Those still-amazing Dahlquist DQ-10's
Today I felt ambitious, and lugged my B&W 802F Specials (at 86lbs each) up a flight of stairs into my listening room. I've been using my beloved DQ-10's in this room since I moved into this house a year ago July, and have thoroughly enjoyed them. Still, the 802F Special is the home version of the 801F Special, which was, and still is, in use as a very popular monitor speaker for classical recordings (primarily done in Europe).
When I first bought the 802's, back in 1983, I preferred their sound to the DQ-10's, and by quite a lot too. I was using an Apt-Holman amp, with 125 watts per channel, which, in hindsight, was just too little for the DQ-10's, but sufficient for the 802's.
Over the years, I've moved from place to place, and until a few years ago, always preferred the 802's to the DQ-10's. Then, after having the woofers rebuilt by Regnar, and positioning the DQ-10's properly, along with using a high power (250 watts per channel), high current amp (the Adcom GFA-5800), I found myself preferring the 10's to the 802's, and by quite a considerable margin too.
In my newest home, my listening room is not especially large, and the Dahlquists are actually very much in the way. They're actually a bit further apart than they are from my "sweet spot" listening position, and I have to be careful not to bump into the left speaker whenver entering the room (someone already knocked it off the spikes it's resting on).
Never having listened to the 802's in this room, nor ever having heard anything played on the Marantz SA-8001 on them either, I decided to see how they sounded instead of the DQ-10's.
At first, I was quite pleased. They sounded very good, and they certainly look a whole helluva lot nicer than the DQ-10's in this room, since they don't take up anywhere near as much room. I played a number of discs (both CD's and SACD's) that I'm familiar with, and thought the 802's sounded pretty good, but wasn't sure I preferred them to the Dahlquists. Even my wife listened for a bit, and liked them.
Then, I played the "Sanctus" portion of Faure's "Requiem" on Telarc, with Robert Shaw conducting. While it sounded OK, as the chorus swelled, the sound became harsh and unpleasant. I also noticed a distinct lack of clarity in the delineation of individual voices, with more of a smearing of all the voices instead.
At that point, I disconnected the 802's, and re-installed the DQ-10's. This took a bit longer than it would seem, as I have to unplug my amp (the on/off switch hasn't worked for years) and allow the large capacitors to fully discharge so as not to either blow a fuse within the amp should the banana plugs touch, or do some damage to the speakers - or both.. Positioning the DQ-10's on their stands is a bit of a PIA too, as I have a thick, black cushion of weatherstripping along the raised edge of the stand's platform, that the rear of the speaker rests in. Then, I angle up the front of each with metal cones that are a real PIA to put in place! I didn't have to worry about proper placement, as the dent in the carpeting from the stands were was still very much evident, and I just placed the stands back in those same spots.
Then, I turned on the amp, cued up the "Sanctus" track of the Requiem and just sat back and marveled at how much better the DQ-10's sounded: much, much more distinct, with a far deeper and better articulated soundstage, and a lovely quality to both male and female voices the B&W's just don't have at all. And, it wasn't just the voices that sounde so much better: everything did, from the pipe organ to the full orchestra.
The 802's were very expensive speakers at $1,800 each in 1983, and I believe that they rose to $2,000 each before being discontinued and replaced by the "matrix" version. The Dahlquists, on the other hand, sold for $500 each until just before the company went under, at which point they were selling for $750 each - less than half the original price of the B&W's.
None of the DQ-10's drivers are anything special, but those in the 802's most definitely are: all have cast aluminum baskets, and very heavy magnets. The woofers are made of butyl rubber, and the rubber-surrounded midrange is made of a proprietary fiberglass weave. The midrange unit is also separately housed in a very substantial enclosure made of what B&W calls "fibrecrete," which is a combination of fiberglass and concrete. And the 802's crossover network (in the very bottom of the speaker) makes that on the DQ-10 look like child's play. But, it just doesn't sound as good.
My Dahlquists are 31 years old, and are by a substantial margin, the oldest components in my system. Yet they're still nothing less than marvelous, and I'll likely continue using them until I drop dead (unless I come into a fortune someday, and can afford a nice pair of Martin Logans).
I suspect most members here may have heard of DQ-10's, but haven't had the opportunity to actually hear a properly set up and amplified pair (along with a quality subwoofer, which they definitely need). If that's so, then those of you I've just described have no idea what you're missing.
DQ-10's often crop up on ebay and other websites, and can be had for chump change in many instances. So, if you've got a fairly large listening room, and a really powerful, high current amp, you can't go wrong with these babies. I've been bragging about mine for all these years, and many guests to my house (including Grammy-winning recording engineers) think they sound "fantastic." I don't know of any other speaker, or audio component that is still so respected after so many years, nor that hasn't been surpassed, other than by much, much more expensive models.
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