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Dynaudio Esotec System 242 Review

by The Review CrewSeptember 28, 2010

The Esotec System 242 is a pretty typical 2-way system in terms of installation, and was easy to set up. To my benefit, I still had the baffles from the System 240MKll’s I’d tested earlier. They were an exact fit for this system. While my installation was easy, I must warn you that the tweeters are rather large, contain few mounting accessories and the woofer might not fit in a standard speaker hole. Also, beware of the markings on the crossover case that are extremely small and difficult to read. Fortunately, the manual provides detailed information related to this issue and the speaker dimensions.

Supplying the amplified signal to this component system, I wired up an Alpine CDA-9857 head unit directly to a TRU Technology C-7 amp (conservatively rated at 125 watts x 4). Channel A was used for the left components and channel C for the right, providing ample headroom while limiting crosstalk. The channels were level-matched within 0.05 volts. At no time was any processing used during the listening test.

With the baffles bolted to my well-damped, 2.25ft3 test enclosures, I finalized my setup with some brief listening to determine the best position for the speaker cabinets, verify phase and adjust the passive crossovers accordingly. I ended up with the enclosures positioned on-axis to my listening location, exactly 4′ from each cabinet. I started with the tweeters connected to the "0" level lugs on the crossovers, where they remained for the test. However, at first listen I noticed a lull in the response between the tweeter and midrange. To correct this, I swapped the phase of the tweeters, which yielded a synergistic response between the drivers and stabilized the overall image. My guess is that either something is mislabeled in the set or that Dynaudio is expecting the user to place the speakers in typical factory locations with the tweeters up high and the woofers in the lower door. Doing this could possibly result in enough distance to place the speakers back in phase with each other by the time they hit the listener.

Listening

Jazz
Sara K. "If I Could Sing Your Blues"
This Chesky recording of Sara K.’s "If I could Sing Your Blues" was performed in the studio as if it were a live setting, with select instruments placed a good distance from the mic in order to capture the realistic depth of the soundstage. For example, Sara K. and her guitar are intimately close, while the opening trumpet is projected from 10′ away, thus it should be conveyed through the speaker in this manner.

Solo, the first give notes of the trumpet define its position and provide a feeling for the room setting. The 242′s didn’t have me wholly convinced that the brass was set back as described in the recording notes, but there was good notable depth. The reverberation of the recording room,however, was nicely rendered and the introduction of the vocals confirmed a stable, genuine boundary.

The gentle plucks of Sara K.’s guitar were palpably real, with resonant details sounding so good it was if she were actually playing a private session for me. Each tap and stroke of the jazz brush across the cymbals and drum set were terrific. The piano and standup bass were well-balanced, though the individuality of the bass strings was a bit muddled. These instruments are layered upon the soundstage and the placement of each was accomplished in a praiseworthy way through the Dynaudios.

Sara K.’s vocals sounded warm and natural, but there was some bite in her midrange. I’m not sure the exact cause of this sharpness – possibly a small spike in the frequency response or maybe cone breakup – but it reared its head more prominently as the volume was increased.
Score: 8/10

Soul/Blues
Toni Braxton "Shadowless"
"Shadowless," off Toni Braxton’s Libra, is a simple piece. The composition is restrained most of the way through with intermittent strong points toward the latter half of the song. It’s also very intimate, with Braxton’s vocals dead center and a soundstage structured to provide limited overall depth. The serenade style of the song has only a single guitar accompanying the vocals closely and breaks to a nice width as additional guitarists join in the more dynamic sections.

After listening to this track, I tried to think of a subtle way to describe its reproduction though the Esotec 242′s, but I don’t think "subtle" will do them justice. So I’ll give it to you short and sweet—the Esotec 242′s were damn near perfect! Aside from some trivial bold notes apparent in her lower range, Braxton’s vocals sounded stunning. The transition from her deep, boxy lows to the airiness in her upper range was smooth and natural – extraordinarily lifelike. Even the short versed backup vocals complementing Braxton were easily defined. And the instruments – every string pluck of the main guitar was quick and detailed with dazzling, resonant character. The hand slapping of the guitar body while the strings are kept from resonating was sensational, and each of the additional guitars was easy to place throughout the entire song. Outstanding!
Score: 9.5/10

Jazz (Instrumental)
Monte Alexander "Sweet Georgia Brown"
Monte Alexander’s instrumental version of "Sweet Georgia Brown" is a powerful session, thanks to two percussionists, a full horn section, two bassists and Alexander on the piano. With such an array of instruments, the soundstage, transient response and system dynamics can easily be compromised. That wasn’t the case through the Esotec System 242. Every snare, tom and cymbal and each of the horns were precisely placed and easily discerned. The tonal characteristics of the horns were perfectly balanced, revealing the elemental rasp of the reed. Even the mechanical noises of the keys in the far left horn were present – details I find missing in many other systems. Monte’s piano work came through in a passionate way, with boxy character and imagery that moved with the scale of the keys, just as it should.

Dynamically speaking, the System 242 was ready for any sudden changes. They were quick and accurate, never exhibiting any false overhang. The transient response was really good, as I noted with praise in the littlest instrument details. If there is one negative to speak of, it was again the lowest notes of the string bass. These instruments were soft, almost transparent, which resulted in a lack of realism. Fortunately for the Dynaudios, this track isn’t heavily dependent on these instruments.
Score: 8.5/10

Alternative
New Radicals "Crying Like a Church on Monday"
This track by New Radicals one I really like to use in my listening reviews. It’s one of those tracks that has a tendency to reveal any negative tonal characteristics in a system, while its dynamics make it very demanding and allow me to review the change in a system’s response at different levels.

I listened to this track through the Dynaudios several times simply because they were an utter joy to listen to. To be blunt, there were absolutely no tonal flaws to report. Ronan Keating’s vocals were spot on – gentle and airy in the softly sung areas and robust and lively as his vocals elevated. The linearity of his voice transpired naturally, and the virtual image of him performing was rock solid, without even the slightest movement over his large vocal range. Actually, this was true in every aspect of the playback. The drum set was spectacular, particularly in quiet passages where the delicate taps of the toms played through naturally. The electric guitar was far left and nicely noted, while the piano and subtle acoustic guitar were conceived to the opposite side and easily distinguished from one another – a feat in itself. Yeah, I was impressed.

As I progressed with my listening, I cranked up the volume level in small increments to see how the System 242 handles power. To my pleasure, they maintained a high l

evel of composure at all but the highest listening levels, where I noted the vocals to dissipate a bit and become somewhat rough around the edges. All in all, though, the Esotec System 242 deserves a lot of respect.
Score: 9.5/10

Conclusion
Detailed, dynamic and accurate, these Dyanaudios are surely one of the finest performing 2-way systems I’ve evaluated. That, in a nutshell, is how I’d describe the Dynaudio Esotec System 242′s. It’s a shame, but with a formidable retail price of $990, they’re certainly not going to fit into everyone’s budget. But, considering the sound reproduction capabilities and the overall level of performance they achieve, I still deem the System 242 an absolute bargain, especially since they better most components costing two or three times their price. If you have pockets deep enough to afford them, I’d encourage you to take a listen. They’re certainly lustworthy.

Subjective Score Chart
Overall sound quality (20 pts) 18
Tonal balance (above 80Hz) (10 pts) 9
Low-frequency extension (10 pts) 6
Clarity at low volume (10 pts) 9
Clarity at high volume (10 pts) 8
Image stability (10 pts) 10
Listening fatigue (moderate volume) (10 pts) 9
Flexibility/ease of installation (20 pts) 12
Total: 81 (of 100 pts)

 

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The Review Crew
The Review Crew is a group of beat editors, writers, and consultants that have been working together for years. They know just about everything about everything collectively and have published their collective work under the Review Crew brand moniker for almost 20 years.
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