John R. Potis Jr. was given the opportunity to review the Sound Dynamics 300ti loudspeakers, are they the perfect buy for those wanting engaging sound without spending a fortune? Read on.
A couple months ago, there was some discussion regarding the Sound Dynamics 300ti speaker. Sam Kennard (of Kennard Industries, not in any way affiliated with Sound Dynamics) offered to have a pair sent to me so I could check them out. It took a while, I guess The Audio Advisor was out of stock or something, but they got here about two weeks ago and I want to tell you about them.
As most people have never seen or heard a pair of Sound Dynamic speakers (Im guessing that the bulk of them are sold by Audio Advisor sight unheard), I think we need a context in which to pigeon hole them. Ill offer this. If Rotel made speakers, they would be just like the Sound Dynamic 300ti. Those familiar with Rotel know that they eschew fancy aesthetics and features preferring to put every cent of manufacturing cost where it will have the most sonic relevance. Thus being able to offer an exceptionally musical product affordable to all.
API, Sound Dynamics parent company leaves such niceties to sister companies Mirage and Energy. The Sound Dynamic 300ti is not a speaker you will see gracing the pages of "Home Interior" magazine. They are a 24" tall by 11" by 11" box. They are wrapped in a fairly realistic looking Black Ash vinyl. Dont get me wrong, they dont look cheap! They just arent as fancy as a lot of other lesser speakers out there. They look quite smart on their stands with grill cloths in place.
Next to the sound of the speaker. The biggest surprise I got was when I opened the box containing the stands. I was expecting vinyl over chipboard but what I got was very nice metal. A large spiked metal sheet forms the bottom plinth, a smaller also spiked sheet forms the top of the stand and the two are connected by three metal supports. VERY nice.
These stands give the speaker a firm support, as well as bringing the tweeter up to the height of the seated listener, something that SD recommends. Unfortunately, the hardware counts in my package werent correct, and one of the support bars was marred by several pieces of chipped paint, but this support bar can be turned around so as to be unnoticeable.
The owners manual is a stack of Xeroxed sheets stapled in one corner. The manual doesnt list any specs on the speakers (the Audio Equipment Directory lists the 300 tis as having a frequency response from 34Hz to 22kHz, +/-3). It is filled, however, with a good bit of information on placement, warnings against misuse and damage of the speaker and lots of information related to biwiring and biamping. The only problem I have is with the fact that there was only one set of binding posts on the speakers!
Initial listening was to the speakers right out of the box. I hooked them up to my good stuff and was more than fairly impressed. I "talked" to Sam Kennard and he told me to break em in, they werent there yet! So I hooked them up to a Rotel/Music Hall CD32 system and played pink noise through them for about 40 hours before listening again.
What a transformation! Ill cut to the chase right now and tell you that this speaker/stand package is the best $500 value in a full range speaker Ive ever heard. In context of its price, I have absolutely no bones to pick with its sound at all. Its more speaker value than I have ever seen. Period.
In absolute terms, they are still pretty darned good. There is only one thing that these things cant do. Cindi Lauper. Thats it. For some reason, on Cindi Laupers 'True Color' CD and LP, there was an obvious veil over her voice which removed the intimacy usually found on the title cut in particular. This recording can have a somewhat splashy treble and the 300tis gave me all the splash I could tolerate. I wondered if there was a midrange anomaly which would effect all female voices, so I brought out some Laurie Anderson and Kate Bush but they both sounded wonderful. Really.
Laurie Andersons 'Coolsville' from her 'Strange Angels' CD was a great demo disk. I found myself awash in sound field and bass. Imaging on these speakers is terrific. Laurie likes to make use of a reverberation effect where she will say a word or phrase which will image in the center, then it will be repeated again and yet again. Each time the phrase is repeated, its sound will be more diffuse and expand outward as do rings on water in a pond. This was very well done on the Sound Dynamics. I found it fairly easy to place them for a solid center image and they disappeared into the sound stage. Image depth was good too. On Lauries 'Monkeys Paw' from the same disc, Bobby McFerrins voice was placed to the outside right of the right speaker and to the rear. The 'Baby Doll' cut made good use of the 300tis pinpoint imaging by scattering percussive sounds all over the place. It was like looking at the sky exploding with fireworks. It was here, there, and everywhere!
Ive been listening to Big Band a lot lately. When I put on my DMP Big Band CD, 'Carved In Stone', I went to track 8, 'Magunia'. Its a Stan Kenton arrangement and also a fantastic demo song! Dynamics, brass, bass, drums, you name it, its there. It sounded great. Brass had had a nice bite to it and bass had terrific detail. These speakers can really boogie!!
I then put on the Eagles 'Hell Freezes Over' CD. In absolute terms I was a little disappointed by the lack of detail I heard in the guitars. My Sonus Faber's really excel here, reproducing guitars in a way I've never heard before, but then again, considering that the SF's cost (with stands) almost 5 times what the 300ti's did, it's a pretty big nit I'm picking. Strings aside, voices were natural, sound stage was wide and the bass was great when called upon! Again, these things were kickin!
To sum up, these are darned good speakers, truly an excellent buy. At $500 including the metal stands, they are something that I could live with (if I had to!) and not cry too much. Nice, articulate, if maybe a bit woolly at times bass, very clean midrange which betters many highly advertised speakers costing over $1,500, and a fairly neutral but revealing treble which will only irritate when the source material requires it to do so. The only full range speaker I can think of (which Ive heard myself) which would give these things a challenge would be the Vandersteen 1C. Id like to hear them side by side, but as the Vandys are $800 (with stands), the 300tis look like that much better value. Honestly, under $1,000, I dont know of a speaker that will give much bigger bang for the buck. Ive heard a lot of speakers costing up to $1,500 that the Sound Dynamics will clobber when it comes to total package coherency. In other words, you my find a speaker with better bass, but its mids and treble wont match the SDs. There are also mini monitors which will better the mids (by a little) and perhaps have a smoother treble, but they cant touch these things for bass.
Also good about these speakers is that you dont need expensive gear to make them sing. I moved them back and forth between my CJ stuff and my Rotel and I can tell you that they were very happy with the Rotel (my Sonus Faber Concertos chew the Rotel up and spit it out!). This means that they would make a great extension or second system speaker.
My thanks to Sam Kennard for having them sent here. I only wish he was here to help me get them packaged up again!!
Good luck and listening,
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