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US firm Definitive Technology has not been one to follow the loudspeaker maker herd. To put a number on the ways in which the BP9060 speakers diverge from the norm, depending on how wide you consider the ‘norm’ to be, we’d say three ways, perhaps four.
First, these loudspeakers are bipolar. That is, they have drivers on the front, and drivers on the back, and all the drivers are in phase. The point of this kind of design is to produce a more diffuse sound from the speakers, particularly in the higher frequencies which, in regular loudspeakers, tend to have a very well-defined point of origin. With these speakers the higher frequencies are coming directly from the front drivers, and indirectly from the rear ones, with much of that reflected from the rear wall and other surfaces.
We should distinguish these from dipole speakers, which have the front and rear drivers wired out of phase. That arrangement also produces a diffuse sound, but one with well-defined ‘nulls’ halfway between the drivers on both sides. They tend to be more useful as surround speakers (indeed, they are recommended by THX for that purpose).
Many bipolar speakers only use a tweeter on the rear, but the BP9060 speakers have a 25.4mm aluminium-dome tweeter and a 114mm midrange on the back, with the same tweeter and two of the midranges on the front.
The second unusual aspect is that the bass driver, which Definitive Technology refers to as a ‘subwoofer’, is powered. Each loudspeaker has a single 254mm woofer with a 200W amplifier driving it. Yet these are rather narrow towers — not accounting for the extended stand of aircraft-grade aluminium, they are only 153mm wide. So the woofer is side-mounted.
There are advantages to this design approach. First, the bass driver and amplifier can be designed with each other in mind, optimising performance. Speaker cable length is of course very short, increasing effective damping factor and therefore control of the driver. You can adjust the level independently for the driver. And it reduces the power demands on your amplifier, since it will be relieved of the responsibility of delivering power for the bass, something that can easily consume half of an amplifier’s capacity. And this is quite useful with these speakers because of their relatively low four-ohm rated impedance. There is little to no danger that your amp will be overloaded.
Definitive Technology has designed the speakers for the bass signal to be lifted from the regular speaker connection, but if you prefer you can use the LFE output. We’d suggest that in general you stick with the company’s recommendation. Even if you don’t have a subwoofer, just set the speakers to ‘Large’ when setting up a home theatre receiver.
Third departure from the norm — you can add a module to the speakers to turn them into Dolby Atmos Enabled loudspeakers. In fact, this also works for the smaller BP9020 and BP9040 speakers from the same range, but is not required for the larger BP9080x speakers, because they are already Atmos Enabled. The module is the A90 and it features a 25.4mm aluminium-dome tweeter and a 114mm midrange driver (likely the same drivers used in the BP9060). Cost: $995.
Of course, you can drop an Atmos module on any old speaker, so what’s so special here? The A90 has the same depth and width as the main speaker, matches it visually and plugs right onto the top (you just pop off the aluminium plate that normally resides there). The BP9060 has speaker inputs for the Atmos addition down near the bottom. This simply runs the wiring up internally, but in doing so it ensures there are no unsightly cables visible.
Finally, perhaps less unusual, the cabinet design uses passive radiators. Two of them, 254mm in diameter each, also side-mounted.
Definitive Technology has long been rather minimalist in styling, with its ‘black sock’ finish. These are lifted stylistically by that brushed aluminium top panel and the aluminium stand, which works very well aesthetically with the all-black look. The stand comes with both spikes and feet. The matching centre-channel speaker is finished with the same black sock but what appear to be aluminium frames around the end caps, matching it to the look of the BP9060.
Definitive Technology suggests starting with the level control for the woofers at the halfway point (the ‘midday’ position). That seemed way too high for us. The bass was tight and controlled, but out of balance, in our listening room at least. With a little bit of experimentation, plus the use of a test track of our own devising, we determined that around 10am worked best. Having set that — and what else is there to do, really? — we set to listening.
We started with the album ‘Amalgama’ from the Austin Benjamin Trio, a piano-centred jazz ensemble. From the moment the first piano chords sounded there was first-class authenticity in the sound. The speakers appeared not to be delivering a copy of the piano sound; rather they disappeared and were replaced by the piano. It was the attack of the notes that was so very impressive, that bite, the a-tonal instant as the compressed felt of the hammer strikes the strings, to be replaced in milliseconds by their tuneful ring. It was that variation in tone when the same notes were struck with different levels of force on the keys. Ah, glorious!
Then the double bass and drum kit entered the stage and things just got better. The track Xenosphere, with its swipes of the brushes and lightly tapped bass, was astonishing in its detail and had a remarkable sense of depth.
The imaging was fascinating. It lacked the extreme left-right sharpness provided by many high quality loudspeakers. We like that sharpness as much as anyone because it shows how closely your loudspeakers are matched, how they are doing precisely what they are supposed to be doing, or so it seems. But next time you have the opportunity to listen to a live, acoustic ensemble, we’d suggest you stand at the centre in front of them, close your eyes and locate each element of the sound with your ears alone. We’d suggest you won’t find that high fidelity sharpness in location, because live instruments are omnidirectional. Their sound is not being beamed to you, but bouncing all around and coming at you from multiple directions.
Instead of delivering sharp imaging on the horizontal, these speakers delivered deep
imaging from front to back, while the individual sounds were notably closer to the sizes of the originating instruments.
Before departing this trio, we must note that the driver control was excellent, as was the combined coherence of the midrange and treble along with the bass. Despite the different signal paths, the sound was delivered as one.
We listened to a lot of music with these speakers, and that sense of depth and control was a constant throughout. Even something as rough and raw as The Zoot’s cover of Eleanor Rigby actually had a sound-stage that extended behind us at one point! Not to mention a width that went wider than the speakers, and a dynamic responsiveness that exposed the complete lack of dynamic compression or gating or any other processing in the recording — apart from the inadvertent effects of old analogue instrumentation and recording.
With any and all recordings, the bass was extended, very clean and with excellent ‘slam’.
The volume could easily be raised to body-pummelling levels.
Given the unusual bass arrangements, we did a couple of quick measurements to determine the band coverage of the bass end. It looked to us like it was covering the range from 28 to 80Hz strongly. The level control had around a 30dB range of operation. Usable bass down to around 25Hz was delivered.
Do remember, bipolar speakers are going to be even more dependent upon placement with respect to room boundaries and the construction of those boundaries than regular speakers, since a relatively high proportion of the sound is from coming to your ears reflected from them. That said, we think that most listeners in most rooms will quickly fall in love with the Definitive Technology BP9060 loudspeakers.
Definitive Technology BP9060 stereo loudspeakers
+ Great wide, deep, controlled sound
+ Extended clean slam from built-in subs
+ Slimness of design
- Can be placement-dependent
Drivers: 2 x 25.4mm aluminium dome tweeters; 3 x 114mm midrange; 1 x 254mm bass
Frequency response: 25-30,000Hz
Impedance: 4 ohms
Sensitivity: 92dB (2.83V/1m)
Power: 50-300W (recommended input); 200W built in for woofer
Cabinet: 2 x 254mm passive radiator
Dimensions (hwd): 1130 x 280 x 331mm
Weight (each): 22.7kg
Warranty: Five years (two years on