's philosophy of sound reproduction is based on phasing the signals issuing from the three different channels, ensuring that by arranging them in a specific point in space, at exactly 3.5m from the speaker with the listener's ears precisely in line with the tweeter, the virtual source of the sound appears exactly at the centre of the tweeter, covering the entire range of frequencies, 35-20,000 Hz, that I am still capable of hearing.

This outcome is achieved by arranging two mid-range speakers and the two woofers on the same vertical line, with each pair slanted towards the ceiling vis-a-vis the tweeter. It should be noted that the tweeter is mounted further back than the mid-rangers and the woofers in order to optimise the in-phase response at 3.5m from the speaker cabinet. Other than that, for optimum dispersion abundant use has been made of a patented sound absorbing material, especially around the tweeter, thus creating an even horizontal and vertical dispersion. The results is a "point source", simulated to perfection, which until now has only been possible using planar full-range speakers. But there is a further characteristic which makes this series of speakers stand out from the crowd, and that is the accuracy in design of the crossover filter. This is necessary for a proper reproduction of complex sound shapes after the transducers have been temporally aligned. First order filters were chosen over cheaper ones, as the sum of the sound shapes separated by the filter are only identical to the original sound shape when the former are used, while with the second they are not at all like the original. The parts used are of the highest quality, and include metallised polypropylene condensers, high power ceramic resistors and wound air-suspended coils. The results are not disappointing. Duntech can claim a frequency response of 45-20,000 Hz 3dB, but above all an in-phase response of 30 from 100 Hz, with a temporal alignment on the tweeter axis contained within 10mSec.

The cabinet is well-built with 2cm thick medite walls and has a number of reinforcements aimed at reducing even further any possible stray vibrations. In practice this seems a success. However, having seen the meticulous care taken with the project, especially the construction of the cabinet, I must make a point that I otherwise wouldn't. I refer specifically to the two metal bars placed on each side of the tweeter and mid-range speakers. These are intended to keep the cloth that covers the speakers taut. They perform this function admirably but they also, quite obviously, reverberate at particular frequencies directly proportionate to their length. I have not been able to ascribe any of the sound of the speakers to these bars. However, if struck in the silence of the listening room they do emit a quite audible sound which is little suppressed. I say all this because the solution is so simple that I am surprised it has not been tried: it would be sufficient to use hollow bars filled with sand or some other similarly inert material to eliminate the problem completely.

Looking at the speaker from the rear with the grille removed there are several screws which allow the crossover filter to be removed in the event that repairs are necessary. Further down is the cup containing the gold tipped terminals for the middle to high and low channels, connected by a large bar, also gold-plated, which can be removed if bi-amping or bi-wiring connections are desired. At the bottom of the cabinet are the small wires for connecting the four points, which to me seem absolutely necessary for the best results in terms of sound; without them, despite the rather heavy cabinet, the result would be reduced precision in the reproduction of transients and the more delicate webs of sound. On the other hand positioning in the listening environment did not cause particular problems. It is sufficient to locate the speakers away from the walls on their three sides to obtain a balanced sound with a very linear bass sound issuing from the two woofers, producing a variety of stationary waves and environmental resonances. Having checked out the technical specifications I simply positioned myself at the listening point where both the frequency response and the phase response are optimal, ie. the location where the perceptible sound source should be precise and at the height of the tweeter, ie. at approximately 3.5m from the speakers. Having placed myself at the correct distance, which is also where I normally listen from, I noted an initial problem in the sense that the tweeter is about 98cm from the floor while my listening point (my ears), are about 130cm from the floor (I will come back to this question of the height of the listening point as I consider it an essential point in the achievement of a sufficiently credible sound reconstruction). Having found an armchair that would allow me to place my head at the right height with respect to the parameters of the exercise I was able to observe what I can only describe as "a peeping through a keyhole experience" - an alternate reality. It is in fact as if from different listening points you are in the presence of speakers with good general parameters as far as evenness of response and reconstruction of the imaginary scenario are concerned, but also as if at that precise moment a new world reveals itself, a different perspective, which is what makes me use the "peeping through a keyhole" expression. All tests were conducted from this position, and they show that the Duntech Barons cannot be considered ideal for small rooms, as they require walls that are at least 5.5m (3.5m + 1m distance between the speaker and the rear wall + 1m distance from the point of listening to the rear wall). In any case the speakers showed a tendency towards bass-ness, characterised by a sweet roll-off which starts at around 50Hz. This means you can hear even the 40Hzs with the right amount of vigour and without any artificial inflation. As already mentioned, outside the axis the speakers are as good as many others in their class, allowing one to enjoy a musical message of a good standard even when positioned a long way out from the ideal position. On the other hand when situated in the right spot you can appreciate some rare qualities, as discussed in the listening notes below.

The listening tests were conducted using a reference system made up of a Sota Star Sapphire turntable with pump and flywheel, SME V arm, Lyra Parnassus head, Spectral M1 500 Shotgun pre arm cabling, other various Spectral M1 500 Shotgun cables, Micromega Trio cartridge, Cello Palette pre-amplifier, MIT/Spectral Terminator 2 signal cable, Spectral DMA 80 final and Cardas Hexlink Golden Five power cables.

Piano (Back, Goldberg Variations, Gould, CBS; Debussy, Preludes vol II, Michelangeli, DG)

The first thing to strike one is a kind of gracefulness mixed with a soft vivacity which permeates Gould throughout. It is a rather rare prerogative because it is a little as if that typical percussiveness of the piano has been attenuated, without however there being any imprecise handling of transients. The latter are in fact very fast, and at times lightning fast, so that it is possible to distinguish every single note even in the fastest "Variations". Added to this most pleasant aspect is also an excellent intertransient silencing capacity. This is also special because it is possible to hear a sort of silence modulation which is somehow brought to life by the different electronic and recording studio echos. Apart from these general characteristics, what is remarkable is the sense of linearity in moving from the deeper octaves to the sharper ones, a sensation that is also heightened by the great evenness found in the micro structure of the sound message, ie the micro-contrasts and the introspective capacity of the sound web which is very accentuated but never radiographic. The general dynamics are definitely good, even if not excellent. While not impressive as far as the dynamic macro-contrasts are concerned, on the other hand they are remarkable for the total absence of listening fatigue which such an interpretation of the reproduction often carries with it. With Michelangeli what one appreciates even more is the medium and sharp ranges which are capable of supporting with complete ease even the sharpest peaks without shattering the roundness of the notes which, even if not as clean as those produced by the Quests, are at the same time softer and more brilliant. The fundamentals played in the first prelude are reproduced with vigour but above all with an attention to the timbre and dynamic micro-modulations which is absolute. These have a spaciousness which allows one to forget quite easily that one is listening to a recorded performance. This ability to follow with absolute precision the decadence of the harmonies of the note confers a lively and mobile vitality to the execution, which is not easily found in a dynamic speaker. Beyond Gould's recording, what is appreciated is the reconstruction of a broad scenario. This is due not only to the correct disposition and the rear position of the instrument but also to the sensation that one is in a very large hall, the echoes of which can be heard coming from above and from the sides.

Orchestra (Wagner, The Master Singers, Varvisio, Philips)

The immediate impression is the propensity for the sound scene of the large speakers to disappear altogether, making way for an imaginary scenario which is truly interesting for the depth of its range and also for its height and width. Looking at the detail, it is noticeable that even close to the speakers the scene is well to the rear and the different levels are quite distinct, just like at the centre. Then a second quality surfaces, which I would describe as a great authority of sound, whereby the orchestra appears endowed with a grandiose impact and voluminousness which transcends the significant dimensions reached in the spatial reconstruction. There is a freedom even at high listening volumes, a clear distinction between direct and reflected sounds which allows one to imagine a virtual space with extreme ease, but characterised also by a "Panavision-like" vision (to use cinema jargon), ie wider than higher. The foreground, especially the soloists, are however... in the foreground, thereby increasing the sensation of articulation and depth of scenario, with a choir and percussion that are truly several metres distant but not therefore made smaller or too focused. Beyond these excellent and specific qualities, what is truly remarkable is the sound of the strings, rough and silky at the right times but with a touch of gentle aggression which is particularly fascinating. Even the violoncellos are reproduced beautifully, with a control coupled with pervasiveness which contributes not a little, together with some powerful percussion, to the feeling of authority that this sound in its whole gives out. A particular mention should be made of the brass section, which is lucid, brilliant and fluid in its aggression. This strikes me for the economy of timbre and colour in the orchestral passages. The male and female voices do not require much discussions as they are absolutely perfect, whether in terms of timbre positioning, dynamic excursion or spatial dimension. It should be added that this exceptional capacity to separate the different levels of sound confers a touch of truth which is even more accentuated with the voices of the soloists, partly because with an ease until now unheard of all those sounds from the recording, such as footsteps and closing of doors which follow the movements of the principals, can be heard: truly wonderful. Generally speaking then, with reference to the Thiel 300 speakers trialed recently, one wonders how that particular sensation of graininess which often accompanies to a greater or lesser extent reproductions carried out by means of dynamic transducers has found this different solution: if it has been completely eliminated by Thiels, the Duntechs, while reducing it, succeed in utilising it in order to confer a greater vervasity to the musical message, as it is itself a constituent part of that vivacious grace which distinguishes all sound but in particular the middle and high ranges, which are furthermore open and airy.

Organ (Bach, The Six Schubler Chorales, Regier, Mark Levinson Recording).

Before I launch into any praise, a minor note regarding the low range. This is deep and controlled even in the fundamentals (and, unlike the Quest speakers, truly "abyss-like"), but slightly uneven around the 100-200 Hz mark, where one notes a certain change in the spaciousness and the timbre, which develop just a touch of the guttural without however becoming annoying. It should be pointed out that this tends to disappear with a change of listening position, but then so does the extraordinary capacity to reconstruct the imaginary scenario, which even in this case is disconcertingly real for its capacity to focus with absolute precision the position of various sounds and coughs, as well as the sounds of the organ, in space. In any case the instrument is reproduced with a coherence and a generally splendid luminousness with terse and fluid sound qualities endowed with a changeability in terms of timbre which approximates what one usually only gets with electrostatic panels. The instrument does not appear particularly towards the back (as happens instead with the Dahlquist DQ 28s), but the sensation of a very wide space is also reproduced through the very precise delimitation of the sound box, of absolute relief dimensions.

Jazz (Jarrett, Changes, ECM).

With this musical piece, as if by magic, that strange indecision in the deep range disappears, producing a double bass which is a little large around the 100Hz mark. It is nevertheless correct and very fine especially in the mid range and it does not lose any of its precision even in the lower octaves. The dimensioning is correct, even if apparently less developed in height than what I was used to hearing, due to the fact that the listening position in this case was 30cm lower. On the other hand percussion and cymbals are very convincing, the former being clear and fast, and truly explosive, while the latter enjoy a precision and luminousness which until now I had thought were possible only with non-conventional transducers, even if they do not attain the metallic consistency of the Quests. They do however retain a touch of silkiness which softens them without reducing their natural brilliance. The degree of involvement is nevertheless high, thanks especially to the significant reproduction of the dynamic contrasts and to the total lack of listening fatigue, even of the piano, and even at realistic levels.

Rock (Bowie-Moroder, Cat People, MCA; Dire Straits, On Every Street, Vertigo).

Curiosly, with Dire Straits I find myself confronted with an execution which is very different to what I am used to. The vocals are less pronounced in the foreground and have a less pronounced sense of spaciousness. I do not know what this is due to, even because with other CDs this problem does not show up. In any case the overall reproduction has a certain softness which is not unpleasant. I do however, for example, prefer the lucidity of the Quests, even if they do highlight more the cleverness of the recording. In any case I have no complaints about the overall impact, the control of the electric bass, the orderliness of the mid-range and the fine reproduction of the vocals. In summary it can be said that all that is lacking is a little violence, even if at times this is not necessary. The Duntechs exact their revenge with Bowie, where right from the very notes a broad scenario is created, comprising background percussion and synthesised sounds that are defined in space in a way they never have been before. The English singer's voice takes its place rock-solid at the centre of a kaleidoscope of sounds. It is probably even a little softer than usual but never loses touch of harshness which is so necessary to it. Powerful and restrained drums, cymbals that are less harsh but more brilliant that usual, crown a performance which even from the point of view of the usual impact is extremely convincing. Excellent width and height once again add qualities to the imaginary scenario that are as fascinating as they are unique.

As with all speakers that have a strong personality, the Duntech Barons are striking for the way they manage to reinterpret records we are used to hearing. Without revealing any particular preference for analog or digital sources they are surprising for the way they manage to reconstruct a virtual space with feelings of concreteness and breadth which are truly exceptional, at least with those recordings that allow that to happen.

A remarkable general evenness of sound characteristics, with micro-contrasts of a high level and an ability to delve deeply into the musical web that is worthy of a great speaker, as well as a sustained power well above the requirements of home listening, means they are very highly recommended not only for lovers of classical music, but also for lovers of jazz and rock, as long as they appreciate the vivacious and noble grace that the Barons confer on the entire sound range. Overall, together with the Thiel 3.6s and the Martin Logan Quests, the Duntech Barons are a state of the art reference speaker in the ## ####### lire class.