The Core 59 is the latest high end, professional reference monitor unveiled by Dynaudio, and the flagship of their new Core series. These monitors are handmade in Denmark, with distinct features, including three-way Class D Pascal amplification, newly designed Esotar Pro tweeters, and DSP-controlled acoustic response. I would strongly recommend spending a few moments on the Core section of the Dynaudio site. The company has gone above and beyond in developing the Core series, and they've made a fantastic video playlist that covers its design aspects and includes in-depth technical features of the monitor line. I've watched these videos a dozen times already, and the attention to detail is remarkable. I'm going to focus the majority of my review on how these monitors sound to my ears and performed in daily studio workflow.
The monitors arrived at a perfect time for me. I was working on a full-length album for the band Weathered weatheredband.com from Minnesota, and they were kind enough to let me audition the Core 59s during the production of their LP. We were scheduled to work in my studio for over three weeks, and the Core 59s dropped on my doorstep about halfway into our booked time. I had been regularly working ten or more hours a day with my current monitoring situation before I swapped the monitors out for the last half of this record. After the band left, I was able to spend another two weeks with the Core 59s while mixing a few different projects. My ears and workflow were fully dialed in at that point, so I was able to really put these new monitors to the test.
At almost two feet high (or wide depending on their orientation), and, weighing in at 54 pounds, the Core 59s look like monitors that are meant to be turned up! Each speaker is equipped with a removable rotating orbit baffle, allowing one to rotate the mid driver and tweeter to any orientation. With a monitor this large, this is an incredibly versatile key feature that allows for adjusting placement to fit your setup. I was able to demo these monitors both standing upright and also horizontally, ultimately settling on vertical positioning.
On the rear of each monitor is a simple, yet effective series of inputs and switches allowing for fine-tuning of the Core 59's performance to match the characteristics of your room. These switchable options include full or high-passed bass extension, speaker voicing (Neutral, Bright, or Dark), mounting position switch (Anechoic, Desk, or Soffit), a wall position switch (Freestanding, Wall, or Corner), analog input sensitivity, and SPL level. The monitor is also equipped with an XLR analog input and AES3 digital inputs. Once I put the Core 59s on stands and positioned them correctly for my room, the band and I got right to work.
On the first day with the Core 59s, we were tracking big rock electric guitars for the record. With my tracking setup, I have multiple guitar cabinets in a separate isolation booth with the amp heads in the control room, so we can make tone adjustments while listening through the monitors. The band was partial to a few older Fender tube amps I have in the studio. When you crank these guitar amps up, there's a sweet spot where they start to bloom and get crunchy. The Core 59s were so detailed that it was easy to find that tonal sweet spot without the guesswork of possibly overcooking the guitar amp. Usually, after getting guitar tones set up, I might put in earplugs for the actual tracking because my standard monitoring setup would fatigue my ears very quickly when tracking guitars all day. After a full day of tracking with the Core 59s, I realized that had I never put my earplugs in. Other than being generally tired from a long day's work, I didn't feel like my ears were shredded at all.
I know from watching the Dynaudio Core 59 product videos on their site that they put a lot of effort into designing a monitor that was pleasant to listen to over long periods while reducing ear fatigue – I believe they've really nailed it here. There's already a ton of mental and physical stress when tracking bands for long hours at a time, and, for once, the monitoring didn't add to that stress. The Core 59s were pleasant for my ears to work on while making crucial tracking decisions throughout the process.
Prior to demoing these monitors, I was already familiar with the "Dynaudio sound," as I have an alternate set of Dynaudio BM5s [Tape Op #49] in my studio, and, in a larger commercial room where I regularly freelance, they also have BM5s and BM15As in their control room. I was happily surprised that the static mix I was building while tracking this record didn't fall apart when I switched to the Core 59s. Things were definitely bigger, wider, and more detailed from my monitoring position. In the past when I was unfamiliar with monitors (whether demoing them in my space or freelancing in another room), I would shy away from making EQ and compression decisions. I did not feel like my hands were tied by that problem when I switched to the new Dynaudios. I felt confident about adding plenty of crack to a snare or bottom end to a bass guitar.
The last week and a half of record production flew by, and I began to enjoy the Core 59s a little more every day as I got used to them. At the end of every tracking day, the band and I would gather around the monitors and listen to what we'd worked on. I might make small adjustments while we listened, then I'd print a rough of those and listen to them in the morning on my own and make further tweaks before we started the next day. My rough mixes on the Core 59s always translated well to the headphones I wear when I'm exercising or doing things around the house. I even got a couple of comments from the band members themselves on how good the new monitors sounded. Three weeks after tracking, I still feel the rough mixes are very strong, and I imagine the mix phase of this album will be a breeze.
After the band left, I took a few days off and moved onto mixing another project. Because the last tracking session went so well, I was really excited to start diving into some mixes now that my ears were fully dialed into the Core 59s. What really stood out to me is that without the addition of a sub, I still felt like I had full control over the very bottom and the very top of my mix. I'm a big fan of Rich Costey's mixes, and use a couple of his tunes on my mix reference playlist. I've always loved how deep the low end of his mixes are, but have struggled to get there myself. With the Core 59s, I've finally been able to hear what is going on down in the 40 Hz and below range, allowing me to reshape the low end or clean things up in order to get just the right low end. I mostly mix rock genres, but I can see how indispensable this would be for a producer or mixer that works on music with extreme low end content.
While digging into new mix material, improvements in my decision making mirrored the positive results I was having during tracking. I feel more confident about my low end. In fact, it's punchier than ever, and I'm finally in a situation where I can hear what's going on. I appreciate the realistic midrange of the Core 59s, especially when working on guitar tones. I spend a lot of time making sure guitars are right for each song coming from the amp itself so that I don't have to dramatically reshape them with EQ after the fact. The Core 59s give me the feeling of being in front of the amp without coloration by the monitors. One interesting thing I've started hearing with these detailed monitors is that plug-ins are clipping at levels that really shouldn't be. I would have never have heard this clipping while using my previous monitoring setup. Mixing is already tricky enough; I don't need my tools working against me. The Core 59s have removed a substantial amount of guesswork that I didn't realize I had been dealing with on previous monitoring setups. The best part is I can mix all day and night on them at manageable levels, with minimal ear fatigue. I was initially afraid when I unboxed the monitors that they would be too large for my room. During my month with them, I was easily able to finesse their performance with the switches on the back to get the right amount of juice so they wouldn't over-perform for my room. I'm a musician at heart, so I never want to feel like I have to read a robotics manual just to adjust parameters on a monitor. It should be noted that the Dynaudio manual, video instructions, and DSP firmware are very well put together and super simple to use.
The new Dynaudio Core 59 3-way monitors are exceptional. They address realistic needs of working producers and mixers who might be spending long hours in front of speakers. They sound detailed and big. They help me feel like I am in control of what I'm working on, and, most importantly they've been making tracking and mixing even more enjoyable for me. It's going to be really difficult for me to send these monitors back to Dynaudio. Maybe I won't!