In October 2017 I visited Dynaudio's headquarters in Skanderborg, Denmark, to see how the company designs, manufacturers, and measures its loudspeakers. The experience was unforgettable for a number of reasons, including the wonderful people, but the one thing I think about most often is Dynaudio's measurement facility named Jupiter. The massive 13m X 13m X 13m room is a testament to the importance of solid engineering in the design process of Dynaudio speakers. This solid engineering foundation, combined with a unique Danish design influence and quintessential sound quality, make for a very compelling lineup of loudspeakers. The Focus 10 loudspeakers specifically, benefit greatly from this Dynaudio ethos, and from the company's professional audio heritage.
Car loving members of the Audiophile Style community may be familiar with the term "sleeper" or "Q-car." This is the name given to a high performance car with unassuming looks. Contrast this with cars such as the DeLorean DMC-12, which certainly looks impressive, but it's underperforming 0-60 mph time of 10.5 seconds places it squarely in the "all show, no go" category. What does this have to do with the Dynaudio Focus 10 loudspeakers? As readers will see, the Focus 10 has a classic understated Danish appearance, but its "engine" is what makes it perform at a level much higher than similar loudspeaker designs. In a way, the Focus 10 is also like an iceberg. What listeners don't see, is what matters far more than what's visible to the naked eye.
The Dynaudio Focus 10 is completely different from previous Dynaudio speakers designed for home use. It's a direct descendent of the company's professional reference monitor series named Core, rather than a reconfigured or reengineered consumer product. Dynaudio wisely used the same driver / amplifier design from the professional Core series, through which many of our favorite recordings were made, and added consumer friendly technology that home listeners demand and pro users don't need. Core provided an extremely stable foundation on which to build Focus.
This active design features two amplifiers and two drivers in each loudspeaker. There's no better way to fine tune performance, than to supply each driver with its own amplifier that's designed to mate perfectly, creating a whole that's better than the sum of the parts. The drivers are classic Dynaudio designs, built in-house (I've seen them being made, and it's pretty neat). The 28mm Cerotar soft-dome tweeter and 14cm Esotec+ mid/bass driver are powered by 110W and 280W Pascal class D amps, respectively, with high output and peak voltage while remaining very stable. The Pascal amp modules have shown their worth in recording, mixing, and mastering studios for many years. I see no reason for Dynaudio to "fix" what isn't broken.
The other part of the Focus 10 "engine" is what gets me even more excited than the amplification. In fact, when talking to Dynaudio about the speakers, I joked that the back of the speakers is much more up my alley than the front. Sure, the Focus 10 features a very solid analog input, but I'm going to dig into the digital details. At the core of the Focus 10, is a Stream810, iMX7 streaming module from StreamUnlimited.
I know some listeners are interested in purchasing the absolute cheapest streaming solutions possible, and attaching them to items such as active loudspeakers, but what is often overlooked, among other things, is product longevity and support. Not only for the hardware, but also the firmware and software. This is where Dynaudio's selection of a StreamUnlimited module really pays off. Back in 2017 Google purchased 41% of StreamUnlimited, and the company has continued to supply some of the most respected names in HiFi with its modules. StreamUnlimited is not a fly-by-night operation. It's the IBM of audio module providers (geeks will understand that statement, for better or worse).
The Stream810 platform enables the Focus 10 to easily handle Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi (beautifully implemented without an external antenna), wired Ethernet, UPnP, Chromecast, AirPlay, internet radio, Roon Ready, and voice assistants among other items. Perhaps not the most bleeding edge, but it's very stable and very supported (think IBM).
DSP and Audio Handling
The digital signal processing engine in the Focus 10 is identical to that in the Core series, with a few additional consumer enhancements. For example, the Core series doesn't automatically adjust to the incoming sample rate of the music because studio projects are often set at the beginning and never changed. The DSP is Dynaudio's custom design, and runs up to 192 kHz in the Focus 10. This is a big deal because higher sampling rates have objective benefits when running DSP, and it shows that the Focus 10 has considerable horsepower in order to handle DSP at 192 kHz.
Active loudspeaker aficionados will know that DSP and sample rate support in such speaker designs varies widely. I recently reviewed a product from a company that also produces active speakers. In the speakers, audio routes through an asynchronous sample rate converter, to a rate around 200 kHz, unrelated to the original audio sample. I'm willing to bet not many audio purists are aware, but this happens frequently.
However, with the Focus 10, Dynaudio spent an absorbent amount of R&D time to get the digital "right." Listeners can optionally set the speaker's sample rate to 48, 96, or 192 (if using a coaxial SPDIF cable to connect the right and left speakers). There's a PLL in the client speaker that locks to the master, form which changes are initiated. Once set, the whole system, DSP and audio between the speakers, runs at this rate. When sending audio to the Focus, it's converted to the set sample rate, if needed, right at the input, prior to any DSP and transfered to the other loudspeaker. Looking over my notes from the conversation I had with Dynaudio about this specific aspect of the Focus 10 design, I realize I can't do it the justice it deserves. During the conversation there were many times I said, "wow, that's the right way to do it" or "you guys seriously did that?" I was very impressed by what went into the digital design of these loudspeakers and the decisions that Dynaudio made, to do the right thing rather than cut corners.
Note: It isn't possible to use the Focus 10 with all wireless disabled 100%. A WiSA wireless communication channel is still required between the speakers because an audio only coaxial SPDIF cable between the speakers is incapable of delivering all the required communication.
In digital audio, we have DSP for many items, such as sample rate conversion and filtering. We also have DSP for the most powerful and impactful adjustment one can make to an audio system. That DSP adjustment is room correction. The Dynaudio Focus 10 speakers feature two methods of handling room correction. One is dead simple, while the other is moderately easy, but provides results that are so good, I would have a hard time considering an active speaker in this class without such technology.
Let's start with the dead simple DSP / room correction. In the Dynaudio setup app, there's an area called Room Optimization. Under the Manual setting area, listeners can adjust the speakers individually, by selecting the Neutral, Corner, or Wall settings. The Neutral setting is for purists who demand the unequalized frequency response, and who I assume have the perfect listening environment. The Corner and Wall settings use bass attenuation to compensate for boost from walls or corners. This is a simple setting that engages immediately once selected in the app. When using the Focus 10 at my desktop, I set the left speaker to Neutral and the right speaker to Corner. This gave me the best sound, in exchange for about 30 seconds of my time. The per-speaker setting is invaluable.
Moving further down in the Room Optimization area of the Dynaudio app, listeners will see the more advanced room correction option from Dirac. This is the moderately easy to use option, with great results and a fantastic implementation. The one requirement is that listeners have a microphone and computer, so Dirac Live can take measurements of the loudspeakers/room, and propose corrections. The entire process is painless and wizard driven. Clicking next, next, finish, with some really easy decisions in between, is more difficult than selecting Neutral, Wall, or Corner in the Dynaudio app, but it's not rocket science.
I connected my Earthworks M30 microphone, certainly not required, but I have one for measuring my 12 channel Atmos music system, and ran through the Dirac Live measurement wizard. I made sure the volume was loud enough for the microphone to pickup a good signal, selected "tightly focused imaging" because my listening position is a single seat, then proceeded to measure and place the mic in the positions shown in the app. When measurements are done, listeners create a filter within the Dirac Live app, that is then stored directly on the Focus 10 speakers. This is huge, and can't be overstated! Storing the room correction filter directly on the speakers enables the listener to play any supported source of music, and have it routed through the correction filter. For those in the know, I don't need to tell you how nice this is. For everyone else, just know that no external computer or program is required to be running or in the signal path of the music. This is a big deal.
The part of this Dirac Live procedure that may scare people is creating the filter at the end. Fortunately, Dirac has made this so simple, that even a caveman can handle it. There are large sliders for adjusting the frequency response on the high and low ends. Each has what I call rails or limits, because the software doesn't let the listener go too crazy. It isn't possible to crank up the bass at 50 Hz to +25 dB, just because you want to. I found that I could adjust low frequencies by about + to - 5 dB, in smaller increments of course, and high frequencies by about 3 dB. The sliders are pretty coarse, so Dirac Live also enables listeners to adjust by moving little dots at various frequency points along the graph. I've done this in the past, and don't recommend it for the unlearned. It can lead to some crazy sound, unless one knows what one is doing. Stay with the coarse adjustments.
After running measurements, I created a couple different filters and stored them as presets on the Focus 10 speakers. Using the Dynaudio app, I then switched between presets while listening, to gauge the sonic differences and settle-in on my preferred correction filter. The initial filter designed by Dirac Live had the bass boosted by 5 dB and the high frequencies lowered by 1.5 dB. I also created a filter with bass set to 0 dB of boost, and highs at -3 dB, similar to the target curve used in my main system. As you can see in the image below, the coarse adjustment leads to a gradual roll off at the high end, and what I believe is a very pleasing sound.
After using the native room optimization for my desktop and Dirac Live when the speakers were placed on stands in my main listening area, I was absolutely sold on the Focus 10 and this DSP capability. My listening room is acoustically treated, yet I still won't use the Focus 10, without room correction. If the perfect room exists, I've yet to see or hear of it. Room correction has come a very long way since the old days. In almost all cases, I now consider it a must-have for a high end system, if one wants to accurately reproduce what's on the recording. The fact that the Focus 10 speakers can store Dirac Live room correction filter presets, is HUGE. Dirac Live is a difference maker, a bit more complex than just selecting "corner" or "Wall", but well worth it for serious setups.
Note: A license for Dirac Live is required for full range correction (20Hz-20kHz). The stereo version of this license is currently $349, and is money well spent.
A Little Listening and A Few Usability Notes
I spent a large amount of time listening through and using the Dynaudio Focus 10 loudspeakers in many different configurations. What surprised me most, was how much I enjoyed them when setup on stands in my main listening area. I assumed they'd be a touch small for my acoustically treated room, but I was very wrong. The Focus 10s projected an image that was just gorgeous and room-filling. The soft dome tweeter and Esotec+ mid/bass driver reproduce the classic Dynaudio sound, that audiophiles and engineers around the world know and love. These are definitely all day long speakers. By that I mean, I could and did listen to them all day long, without a hint of fatigue, and with much enjoyment.
I used the Focus 10 via WiFi 50% of the time and via coaxial SPDIF the other 50%. The WiFi in these speakers is rock solid, even when playing high resolution music. In WiFi mode, I used Roon, the forthcoming JPLAY iOS control point app for UPnP, and Tidal on my iPhone via Tidal Connect. All three methods worked very well, without any show stopping issues that steered me clear of a specific solution. Listeners with no local content, should be very happy with Tidal Connect or even JPLAY for iOS, without the need for a local server or core to host music. I didn't try AirPlay because that's a protocol in which I don't believe. Routing audio through one's mobile device is akin to routing video through the television remote control. Anyway, the Focus 10 is very network capable.
On my desktop I connected a USB to coaxial SPDIF converter to my Mac Mini, then to the coax input of the Focus 10. The connection between speakers remained wireless. I did this on my desktop because it enabled me to use the speakers with my computer for Zoom calls very easily. In this configuration I used Apple Music, outputting through Core Audio without exclusive mode or auto sample rate switching, because I've been using the service quite a bit lately for Atmos music. Granted the Focus 10 is a stereo pair of speakers, but as long as I had Apple Music open, I figured I might as well use it.
Listening through the Focus 10 on my desktop reinforced why I like Dynaudio speakers so much. There wasn't a trace of sharp edges or harsh sound, all my music was silky smooth, being shot into my ears from a few feet away. As an audiophile I like using the absolute best speakers I can in all situations (I brought four Klipsch KG5.5 speakers (37.5 inches tall and 69 lbs. each) to Milwaukee, WI for a three month internship during college), so a pair of Focus 10s on my desktop could be considered standard practice for me, but for others they may be a bit large. Anyway, whether I was playing Dave Matthews and Time Reynolds Live at Radio City, or blasting Metallica's Hardwired ... To Self-Destruct through the Focus 10s, the sound was excellent.
The Focus 10 has adequate bass for a smallish speaker, but more importantly it has controlled bass. I'm OK if a speaker doesn't go down to 20 Hz, as long as it's controlled in the frequencies it supports. Playing music such as Jose James's cover of Good Morning Heartache, provides a perfect example of adequate, appropriate, and controlled bass. On my main Wilson Alexia V speakers, the bass on this track is a bit too much for my room. Without room correction, I can't listen to this track. Through the Focus 10, the bass wasn't as deep or room filling, to be expected, but it was tight and rolled off very well at the lower end of the speaker's capabilities. I listened to this track with and without Dirac Live room correction, different wall/corner/neutral settings, and in both my main area and desktop. In my main area, it was good without any DSP, but much better with Dirac Live. On my desktop, it was good in the Neutral setting, but better with the right channel set to Corner mode. Any which way I used the Focus 10, there was a "set it and forget it" solution, to make the listening experience even better.
Using the Focus 10 in many different configurations enabled me to collect some usability data that may be helpful to some listeners. A couple items revolve around the speakers coming out of sleep mode. The best way to wake them up is to hit a button on the physical remote, rather than just play music. If one just plays music, the first 10 seconds of a song may be missed before the speakers are fully awake and reproducing music. Not a show stopper, but a usability note. One item that frustrated me was the Focus 10's automatic input reset upon waking up. No matter what input is used when paying music, when the speakers go to sleep and wake up, the input is reset to WiFi. Period. I'm unable to confirm my suspicion, but suspect this is a requirement of Roon. I've talked to other manufactures who have run into similar experiences because of the Roon Ready certification process. Roon requires its software work seamlessly, even if that means the end user experience for other services or inputs is degraded.
Ideally, the Focus 10 would wake up when music is played through the coaxial input and make that input active, but it doesn't work that way. When I used the coax input, and stopped playing music for a bit, the speakers went to sleep. Restarting my music neither woke the speakers nor made the coax input active once I manually woke the speakers with the physical remote control. If this is just a bug, I'm guessing it can be resolved fairly easily through the firmware update process (automatic or manual through the app). If it's a Roon requirement, it's a bummer for everyone not using the network interface.
Last, if listeners plan on placing the Focus 10 on a desktop or area close to a wall, I highly recommend a 90 degree / right angle power cable. The power cables that ship with the Focus 10 are much higher quality than previous Dynaudio speakers I've used, and the thickness causes them to extend the rear of the speaker a few inches more than I expected. A 90 degree power cable would be perfect for this scenario, as long as it doesn't cover the Ethernet port, if needed.
A streamer, DAC, preamp, amp, and loudspeaker in the same chassis, is a compelling solution on its own. Add to that the engineering prowess, reputation, and support from Dynaudio, and you have a sonic solution that's tough to top. The Focus 10 features classic Dynaudio aesthetic lines, but even more importantly contains an "engine" capable of very high performance. From the Pascal amps, proven for years in professional reference monitors, to the Stream810 module, to the custom DSP engine, to the dual room correction options, including Dirac Live, the real secret sauce of the Focus 10 is hidden under the hood.
I enjoyed the Focus 10 on stands in my main listening area and on my desktop. I enthusiastically employed both the Dynaudio room optimization DSP and Dirac live DSP, with great success. Music filled my listening room, presenting an image much larger than I thought possible through these speakers, but not inappropriately so. This was not a synthetically large image, it was a beautiful soundstage on which my favorite artists performed my favorite tracks. Silky smooth sound, controlled bass, and a mid range that delighted me all day, every day. I highly recommend the Dynaudio Focus 10 active loudspeakers. Music, speakers, and fun, without the mess.
Complete Audio System Details with Measurements - https://audiophile.style/system