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.