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Speakers

The Definitive Technology D9 speaker’s sweet sound tickles your ears

Definitive Technology’s new stand-mount D9 speaker floors the Audiophiliac with its seductive performance and iconic design.

The Definitive Technology Demand Series D9 speakers.

Definitive Technology

Sumptuous is a word I've never applied to another $799 per pair bookshelf speakers, but that's exactly what the Definitive Technology Demand Series D9 sounds like to me. The sound feels like a warm hug.

The D9's crisp lines and quality feel offer no immediate clues about the speaker's sweet demeanor, but closer inspection reveals a rather unusual feature, nearly the entire top surface of the speaker hosts a 5x9 inch passive bass radiator, This rectangular driver augments the sound from a five-and-a-quarter inch mid/bass woofer which itself sports an impressive looking phase plug. Completing the driver complement there's a 1-inch annealed aluminum dome tweeter which is offset to the left or right. The cabinet, finished with six coats of black gloss paint, measures 11.7x6.5x12 inches, the two front drivers are mounted to a thick, bead-blasted aluminum baffle, and the cloth grilles are magnetically attached. The D9's impedance is rated at 8 ohms.

The D9 is the middle model of the Demand Series, there's also the smaller D7 ($499/pair), and the larger D11 ($999/pair) speakers.

Passive radiators are hardly unique to Definitive Technology designs, GoldenEar Technology, Vandersteen, and the new Elac Adante speakers have this feature too.

Listening

The D9's warm glow immediately pulled me into jazz pianist Brad Mehldau and mandolinist Chris Thile's eponymous album. Thile's vocals sounded jazzily relaxed, and Mehldau's piano, especially his left hand's chording had very decent weight and power, that's not always a given with speakers of the D9's size.  

Next up, I loved the way Yo La Tengo's "Electr-O-Pura" dense mix filled the CNET listening room, but the D9s smothered the music's dynamics a bit, so I had to crank the volume to get the speakers to light up. Next, I popped in a pair of Pioneer Elite SPEBS73-LR bookshelf speakers ($498 each) and they were livelier and more see-through transparent. The D9s were sweeter and easier to listen to with harsh-sounding recordings like Spoon's "Hot Thoughts" album. The D9's fuller bass balance also makes "Hot Thoughts" go down easy, the SPEBS73-LR's low-end is leaner, but with better definition. It had better stereo imaging focus than the D9.

The D9's Laterally Offset Tweeter Assembly.

Definitive Technology

The SPEBS73-LR is a more "audiophile," higher-resolution speaker, and I love it for that, but it can be too revealing of recording flaws. The D9 is less picky about recording quality. The treble is slightly softer too, so the D9 is ideal for folks who don't like bright-sounding speakers. The D9s midrange is at its best with vocals, they had more body than what I was getting from the SPEBS73-LRs.

I like both speakers for very different reasons. The Definitive Technology Demand Series D9 was highly musical and effortless, but it was no match for the Pioneer Elite SPEBS73-LR's vivid detailing. Build quality of both is excellent, but if the speakers are going to be used in a home theater the SPEBS73-LR features a set of upward firing Dolby Atmos drivers to create height effects with Atmos encoded movies. The D9 lacks Atmos drivers, it's intended for use in stereo systems.

If only we had a speaker with the best of the D9 and the SPEBS73-LR's sounds, that speaker might make everybody happy. If I ever find that speaker I'll let you know!