Definitive Technology Demand D9

Something new from Definitive Technology — high quality standmount speakers with an extra bass driver hiding up on top. The resulting performance proved spectacular for the price point.

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Definitive Technology has had a few specialties in its time. It was very early into sound bars, though not as we know them now, instead delivering high-level multichannel sound that required a full multichannel receiver to drive them. It maintained an excellent multiroom range in the W Series, recipient of Sound+Image awards. But it is best known for its high-level black tower speakers (also multiple award-winners), and these are equally notable for their inclusion of bass radiators and active drivers in their lower portions, adding to the normal drivers driven by your amplifier power.

Music on demand
One thing Def Tech really hasn’t been known for is standmount and bookshelf loudspeaker designs — until now, and the new Demand series. “DEMAND. MORE.” is the company’s provocative motto for this new series, which is currently three-strong, with the D9 model reviewed here in the middle of the trio.

Below this D9 is the D7, a relatively conventional standmount configuration with a 25mm aluminium-dome tweeter and 114mm (4.5-inch) polypropylene mid/woofer in each cabinet. But things get more interesting with our D9. It has the same tweeter, and it ups the mid/woofer size to 133mm — then it adds an even larger driver, an oval passive bass radiator measuring nine by five inches (229 × 127mm).

The Definitive Technology Demand D7, D9 (reviewed) and D11 models.

Bass radiators use the excess energy within the speaker cabinet delivered from the back of the drivers. The alternatives are to have a port (as does the smaller D7), or a entirely sealed-box design. But Def Tech aims to use the energy to move the additional passive driver and thereby create additional bass energy from the speaker. And where is it? Highly unusually, it’s on the top, firing upwards. No reason why that shouldn’t work; bass is relatively non-directional, and of course Definitive Technology has been harnessing this back energy in its speakers for years. We’ve just never seen it before on top of a standmount. So kudos to Definitive Technology for thinking outside (or on top of) the box. Just remember not to rest things on the top.

Silver lining
The D9’s appearance certainly doesn’t suffer from the new-think — indeed they look fabulous, and a perfect match for many a modern television, especially, with the non-intrusive black speaker grille in front of the thick silver front baffle and the deep MDF cabinet, the exterior of which is sanded for five layers of painting and then buffed to a ‘Level 6’ deep black gloss finish. Round the back are two sets of full-size high-quality binding posts, linked with brass joiners on arrival but ready for biamping or biwiring if you so wish.

It all feels like exceptional build for the price. With their magnetic cloth grilles on the front they blend quietly and effectively into any décor. But things are transformed visually if you choose to use them grilles off, as you then face that full silver baffle with the stylish driver technology on show. There’s the tangerine-like ‘Patented Linear Response Waveguide’ at the centre of the mid/woofer, designed to extend both on- and off-axis frequency response, while improving dispersion to deliver an impressively wide sweet spot for listening. These drivers use a ‘BDDS’ balanced double surround to increase the available excursion and so move more air, aiming for punchier bass for the given driver size. This whole structure is quite deeply indented behind the fascia line.

Sweet-spot imaging is also the goal of the tweeters being positioned off-centre, each to one side of the cabinet (there are clear ‘left’ and ‘right’ labels on the back of the speakers), and angled outward by five degrees. “Non-symmetric diffraction off the corners of the front baffle”, says Def Tech. Wide and impressive soundstaging, say we. The tweeter itself is made of annealed aluminium, which means the metal is raised to a high temperature for working, then carefully reduced again in stages. The dome is mounted in a shallow horn and fronted by Definitive Technology’s new ‘20/20 Wave Alignment Lens’, a suspended plastic cone with a hole through it, apparently not angled to match the tweeter, but promising smoother high frequency response and improved dispersion.

PERFORMANCE
We ran the D9s in for several weeks on general music and TV duties before critical listening, and impressively during that time never once felt we were lacking anything usually delivered by our standmount references, which are high-quality German designs retailing around three times the price here.

The question over a passive radiator is often that it may well add substance to the sound, but does it do so with precision? To assess what they were adding to the sound, we fashioned the cunning plan of covering the passive radiators with large books — this would also, of course, change the conditions for the front drivers, but it was enough to show that the passive drivers’ contribution included some nice power and resonance to the bottom notes of the bass guitar, and real impact when led by the motion of the front driver. With an organ bass tester the D9s in standmounted (book-free) full operation were delighted to excite our room at the low G of 49Hz, but not for an even lower D of 36Hz, with a steep roll-off just before the latter, more a sealed than ported characteristic. And certainly a tick for substance.

As to precision, their run-in location had been only a few inches from the wall, and sturdily shelved, but not on stands. We noticed a little lack of definition at depth, so that the bass guitar on the Jimmy Cobb/Randy Brecker 2012 'NYC Tribute' to Thelonious Monk softened audibly as it walked down its lowest octave. When we started critical listening, however, with the D9s away from the wall on stands, this effect was rectified entirely.

Def Tech’s recommendations are for an equilateral triangle separation between speakers and listener, and no toeing in, given the careful angling of the tweeters. This delivered a wide soundstage extending notably beyond the physical position of the D9s, and with wonderfully convincing imaging abilities. How precisely defined and separated were the three intertwining horns on Little Rootie Tootie from the 2012 Monk tribute… how full-sized and spacious the sax solo at the close of Lou Reed’s Walk On The Wild Side, how well-shaped the Yamaha piano on the 1993 Nonesuch recording of Gershwin’s ghost playing his double-tracked piano-roll recording of Rhapsody in Blue.

And yes, we did try the speakers the other way around, so the tweeters were toed in. The centre was stronger but some of the soundstaging delight seemed diminished. For it was remarkable the imaging they could draw from such unlikely candidates as 10CC’s Wall Street Shuffle and The Who’s Love Reign O’er Me, its opening piano, rain and tympani capped by a spectacularly integrated soundstage for the band, out there in a semicircle in front of the Def Techs sounding rich and musical, Moony crashing cymbals left, snare centre-left, and the final thunderous ending delivered without the smallest crack or compression of this performance — it had a vinyl-like realism coupled with file-like clarity.

Period pieces did fare well, their lack of level compression solid fodder to the punchiness of the poly mid-woofers, and all pleasantly rather than shriekily handled. Roy Harper’s Elizabeth can sound thin and ugly through some systems, whereas here it was rendered as a unusual but natural miking of vocal and guitar, later joined by a Spector-like backing and more conventional guitar solo. The Def Techs unscrambled the most convoluted of reverberations therein.

Given a cleaner production, how magnificently epic did Roger Waters’ 4:50AM (Go Fishing) sound, as its Clapton-led band slammed out from the forest glade of holophonics.
So captured were we in this world of nostalgia that it was at first a jolt to return to the brighter bigger mixes of the modern world. Yet here the Def Techs could show their skills with detail and timing. Studio recordings were a delight, whether the country sonic spread of First Aid Kit’s Postcard, or the angled multiple guitars of Al Di Meola’s Broken Heart, or Jack White’s Connected My Love, where the lowest sine element of the opening synth-bass throb made it through the D9s a little diminished but still present, while the speakers kept rein on Mr White’s thrillingly unconventional high-octane performance. Smoothness yet airiness was maintained
impressively throughout.

As noted, we’d used the D9s successfully for TV and movie use, where the same clarity given to music made dialogue clear and soundtracks well-defined. It also occurs to us that their wide treble soundstaging across a generous sweet-spot is just the thing for rear speaker use in a surround system, or indeed, (bar the centre) for all the speakers, with a subwoofer and a crossover frequency to limit the bass to the D9s. (Maybe Def Tech might consider a Demand model where an Atmos driver replaces the passive radiator, especially since the company makes an add-on Atmos speaker for its BP range already.)

We note an unusual change in sensitivity through the Demand range — a low 85dB/W/m for the little D7, up to an above-average 88dB here on the D9, and a friendly 90dB on the larger D11. We expected no trouble driving them to their full from our high-quality Classé amplification, but they remained on song when running from a more modest $1000 Class-AB integrated, which is more likely the level of amplification they’ll be given.

Conclusion
The D9 speakers fit fantastically well in any lounge, being mainly black with some silver if you keep the grilles on, more imposingly silver with some black if you take the grilles off, which does release the best of their airy highs. They do their best magic out on proper stands — and for this purpose the dedicated supports available from Def Tech for D9 or D11 are the ST1. And the D9s themselves are $1295 the pair.

Indeed we kept coming back to the pricing here — it seems a sock-blowingly good price for the performance level and presentation style of the Demand D9.

One of our closing memories was a high-res Nina Simone singing I Loves You Porgy larger than life from the left speaker, her piano centre, and nothing much right except the lightest Tootie brushwork until a solid black silence halfway through when he stops even that. Out of which leapt Giant Nina, a-hollering at our ears (in the nicest possible way). It was like the OLED of audio — brilliant colours over blackest blacks, and hi-fi performance prodigiously beyond its price level.

Definitive Technology D9 stereo loudspeakers
Price: $1295

+ Sensational sounds for the size and price
+ Top-mounted bass radiator to support the lows
+ Wonderful imaging from angled tweeters

- Best performance on stands; need space above

Type: Two-way standmount loudspeaker
Drivers: 1 x 25mm aluminium-dome tweeter, 1 x 133mm polypropylene woofer; 1 x 229×127mm oval top-mounted bass radiator
Inputs: 2 x sets of binding posts
Sensitivity: 88dB/W/m
Quoted frequency response: 64Hz–22kHz -3dB; 44Hz–24kHz -10dB
Dimensions (whd): 297 x 166 x 304mm

Contact: Advance Audio Australia
Telephone: 02 9561 0799
Web: www.advanceaudio.com.au