AVI DM10 and change of direction.

MajorFubar

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I took time away from the forums to reassess my life and priorities having lost a close family member, but as a result of the person’s passing I was left a small nestegg which I partly chose to invest in changing the direction of my HiFi system; something which I always said I wanted to try if I ever had the money to do so. I’m familiar with the concept of active speakers and I had been itching to try some for ages, though the number of ‘domestically-acceptable’ models is slim. So I decided I’d try the DM10s, which seem to divide the opinions of so called ‘AVI fanboys’ and ‘haters’ so much, and make my own mind up.

That was now several weeks ago, and as my wife and I begin to come to terms with our new state of normality after the funeral and all the upset that went with it, I decided I’d rejoin the forum to put my first thoughts down on the page about my change of direction, in the hope that it at least partly assists other enthusiasts to make an informed decision about whether a similar route would be suitable for them.

First of all though let me tell you what I won’t do in this review. First I won’t tell you the DM10s are a panacea for all your ills: some people are just not going to like their sound; that’s simply a fact. Secondly I’m not going to tell you DM10s are the One and Only True Way: I don’t believe there is a One and Only True Way. Thirdly you’ve probably read (or heard about) reviews that tell you DM10s are better than every other HiFi system this side of £6,000, £10,000 or whatever figure; I won’t be doing that either, because I haven’t really had long-term experience with any domestic HiFi that sounded better than the system I already owned. And speaking of which...

First we need some context. In my system, these speakers effectively would replace my tweaked Cyrus II + PSX (mothballed), my HRT II+ DAC (sold) and my EB Acoustic EB2 speakers (sold). Selling the speakers caused me great concern: they were the best speakers I had owned and I didn’t want to take a backward step. I listed them on eBay with a £50 start, knowing that I probably wouldn’t sell them for an awful lot. Not only are they niche products which wouldn’t attract many hits compared to speakers by more well known manufacturers, but I could only offer them ‘collection only’, and compared to most, I live in the back of beyond. I had a couple of watchers and one £50 bid, so when I received a PM from someone offering £230 cash providing he could come up the following day and collect, I had to make a judgement call. Pulling listings goes completely against my personal ethics (although it’s not against eBay rules), but had I let the listing run and got next to no interest, I’d have kicked myself. So I let him come and take them, though I’m not truly convinced they were what he was after; I get the feeling he thought he was obliged to buy them, seeing we’d made a deal via eBay PM, plus he’d travelled 100 miles to get here. But I don’t think his heart was in it and they didn’t sound like he expected. Very nice bloke however, with a cool eclectic taste in music: he rocked up with about 20 CDs to listen to, everything from classic jazz to modern rock, and we got through at least one track on nearly all of them. Anyhow, that’s the scene set.

So…how do the DM10s sound? To be honest, my mind is hazy regarding what I listened to first, and since I’ve now had them a few weeks, the specifics are a bit blurred regarding what first impressed me about their sound. But if I had to sum up their sound in two words, it would be ‘dynamics’ and ‘honesty’.

‘Dynamics’, because there just seems to be a much bigger distance between loud and soft than other speakers I had previously heard. Crescendos (be they orchestral, or even just the final section of Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight from 3:41 onwards) can take you completely by surprise if you have set the volume using quieter sections as a reference. Play a piece of music which begins quietly and you could easily find the louder sections blow you off your chair, such is the range they seem to be able to encompass. It’s as though my previous HiFi systems were somehow compressing the dynamics, though I don’t know how. There even seems to be greater dynamics in modern flatlined crap, to an extent that it actually becomes listenable.

‘Honesty’, because I can’t say I’ve ever heard a pair of HiFi speakers that reproduce sound that appears so true and untainted, without undue emphasis to any part of the audio spectrum. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. For example the triangle on Innocent Man by Billy Joel seems a little more recessed than I am used to. Similarly, crash cymbals and hi-hats in rock songs such as Since You’ve Been Gone by Rainbow can initially seem lacking a certain fizz and sparkle. But if one EQ’s the signal to ‘flatten’ the perceived deficiency (typically by raising the frequencies around 6-8kHz by about 4dB), this is the exact range which unduly emphasises sibilants in vocals, making them sound entirely unnatural, and acoustic instruments with strong harmonics in that range (such as trumpets) become brash and unlistenable. And that can’t be right at all. After slight acclimatisation, I’m left with the impression that these speakers are truly showing me the way things should sound, certainly in terms of tonal balance. If I want to compensate the upper range with a little digital EQ now and again to suit the deficiency of my middle aged ears, the speakers are very happy to oblige, but fundamentally they are showing me 'the way it is'. You can’t ask for more than that.

Imaging is pin sharp, the soundstage is wide and deep, and they can unravel the most complex mixes and lay everything bare. In a home studio, or even in a small commercial studio, they would be an absolute joy to mix with. Background harmonies untangle themselves into close-knit yet clearly-separate individual voices and there is never ever a hint of congestion, right up to neighbour-annoying SPLs. Transients such as snares and percussive instruments have really clean and crisp leading edges. Despite the fact the cabinet is ported, the bass is taught, fast and is surprisingly indifferent to speaker placement, unless I suppose if you ram them tight into corners, which I haven’t tried.

A little more about the bass. First of all, it’s true that they don’t have gut-curdling bass. The quoted specifications state they are -6dB down at 50Hz. Based on my listening tests of bass-heavy music and 20-20 sine wave sweeps, I’d go with that as a true. The bass can be very punchy; punchy bass is way above 50Hz so they have that base covered (pardon the pun). But if you want the kind of bass that rattles your n*tsack when you play dub or theatre-organ music, you’re going to have to supplement them with a subwoofer. The bass is tuneful and accurate within the limits of the extension on offer, by which I mean there’s no boom or overhang and melodic patterns at the lower end of the audio spectrum can be easily followed even on busy tracks. If you want a speaker that will show you the gulf between a great melodic bass player and a lame player who just strums root notes in a pretty pattern, these DM10s will be all over that brief with aplomb.

If you’re in the market for a £1,500 system, where your primary source will be digital and where you won’t need a plethora of inputs, these speakers make an incredibly convincing case for themselves and could easily be exactly what you’re looking for. I would urge you find someone to at least give you a demo, which is the stumbling-block because there virtually is no dealer network to speak of. They are a thoroughly engaging listen and are easily the most open, clear, detailed and dynamic speakers I have ever heard, while still being completely void of harshness or forwardness.

It’s impossible to tell whether the main reason they sound so great is because the active approach gives them such a huge head start, or whether it’s because of the electronics, or whether it’s the quality of the bespoke drivers. Maybe it’s equally all three. The clarity and perceived realism is so far ahead of what I already owned (itself in effect a £1500 system) that perhaps it’s true they do compete in leagues above their price point. But I won’t be the one trying to convince you of that because my experience of ‘super-fi’ is so limited. I just know that for now I’m absolutely delighted, and once again I am in a position where I would need some pretty strong convincing to change my current set-up for something else.
 

MajorFubar

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bigboss said:
Welcome back, Major! Good to see you again. That's a very nice write-up of your experience with the DM10! *good*

Thanks Big Boss it would be even better if this **** forum had kept my paragraphing, it looks fine in preview but is an unreadable mess here.
 
MajorFubar said:
bigboss said:
Welcome back, Major! Good to see you again. That's a very nice write-up of your experience with the DM10! *good*

Thanks Big Boss it would be even better if this **** forum had kept my paragraphing, it looks fine in preview but is an unreadable mess here.

Welcome back indeed. Funny old world. Those EB2's weren't light oak where they? Are you Lancashire domiciled? If so turns out there's a forum member who might have bought them and, you were right, they didn't suit and has offered to sell them to me.....

Anyway appreciate your write up.
 

MajorFubar

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Al ears said:
MajorFubar said:
bigboss said:
Welcome back, Major! Good to see you again. That's a very nice write-up of your experience with the DM10! *good*

Thanks Big Boss it would be even better if this **** forum had kept my paragraphing, it looks fine in preview but is an unreadable mess here.

Welcome back indeed. Funny old world. Those EB2's weren't light oak where they? Are you Lancashire domiciled? If so turns out there's a forum member who might have bought them and, you were right, they didn't suit and has offered to sell them to me.....

Anyway appreciate your write up.

Yes they were and yes I am...would be very coincidental if it's the same person but stranger things have happened!!
 

MajorFubar

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MajorFubar said:
bigboss said:
Welcome back, Major! Good to see you again. That's a very nice write-up of your experience with the DM10! *good*

Thanks Big Boss it would be even better if this **** forum had kept my paragraphing, it looks fine in preview but is an unreadable mess here.

Sorted.
 

Gazzip

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MajorFubar said:
Al ears said:
MajorFubar said:
bigboss said:
Welcome back, Major! Good to see you again. That's a very nice write-up of your experience with the DM10! *good*

Thanks Big Boss it would be even better if this **** forum had kept my paragraphing, it looks fine in preview but is an unreadable mess here.

Welcome back indeed. Funny old world. Those EB2's weren't light oak where they? Are you Lancashire domiciled? If so turns out there's a forum member who might have bought them and, you were right, they didn't suit and has offered to sell them to me.....

Anyway appreciate your write up.

Yes they were and yes I am...would be very coincidental if it's the same person but stranger things have happened!!

It must be the same pair...

http://www.whathifi.com/forum/hi-fi/calling-al-ears#new
 
MajorFubar said:
Wow!! Small world.

Isn't it just. I have been in contact with said person and just hope he hasn't changed his mind. Had planned a long drive up to his house but may not be able to do that until new year. Perhaps he will courier down to me if I cough up the cash.

Well spotted by Gazzip and well remembered that I made a mistake in selling my original pair....... and no these are not one and the same unless the Major bought his from a bloke in Cardiff... ;-)
 

insider9

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I have followed a large number of your contributions and learned a lot from them, so thank you. Great write up and so glad you're back and enjoying your AVIs.

I'm actually abroad at the minute and haven't had a great couple of days but your thread just made me smile.

What a small world. It was very nice to meet you too! You are right EBs are a shock to my system. I appreciate all their qualities but I'm not there yet in my "education" so can't enjoy them in full. Instead I've found someone on here who was after a pair for a good while and will appreciate them more. They're neatly put away and awaiting when we're both able to meet up. What a story... :)
 

insider9

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Al ears said:
MajorFubar said:
Wow!! Small world.

Isn't it just. I have been in contact with said person and just hope he hasn't changed his mind. Had planned a long drive up to his house but may not be able to do that until new year. Perhaps he will courier down to me if I cough up the cash.

Well spotted by Gazzip and well remembered that I made a mistake in selling my original pair....... and no these are not one and the same unless the Major bought his from a bloke in Cardiff... ;-)
If you're still up for exchange that would be great. I'm patiently waiting :)
 

MajorFubar

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insider9 said:
I have followed a large number of your contributions and learned a lot from them, so thank you. Great write up and so glad you're back and enjoying your AVIs.

I'm actually abroad at the minute and haven't had a great couple of days but your thread just made me smile.

What a small world. It was very nice to meet you too! You are right EBs are a shock to my system. I appreciate all their qualities but I'm not there yet in my "education" so can't enjoy them in full. Instead I've found someone on here who was after a pair for a good while and will appreciate them more. They're neatly put away and awaiting when we're both able to meet up. What a story... :)

Good to have met you too, even though completely unknowingly!! So pleased I didn't say in my opening post "some tw@t turned up to my gaf with nearly two dozen CDs...you wouldn't believe the shite he listens to" *biggrin* Really sorry they didn't meet your expectations but I hope you and Al Ears can come up with a mutually-satisfying arrangement. All the best mate.
 

insider9

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MajorFubar said:
insider9 said:
I have followed a large number of your contributions and learned a lot from them, so thank you. Great write up and so glad you're back and enjoying your AVIs.

I'm actually abroad at the minute and haven't had a great couple of days but your thread just made me smile.

What a small world. It was very nice to meet you too! You are right EBs are a shock to my system. I appreciate all their qualities but I'm not there yet in my "education" so can't enjoy them in full. Instead I've found someone on here who was after a pair for a good while and will appreciate them more. They're neatly put away and awaiting when we're both able to meet up. What a story... :)

Good to have met you too, even though completely unknowingly!! So pleased I didn't say in my opening post "some tw@t turned up to my gaf with nearly two dozen CDs...you wouldn't believe the shite he listens to" *biggrin* Really sorry they didn't meet your expectations but I hope you and Al Ears can come up with a mutually-satisfying arrangement. All the best mate.
Haha, I'm so glad you didn't also :)

Well funnily enough I reckon a year or two down the line I might be looking for them again. As for now, I'm not there yet.

I can't think of many nicer people than Al Ears who deserve something back from this forum. And what I can't offer in expertise I wanted to make up in good spirit.
 

Infiniteloop

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Sorry to hear of your loss Major, been through one myself this year and I agree it makes you reconsider various aspects of your life.

Anyway, welcome back and thanks for the honest AVI review. I doubt actives will ever be of interest to myself as I'm a very happy and contented box swapper. For me, that's what this hobby is mostly about, but great to hear that you've found your audio nirvana!
 

jonathanRD

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Well done Major, great write up of the DM10's. Had I not been thwarted in my attempt at a bake-off between a Naim, Creek and Exposure amp, the next part of my plan was to listen to a Nord amp and then the DM10's. Despite all the sh** flying about at times, their qualities are obvious based on the number of positive reviews. Maybe when I retire i might get them as a second system *smile*

Let's hope they bring some needed pleasure to you.
 

MajorFubar

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Infiniteloop said:
Sorry to hear of your loss Major, been through one myself this year and I agree it makes you reconsider various aspects of your life.

Anyway, welcome back and thanks for the honest AVI review. I doubt actives will ever be of interest to myself as I'm a very happy and contented box swapper. For me, that's what this hobby is mostly about, but great to hear that you've found your audio nirvana!

Cheers mate. I'm glad everyone so far has found my review balanced and useful. I think it's fantastic there are so many different ways we can enjoy our hobby and I reckon there's room in this parish for all of them.
 

MajorFubar

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jonathanRD said:
Well done Major, great write up of the DM10's. Had I not been thwarted in my attempt at a bake-off between a Naim, Creek and Exposure amp, the next part of my plan was to listen to a Nord amp and then the DM10's. Despite all the sh** flying about at times, their qualities are obvious based on the number of positive reviews. Maybe when I retire i might get them as a second system *smile*

Let's hope they bring some needed pleasure to you.

Cheers Jonathan, yes they're definitely worth a listen. Which I appreciate is often the hard bit!!
 

MajorFubar

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Hi Gray thanks for the welcome

Gray said:
3) Did I miss any mention of the old Thorens 160 or did you get rid of that?

It is absent from my signature only because having packed away the Cyrus 2 it is in effect laid up because I don't have a separate phono stage, though I have considered rigging-up the C2 for just that purpose. Rest assured it is very much still here, and will leave my possession only when it is pryed from my cold dead fingers :)
 
Al ears said:
insider9 said:
Al ears said:
MajorFubar said:
Wow!! Small world.

Isn't it just. I have been in contact with said person and just hope he hasn't changed his mind. Had planned a long drive up to his house but may not be able to do that until new year. Perhaps he will courier down to me if I cough up the cash.

Well spotted by Gazzip and well remembered that I made a mistake in selling my original pair....... and no these are not one and the same unless the Major bought his from a bloke in Cardiff... ;-)
If you're still up for exchange that would be great. I'm patiently waiting :)

Thanks. I am back in UK now and will contact you later.
 

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