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Dynamic Speakers Review

Duevel Planets



Duevel needs no introduction. It is Markus Duevel's creation and presents his view as to how a speaker should sound. His philosophy is quite different to the classic German school of thought. To Markus, a speaker must be omni-directional, radiating its sound exactly like a musical instrument through 360 degrees. Combined with the driving ease which characterises the company's whole range, Duevel speakers render music in an addictive, natural and atmospheric manner.

In essence, what we have here is just a smaller version of the standard design, typical of the other models. The materials are definitely cheaper and the finish, which comes in many colours and real birch plywood, is inferior to that of the more expensive models. However, objectively, quality is consistent with their price range.

As can be seen in the photographs, the drivers fire upwards and the sound is spread through 360° through two metal spheres of different size which are positioned exactly at the centre of each driver. Each sphere is at a different height in order to spread the sound in the best possible way.

Aesthetically, the Planets are somewhere between a sculpture and applied contemporary art. An unsuspecting observer could easily mistake them for a decorative object which is something the design team must take credit for. It is not for nothing that they are included amongst the 15 most sexy speakers on the planet.
http://www.audiojunkies.com/blog/711/the-worlds-15-sexiest-speakers-put-your-girlfriend-to-shame

Of course every radical and ambitious design has its doubters. However, we consider the Planets to be among the most beautiful speakers we have seen, independent of price, exactly because they don't look like speakers. This will probably solve the usual 'speaker-girlfriend coexisting in the same space' issue.



In Depth

What we have here is a small floor-standing loudspeaker measuring just 83 cm in height, 26 cm in width and 15.6 cm in depth. The cabinet is made of MDF and weighs 10 kg. The speaker stands on four plastic feet which are set in the corners. There are two drivers in a two-way layout with the bass reflex firing towards the floor through two ports in the underside; a soft dome, horn loaded tweeter and a 5 inch woofer with an inverted dust cup made of treated paper with a rubber mount. The crossover is described as phase linear by the manufacturer. Sensitivity is 85 dB and can only be classed as low. Impedance is 4 Ohm and maximum power is 50 W. On the inside of the cabinet there is a sloping wooden surface under the woofer for limiting static waves and a more controlled low range. The two binding posts are on the underside facing the floor at a slight angle (a choice which is more aesthetically pleasing rather than practical) and do not allow bi-wiring. However, bananas may be used, as well as 4 gauge cables.

Positioning the Planets is a pleasant but demanding process. Pleasant because their low weight allows their position to be changed easily, demanding because of the way they radiate sound. We follow the usual equilateral triangle lay out. However, one should be careful to position them away (50 -100 cm) from the back and side walls. Changing the distance between the speakers results in a difference in focus and in image width. The latter always appears behind the speakers. Regarding the obvious question of whether the tweeters should be positioned inwards or outwards, the answer is inwards because this significantly improves focus, which is usually lacking in omni-directional speakers. It is worth mentioning that for a more controlled low range it is recommended to place the speakers on a hard surface and not on a carpet or rug.



Listening

For the Planets audition we used several solid-state, but also valve, amplifiers. It was apparent from the beginning that due to driving ease the speakers did not need much power. All that was needed to get 100% of their potential was 20-50 W. Anyway, usually high wattage is not needed in microdynamic contrast. The sensitivity of 85 dB seems low, but is not apparent due to the speakers' spherical radiation. The impression it gives is that of an 88-89 dB speaker.

Starting the audition with the much more expensive combination of a Cary SLP-98 preamp and a Cary Rocket-88 final amp, we observed the affinity of the speakers for the valve combination through a wide display of detail, impressive body which is similar to that of a speaker three times the size, and a satisfactory low range which reaches 60 to 70 Hz without significant weakening.

Replacing the Cary Rocket-88 with the Audion Sterling Mk2 single ended 18W final amp with 2 KT88, we observed an improvement in transparency and analysis as well as in vocal articulation. There was also a significant improvement in focus. The outline of the instruments became more discernible, the lows were better controlled and a bulge in the mid-low range, a common feature in push-pull designs, disappeared. With the specific combination (Cary SLP-98 - Audion Sterling Mk2) one could say that we got the speaker's maximum potential, however, its cost was way beyond the speaker's price category.

The above amplifiers cost a lot more than the speakers, while finally we added to the list the System Fidelity 370 integrated amp which uses the integrated LM3886 and costs approximately as much as the speakers. Admittedly, one of the better couplings.

Wanting to confirm the driving ease of the speaker we also used switching amplifiers based on the Tripath 2020 chip (50wpc/4 Ohm) which cost 1/4 of the speaker's price. The speaker was driven sufficiently, without high-intensity, but rendered dynamics reminiscent of higher wattage. Their tonal compatibility was also impressive.

The low frequencies were impressive in their range, but were lacking mainly regarding damping as they came mainly from the driver's load. In order to further improve the low range speed, the use of single core cables is recommended. Their body is similar to that of speakers with larger low range drivers. Response below 60 to 70 Hz seems to get more limited as we descend in frequency. It is recommended for late night personal listening as the light crossover allows low range to develop satisfactorily even at low volumes.

Moving on to jazz with the world-class bass players John Patitucci and Brian Bromberg providing the tempo for the Planets, one feels that all the notes are rendered clearly up until 150 Hz. From there on down (to 60 Hz) a base is definitely needed under the speaker and some experimenting with positioning in order to get the best results. However, for their size, the lows unfold safely, richly and distinctly. Duevel avoided digging deeper and playing around with the cabinet. They just do what they must in order to perform with dignity.

The middle range is distinguished by an impressive naturalness, articulation and true body. One could say the speakers were built specifically to render human voices and acoustic instruments. Choral works such as Bach cantatas, chamber music, small jazz combos, opera and piano music are all rendered impressively far exceeding the price category of the speaker. Modern productions using electronic instruments create a wide space in which sounds leap at you from all directions. Rock, hard rock and metal is definitely not what the speaker was made for as it lacks the directness required to correctly render the electric guitar and the bass drum. However, it performed adequately.

The high frequencies are rendered naturally with satisfactory body, transparency, harmonics and analysis, with perhaps a slight emphasis on the brass and metal instruments in general. Occasionally we may find an almost imperceptible dryness in the high range.

Throwing the Planets into the deep end, we included auditions of Bruckner's fourth symphony (Herreweghe, Harmonia Mundi) as well as the exceptional live album Gary Burton/Pat Metheny/Steve Swallow/Antonia Sanchez: Quartet Live using the Cary amplifiers. I must admit it did better than we expected and the rhythm and articulation far exceeded its category.

Right from the beginning of the auditions one understands that the Planets were manufactured to make an impression. The soundstage range is huge and extends far beyond the speaker's natural boundaries. In essence, the speakers don't exist, but leave a three-dimensional sonic field in their place. Some may complain of phase confusion, but that is to be expected due to their nature.

The most important feature, however, is the absence of - or the expanded - sweet spot. The holographic image is present almost everywhere in the room, even behind the speakers or on top of them! The image remains even in positions off centre to the sweet spot.

The Planets challenge one to listen to the music and not to observe the recording or the production. Despite that, if one wants to, they may draw every detail out of a production if they use the sweet spot where the speaker is more exact and coherent.

One of the Planets important elements is their performance in a home cinema environment. If you have a video projector, in a darkened room what remains is an impressive three-dimensional development of the soundtrack. Of course, using them in such an environment requires the addition of a subwoofer.

Conclusion

The Planets are small but capable speakers which fully honour their price category and have several unique features. They are definitely not for everybody, as they are speakers with a strong personality. If one gets addicted to omni-directional sound it is possible that they will not return to conventional designs.

With music and atmosphere as their priority, they are a first-rate stress reliever from the pressures of modern day life as they promote music over sound.

We recommend the use of an amplifier with neutral tone, musicality and fast lows which will enable the speakers to perform better. Avoid lots of power and focus on a quality, low wattage amplifier. Single ended valve amplifiers, solid-state amplifiers with a few active elements in the output and switching amplifiers based on a Tripath are the ideal combination. Power should be between 18 and 50 W. The speaker is not made to play very loudly. Within its range, it does well and easily covers areas of up to 25 m².

If you are looking for an affordable, small and unique looking floor-standing speaker with an audiophile character is worth giving it a listen. It can comfortably fill a small to medium sitting room or home theatre with its bright sound and as far as cost is concerned the Planets are far ahead of the competition in more ways than one. Despite the small size of the woofer, it provides satisfactory low range, texture detail and credible descriptive abilities.

Dimokritos Dravopoulos



Article was published on: 2009-09-13

Listening Setup


Amplifiers:
System Fidelity S370
Audion Sterling KT88 SE
Kingrex  T20U
Cary SLP-98 / Rocket 88
Yarland FV34-A

Sources:
Benchmark DAC-1 Pre
Musical Fidelity A5
Project 6.1 / Benz ACE M / Project Tube-Box
VAMP NOS

Cables:
Nordost FlatLine Gold (sp)
Cardas Crosslink (sp)
Cardas Golden Ref. AC/power
Vovox Initio (sp)
Digital Standard Aural Symphonics
Nanotech Golden Strada (ic)

Accessories:
Shunyata Hydra 6

Racks:
Audio Magic

Programme Excerpts:
1. Placebo
«Meds»
«Battle For The Sun»

2. Beethoven
«Piano Concertos Rudolf Serkin»

3. Brian Bromberg
«Wood»

4. Bruckner
«4th Symphony, Herreweghe»

5. Holz
«Planets»

6. AC/DC
«For Those About To Rock (Remaster)»

7. Rachmaninoff
«Symphonic Dances (Reference Recordings)»

8. Steve Ray Vaughan
«The Sky Is Crying»

9. John Patitucci
«Spirituals»

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