Dynaudio is that rare combination of industry titan and innovator. Typically, brands get large, then they get hide-bound by their own conventions, and smaller, more agile companies come along and develop new concepts for the next generation. It happens in almost every circle of commerce and business. That Dynaudio has the cojones to not rest on its laurels shows a brand prepared to move with the times and to make the market move to its own beat. That deserves credit even before we slit the box on the new Xeo 20 wireless digital active loudspeaker.
Xeo 20 – replacing 2014’s Xeo 4 – is a two-way stand-mount loudspeaker, featuring a pair of 65W digital amplifier modules driving each unit independently. It uses a DSP-derived crossover network, which means in theory a new voicing could be downloaded, but in practice, it means the crossover sticks close to the drive units respective parameters. It also allows improved off-axis performance (always something of a Dynaudio strong suit anyway) so there is less of a need for a tight between-the-speakers sweet spot. The Xeo 20’s voicing is broadly similar to that of the company’s LYD 5 active nearfield monitor from the pro world – although these models are considerably cheaper than the Xeo 20, they command an excellent reputation with the studio cognoscenti, so having the Xeo 20 rub tonal shoulders with the LYD 5 is a really good idea. Where the similarities with LYD 5 ends are the degree of interface that the Xeo 20 offers, and it’s here that the Dynaudio design shows some serious forward-thinking on the part of the Great Danes.
The key here is flexibility. If you have an existing digital device and just want an active speaker system to take in its digital output, the Xeo 20 can accommodate that (to 24 bit, 192kHz precision) through its Toslink optical cable. If you have a full analogue preamp, you could do the same with the pair of RCA connections, or a 3.5mm minijack. Or you can extend this still further with the optional Dynaudio Connect box. Then you can always go wireless, with aptX Bluetooth. It doesn’t speak Apple AirPlay, DLNA (unless through the Connect box), or Wi-Fi (in part because entering a password into a loudspeaker – even one as smart as the Xeo 20 – is the stuff of deity-level hacking).
The cabinet itself is exceptionally well made and feels solid. It has Dynaudio’s distinctive slot-shaped port running along the top of the rear baffle of the loudspeaker. This port allows a reasonably high degree of room placement options – not quite to the ‘room agnostic’ levels of the KEF LS50W, but you don’t need to be too worried about how close the loudspeaker gets to the rear or side walls. Which brings us neatly to the rear panel of the master loudspeaker. It’s amazing just how comprehensively specified a loudspeaker can be with just three switches, the first of which adjusts the sound according to placement (‘Neutral’, or free space, ‘Wall’, and ‘Corner’). The second is an insanely useful button that rarely figures on this kind of speaker: placement - you define whether the master speaker is the left or right channel. Most other systems force you to use one channel as the master, irrespective of whether that works in your setting. That little switch helps a lot. There are also three zones – Red, Blue, and Green – if you want to use multiple Xeos in different rooms. A remote handset also gives you control over the Xeo 20 ( a series of buttons on the top panel are fitted to the Xeo 10, but no other model in the line). Finally, a pair of tiny LEDs describes the status, connection, volume, firmware updates, mute, some troubleshooting, and more. In fact, this is one of those products where the description of its installation process takes longer than the installation. In use, this was quick and simple to set up.