Dynaudio interview: Changing the beat of high-end audio

posted on Friday, 31st October 2014 by Steve May

Multi-room  Hi-fi  Streaming  High-end 

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High-end hi-fi is evolving. Having been left in the hinterland for a decade of more after the music industry’s dalliance with MP3, the two-channel majors are finding new avenues for their expertise, with the arrival of high-res audio and the proliferation of multiroom wireless systems.

One stalwart of the high-end who’s toes have started to tap again is Dynaudio. Traditionally known for its luxury loudspeaker systems, the Danish brand is reinventing itself. Its new Focus XD range of active bookshelf and floorstanding speakers are aimed squarely at the burgeoning 24-bit audio market. Audio is transmitted losslessly from the source direct to the speaker's driver array, without analogue conversion, ensuring maximum fidelity. The range comprises the compact 200 and floorstanding 400 and 600 models. Each driver has its own digital amplifier, providing the XD trio with 300W, 450 W and respectively. The Focus XD speakers can also be wirelessly connected to the Dynaudio Hub, which also accepts both analogue and digital audio sources.

Behind the scenes, the company has also taken on distribution for Germany’s largest specialist audio manufacturer, T+A. Dynaudio UK will be responsible for all sales and support activities across its specialist audio retailer network. The company has also partnered with new 16-bit music subscription service Tidal, with plans to integrate Tidal support into upcoming hardware. Inside CI recently caught up with product marketing manager Roland Hoffmann to exclsuively discuss the fast changing audio landscape…. 

Multiroom wireless audio has been the big recent success story for the audio business. Sonos is the dominant brand, but overall penetration would still seem to be quite small. How big do you believe the potential multi-room market prize can actually be?

Roland Hoffmann: “You have to have light in every room, not necessarily music. But yes, wireless multi-room products are the key for attracting a lot more customers. Multiroom doesn’t always mean a complex system with the whole house fully equipped. Some people want to have music in the main room, and maybe in one or two others. This calls for a rather smart and easy product which has a multiroom function included, rather than a high-tech multi-room installation.”

So what do you think has been key to the mainstream success of multiroom?

Hoffmann: “Because it’s more convenient than ever. Multiroom used to be complex to install and complex to control, but with the advent of wireless music sources, music streaming services and higher quality wireless loudspeakers it all becomes more attractive, yet not necessarily more expensive…”

We’ve seen a shift away from ripping CDs for local storage, in favour of Spotify and other streaming music services. Surely this is bad news for the premium end of the audio market?

Hoffmann: “Only a few years ago, streaming music meant a loss in quality. So while it was certainly more convenient, not everyone was convinced. Now we see more and more streaming services offering higher quality files, up to CD quality. So one doesn’t have to physically own a record to enjoy the music of his or her favourite artist in the best quality. We'ver seen a similar improvement in video streaming...”

Is there still client education to be done, or does the consumer now get the wireless music proposition?

Hoffmann: “Thankfully customers are more capable to ‘get it’ and find out for themselves by browsing the Internet. I think it’s absolutely positive that anyone can sit on the sofa and find fresh ideas for enjoying audio and video at home. But for the next step it’s very important to have online magazines and print magazines, and good retailers who know more, explain better, and guide the customer. Our age of vast and free information asks for more education, not less.”

Are you surprised to see a renewed focus on higher quality music?

Hoffmann: It’s always the convenience factor that drives technology in the first place. But every time new-won convenience is established, quality comes back into focus. A few years ago storing music in lossy MP3 format was convenient, today Neil Young campaigns to bring the audio quality back. A few years ago our TVs became all flat, then the naturalness of colours and picture resolution were questioned, and later things developed into HD Ready, Full HD and 4K. Small music docks with Bluetooth have also changed many things, but some customers will always expect more. At least, after they’ve experience better quality once…”

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So will multiroom streaming systems ultimately make single room systems redundant? Is the writing on the wall?

Hoffmann: “I think they can all co-exist. In the kitchen, a music dock will be fine, while a satisfying music system in the main room also streams sound into other rooms. Dynaudio originally comes from the traditional high-end Hi-Fi segment, so naturally we don’t want to offer a compromise but rather a product like the Focus XD (pictured above) that we think has been missing – a high quality Hi-Fi loudspeaker which can be used as a wireless multi-room system as well.”

So there’s still a role for qualified dealers and installers when it comes to selling and installing simpler multi-room solutions?

Hoffmann: “Some products always need to be explained, installed, set up, experienced, and serviced by a good dealer. Quality products call for quality advice and service. Retailers need to do more than just sell boxes – selling boxes is something Amazon can do much better…”

Also read:
16-bit Tidal music service rises
Classic audiophile brand Luxman joins IAG troupe
McIntosh Lab all-in-one goes back to the future

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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