This is really a mini-review, since it stems from only a few hours of listening to a system whose components were all completely new to me. But having the opportunity to hear the new Lyngdorf TDAi 2200 digital integrated amp with Room Correction (what a mouthful!) was too good to pass up.
The system belongs to fellow Newas member Lou (Doc) Balch, who has recently stepped into the role that surely God had intended for him, as a high-end audio Guru/Dealer/advisor/consultant type.
On display at Doc's place, a McCormack Universal Disc player, featuring redbook CD, SACD and DVD-A, used primarily as a transport into the Lyngdorf integrated amp (TDAi 2200), feeding the Lyngdorf DP-1 dipole speaker system with corner loaded (rear wall placement in this case) stereo subwoofers (DW-1) powered by a Lyngdorf SDA2175 power amplifier. Also on hand, a pair of Eminent Technology LFT-8's and the bookshelf LFT-16's, with a variety of tweaks, room treatments and audio paraphernalia, as befits such an esteemed Guru.
So just what is a Lyngdorf TDAi 2200?. It's a powerful digital power amplifier, offering 200w into 8 ohms and 375w into 4. It's an integrated amplifier, offering volume control via the large front dial (with a neat flywheel affect) or the remote. Incidentally, Lyngdorf use a system whereby the power supply voltage is adjusted (up and down) to adjust volume, meaning you get full dynamic range even at low volume levels. It's a DAC. Yes, it has a high quality inbuilt DAC, meaning you need only attach a transport or hard drive on one end, and a pair of speakers on the other, and you have music. It has an optional analog input module for those wishing to add a TT, or perhaps a SACD player to their system. It has a built-in two way electronic crossover - wow! the applications/implications of that alone are mind-boggling. Last but not least, it has the optional RoomPerfect module, which we'll get to in a minute. It's an ergonomically and aesthetically pleasing unit, a real delight to look at and operate. Lyngdorf, a break-away company from Tact Audio, have taken a more sensible approach to room correction in my opinion, by making the process mostly automated. Unlike the Tact approach, the only manual intervention involves moving the supplied microphone and stand around the room, and confirming each step of the process via a button on the TDAi 2200 front panel. Where Tact Audio give the controls to the operator and hope that the driver won't be overwhelmed by the multitude of options, or put off by the steep learning curve, Lyngdorf, rather sensibly, say "hey, we're the experts, we've done the research, we know what works, just press the button, sit back and enjoy the ride".
Having owned a Tact RCS2.0 some time ago, I can confirm that the endless tweaking of target curves and such like, quickly became irksome. The most frustrating part of the Tact approach is always having that feeling that the sound might be better if another adjustment of the curve were made. There's nothing that interferes more with listening to music than wondering if your system is setup right.
So with the Lyngdorf, the basic modus operandi is to plug-in the mic, place it initially at the listening seat, termed the "focus position" and notify the TDAi via a quick prod on the front panel or remote. Then, after listening for a few moments to what reminded me of the intro to "Time", the Pink Floyd track (just prior to the bells), another quick prod of the controls, a move of the mic into a randomly selected position, another prod and back to Pink Floyd. This step was repeated on average 5 or 6 times. Each time the mic is moved and the test-tones played, the Lyngdorf unit is learning a little more about the acoustic "shape" of your room. It notifies the user as to the extent of its learning by providing a percentage value of knowledge gained. It tells you that it has accumulated 70% room knowledge for example, then after the next position sampling it might say 85% or whatever. When a number in excess of 90% is reached, usually taking no more than ten minutes, the measurements are complete. Though one can continue for another few steps to try and wring out the last couple percent or so, a higher percentage simply meaning that the Lyngdorf has a better picture of your room acoustic and can present back a sound that is more optimally freed from room-induced acoustic anomalies. Kinda like the old days of adjusting lens focus on your SLR camera.
Once the final settings are confirmed, you are ready to play music. There's a nice bonus in store for you at this stage. Given that Lyngdorf has "detailed papers" on your room acoustic, it can either optimize playback for sweetspot listening, creating a focused sound optimized for one listening position, or it can produce a sound that provides a good portion of the optimized/focus position at any point in the room (they call it "Global" listening mode, I'd call it "party mode" perhaps). Also, during the room-learning process, the user can define other seating positions as focus positions, up to seven additional "sweet spots" can be stored and recalled quickly via a single push on the remote. So if my computer bench is in the corner of the room, I can simply select the appropriate focus position and go about my business on the Mac, while listening to my system as if I were optimally seated in the conventional sweet spot - very clever indeed.
Lyngdorf TDAi 2200
Of course, the TDAi, once setup as described above, provides a few optional playback shapes or "voicing curves", to satisfy a variety of presentation preferences. If you have a CD that's a little brittle sounding, (I have 900 of them) then select the "relaxed" mode. Need a boost in the midrange.....you get the picture. In fact there are 6 voicing curves in addition to the Normal setting, they are: Music 1, Music 2, Relaxed, Open, Open Air, and Soft. My host suggested there might be one shape missing from the presets - a slight boost in the top end to add a little more sparkle to some recordings. I personally didn't feel a need for this, but there might be situations that do require the treble boost in other systems.
I don't want to get too involved in what each of the different settings produced in terms of their adjustment of specific parts of the frequency range, suffice to say that for me, all eventualities were more than adequately catered for. Furthermore, Lyngdorf are continually developing their portfolio of installations, going out into the field and reviewing installations, gathering data and squirting it back into their algorithms. As new data becomes available, software is modified and can be easily downloaded by the end-user from any PC with an Internet connection. Using the supplied datalink cable, firmware updates are quick and easy. You have no excuses not to stay on top of updates from the factory.
I like the sound of room correction, I like it a lot. The stage takes on a shape that seems to be not only freed from the speaker, but freed from the boundaries of the room. More so in the front to back sense than in the left to right, but that's more down to the source material I'm sure. Using the Lyngdorf DP-1 speaker system, stage placement is recessed, mostly developing from the front plane of the speaker then pushing back. That's the style of presentation that I like, particularly given the relatively nearfield arrangement that my host has. When switching speakers to the Eminent Technology LFT-8b, the front of the stage stepped forward into the room ever so slightly. This tells me that the TDAi with its RoomPerfect function, isn't dictating the presentation over that which is provided inherently by the design of the speaker, it is allowing the speaker to dictate stage presentation, which seems right to me.
Toggling between no room correction and one of the 5 different shapes, the sound always appeared at its most focused with RC switched in. By focused I simply refer to a rendering of performers on the stage with clear space around each performer, excellent delineation and a great sense of size/scale and spatial relationships between all the elements on the stage. There wasn't any apparent trade-off between having this focused stage, with lets say for example, tonality, which was first rate, or transparency, also excellent. And that all-conquering term "musicality" was there in spades with bells on it. So now maybe you can have your cake and eat it, or whichever way around you prefer that term.
My only hesitancy through the early part of the listening session was with a rather hard, almost beamy presentation in the upper frequency. With only a 100 or so hours on the Lyngdorf DP-1's, I'm convinced that this was merely a break-in issue with the Scanspeak tweeters - I've used those drivers in my QLN Signature speakers and know about their lengthy break-in requirements first hand.
Another remarkable function of the Lyngdorf amplifier is its ability to act as the control center for a satellite sub system, which is indeed the preferred approach to sound reproduction by team Lyngdorf. Given that the optimum position for the source of bass frequency reproduction, is generally not the optimum position for the source of reproduction of the remainder of the frequency range, it makes sense to split the two up. Placing the subs against a room boundary, even in the room corners, adds boundary re-enforcement to the equation, essentially requiring less effort from the bass amp. But it is well known that placing a subwoofer near a wall will cause both an increase in bass level and unevenness in the response due to reflection from the wall, with the effects of corner placement being even more complex than single-wall placement. The wall reflection causes a partial cancellation in certain frequencies, the severity of which, and the actual frequency range affected, is determined by the distance from the subwoofer to the wall. With a subwoofer positioned away from room boundaries, the cancellation will occur at a lower frequency and be less severe, whereas if the sub is closer to the wall the effect occurs at a higher frequency range and is more severe. Given that all of the parameters are measurable, it's possible to compensate for any negative affects via software, which is exactly what the Lyngdorf unit does. Not only does it compensate for the negative affects of boundary placement, but it time-aligns the subs with respect to the satellite speakers, ensuring the sound waves from each arrive at the listening position at the same time.
Overall, one can't help but marvel at the technology on display with the Lyngdorf TDAi 2200. But it's the implementation of the technology that makes the Lyngdorf so unique and effective - it's easy to use, and it works great. Now that's a refreshing change for the good.
The DP-1 loudspeaker system is also a treat to behold. Aesthetically, they blend into the listening environment like few other speakers. I mean, what's not to love about these -
A two-way design but dependant on the BW-1 subs for frequencies below 300 hz, the main speakers have no cabinet, just a stylish front baffle on which the high quality drivers are mounted. They provide an extremely open sound without the usual boxy colorations that come with most conventional speaker designs. The DW-1 bass system provides for seamlessly integrated bass that really does appear to be a part of the main speaker, you'd never guess that the source of bass is some distance away from the main speakers.
So can it really be all good news? - well, this level of performance doesn't come cheap. The DP-1 and DW-1 combo retail for $8,000 with $1800 for the SDA-2175 to drive the subs. The TDAi 2200 with Room Perfect module and analog input module retails for $6,300. Add a quality transport like Lyngdorf's own CD-1 at $2500 (actually a CD player, not just a transport, with upsampling to 96Khz/24 bit or 192k/24 bit) and you have a world class system for $18,000 or so (don't forget cables, or you'll look kinda silly).
Compared with other high-end single-source solutions from companies like Linn, Meridian and MBL, the Lyngdorf system starts to look like a bargain, particularly when you consider the benefits of its Room Perfect technology and how that can save you thousands of dollars on room treatments.
Furthermore, it wouldn't be unusual to find a system comprising CD transport, digital interface, DAC, preamp, power amp, speakers and all the cabling necessary to hook it together - or in some extreme cases, add an external crossover, various power conditioners, monoblock amps, bass equalizer, bass crossover and bass amps (I've just described my own system) and you end up with a room full of gear, looking like the close-out rack at Best Buy. Wouldn't it make sense to get rid of all that "stuff" and replace it with what you see in the picture above? Well maybe, I'm still thinking seriously about it.