Ah, monitors... I’ve gone through more than my fair share of them over the years in my pursuit to find ones that I feel comfortable working on for long days, and that also translate well so I don’t feel like I’m being lied to or fooled into a sense that I’m hearing something other than what is actually happening. My first “real” set of monitors, back in the mid-’90s, was a pair of passive Dynaudio BM5 speakers. I used them for a number of years before I began my relentless quest for the “perfect” monitor — a speaker ever more truthful, revealing, and enjoyable to work on, than whatever model I was using at the time. What has happened while on this particular search is that Dynaudio monitors have become my baseline against which I judge all others, and the monitors that I would come back to when I was too frustrated by another choice.
This made my first impression when putting the new Dynaudio LYD 48 monitors on my speakers stands something along the line of “I’m back home!” They sound like the Dynaudios that I know and love, but there is also something much greater to them.
Some background about this particular model — it’s the latest in Dynaudio’s reimagined/re-engineered professional LYD line that they introduced last year with the LYD 5, LYD 7 [Tape Op #117], and LYD 8. This new LYD 48 is the first and only 3-way in the family. It’s equipped with an 8’’ woofer (which is ported in the back through a rectangular slot along one short side of the cabinet’s rear), a 4’’ midrange driver, and Dynaudio’s well-loved 28 mm soft-dome tweeter. The tweeter is above the midrange, while the woofer is to the side of them. This allows for horizontal placement with the woofer either on the inside or outside, depending on room layout (and speaker-boundary) preferences. Meanwhile, the tweeter and midrange stay vertically aligned to preserve their phase relationship as you move left or right in front of the speaker.
Most of the marketing images of the LYD line show the speakers with a front baffle in a striking white color that contrasts with the black of the rest of the cabinet — this makes the speakers immediately obvious when viewed in a control room. I was sent a LYD 48 pair in the optional and newer all-black scheme, which gives the speakers a very ominous, stealth-like appearance.
Each driver in the LYD 48 is powered by its own onboard Class D amplifier — 80 watts for the woofer, 50 watts each for the midrange and tweeter. The analog-only input (balanced XLR or unbalanced RCA) is internally converted to a 24-bit, 96 kHz digital signal for the integrated DSP. The amps and electronics are tonally neutral and extremely quiet; I had to put my ear next to the tweeter to make sure the amps were on. A switch on the back allows the LYD 48 to go into low-power standby after a short period of time of no signal. I found that a healthy amount of signal level from my monitor controller was required for the speaker to turn back on.
There are DSP-implemented controls on the back panel to adjust Bass Extension, Sound Balance, and Position. Bass Extension has −10 Hz, 0, and +10 Hz settings. The −10 Hz setting allows the LYD 48 to extend its bass response down to its specified 32 Hz, at the expense of overall volume, due to lower frequencies requiring the most power to reproduce. The manual suggests that most professionals mix at 70–85 dB SPL, a range suitable for the −10 Hz setting; and for each 5 dB increase in SPL, the next higher setting should be used. In my testing, I left it at 0 Hz. Sound Balance is a tilt EQ; one direction gives +1.5 dB at 20 Hz and −1.5 dB at 20 kHz; the other direction is the inverse. I kept this switch in the middle (flat) position after listening to both options, as my room is quite well controlled with a combination of low and low-mid absorption, as well as diffusion. The final Position switch is for a gentle LF shelf to offset the bass buildup that arises when the speaker is placed close to a wall or corner. The manual suggests using the Free setting for distances of 50 cm or farther, and Wall for nearer. I positioned the LYD 48s with their back corners about 25 cm from the wall behind them, so having the Wall setting to temper some of the boundary effect was welcome. This put the LYD 48s approximately 1.5 m from my sitting position.
Dynaudio recommended that I “burn in” the LYD 48s for 24 hours, using either music or pink/white noise. I played Comaduster’s Hollow Worlds on repeat, as it’s a loud electronic-music album that’s also quite dynamic, and it covers the full frequency spectrum throughout its hour-plus playing time. (I’m still skeptical about the efficacy of speaker burn-in, but if the manufacturer suggests it, I’m game to give it a go.)
Finally playing music through the LYD 48s for some proper listening, I ran through some of my usual test playlists. John Vanderslice’s Pixel Revolt is always a good torture test for low-end extension, as there’s plenty of tasty Moog bass that lesser systems have difficulty reproducing. I found that the LYD 48s sounded smooth and deep, whether I was hitting them with some really well-produced rock/metal, Chris Thile and Yo-Yo Ma’s The Goat Rodeo Sessions, or Jóhann Jóhannsson’s soundtrack to Arrival. Bass-wise, the speakers were definitely getting down to “brown-note” territory. (I’m nothing if not classy.)
But enough of the pleasure-listening, it was time to actually mix on them and see how things translated. I mixed an unreleased song from The Lonely Forest that I recorded at Studio Litho here in Seattle a few years ago, just before the band broke up; and it was quite effortless to pull a basic mix together on the LYD 48s quickly, while zeroing in on the problem frequencies that come from dense layers of guitars and bass over a thick vocal arrangement. Soloing the drum tracks, I was transported back to the day we spent tracking and could easily hear the large room at Litho that I know so well. The kick spoke with punch and authority, and I was able to make it and the bass guitar work together as a single unit driving the lows, while still maintaining definition for each part. The imaging of the LYD 48s was particularly impressive and helpful for positioning the multiple guitar parts into a perfect panorama, so that each guitar performance had a place to inhabit, but each supported the whole of the arrangement. Vocals were my favorite thing to work on with the Dynaudios, as the 3-way system of drivers gave the midrange frequencies a presence that is sometimes lacking on 2-ways.
Taking the mix outside the studio to my home stereo, as well as listening on Audio-Technica ATH-M50x [Tape Op #113] and Beyerdynamic DT-770 headphones, I heard what I expected to hear, with no unpleasant surprises. In the mix, I could discern a bit of my unfamiliarity with the LYD 48, compared to how my Genelecs translate for me, but that’s purely because of my lack of experience on Dynaudios in the past few years. I’m confident this would be an easy hurdle to overcome.
LYD 48s are non-fatiguing monitors that are enjoyable to work on for long days. They have fantastic stereo imaging, and a wide, even frequency response that not many other monitors in this price range can approach. Given their street price of $2300 per pair, for a 3-way active monitor made in Denmark with bespoke Dynaudio drivers, these may be the best bargain in mid-range monitors today!