What would happen if Bowers & Wilkins had decided not to switch gears in the twenty-first century and shift their focus towards headphones and lifestyle-oriented speakers? What would that company look like today? There's a good argument to be made that they'd look a lot like Davone Audio.
Founded in 2007 by Paul Schenkel, Davone manufacturers loudspeakers out of Denmark using flexible, small-scale Danish design and manufacturing practices. What this means is that their products aren't mass-produced, and that they take a little extra time to make them right. When was the last time a company brandished its lack of care for economies of scale, and how many of those companies are still around today?
As a result, Davone isn't a large brand, nor does it make a lot of different speakers scattered over a number of different product lines, which is kind of refreshing. In total, Davone offers seven different loudspeaker designs, four floorstanding models, and three bookshelf or monitor speaker options, all ranging in cost from roughly $2,000 to $20,000 per pair. The subject of this review, the Studio, is Davone's most traditional two-way monitor, and it retails for $3,250 per pair.
There are two things almost all Davone loudspeakers have in common: a unique, curvaceous shape and heavy use of bent, veneered plywood, à la Eames. The Studio monitor fits right into this aesthetic, looking a bit like an unbloomed tulip, with an Eames-era modern design that would look right at home next to the designer's iconic lounge chair. The Studio is on the slightly larger side as monitor speakers are concerned, measuring a hair over 14 inches tall by 9.5 inches wide and nearly 12 inches deep.
The Studio tips the scales at a respectable 20 pounds apiece, though some of that weight has to rest in its attached table stand. The table stand is removable should you want to mate the Studio monitor with its all-metal floor stands, which retail for an additional $650 a pair. Around back and resting below the port are a pair of five-way binding posts that can accept everything from bare wire to banana-terminated cables.
The Studio is a two-way design that houses a single one-inch aluminum dome tweeter and a seven-inch blended fiber mid/bass driver. Bass response is enhanced by the Studio's use of a rear-firing port, giving the speaker a reported frequency response of 45Hz to 30kHz. Sensitivity is rated at 88dB (2.83v/1m), and nominal impedance is 4Ω, with minimum impedance of 3.7Ω at 350Hz. The Studio uses a 24dB/octave Linkwitz Riley crossover, with the crossover point falling at 2.4kHz.
I took delivery of the Studio loudspeakers and a pair of their matching stands on what had to have been the hottest day on record in Austin. It was also day that I found myself moving into a new home. Eager to have music in the house, I tore into the well-packaged Studio's box and removed the beefy little beauties. "Those are big!" exclaimed my girlfriend from across the room. A fact I couldn't argue, for despite having shown her pictures of the Studio speakers on my phone, I too was taken aback by their size.
The Studios come affixed to a substantial round plinth meant to serve as their table stand. This round piece of metal definitely adds to the Studios' overall weight, but does make them feel extremely well grounded and likely impervious to tipping if placed in an area or on a piece of furniture that may be prone to accidents. The plate is removable (it's held in place by four large bolts) and must be if you plan on using Davone's stands.
The stands are equally solid, and hurrah-hurrah, ship fully assembled! Though because of their design, attaching them to the base or bottom of the Studio via the same bolts as I mentioned earlier isn't that easy. I ultimately had to balance the Studio's on their head and screw the stands into the bottom of the speakers while they were inverted. Once connected, however, the speakers on their matching stands were about as solid as a single piece of granite.
I placed the Studios on either side of our wall-mounted 65-inch Samsung Ultra HD display. This meant the Studios were approximately 87 inches apart (tweeter to tweeter). My girlfriend and I are both pretty minimal in our tastes, so I knew I wanted a setup that would be easy to use, functional, and simple.
To pull this off, I turned to Marantz and its new NR1509 5.2-channel slim AV receiver. I connected the Marantz to the TV via a single HDMI cable and, horrors of horrors, enabled HDMI CEC so that the receiver could be controlled via the TV's remote.
Next, I connected my Apple TV, also via HDMI, as well as a Chromecast Audio via its included cables, which allowed the whole system to be integrated into our Google Assistant connected household. For fun, I did connect my Bang & Olufsen turntable to the system as well. The Studios were connected to the Marantz receiver via a pair of eight foot MusicLink/Wave speaker cables from Transparent.
Davone does tout their loudspeakers' wide dispersion thanks in no small part to their cabinet designs. While the Studio did image very nice from the onset, I found that if a little toe-in was necessary to solidify its center imaging. Your mileage may vary, but in my room (which is a completely open concept) slight toe-in towards the primary listening position was necessary. I also utilized a little bit of boundary reinforcement to add a touch of extra heft to the Studios' bottom end by not pulling them too far out from my front wall.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competion, and Conclusion...
I began my evaluation of the Studios with Peter Cincotti's second album, On the Moon (Concord Records), specifically the track "I Love Paris." Straight away, I was struck by the Studio's midrange; it was smooth whilst still retaining every texture and nuance usually reserved for spirited listening sessions. It was very nice indeed, though the very next thing that jumped out at me was just how relaxed it was.
Effortless is one thing, but subdued in the face of a driving track such as "I Love Paris" is not what I'm looking for in a speaker. Turning up the volume a bit remedied this issue, though admittedly I had to turn it up far more than I have other speakers in the past. With peaks tickling 95dB and the bulk of the track resting in the mid-to-upper 80 dB range, the Studios finally became dynamic and lifelike in their portrayal of scale and weight.
At lesser volumes the Studios acted more like nearfield monitors, whereby their soundstage presence was well defined and nuanced, but not exactly boundary-breaking in terms of venturing beyond the planes of the speakers themselves. Center imaging was good, and toe-in definitely helped to solidify the center image, but it really isn't until you feed the Studios some real juice that they come alive.
The kick drum had great speed and texture--I could hear the flexing of the skins from each strike of the mallet--but as for the impact that typically accompanies the sound, it wasn't really present. To be fair, the upper bass of the Studio's frequency range did have some punch, but for those who like their bowels shaken not stirred, you're either going to want to look elsewhere or mate the Studios to a capable subwoofer.
"Studio" is definitely the right name for these speakers, because in listening to them I felt as if I were in a studio listening to a recording from the master tape itself. That's intended as neither criticism nor praise--merely an observation. Are you the sort of listener who likes to be closest to the performance, as in do you prefer to be in the room with the performers? Or do you like the sound you hear from within a control room? There is nothing wrong with either, just that the Studio speakers--in my opinion--are clearly designed to appeal to the latter sort of listener.
To really put the Studios' soundstage prowess to the test, I opted for an old favorite, "Seville" from the Mission Impossible II Soundtrack (Paramount). With the volume just a hair under 11, the Studios didn't disappoint. Gone were the invisible boundaries to the left and right side of each speaker.
Gone was the restraint I heard in the lower registers. Gone was the relaxed demeanor of the midrange. In its place was a wide and vast but still well-defined spatial performance that was rife with impact and detail that, for the first time, possessed genuine, lifelike scale. The high frequencies were sublime, positively sharp without being edgy or fatiguing. It was truly epic.
But, while the soundstage extended well beyond the outer edges of the speakers themselves, it didn't extend back or forward much if at all. Once again, the Studios gave me a sort of middle of the house viewpoint on everything. Granted, it was a nice house with great acoustics, but I longed to be closer and the Studios just never really passed along the invite.
I decided to see where the Studio's breaking point was, so I cued up "Hella Good" from No Doubt's album Rock Steady (Interscope). The opening kick drum was admittedly a little on the lighter side, which is no fault of the Studio. But when the bass guitar starts banging away and the synth-like laser cuts through the scene, I was left wanting oh so much more.
Dynamically, the Studio just couldn't hang. I even brought out the big guns in the form of a separate Crown XLS DriveCore Series 2 amplifier to see if I couldn't coax more from the stylish two-way monitors--and nothing. They're just a little too refined. Dare I say, polite?
A bit frustrated, I sort of begrudgingly played "A Case of You" from Diana Krall's Live in Paris (Verve), and within the first few bars was totally and completely sucked in. I didn't like that I caved and played a track I knew the Studios would devour, but feast they did, and before I knew it I had finished the album. With the right source material, the Studios are astonishing. Krall's vocals were haunting and hung in space between the speakers just so. Each note of her solo piano and the subsequent press and release of the damper pedal was rendered faithfully and with such nuance that it would likely be hard to distinguish from the real thing from an adjacent room.
To say the Studio's midrange is a thing of beauty would be an understatement when listening to the absolute right source material. Even its high frequency performance was on par, though admittedly not the airiest or most extended at the extremes. But none of that audiophile nonsense mattered, for in that moment, with that song, the Studios managed to transport me--not to the venue or control room, but rather to the creamy emotional center of the song itself. Finally, I felt a connection to their sound, and once I discovered what it was they did so well and the genres they excelled with, I sort of kept them in their lane and enjoyed myself tremendously.
So, what we have here is, to be frank, a little more specialized than most. Like to rock out with your whatever out? The Studio isn't likely going to be for you. Need something for background music while entertaining? Get a Sonos. If you're one who likes to pour a glass of wine or two, though, sit in your best chair and take in the sound from well-recorded albums featuring vocalists, quartets, or jazz ensembles, then it would seem the Studio was tailor-made for you, my friend.
I think the Studio is in rarified air: a terrific blend of brains and beauty so to speak, but that doesn't mean it's perfect, even for those whose musical tastes align with its strenghts. I find no fault with the Studio's looks; in fact, I think they're among the most beautiful monitors I've ever seen, though I cannot say the same for their stands. I do think the Studio stands are somewhat required, but they're a little less refined compared to the Studio itself. Moreover, because of their single piece construction and strange top plate, affixing the stands to the Studio speakers themselves is tricky. Admittedly, once you've attached them you don't have to worry about it anymore, but still, it could be an easier process.
More importantly, the Studios aren't the easiest loudspeakers to drive, and while they do produce good sound with modest power, they really do not come alive until fed either healthy dose of power. At low-to-moderate volumes, the Studios just aren't that exciting or involving, in my opinion, whereas when you throttle them a bit and get their SPL levels in the mid to upper 80s and beyond, you're in for a decidedly different experience. But how often do we listen at studio-like levels? In other words, the Studio's require some measure of appointment listening.
Lastly, the Studio needs a subwoofer and a matching center if you wish to employ them in any sort of multi-channel setup, of which neither exists. Yes, Davone makes a center-like speaker in the form of the Ray loudspeaker, but it's not a dedicated center, nor is it sold individually (to my knowledge). As for a subwoofer, there is no sub anywhere in Davone's lineup of loudspeakers and I'm sorry, but you're not going to just pair the Studio, what with its modern good looks, with just any big black bass box.
Competition and Comparisons
There is no shortage of two-way monitors on the market today, especially higher-end models retailing for around the Studio's $3,250/pair asking price. In my experience, the Studio's compare well to Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2 monitors at around $2,500/pair, as well as Revel Performa3 M106 bookshelf speakers at $2,000/pair. While the Studios may look more like Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series products of old, their sound is up there with the that of the 705 S2s, which is to say they're very defined, texturally rich, and well mannered unless you feed their inner beast with lots of raw horsepower.
The same can be said for the Revels, though when under load I do find the Revels to be a little punchier and more dynamic overall compared to the Studio, and even the Bowers & Wilkins. There are obviously less expensive two-way monitors out there, but in an a (mostly) apples to apples comparison, these are the two speakers that I feel make for the most apt comparison.
At $3,250 per pair, the Davone Studio two-way monitor is one of the most beautiful speakers you will likely find available today, and for the right listener it may even be among the best sounding. I'm not going to mince words, though: I like the Studio but I don't love it. Or should I say I don't always love it. If my musical tastes rested solely in the realm of jazz vocalists such as Peter Cincotti or Diana Krall, then yes, the Studio may be near perfect for my purposes. However, because I sometimes like to rock out to Placebo or Audioslave, it's not my ideal all-around speaker.
Dynamically, the Studio is not the most explosive, nor is it the most forward, opting instead to keep you a few rows back of center stage rather than up close and personal in the pit, so to speak. And yet, for what the Studio does, it does it exceptionally well. Its midrange is infectious with the right source material, and its high-end manages to be crystalline without being the least bit harsh. Yes, the Studio would seriously benefit from pairing with a good sub, but in small- to medium-sized rooms you may actually be able to get away without one. Home theater enthusiasts, which I'm assuming most if not all of you are, may also be left a little in the lurch when it comes to the Studio. Still, there's no denying its visual appeal, and while I may pine for a little more oomph at times, I do appreciate its aesthetic and enjoy having the Studios in my living room, where 80 percent of the time they're all the speaker I'd ever require. Recommended, but definitely audition for yourself before purchasing.