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Lyngdorf Music System Review

CD Player - TDAI 2200 ADC digital integrated amplifier - SDA 2175 stereo amplifier - DP -1 dipole main speaker - BW -1 BassDirect subwoofer: Reviewed

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Lyngdorf TDAI 2200There has been very little in the past few years at CES or in the two-channel audio industry as a whole that would qualify as groundbreaking, despite what the marketing people and the designers would have you think. Most of what we see year in and year out is a rehashing of the same old concepts with a different coat of paint. Of course that is just one man’s opinion and we all know what they say about opinions. That being said I went to this year’s CES with low expectations and not much enthusiasm as I was certain I would see the same tired and worn ideas, concepts and toys simply dressed up in new garb. For the most part the show did not disappoint. It was so much the same thing that I did not even report on it as that would have been tantamount to pulling reviews from the past few years and just reprinting them. Not much sense in that. Perhaps the one shining spot this year was the Lyngdorf RoomPerfect integrated amplifier and proprietary processor with room correction filters and software. Lyngdorf claims that this system will read a room, learn the room and its anomalies and most importantly it will correct for them! This integrated amplifier anchors the system that is the subject of these pages.

I jumped at the chance of reviewing the system as a whole including integrated amp, subwoofer amp, CD player and speakers, as it is very rare to find and be able to review a totally integrated system where all components are from the same manufacture. Granted Macintosh, MBL and others produce these types of systems but the cost can be excruciating. That is not to say that $21.5K for an entire system is not excruciatingly painful for the masses in these days. It is just that you get a great deal for your money. The only thing missing in this system were dedicated Lyngdorf cables. Which, by the way, made it a bit interesting when I had to scrounge up an extra set of speaker cables that were not doing duty elsewhere. The system requires two full pair of speaker cables. My suggestion to Lyngdorf is if you are going to do an integrated system go all the way and include matched cable sets with the overall system.

Before I jump into the technical bits and pieces let me just tell you what is included in this package. You get the Lyngdorf TDAI 2200 RoomPerfect Integrated amplifier which houses the filters and room corrections software. You also get the SDA 2175 power amplifier for the bass speakers, the CD CD player, plus two DP1 dipole main speakers, two BW 1 BassDirect speakers. But wait there is more! You also get a very nice microphone and stand for making room measurement readings. All combined, this equals the Lyngdorf RoomPerfect™ system.

I was quite excited when Fed Ex arrived and delivered seven boxes to my door step. Upon opening the boxes I was pleased to see a great deal of care and double boxing of the pieces. Fairly standard fare at this price but appreciated none the less. I noticed that the main speakers were packaged together and upon opening that box, I found the two DP 1s encased in their own crushed velvet bags as well as the same treatment for the BW woofers! Nice touch. Once everything was out of the box and accounted for I began my usual inspection to see that all is ok. This is also my time to check fit and finish. Everything in this system is solidly built and careful attention is given to the aesthetics of each individual piece. The system looks striking in the silver finish that I received but the units are also available in black. All four speakers are finished in a luscious piano black. The finish was flawless and reminded me of a custom car paint job deep enough that you could shave in the reflection. I can tell you from a personal perspective that the DP 1 speakers came out of the box easier than they went back in and I had to do that twice.

TDAI 2200/SDA 2175/CD 1/DP 1/BW 1

Here comes the technical bits that some people love and others read right past. First up – the TDAI 2200 amplifier. The TDA is the moniker for True Digital Amplifier. This solid-state integrated amplifier also houses the RoomPerfect software and filters. The unit measures 18X17X4inches (rounded numbers). It is a nice size and will fit just about any décor without taking up a great deal of space. At a weight of 32lbs it is not a real heavy weight but it is much stouter than many other integrated amps out there. Rated at 200 watts preside at 8 Ohms and 375 per side at 4 Ohms it has plenty of push to power any speaker load you care to present it. Total harmonic distortion at 8 Ohms is 0.015% with channel separation is 90 db. This is the amp that also has a receptacle for the mike. It is easy and straight forward to set up and the amp section has inputs for both audio and digital and balanced cables. There is some extreme flexibility in this integrated. The amplifier is fully balanced from input to output if driven with a balanced source, and if not driven with a balanced source, the signal is immediately transformed to a balanced signal. This was a feature I found very interesting.

To ensure that the system provides low distortion, it utilizes Burr-Brown op-amps in the input stage and polypropylene capacitors in the output reconstruction filter. The power supply is designed with Holmgren toroidal transformers. The same transformers are used in all three components. As an interesting feature, instead of using a normal attenuator to control volume, Lyngdorf Audio’s True Digital Amplifiers can be thought of as D to A converters powerful enough to drive speakers. Unlike conventional Class D amps which use Pulse Width Modulation (PWM), True Digital amps convert the PCM signal directly to the PWM signal producing a number of significant advantages. One such advantage is that the power supply actually works as the volume control over almost its entire range (and certainly the range where it matters). Conventional Class D amps sacrifice bits to lower the volume, throwing out the detail and dynamic range that are hallmarks of Lyngdorf’s fully digital amps. The default setting is 55 dB and you set a max through the setup and measuring procedures. I tried a cap of 80 dB and that seemed to work very well. There is a great deal of technology built into this amp. What this amplifier and its room correction software does is to include measurements way beyond the listening position but goes so much further by measuring the entire room and the signal that is coming from the speakers simultaneously. The entire process can be accomplished in less than a half an hour. This makes it definitely superior to the standard room processors in my opinion.

The second amplification component in this system is the SDA 2175 power amplifier. The SDA stands for Semi Digital Amplifier which means that the amp, in Lyngdorf terms, is a digital amp being driven by analog input sources. This is the amp that drives the two BassDirect speakers. As with the 2200 this is a fully balanced amp when driven by balanced signals and converts them if they are analog. This allows for both the 2175 and the 2200 to work congruently and fluidly. Dimensions are similar to the 2175 and I placed it above the 2200. In summary, this is a duplicate of the 2175 without the pre-amp section and the RoomPerfect software.

The digital source in this system is the CD 1. A very lovely piece that is simple and straightforward. The CD player is built in the same fashion that Lyngdorf builds there other components. It sports a “thick aluminum chassis frame with a heavy machined front panel and vibration damped lid to give it a tank-like construction. “ As with all the Lyngdorf amplifiers, the power supply is designed with Holmgren toroidal transformers. A nice touch for the player.It also uses an integratedD/A converter that is built around the Wolfson WM8740 processor. The unit is built with what Lyngdorf says is“the best sample rate converter on the market today for attenuating jitter to a very low level on the output and we enhance the audio quality by up-sampling to 24 bits at a higher rate.” Its digital sampling rate is selectable up to 192/24. In use, the deck presented itself well being both easy to use and very quiet. It has a very nice and legible display in an “easy on the eyes” greenish blue lighting. In this particular system the CD 1 is used as a transport only, with its DAC powered off.

Although the review is of the system as a whole I did pull the deck from the system and put it in my reference system where it showed very well against the Cary unit that has been my digital source for four years now. I do not think the build quality is quite up to the Cary standard but it is very close. As a CD player in its own right the CD 1 settled right into my system and delivered some very clean and straightforward digital music. I found nothing outstanding either way. It seemed to simply disappear into the system, which is exactly what it should do.

All of this drives the DP 1 speakers and the BW 1 woofers. The DP 1 speakers are a dipole design with an open rear and virtually no cabinet. The drivers are mounted on a stylish front baffle with a thickness that varies from 30mm to 50mm in depth with a beautiful piano black finish, stated before. They connect to very solid cast bases and this gives the overall package a good deal of heft and weight. Generally I am not a fan of black speakers, preferring the warmth of wood finishes, but through the design and the finish these are simply a luxurious piece of furniture and blend in well with any décor. Paula gave them the thumbs up WAF. The main speakers are fitted with a SEAS magnesium woofer, and according to Lyngdorf the copper ring held in the magnet gap by the pole piece significantly reduces the distortion and greatly improves the impulse response. The Revelator tweeter is sourced from Scan Speak. The original was mounted in a rather large face plate that did not work in the existing design parameters so Lyngdorf specified a smaller face plate. They coat the 25mm dome several times which they feel gives the driver the “right level of dynamic linearity and resonance damping.” Seems they got it right as the driver delivers a wonderfully smooth sound. In essence, the driver lives up to their claim of “smooth, linear, dynamic and amazingly transparent sound.” Both drivers are linked by low loss crossover network. The significant specs are as follows: 1 inch dome tweeter, 6.5 inch woofer, frequency range is stated at 300-22k Hz, crossover is at 220Hz, and the sensitivity is 89dB. The dimensions are 42.1 inches high by 11.1 inches wide and 14.6 inches deep at the foot. The feet appear to be cast iron and are very stout! Each speaker weighs around 46 pounds and is substantial for an open baffle design.

Finally we have the BW 1 woofers. The woofers come in two separate but matching cabinets. They are finished in the same piano black as the main speakers and use a grille cloth that attaches simply by hanging on to a small lip at the top of the drivers. Lyngdorf is very adamant that these woofers are not sub woofers but rather Bass Direct Speakers. The difference lies in that view point that subwoofers generally reproduce bass below roughly 120Hz. The BW 1s typically are crossed at 200Hz and can even cross as high as 300Hz. In other words, do not call them subwoofers. The BW-1 drivers are 10 inches in size and feature what Lyngdorf refers to as a massive motor that comprises an 86oz magnet and a two-inch voice coil. The cone, dust-cap and the basket are all made from aluminum. These are some rigid drivers. The cabinets are meant to be placed directly against the back wall.The specs for these are: 10-inch woofer, frequency range is 25 – 800Hz and 90dB sensitivity at 4 ohms. They measure 16.7 inches in height, 20.1 inches in width and 7.1 inches in depth. They are compact and easy to place with a weight of 36lbs each.

I wired everything with Kimber Kable Monocle XL speaker cables and KimberKable Hero interconnects. Due to the size and nature of the entire system I did not try other components with the system except for additional speakers and an 80gig iPod.

The Lyngdorf system in action!

Once you set up all the components and place the speakers, which ,incidentally, can be placed further towards the front wall than you might normally place a speaker, thereby taking up less floor space, you must then do room measurements. This is accomplished with the aid of the aforementioned microphone. By following the well written and clear instructions you will perform a series of room tests in various locations. This is so the system can “learn the room.” By doing between 4 and 7 individual measurements the system will effectively learn a percentage of the room and its anomalies. I tried it with only four and seven measurements in the two rooms that I auditioned the system. The four measurements resulted in a 93% learning rate and 97% respectively. This is a good time to explain that I was fortunate enough to be moving from one house to another during the time I had the system. I got to go through the process twice and I am glad I did. The first house had an audio room that was tuned over the course of 12 years to minimize and get rid of the room anomalies through various panels, dampers and other gizmos. The room measured 13X15 with a peaked ceiling that rose from 8 feet to 12 feet in the middle so there were some initial problems with nodes, etc. The second room measured 13X32 with half of the room having a ceiling of 20 feet in height. What better test of a system claiming to account for and eliminate room anomalies?

In both rooms I utilized the same tracks and performed the same measurements to see if the outcomes were close or the same. I was quite surprised at the outcome.

In the first room the system stated that it had a 97% learning ratio of the room after 7 placement measurements and it applied a 9% correction. I thought that spoke well of the job I did in trying to reduce and eliminate problems. During this session I originally had the main speakers 54 inches away from the wall, 8 feet apart and 9 feet to the listening position. Upon first round I utilized the track “If I Could Sing Your Blues” from Sarah K’s Play On Words (Chesky JD105). This track opens with a very distinctive trumpet that should emanate from the right rear of the soundstage. If the room is well set up the trumpet should sound as if it is coming from the deepest part of the right corner or beyond. While this did not produce anything better than my dedicated room it did match the depth and clarity of position that my reference system produces. It was holographic and very deep in soundstage. You got the sense of Sarah being a good ten feet in front of the trumpet and in close proximity to your position in the room. It was much like being in a small club setting. The delivery, in a word, was precise. Almost surgically clean with no smearing of the images and they were presented with incredible clarity. Clarity absent any harsh edge or grain, by the way.

Lyngdorf RoomPerfect™ module in TDAI 2200

It was then suggested that I try the system with speakers much closer to the wall. I moved the mains back to a position of 29 inches from the front baffle to the wall. I re-measured the room and expected the depth to completely disappear. Lo and behold it did not. The depth of soundstage remained despite lopping almost 30 inches of depth in placement. I continued to listen to other recordings. One in particular that I always like to use is Keb Mo’s “The Long Way Home”, from Just Like You (OKeh/Epic 67316). It is a very well sorted out piece with great guitar and vocals against a somewhat enhanced bass. This track always shows how well a speaker can reproduce the depth and musicality of the bass lines. What I noticed and what I did not expect was what I might call a slightly restrained bass. Now I need to clarify that this is not to say that bass was absent or that it was not musical. Quite the opposite, but it seemed to lack the depth and impact that I am accustomed to hearing. The impact of kick drums is something that you feel as much as hear, at least to my senses. What seemed to be missing was the feel. I heard very musical bass and there was never any feeling that the information was not being delivered. Perhaps I have never heard proper bass and this is what happens when all the room anomalies are adjusted out of the room. That 9% of my room that was corrected by the Lyngdorf may be that 9% that I perceive as feeling as well as hearing. Sans that one issue the entire experience of the system in general was quite good. (According to Steve Colburn, Technical contact for Lyngdorf – “the speaker system performs optimally when the crossover between the main speakers and boundary woofers is configured with a PC using the Speaker Configuration Tool software from the BW 1’s Downloads webpage rather than the front panel menu.” – This may remedy the slightly restrained bass.)

As I mentioned the tweeter was designed to deliver clear and concise top-end and that it does in spades. I believe that due to the dipole design the energy is somewhat dissipated through the back of the baffle allowing the top-end registry to come through without any harshness what so ever. It was minus the opaque and bland sonic signature of a number of its rivals.

I have been listening to a good deal of older jazz of late and in my old room I was able to run my turntable through the Lyngdorf system for a brief jaunt. This is where I really noticed the lack of grain and glare. On a number of Chet Baker and Art Pepper tunes from vinyl recordings you get the high notes with silky smoothness that you expect out of the finest midrange reproduction. If there is a creamy high frequency this was it. Top-end was open, crystal clear and sparkling without any hint of being “digital” but rather natural. The Lyngdorf also exhibited a sweeter top-end with just a bit more midrange warmth than I normally hear in digital amplifiers. It was very airy and the voices just seemed to float in 3D. It is hard to explain the phenomenon in any other way. I’d like to think of it as a disembodied spirit singing. You can feel it all around you but you just can’t see who is doing the singing!

The Lyngdorf system was adept at preserving the music’s sense of flow as well as scale. It sounded big when the music demanded it as in works such as Holst’s Planets (Gramophone 445-860-2), smooth and velvety on Jacintha’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams and delightfully intimate on Nick Drake’s Bryter Latyr (Japanese pressing Universal Music UIJ4-9031). The Lyngdorf also nailed the in-your-face swagger of Jet’s Get Born LP (Elektra/Rhino 78069) as well as the ethereal beauty of Sarah McLaughlin’s Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (Arista 18725-2). Throughout all of this I noticed that the amps were startlingly quiet. Perhaps as a tube geek I have grown to account for a bit of tube noise and this undoubtedly highlighted the total absence of noise from the system. Just dead quiet in that eerie and noticeable way. I also noticed a continuing lack of electronic glare and haze during the playback no matter what the source was. The system offered a good deal of transparency which always allowed the finer, inner details of the music to come forward. The system was overall engaging, crystal clear in delivery and dynamic but never harsh and offensive.

Lyngdorf has a wonderfully informative website and if you visit the site you will see that I plagiarized some of their material. And no I am not ashamed one bit. They put it out there and I just directed into this review. In all seriousness the site is really very well put together with more information than I could reasonably include in this review. Please refer to the link provided for more information on specifically howRoomPerfectworks. I have deliberately not gone into much of the testing details as Ed Momkus has covered most of that with his review and discussion of the Room Perfect RP 1 processor unit which is the heart and soul of this system. Read Ed’s in depth discussion to determine what it can do for your system as a stand- alone add on.

At the end of it all lays the question of whether a system costing $21.5K is worth it to you as an audiophile. The current state of the dollar is not doing pricing of European goods any favors here in the States to be sure. When you consider the cost of high quality and effective room treatments and the reduced need for any of it, then the Lyngdorf value certainly does increase. Readers will have to determine the relative value for their own needs. If you are leaning towards a high-end “all one manufacture” system that integrates with most any room, looks the part and delivers music as good as any of its direct competitors, then you may want to take a good long listen to this system. Fit and finish is as good as it gets in the samples that I had. Aside from the bass being a bit thin to my taste, the overall delivery was very good. I could have easily lived with this system for a good long time. For me, the consummate tube guy, to say that about a fully digital system is saying a lot.

Manufacturer’s Comment:

There has been one significant change to RoomPerfect products since the review was written. RoomPerfect products have had what Lyngdorf calls “Voicings”, which are EQ curves independent of whether RoomPerfect is being used. Six Voicings are possible and are available from either the front panel cursor buttons or from the remote control. The original voicings had limited applications, but Lyngdorf has broadened the number of Voices possible to select the six from. They are now appropriate to be used to compensate for specific situations E.G. Party, but more interesting to me is their ability to compensate for less than perfect recordings – as most are. Since these are done in the digital domain, there is little, if any, downside to using these Voicings as long as they are used appropriately. Below is Lyngdorf’s description of their new downloadable Voicing Tool. You can find out more if you wish at the website.

New tool for personalizing your RoomPerfect™ product

We are proud to announce the launch of the new Lyngdorf Voicing Tool – a nice new tool to all our RoomPerfect™ customers.
The Lyngdorf Voicing Tool facilitates fine tuning the sound of your Lyngdorf RoomPerfect™ product to match your music and/or your personal preferences when using the product in specific contexts. This might be to compensate for special recordings, for playing ‘loud and impressive’ during a party or for listening to an action movie. The Voicing Tool allows you to upload your six preferred voicings (equalization settings) from the Voicing File library enclosed with the program.

Whether you choose to upload one or six new voicings is entirely up to you. You can choose just one new or exchange all of them.

All the best,
Steve Colburn

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