Review: Dynaudio DBM50
For recordists tied to their tables there’s been a new addition to a famous Danish family; so listen up!
When you’re blessed with a new arrival from a company that has been designing and manufacturing speakers for as long as you’ve been alive, it’s only natural for expectations to be high. Dynaudio Professional’s DBM50 is the latest addition to its BM series of monitors, a family of studio stalwarts that has taken pride of place on meterbridges for over 15 years.
LEANING TOWER OF POWER
On first glance, the DBM50 appears to be a close cousin to the BM5A MkII, differentiated by one obvious innovation: it leans backwards. The new two-way active monitor is, by Dynaudio’s definition, a ‘desktop’ nearfield. The design of the skewed 18mm MDF cabinet almost entirely eschews right angles in preference for a front-plate that reclines away from the perpendicular by 19 degrees. While the unusual shape reduces internal standing waves, its main advantage is that it focuses the monitor’s projection towards the ears of the listener when placed on any level table surface.
You could be forgiven for assuming this is the only difference between the two smallest members of the BM series. Both are rear ported bass reflex designs bi-amped by 50W RMS amplifiers, feature identically-sized drivers and even share a price point. Yet these similarities belie some significant variations. They do share the 28mm D-281 soft dome tweeter enhanced by a smooth high frequency waveguide aimed at optimising the nearfield sweetspot. However, the woofer in the DBM50 has been custom designed. A 180mm moulded aluminium frame houses the 75mm pure aluminium wire voice coil on kapton former driving a single piece thermo-formed MSP cone. A 20 percent increase in the size of the membrane, as compared to the BM5A MkII, seeks to significantly increase bass output. Again while both monitors share a crossover point at 1500Hz, the DBM50 has a much steeper crossover slope at 12dB/octave, and with the 54% increase in cabinet volume the resonant frequency is also a lower 39Hz, as compared to 55Hz. Even with this increase in size the DBM50 is surprisingly light at 7.2kg (a 21% reduction).
From behind, the weight loss becomes more easily understood. Unlike all other members of the BM family, there is no rear mounted heatsink. The amplifier’s thermal protection circuit remains although there is no longer a light to indicate its engagement. You’ll obviously hear when it shuts down but it’s worth noting Dynaudio recommends allowing decent ventilation to avoid overheating. If your 27-inch iMac is going to share the desk with these monitors in the corner of a small hot box of a room, you may have issues. The rear panel features both balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA inputs, power switch and an input for a figure-8 mains power cable. Three input sensitivity calibrations are provided and while labelled with names more generally associated with standard audio levels, they are best understood as High (-10), Medium (0) and Low (+4) inputs — don’t get me started! Two power modes are also available for selection via a rear panel switch. ‘On’ is an always on mode, while ‘On/Sleep’ activates a power saving mode which places the unit in standby when no signal has been present for 20 minutes. A wake up lag of around two seconds is present when you restart. This fantastic feature came in handy as with no power LED on the front of the monitors I neglected to turn them off on more than one occasion.
The other main rear-facing feature is a series of filter switches with varying functions. A two position high-pass filter can be engaged when pairing the monitors with one of Dynaudio’s active subwoofers. A low shelf compensates for the effect of placement close to boundaries while a mid-range notch is intended to minimise the bump created by reflections from a desk. A high shelf is provided for taste and to compensate for ears in different states of ageing. While there’s no question the EQ is a welcome inclusion, its location can be inconvenient when light and space is at a premium. The rear line-up is rounded out with an input for the optional remote ($125 extra). The single digital control can attenuate a pair of monitors with great precision, maintaining the stereo image in a way that cheaper volume controls cannot. While the remote was not available at the time of this review it’s expected to be available by the time of publication.
NEED TO KNOW
They sounded like Dynaudios. When you’re more familiar with the larger and more expensive members of the family (BM15A) it’s comforting to recognise a familiar voice
WHAT DID YOU HEAR?
After running in the monitors for the best part of a week (apologies to the neighbours) I was struck by two things. Firstly, they sounded like Dynaudios. Not all that surprising, I grant you, but when you’re more familiar with the larger and more expensive members of the family (BM15A) it’s comforting to recognise a familiar voice. My previous experience has always been of a very neutral sound with little midrange or high end emphasis and the DBM50s were no exception. The second more surprising impression was how much low end these relatively compact nearfields were generating. In some cases they were out-subbing much larger and more expensive rivals. The frequency response suggests that they’ll start to drop away by about -3dB at 46Hz but some experiments with tone generators suggested that even at normal listening levels they’ll trigger room resonances and rattly windows well below 40Hz, completely dropping away below 30Hz.
Now bass is not always a good thing and while I felt confident mixing vocals and tuning spaces within the mix, with some material I found the generous bottom a little much, especially when working on less than solid surfaces. Ultimately I settled in to their sound with the low frequency shelf in the -2 position and was far happier. I tested the DBM50s in their suggested realm on a few different tables as well as on stands and in the alternately suggested horizontal configuration. On really shallow surfaces I couldn’t quite get far enough from the monitors and felt like my head was moving out of the sweet-spot. When you’ve got things right you can move up and down ±10cm and still feel like you’re hearing much the same thing. When on their sides this leeway is significantly reduced. Like all nearfields when you get close and have them angled in towards you the sweet lateral zone can get very narrow. With their deeper voicing my preference was to employ recoil stabilisers to isolate the monitors from the table surface and tighten up the imaging. With their fixed recline this height adjustment will also impact on how far away you place them.
DON’T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT
When it comes to choosing your next nearfields, the best review will always be your own. Take the time to visit your friendly local pro audio emporium, where I’m sure they’ve gone to great length to run in all their demonstration units ready for comparison. Bring along a selection of reference tracks that reflect your style of music or production and when you get down to your final choices ask to hear them in a setting that matches home. If you’re working at a desk with a laptop or screen in between the monitors set things up that way at the store’s DAW workstation. After all if you work at a small desk there’s no point just listening on stands at a distance more befitting a midfield selection.
In a flooded nearfield market, Dynaudio keeps its head above the surge by paying close attention to the changing direction of music making. The DBM50 does not so much fill a niche as directly service a demographic that must now constitute the majority of our community. Of course, it’s not a perfect monitor, and for the price it’s unreasonable to hold such expectations, but it will be a perfect fit for many with limited space and no budget for the cost creep of custom furniture, and stands.