Remarkable imaging, realistic timbre, no overemphasis of any frequency range (to my ear), and wonderfully detailed without any harshness or an overanalytical sound. I have owned and enjoyed the SM1s for about 2 years, and they still manage to surprise me sometimes, either because of some surprisingly pinpoint imaging, handling of transients, or new details in a recoding I had missed before playing it through the SM1s.
Except for the imaging, the SM1s do not immediately jump out at you like many others, but in the long run some of the reasons others speakers do so are the exact reasons they grow tiring. Overemphasis of the higher mid-range or highs for example are immediately noticable in a new speaker, but a flat response over the entire spectrum is more pleasing to my ears in the long run.
When I first purchased the Dunlavys, I was concerned that some recordings did not sound as good as others on the speakers, but after time, and because I listen to a broad range of music that sounds great on the SM1s, I am now more inclinded to think that CDs that seem less coherent are actually not recorded/mixed/produced as well as the others. Also, great speakers on which to test other gear.
From Nirvana to Beethoven to the Beatles to Jazz at the Pawnshop to Crystal Meth. to Guillian Welch.....you get the idea, It's hard to fault them.
Really love the speakers from Colorado Springs. I sold my Dunlavy SC III's to my father and moved to the smaller SM-1's. Both are excellent, but I hear just a bit more detail from the SM-1's (could be a result of their "newness"). But without question, the soundstage from the III's has better height definition. Before I owned Dunlavy's, I'm not sure I would have known that recorded music had a height deminsion. Alison Krause's fiddle changed all of that. "Do I really hear that thing just to the left of the left speaker and about two feet above the tweeter?" Believe it, folks.
I also love my first tube amp, the ARC VT 100 mk II. The beauty here is that if (if) the ARC is not as detailed as some of the solid state amps, then it forms a perfect synergy with the Dunlavy's, which will pull out details the recording engineer might not have heard.
What about my cables? Yes, they are Kimber bifocal XL, and even at their used price, I still think I'm nuts sometimes, but that again highlights the madness that can accompany a Dunlavy purchase--Everything else has to catch up, and differences in separation and pinpoint imaging can be HEARD. I laugh when folks ask if the center channel was playing during the demo, because I asked the same question of a certain Dallas dealer. People simply are not used to hearing the voice from the center of the sound stage. None of it makes sense until you hear it. Other speakers image well, but not with the same accuracy of the Dunlavy's. Try some Gorka until you can pinpoint the exact location of his mouth and the mouth of the female vocalist (about two feet to the right) he's choosen for that song. Amazing.
Bass? Can't really say. I accidentally bought the same sub that Skywalker Ranch used to mix The Phamtom Menace. You ears will give in long before it does, and the Krell HTS does a pretty good job of sending 80 and below to the sub and above to the Dunlavy's. For music listening, I keep the sub low so that it doesn't call attention to itself. If there are timing issues associated with using a sub, I don't notice them. I can't say that I've ever had the opportunity to hear a system with time-aligned bass.
Complaints? None really. The rosewood I got is not quite as dark as I imagined, but the finish is nice. Be careful when removing the grill as the treatment on the speaker sometimes gets folded wrong on replacement. Better yet, just don't take the grills off.
Ultimately, these speakers have no target audience. Novice listeners with some extra cash and leap into high end with these speakers (only then to need more money for the associate equipment if audionervous finds a host), and experienced listeners can save a bundle without sacrifice.
When I read John Dunlavy's to certain reviews, it makes me think I would not want to have a beer with him, but I don't pay him to drink beer with me. I pay him to have nightmares about speakers that are not time-aligned and which CHANGE what they see from the speaker cable. With his current product line, I'd like to think John sleeps pretty well at night, but thankfully, I bet he doesn't. Stay at it John, and thanks for two excellent pairs of speakers and so many great listening experiences.
I LOVE these speakers. I have listened to all of the speakers listed above in the "Similar Products Used" section, as well as many others, and by far, the SM-1 has emerged as my favorite. If asked to describe "it's character" to someone, I would almost be at a loss... I'm not sure it has one, and that's what I love about it. The flatness of it's frequency response, the seamless integration of it's drivers with one another, the amazing imaging, large, yet focused "soundstage," and it's ability to present the sound without any character that wasn't on the CD or record itself is what I love about it. And here is where some people may not appreciate the SM-1: It, like all other Dunlavy's I have listened to, is designed to be accurate, have fantastic impulse response, phase coherence, and frequency response, so that it colors the sound in as minimal a way as any speaker possibly could (at anywhere near this price range). There are a lot of people who don't like that because they find the resulting music "unexciting" or "uninvolving" and that will depend on what kind of recordings you listen to. I see their point, and although I don't feel that way, I understand it. The B&W 805 Nautilus, for example, is a great speaker (and looks great too) but there is something about it (to my ear) that sounds a little too "punchy" and "crisp." By itself, it's great, but when I compared it to the Dynaudio Contour 1.3 MKII, I preferred the Dynaudio because it seemed less fatiguing (and more natural). Again, comparing the Dynaudio to the JM Lab Electra 905, I preferred the Electra. And then came the test: comparing the Electra to the SM-1. They were different speakers, to be sure.... the Electra is very detailed as well, but it's ported, and although I liked a lot of aspects of the Electra, it's low-end wasn't as tight as the Dunlavy. Aside from the accuracy issue (and the fact that many people don't like to hear how bad many of their recordings ACTUALLY sound... understandably), there is one other thing about these speakers that people may not like. It's a HUGE bookshelf speaker. In fact, the term "bookshelf" is ludicrous in this scenario, because the speaker is 45lbs, and 25"x13"x11". Go see one in person and you'll realize how big that is! It's also not the most ornamentally attractive speaker out there. The B&W 805 is beautifull and the Dunlavy, although VERY well crafted, very solid, and professionally finished, is just a big, heavy box with rounded edges. I personally don't care... I'd rather my music sound good than look good, but then again, I don't have a wife! (but I'm only 24, so I don't feel too badly) As you can tell, this is the speaker for me. I'm a recording engineer and this speaker is amazing... I find myself in the studio wishing I had my Dunlavy's there because I wouldn't need to crank the studio level to hear the punch points. Years ago, I fell in love with the SC-II's but couldn't accept the size and inconvenience of the speakers... I know I said that I don't care how they look, but when the speaker is 6 feet tall, it's pretty hard to move (either to a new house, or to a studio for a week-long gig). It just wasn't a possibility, even though it was a great deal. Now that the SM-1 exists, I get to have my cake and eat it too... I think it's every bit as good as the SC-II's (although it starts rolling off at 60Hz instead of 55Hz).
Go listen to these speakers!
Rotel RA-985BX integrated amp Denon 370 HDCD Player
Yes, the amp is nowhere near the quality of the speakers, but I'm replacing it in the next few weeks with a McCormack DNA-125 and a Rotel RC-1070 preamp.
I'm an audiophile and also an audio mastering engineer. My pair of Dunlavy SM-1 monitors are used strictly for mastering right now. I'm using a Entech 245.2 DAC into a TKD passive potentiometer for volume control into a modified Hafler P3000 for power. I'm using Vandenhul interconnects (no carbon fibre) and some of the bigger RSC Prime speaker cable by Tara.
To me the Dunlavy SM-1 is a very accurate and dynamic speaker. It doesn't lie and it doesn't forgive. That's why it's so useful for mastering. If the source material is good then you get something beautiful. If it's weak you can hear exactly what's weak in the recording. The time alignment and the array of the drivers helps create an amazing soundstage, truly as good as it gets from what I've heard. The tone of these speakers is very musical and very clear. Loads of subtle detail without the fatiguing edge of being too bright. The sound comes out at you in a cool way. I can listen for hours and not get burned out. The Thiel CS1.5 is an interesting comparison as they too are two-way and time aligned, but the Thiels were hard for me to listen to for long hours, maybe it's the metal tweeter. The Dunlavys are non-ported so you get real true tight bass, not extended ported bass. So to some people the SM-1 is not quite big enough to extend down into the 30Hz range. I augment my rig with a subwoofer. The Dulavy crossover is exceptional and you really dont hear it. The crossover from big drivers to tweeter is quite seamless. This is a very very good audiophile speaker. It will reveal anything in the chain. When I compare interconnects or speaker wire, I use the Dunlavys because they serve as sort of an audio microscope to really detect subtlety.
big bookself speaker,big airy sound,very accurate,neutral,detailed,bass is very good,not go very low,but with velodyne hgs 10 subfoowers one of the best sound what i have ever hear,and i have hear many top speakers,but dunlavy is cheap this sound.work fine creek amps and cd.i think sm 1 is little better than sc 2. strongly recommend