Achieving a cardioid response down to low frequencies isn't easy, especially for a 'nearfield' monitor — but Dutch & Dutch have managed exactly that, and the results are impressive.
The Dutch & Dutch 8C is an active nearfield monitor that first came to my attention a couple of years ago, not long after I reviewed the remarkable Kii Three. One reason I particularly noticed the 8C was that it is partly inspired by a similar philosophy to the Kii Three: it aims to reduce the influence of the listening environment through having a cardioid dispersion characteristic. Of course the vast majority of conventional speakers begin to become cardioid at mid and high frequencies — above, say, 500Hz — but Dutch & Dutch claim the 8C is cardioid right down to 100Hz. However, before I explore the hows and whys of the 8C's directivity, there is much more to it than just a cardioid character, so I'll begin by offering a little more general description.
I described the 8C as a 'nearfield' monitor. However, in the flesh, the 8C is physically quite large, and probably pushes the boundaries of that description. The 8C is also very heavy (26kg each) and the combination of size and weight was right on the limit of my monitor shelves. So to begin with, a health warning: the 8C is a big and heavy monitor that's probably best suited to hybrid nearfield/midfield installations.
The generous size and weight of the 8C arise because there's rather more to it than is apparent from the front view of a 200mm bass/mid driver and a 25mm waveguide–loaded tweeter. Around the back of the 8C, along with the obligatory connection panel, there are actually two further 200mm drivers loaded internally by a separate closed-box enclosure, so the 8C is a genuine three-way system. The drivers themselves are of mixed European and Far Eastern origin from highly respected OEM manufacturers and are undoubtedly of sophisticated contemporary design. The mid driver has a 39mm–diameter voice coil with an aluminium diaphragm, rubber surround and a 'phase plug' in place of a dust cap. The two 200mm bass drivers similarly have aluminium diaphragms and even larger (52mm) voice coils, but sport conventional rigid dust caps. Along with ensuring air-tightness (phase plugs almost always introduce a small air leak through the driver), the dust caps will provide significant extra diaphragm rigidity. Finally, the tweeter is a European–manufactured 25mm magnesium/aluminium alloy-dome unit loaded by a deep horn–shaped 'waveguide' that terminates at a diameter approximately the same as that of the mid driver. Apart from being a very high–quality driver generally, it features a usefully low fundamental resonance frequency (550Hz). Dome tweeter fundamental resonance is typically an octave or more higher.
The deep, waveguide–loaded tweeter concept is one that seems to be increasingly finding favour in contemporary nearfield and midfield monitors (the Amphion range of monitors and the Genelec S360 that I wrote about in the April 2019 issue are two such examples). This is because the technique has a couple of significant benefits. Firstly, the dispersion control provided by the waveguide helps match the directivity of the tweeter and mid driver through the crossover region. And secondly, the tweeter efficiency gain provided by the impedance–matching effect of the waveguide means that a lower crossover frequency can be employed without risking tweeter failure or thermal compression. Sure enough, the 8C has its mid/tweeter crossover down at a very low 1250Hz. This is where the tweeter's low fundamental resonance comes in useful. A tweeter with a resonance at 1kHz or higher wouldn't really be viable with such a low crossover frequency.
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