Serious speakers for serious listening, in a compact format
If you believe 60 is the new 40 you’ll probably remember when cars needed running in. You’d spend the first 1500 km or so driving slowly, everyone else overtaking you, while your new motor and all those other complicated moving parts bedded in. You don’t have to do that anymore, mainly because oils have improved so much, but running in is still something you should pay attention to with new speakers. Not a lot of oil in speakers.
Most speakers create sound by pumping cones in and out, and these are driven by pistons that move back and forth in a magnetic field. Materials used for cones vary widely, from cardboard to Kevlar, but something they all have in common is that when they’re new they’re tight as a drum. Loosening them up to move faster and pump further usually takes about 100 hours, and it’s best to avoid really high volumes during this time. The difference you hear after a speaker is run in is usually better defined, stronger bass, going deeper and responding faster.
These Definitive Technology Demand 11 speakers were received for review straight off the boat, no run-in time at all. Bookshelf models, they’re reasonably compact (33 x 18.5 x 31.75 cm HxWxD) and priced very sharply at $1795. They have one of the most clearly defined top ends I’ve heard and it’s this that makes their sound rather specialised. These are not for hip hop or headbanging, they’re for serious listening by people who’d like bigger speakers but can’t fit them in.
Listen to them carefully, or even not so carefully, and it’s impossible not to be taken in by the precision you’ll hear in everything from John Tavener to Ennio Morricone. With lovely airiness, brilliant imaging and a generously wide soundstage they’re great for classical and orchestral music, especially given their size and price.
It’s all about the 2.5-cm aluminium dome tweeters that are angled five degrees inwards. That’s not much of an angle but it’s enough to make an audible difference if you don’t have each speaker on the correct side, which is why the speakers are marked for left and right.
Okay, but how about the bottom end? Well it’s certainly not lacking. The 16.5-cm mid/bass drivers have waveguides on the dust-caps to broaden the sweet spot and they work very effectively. They also make the D11s look interesting with the grilles off. There’s a separate bass radiator firing through the soft top panel.
They stroll through the deep drumming in the Isle of Dogs movie soundtrack and handle the start of Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man nicely, with impressive decay as the reverberation from a thoroughly belted tam tam dies. Lucia Micarelli’s Samarkand is great test of simultaneous high and low, with a continuous, very deep bassline accompanied by a lone violin getting way up there. It caused the D11s no problems.
Bass is not over the top, which has become something of a norm lately, but it’s sufficient to be both faithful to the original and exciting. If you’re currently listening to big bass speakers you’ll notice that bass is lacking here, you may even think the highs are a bit sharp. It’s a matter of musical accuracy versus electronic enhancement. Running in will likely increase the bass a tad and will be unlikely to reduce the top end’s sublime presence.
These are terrific speakers for the money; rich, spacious and beautifully airy. There are smaller D9s ($1295 per pair) and D7s ($995) with the same angled tweeters but smaller mid/bass drivers and passive radiators.