The Dynaudio Heritage Special Speaker Review. Worth the $7k?
By Steve Huff
Note: Unlike most reviews these days, this audio review is not done for money. If you buy them, I make not a cent. I have no affiliation with the manufacturer or any audio dealer I recommend. I have no audio advertisers here and I bought these speakers with my own cash, they were not sent to me to review. I have nothing to gain or lose, so this review is as always, from the heart.
The Dynaudio Heritage Special Speakers. These may cause me a big problem, which I will talk about later on this review….for now, let’s get started!
Over the past couple of years one of my favorite bookshelf speakers has been the Dynaudio Special 40. I did not keep that secret and part of my excitement back then was I thought that they punched above their weight for what they cost at the time, and what the other options were at the time for a nice bookshelf speaker. They really are a special speaker, and to me sound better than even more pricier Dynaudio models at the time. I’ve had them in my room side by side with many other bookshelf speakers and the others could not do what the Special 40’s did for me. Speakers like the KEFR3, the KEF LS50 Meta as well as speakers from ATC, Wharfedale, Elac, Falcon Acoustics and others could not deliver to these ears what those little shiny Dynaudio boxes did.
The Special 40’s had body, energy, amazing plump bass and a very solid build with a nice (if at not times a bit tipped up) treble energy. In fact, I still own a set in red though they are in their boxes right now. I did pull them out for a comparison to these new Heritage Specials as I was curious if the Heritage had $3500 more performance. I feel the Special 40’s are a true classic already and if you are looking for a fantastic smaller speaker that sounds a bit like a larger fuller speaker, you may want to take a look.
Back in the late 90’s I would often visit audio shops and listen to Dyanudios knowing very well I could not afford them but I knew one day I may be able to, so I put it out into the ether that I would in fact own a set of Dynaudios one day. When you know something will come to pass, and you truly want it, it usually does. That’s been my experience and I can cite 20+ examples of this in my real life.
The Dynaudio Special 40’s in Red
Yes indeed, I have special memories from my younger years with Dynaudio speakers, and I have told those stories before so will refrain from repeating them but Dynaudio has been selling great high end speakers for well over 40 years now. Dynaudio has some speakers (that for me) are pure magic when set up correctly. I am not a fan of all Dynaudio though, as I have heard some sound overly plump, warm and boring and others that were a touch too hot on top. These impressions span 20+ years as I have listened to many Dynaudio Speakers and while they do indeed have a house sound, it has altered over the years a bit.
With all of the Dynaudio speakers I have listened to in my lifetime I have always preferred the smaller bookshelf sized offerings. They are always well made, and always offer a sound that gives us a bit of everything, and many of then are extremely musical, super cohesive and smooth. One thing I dislike are fatiguing, bright, thin sounding or analytical speakers, and if a speaker comes through my doors that hurts my ears after an hour of listening they get the boot right away and I never speak of them. Sometimes when a product wows you instantly it can be a sign that it will not wow you for long as it’s more about flash, smoke and mirrors and something that excites at first, but gets old quickly.
Speakers that try to be surgical and wring out every last bit of detail without any warmth or musicality can be WOW at first but over time you realize you are missing a huge part of the musical picture. Speakers that sound overly smooth, warm and syrupy can also get old and boring over time. What seems hard is finding that elusive set of speakers that offer a bit of both, but speakers like this do exist they are just usually pretty costly.
One thing I have noticed is that most speakers I have been hearing over the last three years have all been pretty good. I am not seeing as much of the thin, bright analytical stuff being made these days as they were in the 90’s and 2000’s. To that I say Hallelujah! I have really enjoyed speakers like the B&W 705 S2 or my own Klipsch Heresy IV’s and Klipsch Cornwall IV’s in 2020.
IMO music is not supposed to sound mechanical! It is supposed to flow, have rhythm and put a smile on your face. It also shouldn’t be difficult or stressful to get a nice system that sounds so good that you never want to change a thing.
Oh, a word of warning! My reviews can get long. One recent comment on an old review of mine said “This reads like a Novel”! So just a heads up. If you are reading this in full then you may want to sit back, stretch a bit and settle in.
Timeless Looks. The Heritage Special is the latest Limited Edition from Dynaudio.
With my love for the Special 40’s being so deep and my audio memory remembering some sweet times with them (the Luxman 590 AXII and S40 was a fantastic pairing for me), I am well aware that they are not the “be all end all” in bookshelf speakers. For the cost, sure they rock..but there will always be something better on the horizon for even more money. Always. It’s the nature of the beast…of the addiction.
While I feel blessed have been able to listen to uber high end bookshelf speakers in my room with some of them reaching the $25k mark, some of my fondest memories were with those little $3k Special 40’s. I do not see price as a gauge for musical enjoyment. For bling, for design, for a name, for status, for exotic parts… maybe… but for musical enjoyment one doesn’t have to spend a fortune or go bankrupt. I mean, even if I love these Heritage Specials, one can buy speakers for less that offer huge musical enjoyment. Even so, some of us just like chasing the sound we have in our head and if we can find it, even better.
While the special 40’s were lovely, they were by no means perfect for everyone as guess what? No speaker is nor can it be, as we all have different ears, and different things we are looking for in our audio system. There is no “best”, just “different”!
The key with the Special 40’s (which I will refer too as the S40s from now on) was to position them properly, use them on proper stands, and to power them correctly. This is always the trickiest part with speakers, to find the right synergy as synergy is VERY real. But once that is taken care of, boy oh boy can they sing! So yes, the S40’s are still highly recommended by me in the $3500 and under price point as long as you have the proper gear to power them and place them. Your dealers can help you out in these areas, as most dealers I know are very knowledgeable about the gear they sell.
The Heritage Special – Limited to 2500 Sets worldwide.
When I saw that Dynaudio had a new “Special” Bookshelf and that they looked a bit vintage and timeless, I took a closer look. I LOVED the real walnut veneer as soon as I saw them. When I saw the very high $7000 price tag I knew they either had to be way above the Special 40 in performance…or I thought… “maybe we were simply paying more for the limited edition tag“. With 2500 sets world wide, Dynaudio says when they are gone, they are gone forever. That does add value for sure, without question and here is why…
When these are gone, and someone reads a review that praises them (or as I read someone write in a forum, these are “God’s Speakers”) then that person may want to hear them in their own system. But they will be gone, and used will be the only way to go. Then we may pay more for them, or a little less, but they will be used and since there is no “supply” the “demand” will be higher.
The original Dynaudio Special 25 were released in 2002 as a limited edition for $5200. Oh, that is $7100 in 2021 Money. About the same cost as the new Heritage Special today in 2021. I think the new Heritage Special look nicer, and even have magnetic grilles and more refined drivers.
Take a look at the Dynaudio Special 25 that celebrated Dynaudio’s 25 year anniversary. That speaker was a bookshelf and also a limited edition and sold for $5200 a pair when they were announced and released in 2002 (and I wanted a pair so bad back then, but no way I could afford it). Yep, $5200 in 2002. What would that be in todays money? That would be $7,100 and some change, and that is awfully close to the price of the Heritage Special today in 2021.
The Special 25’s
Maybe Dynaudio simply used an inflation calculator to price out the Heritage Special as the Special 25’s sold out back in 2002 and have gained quite the following on the used market. It’s almost impossible to find a pair used in the USA, and when I have found them I see them going for around $4800-$5200. Not far off from the new price 19 years ago. Hmmm, maybe these Heritage Specials are not overpriced at all. In fact, the S25’s were so sought after Dynaudio cheated and re-released them in a “truly final” limited run. Haha.
Yes, before I even heard these Heritage Specials (or had them in my room) I was trying to figure out if they were overpriced as $7k seemed like a tall order. Going by the Special 25 standard, I guess technically they are not. We may not like the price tag but that doesn’t mean that they will not sell, nor does it mean that they are not worth it. So away I went to get a pair here to listen to as I missed out on those 25’s years ago. I did not want to miss out on these as I regretted not finding a way to get the 25’s back when they were first released. Regret is a SOB, and I always try to live these days with no regrets. I also knew that if they were not my cup of tea, I could sell them quickly for what I paid, as many are waiting for these on backorder as I write this. Again, “supply” and “demand” is real, even during a pandemic.
So away I went!
I called up my good friends back in Arizona over at Dedicated Audio as I knew they were one of the dealers that were selling the Heritage Special. Note that not all Dynaudio dealers carry this speaker, but I knew Dedicated Audio did. I got in touch with them and asked if they had a pair in stock, and if they could ship to me since I have zero dealers anywhere near me these days. Lucky for me, they had ONE pair left (more will arrive in a few weeks I was told) and they asked Dynaudio if my zip code was OK to sell to all the way from AZ. They checked and saw I had zero dealers anywhere close or far so it wasn’t long before I had a set shipped to me. I did purchase a set of Dynaudio Stand 20’s along with the Heritage adapter plate as well. To me, the stands are a must to get the best from them. Stands are very important when it comes to higher end speakers. These are not meant for a shelf and will open up and sound their best with a proper stand and placement.
Anyway, I was excited even though my credit card balance was no longer at zero. Oh well, It’s only money and if I love them I will offload something else I have hanging around to help pay for them. It’s how the upgrade game works.
As I started to read forums with those who already had their sets delivered, Most were saying these killed the Special 40’s, and were truly..well.. special! But I know that when someone gets a new speaker they will usually feel it is better as it offers a different sound, and well, they just spent a pretty good chunk of change on them! For me, I would have to truly hear a big jump from the half the cost S40 to recommend them to others.
The hype was out there for sure, but in small circles, and not EVERY person who gave them a shot loved them… but almost all did. Even Dynaudio introduced them by saying that when they tested them they could not stop listening! Marketing hype…sure, maybe. But maybe not. I was eager to find out how they sounded in my room and with my gear. They sure ticked the boxes in looks, as I much prefer the walnut veneer to the glossy S40 cabinet.
Before they arrived I checked out the details and found that the Heritage Special uses Dynaudio’s most refined Tweeter, the Esotar 3. This is good news as Dynaudio makes all of their own drivers in house. BTW, some speaker makers buy their drivers from Dynaudio, much like many camera manufacturers buy their sensors from Sony. That says a lot right there doesn’t it? Dynaudio drivers are quality through and through.
The huge 7″ mid/bass driver was take from their top end $85,000 EVIDENCE line and it was even IMPROVED UPON! If you know anything about those you know they are extremely high end and the best Dynaudio makes. Check these $85,000 speakers out and you can see why this Heritage is priced where it is. Wow…so far so good.
These are also 100% hand made in Denmark, and come with a ten year warranty. Not Made in Denmark with parts made in China, no…all parts and assembly are made in house in Denmark. Also, the timeless look of these will NEVER get old to me. They are classic through and through and I love this, which is why I also own and love the Klipsch Heresy IV in Walnut. I used to like more flashy looking HiFi but these days I prefer understated beauty above all else. It’s truly timeless, will never get old, and will always be “in”. They would look great in any room, like furniture. They are bigger than the S40’s as well. Taller and deeper with a much bigger port in the back as well.
When the speakers arrived, in two boxes (one for each speaker), I was truly blown away by the lovely craftsmanship that easily surpassed the Special 40’s and my Klipsch. They have a true heirloom quality about them that make you just want to stare at them for a while, or rub your hand over the smooth muted finish. The back metal plate adds a nice touch, and the binding posts are some of the nicest I have seen regardless of price, ever. The speaker exudes class and beauty. But how would they sound? After all, that is really all that matters at the end of the day. If I am sitting in my sweet spot listening at night, I will not see them but I will hear them. As I said…for me to keep these, I must hear a nice improvement over the Special 40’s to justify keeping them around.
Away we go..finally!
I assembled the stands, added sand to them and then attached the adapter plate. I then screwed the speakers direct to the plate. Total time was maybe 20 minutes. Don’t worry, the screws are meant to go into the speakers, and the speakers have the pre made holes all ready to go. The way they attach to the stand is great and ensures they will not fall off if I accidentally bump into them.
I set up the speakers in the usual place where I listen to bookshelf speakers but these are on the larger side. It took a day of moving them around to find the best placement in my room, which is now 12X18 (my old room was a mere 12X10). The speakers ended up about 8 ft apart, toed in about 15 degrees and I sat about 8 ft away. This is where they sounded best to me so this is where I ran them for a few days 24/7 to burn in. Yes, Dynaudio speakers do need run in time, it is real. While many say it takes 400 hours, I think it is more like 100 hours for the drivers to fully loosen up and the sound to flesh out.
I turned on some music on repeat and let them run in while I waited 3 days to listen seriously. While I was waiting I read up on the forums again to see what other owners were hearing. I was seeing that a few thought that these were a tad bright at the top and weak in the bass. I was hoping this was not the case, but the more I read, the more I saw this, even though some said the opposite. Hmmm. I guess I was about to find out for myself but when I stuck my head in my room and listened what I heard was a more warm and full sound, with gorgeous bass weight. Hmmm.
After 72 hours I decided to start listening, and this review will have updates as I clock more hours on the speakers. But let’s get started. HOW do these sound?
I started by connecting them to my beloved Pass Labs INT-25 which offers 50 WPC of Class A power into 4 ohms but has more power on tap, up to 90 watts in class A/B. These are 4 ohm speakers which is good, as the INT-25 brings out that class A goodness with 50 watts. I wondered if this would be enough as the specs show these speakers may be a tough one to drive. Being 85DB efficient and 4 ohms means a muscular amp will be needed, and I think something like a Pass Labs INT-250 would have been a little better but with my sweet 25 at the helm, I was about to see if it could do the job.
Specs of the Heritage Special
Well, my concerns were for nothing as the INT-25 powered these beautifully in my room, without getting close to breaking a sweat. It shows it is more about current that watts, and the good news is Pass Labs amps usually are much more powerful than the specs tell you. What was crazy though, and this still confuses me…is that whenI listen to my Heresy IV’s which are 99DB efficient I usually have the volume at 37-38 during the day. With the Heritage Specials I figured that would have to be at 50 or so to get the same volume. When I fired them up for my first day of listening I set it to 40 and the sound had the same volume that I was getting with the Klipsch at 37. Strange but WOW at the same time. This amp was powering these much better than I thought but we all know that loudness is not a judge of sound quality.
My ears have been used to the Pass amp with the Heresy IV’s and I love that sound. When I first started listening to the Heritage I heard a smoother sound, a richer sound, and a mellower yet much more refined delicate airy sound. The horns in the H4 are very dynamic and can blow you out of the room with those dynamics at time. They can sound a bit sharp when compared to smother speakers so my first impressions of the Heritage were that they were smooth, and maybe even a tad laid back with the Pass amp. This was in comparison to the H4 and what this told me was that I was used to that bigger more energy filled live sound of the Klipsch after owning them for a year and listening almost daily.
As I settled in more and logged more hours on the speakers they started to change a bit (or my ears did). Soon the tweeter was showing what it was made of. I then realized that the Esotar 3 tweeter was bringing me quite a bit more details over the Klipsch but with a smoothness that made sure my ears never had fatigue. While the tweeter was sounding very very special indeed, the bass and mid-range for me was also pretty darn special. I am not sure I have heard a speaker sound more cohesive and as “one” in this kind of way before. Some have gotten close, but not to this level.
The drivers blend so well, so smoothly that it sounds like one driver. The mids are up there with the best I have heard, and again, very special. The bass is mature, refined and fast but wow, it really is nicer than the Special 40. It’s not bloated or exaggerated but rather as one with the mids and highs. In fact this speaker is fleshed out, full sounding and leans warmer in general with the Pass Labs INT-25. There is no lack of bass of impact. Warm leaning with an amazing airy and “wet” sweet top end that somehow brings out each detail with delicacy and space/air all while the mids and bass bring the warmth and texture. Even so, the bass doesn’t make itself known by blasting artificial oomph. It’s solid, deep, hefty and present when called upon and only when called upon. With some material there is serious impact! I feel the Pass Labs helps with this though as it did that for the Heresy IV’s and Q Acoustic C300’s as well. This amp does indeed have something magical about it, moreso than previous integrated I have heard, but you must enjoy this kind of wide open expansive transparent yet warm sound. If you do, Pass Labs is a dream piece.
The sound was really starting to get addicting, and I started to truly appreciate what was happening. I never heard anything quite like it, and it didn’t really sound like other Dynaudios I have heard before. The speakers continued to open up and with each listen they were becoming much more transparent and big sounding.
For comparison sake I placed my Heresy IV’s back in, as I love those speakers sue to the fact they offer what no others do which is crazy dynamics and a live feel. When I pressed play with the H4’s after listening to the Dynaudios for a bit all of the sudden I lost that richness of sound as well as the cohesiveness, airy sweet treble and bass warmth in the mids.
I LOVE the H4’s and they are staying with me (I’m attached to these squat boxes) but they have a more jarring and energetic live and massive big sound. The Heritage Specials are much much more refined, and bring forth the nuances in music much better. They are smoother, richer, have more texture and layers going on along with a quicker/tighter more tuneful bass. I am hearing the actual layers of music from front to back. The H4’s are a more thrilling listen, but the Dyn’s are a more refined and beautiful listen allowing me to hear more without any kind of offensive sounds, ever. They truly are indeed very very special and compared to the Special 40’s they are again, more nuanced and refined with a more airy and smoother treble, a bigger sound, and more mid bass impact. The Esotar 3 is smoother yet airier and more detailed.
As I write this I am listening to “Exile” from Taylor Swift and Bon Iver. I have chills as the vocals are so rich, so real, so palpable and so present with such amazing clarity and heft. It’s as if I am standing next to Taylor as she sings into the mic. So intimate and eery at the same time. I thought the Special 40’s were good at this, and they are, but these take it up a few notches. The midrange here is up there with the old $26k Sonus Faber Guarneri’s I once had but without the bass bloat and thickness. The S40’s tweeter is fantastic as well but a little more glaring and edgy compared to the Esotar 3 inside the Heritage, not as refined or silky as the one in the Heritage. The heritage also presents music like it is painting the sound with a liquid paint. It just oozes body, depth, and images amazingly well though not with the “cut out”type of imaging placement. Rather a natural and more realistic staging..which is beautiful indeed. This is without question a speaker that speaks to your soul rather than speaking to your brain.
I was curious if my amp could drive these with hard rock or metal. I cued up some Judas Priest “Battle Cry” and again, chills! The power, drive, and clarity were amazing. Not quite to the loudness or dynamic level/crispness of the Heresy IV but more enjoyable, warmer, richer, and better instrument separation. I could go LOUD enough to where it was too much and the amp never seemed to strain, get thin or ragged…it just sounded like a bigger version of the lower volume! I was impressed even more with this INT-25 as here it was driving a speaker that should be a tough load, with ease.
As the music roared I was there in the first row with the Klipsch and with the Heritage I was maybe in row 10. With the S40 I was hearing more treble energy and I much preferred the silkiness of the Esotar 3 in the Heritage. The Heritage speakers reproduced the drums and the fullness of the guitars better than the Heresy IV and S40 and I could play louder with the Heritage Specials without the sound getting edgy. I pushed the amp to 60 and I could barely stand it but the sound was still smooth, composed and truly had me on the edge of my seat. The guitars and drums were just as I liked hearing them. Full, with impact and texture. With that said, the midrange does lean on the warm side of neutral without being like honey. It’s not thick, it’s natural, more like real life.
After my experience and comparison to the other speakers I feel the Heritage is truly worth the cost if it fits within your budget for a smaller speaker. With that said, deals may be hard to find on these due to the limited edition nature. Think of it as buying a speaker that will lose very little value (if any) over many years. You could listen for 15 years and sell for the same or maybe just a tad less than you paid. That is almost unheard of in Audio. The more I listened to these, the more I fell deeper into the musical trance that they allowed me to slip into.
With the INT-25 I was using my trusty Bluesound Node 2i Streamer going into a Chord Quetest and MScaler for digital streaming of Tidal and Qobuz. I have tried high end streamers and really, for me, there is not enough difference between them to spend more than what I did on the Node 2i (but I am only talking about when going to an external DAC). So yes, my digital front end is high end due to the Chord gear but it sounds so so so good. So musical, it just flows with an analog type of sound. No digital nasties to be found. No brightness or hardness. Almost like reel to reel tape due to the Chord MScaler which really eliminates all traces of digital harshness, opens up the soundstage further and does something unique and special in itself to the music…helping it to sound just incredible smooth and open with little details popping out organically.
Moving on…I wanted to see what these speakers sounded like with the Naim Nova. The Nova is FANTASTIC for those seeking an all in one solution for High End HiFi. No DAC needed, NO streamer needed. It’s all there and it’s an amazing piece. I removed the INT-25 and Chord gear and placed in my Naim Nova all in one. The sound changed for sure.
The Pass Labs setup is now my reference and it has a sweet flowing textured, layered and holographic big sound. It offers a huge soundstage and a musicality with muscularity. Expansive, airy and with depth and weight. Regardless of cost, it truly has become my #1 fave integrated amp and is a permanent part of my system. It will be what I use to judge others amps if I get any in for review. It’s that good and has proven its value by showing it can power efficient speakers or some that are not very efficient at all, like these Heritage Specials. *Of course, in my 12X18 dedicated closed off room.
The Naim Nova on the other hand may be a sound some love even more. It has more get up and go. It’s sharper and has more boogie but does make the speakers sound more lively. Now I was hearing what some were saying about a brighter treble. They sounded a bit more alive vs ethereal now, and with some music like EDM this was incredible, visceral and exciting. The Nova brings 80 class A/B watts per channel yet the Pass sounded fuller and warmer with more weight to each instrument. Even so, the Nova drove these very well, with more energy and dynamics. A bit lighter footed in the bass but this piece also showed how special these speakers are. Some prefer this sound and Naim delivers on the Boogie. It’s one of my fave pieces in HiFi as it gives it all in one beautifully made box. Naim makes some great HiFi.
I then placed in a Musical Fidelity M5si which offers massive solid state muscle and power to the tune of 150 WPC. With this in place of the Nova and Pass, again using the Chord gear I heard that extra power but it wasn’t necessarily a good thing. I still much preferred the INT-25 powering these as the Musical Fidelity added grunt and OOMPH but it also brought out more of the tweeter energy, a more “hard” sound which is what I hear when I used this amp with Dyanudios Emit series. Almost like a full synergy wasn’t happening.
It was never raggedy or harsh, no no no! It was just more energetic and bigger yet crisper than the Pass Labs, and some may prefer this. Not as much soundstage depth or width, more direct. The m5si is FANTASTIC and if it was all I had I would be thrilled, and happy as I could be. It’s only when I compare that I see where my preferences lie, and I feel blessed to be able to do this, and see the differences between amps and yes there cam be HUGE differences between amplifiers. I wish everyone was able to do these things because honestly, reviews can not tell you what a product will be like when it is with you, in your space and system. All I can do here is relay my experience in my room and with my gear, so I hope it is helpful to some of you.
The M5si powered them effortlessly as this amp seems to do that with ANY speaker I have tried it with as it has some huge muscle to it, but a more direct and energetic muscle. For $1999 it is impressive for sure but it is not offering the sweetness, smoothness, 3 dimensionality that the much more costly Pass Labs INT-25 is, and this is how it should be for what we pay for the Pass. It’s more like all out grunt vs the music that touches the soul ; )
If these amps were cars, they may be described like this when used with the Heritage Special:
Pass Labs INT-25: A car that hasn’t been invented yet, as it would be a flying car. As you fly through the clouds it feels ethereal and magical allowing you to feel as if you are inside all of the magic.
Naim Nova: A Volkswagen Beetle – Small, quick, light-footed, nimble yet with finesse and quick bursts of speed and energy. Gets you to where you need to go without issue and with a smile.
Musical Fidelity: A Hummer. Muscle, power, full steam ahead balls to the wall. Not as much finesses or magic but all out grunt.
All three amps offer true high end sound, but for me and my tastes there is true magic within the Pass Labs and the Heritage in my smaller 12X18 room. In a large room though, you would appreciate the more powerful amp I am sure. In fact, I bet the one could coax the absolute best from these speakers, every ounce of performance, with a Pass Labs INT-250 : ) For small rooms though, the INT-25 is spectacular and as I said in my review of it, MAGIC. The only amp I would ever upgrade to after the 25 is the INT-250, and I bet it would even lose some of the sweetness of the INT-25 but would be more versatile if I ever have speakers in here that are really hard to drive. I have no plans or desires to upgrade now, but who knows, one day I may. Maybe I would own both, if that were possible. : )
To me there has always been something special about a small room, and small speakers running with a tube amp or class A solid state. They disappear and believe me, these Heritage Specials disappear with an easy kind of ease. They are transparent and bring forth that magic soundscape in front of you, where you can see into the music and almost feel as if you are really within the performance. Without question I can say the Dynaudio Heritage Specials are one of the nicest sounding bookshelf speakers I have ever had the pleasure to hear. The entire speaker is made with some of the fanciest parts Dynaudio has to offer. That Esotar 3 tweeter and VERY special mid/bass driver from their uber expensive line. I have no words to really describe them, but do know and can say they are indeed very special.
I have my faves in two way bookshelf speakers that I have heard over the last 30 years. For me, these Heritage even beat the original Sonus Faber Guarneri in the midrange, which is saying a lot as those speakers were once known as midrange kings. Legends.
These will not blow you out of your space with seismic bass, and even in my smaller 12X18 room the bass is not as fat or plump as the Special 40 but to these ears it is more “right”…it is better, tighter, more tuneful, more accurate and it does get deep when called upon. It’s like the bass is part of the sound within the stage rather than a plumpness you hear coming from the box. In fact, nothing sounds as if it comes from the box. Smooth. Silky. Airy. Big. Strong. Room Filling. Those are words I would use to describe the sound. They do the 3D thing as well, and very well, but they do not focus on that. Rather they focus on presenting the music as a whole, as a picture, as a painting that speaks to your soul.
Low Volume Listening
One more thing…and others are saying this as well…and they are 100% right. These are now the best low volume listening speakers I have heard, surpassing the Klipsch even. They sound whole and complete no matter the volume which is crazy. Many speakers get thin, or grating or irritating when played low (think many B&W speakers) and they need juice to blossom. Not the Heritage Specials as even at low late night volume they sound rich and full, and beautiful.
Are these the perfect bookshelf speaker?
I will say this, they are about as perfect as I have heard for my tastes. While I said earlier there is no such thing as a perfect speaker for everyone, there sure is for each of us as an individual. We know we found it when we can’t stop listening, have no buyers remorse, and would feel awful if we let them go. That’s how I feel about these HS. They are absolutely beautiful to look at and listen to.
Nothing at all stands out, they are not overly detailed or analytical but they are not syrupy or muffled. No veil here, just sweet sweet music and in a speaker that will last a lifetime and bring a lifetime of musical enjoyment. What is not to love? Some will say the cost, but remember, sometimes you do get what you pay for and in the case of the Heritage Special you will have a speaker that over the long term, long after they sell out, you will not lose big money on if you ever decide to let them go. That’s special in itself : ) My Klipsch H4’s have already depreciated by more than $1k from new. The Heritage Specials will keep and hold their value very well over the years.
You can get technically better speakers, sure. You can spend up to $30k, or more on bookshelf speakers. Doesn’t mean they will sound better than these. Different, yes. Better? Well, that is up to you and your ears. These Heritage Specials offer up a liquid easy flowing effortless sound and have continued to open up with each listen.
As I stated earlier, I bought mine from Dan over at Dedicated Audio. You can see their page for these speakers HERE. I had to call as they can not just sell these to anyone. If you do not have a dealer anywhere near you (like me) he may be able to help you out but no guarantees as it’s a location kind of thing. If you are in the southwest or Arizona then he can help you out for sure but I’d give him a call and see as I am mot 100% sure on the policy in place for these.
I predict that these may be hard to find, and will get harder as more reviews like mine surface. So far almost all reviews and reports from actual owners like me are crazy positive and all seem to love these speakers.
I’m glad I jumped as these will bring me many smiles and nights of beautiful sweet music. BTW, I like these much better than the legendary Dynaudio C1’s I tried out a few years ago. While those offer a more bloated bass/midbass, they were to me, more on the dark side of the moon. I returned them after a few days to my local dealer as they just didn’t do it for me : ) Could have been my amp at the time, or room but I much prefer these. The Heritage have more texture, life and excitement over the C1’s IMO but take it as that, my opinion and tastes.
PROS of the Heritage Special:
- The nicest sounding tweeter I have ever heard in my life. Smooth, Airy, Silky, Sweet, Delicate and Detailed all at the same time. Incredible detail yet smooth as silk. I like it better than the sweet tweeter in the Focal Sopra’s.
- The midrange is GORGEOUS. For me, as good as it gets. Voices are full, realistic and scaled right. Very “Sonus Faber” Guarneri in the mids which is a GOOD thing. This speaker is built on the mids IMO.
- Bass is tight, tuneful, fast, and you can hear the detail in it, the notes are there rather than being “one note” boom. This makes these speakers more musical than most. It’s something to behold if driven correctly for your room.
- Transparent as all get out without sounding thin. In fact, these are the most transparent yet full sounding speakers I have ever heard. You usually get one of the other but something was done here to bring you the best of both worlds. The details you hear are amazing, and yep, I did in fact hear a few things I never heard with other speakers.
- These will retain their value. The more that gets out about how truly special these are, the more they will be in demand. I believe the USA has only 700-750 sets allocated. I have #365. I was hoping for #333. Close!
- Made for the Dynaudio Stand 20, and they perform their magic well on these stands. I highly recommend them with the plate for the Heritage. Stands do make a difference in sound.
- Even made some 80’s songs I remember so well sound amazing. Songs I avoided listening to for years due to the poor recording quality now sound alive again. I mean, songs I have not listened to for 20 years because they sounded bad on my other systems are now sounding very good. This could be amp dependent though as these older recordings sounded best with the Pass Labs as the helm.
- These sound great with my INT-25, Naim Nova, Willsenton R8 and a Musical Fidelity. I feel Class A was made for them though as the INT-25 sounds best to these ears, and it’s the lowest powered amp of them all. Go figure. Power is not the be all end all with these, current is. The R8 did good as well BTW.
- Sound amazing at low volume. They do not get thin, but stay balanced and full. Something many other speakers have a hard time with.
- These are also very textured, layered and 3 dimensional with the right recordings. They bring the best of whatever you bring them. They image nicely but in an organic way rather than etched way. It’s nice.
- Hard to get better than this in a bookshelf for musicality and flow of the music no matter the cost.
Well, trying to think of a con with these is hard but I will say that some who prefer big bloated mid bass will not be happy with these. They do not exaggerate anything but play as one, as a cohesive balanced refined speaker when driven with the right amp. They sound like you would THINK high end should sound like (warm, musical, holographic, transparent, detailed, sweet, airy) rather than a lot of high end usually does sound like (clinical, thin, overly etched).
I hate to use the word “accurate” but in this case I would say that with a caveat. They are accurate but not in any kind of fatiguing or thin/bright way. They are fleshed out, and sound big but they do not have the exaggerated bass many look for. They offer much more “oomph” in the bass than my Heresy IV’s but not seismic. If you do crave that you can always add a sub and you can have it along with the sweet highs and mids that these speakers bring to the table. Those who like the sound of Wilson or Magico speakers may not care for the sound of the Heritage. There is no brightness or “snap, crackle and pop” here nor is there surgical precision of the soundstage. Just music that flows freely with immense depth, impact, fluidity, 3 dimensionality and layers of music that lean to the warm side with the right amp.
Also, be careful with synergy. Pair these with a nice amp, one that is not lean. If you use a lean sounding amp these may sound lean in your room. Keep away from the gear that brings a tipped up top end. With my Pass Labs, it brings a perfect blend of treble energy and bass heft that makes these speakers some of the most musical I have heard. I feel the Pass labs Int-250 would be a perfect match for these but man, that is a $12k integrated! You can power these very well with less costly solutions. A Naim Supernait 3 would probably offer up a nice sound with more heft than the Nova. Something from Hegel will work great as well I bet. Ask your dealers, as they should know better than I.
A sound demo. Keep in mind you will not be able to hear what these sound like in the room, not even close. You will not hear the depth, layering, soundstage size, imaging or 3 dimensionality. What you can hear is the tonality, the bass and warmth. In other words, the character of the speaker.
As I read experiences from some who have auditioned these speakers at their dealers I keep reading how many feel these have a bright treble, with some even feeling the treble outclasses the woofer. I scratch my head with this as I have not experienced this at all. In fact, I find these to be warm leaning, with a rich full expansive liquid sound. I do not hear any frequency stick out at all. I feel those who have heard these and feel the treble is tipped up heard them with a mismatched amp or source as these do make differences at this level. Some amps can make these sound thin or bright, some can make them sound warm. This comes from the character of the amp, or DAC or even cables and being a mismatch to the speaker.
This speaker to me is a smooth operator. Even when I ran them with the Naim, they never sounded hard or bright. A bit more excitement, sure but nothing offensive. If one were to run these with an AVR, sure, they will most likely sound thin and bright as AVR’s are not great for high end speakers. If one uses a typical “audiophile” amp that leans bright and thin (and some do) then sure, these may sound thin or tipped up. Pair these with some serious Class A amplification and you will hear a supreme musical presentation that can be addictive and never ever fatiguing.
Everything at this level matters from your DAC to CABLES to your AMP. If one pays $7k for a set of speakers, then they should have a decent amp and source. A nice DAC is a must as well, as DAC’s make pretty big differences at this level. I see many who blame speakers for sounding thin or harsh when in reality is the amplification and digital front end causing these issues. I also hear from some who feel all that matters is the speaker, and all amps sound the same. That’s not true, not even close. At this level, everything makes a difference which is why you should tread carefully if thinking of these, as it can take you down a rabbit hole trying to find the best gear to power them. What I have here is a $7500 amp, and a $6500 digital front end along with $1300 in cables. Add to this the $7k speaker price and my system clocks in at a cost of over $23k. Ouch! But if I didn’t invest in proper upstream gear then I would probably be wondering why these speakers cost $7k!
Sadly those of us who enjoy high end audio are in a small minority, so not much of this stuff is sold in the grand scheme of things. That means less pieces sold, so more expensive to buy. It’s up to you if audio is worth this kind of coin. For me, well, it is only because I have been into it for a long long long time, and have always had a system. One I could upgrade by selling to fund the new piece, etc. If buying from scratch there is no way I could do it unless I wanted a massive credit card bill. So to those reading thinking how crazy this sounds, to invest so much in music when we can go buy a $150 bluetooth boom box, I get it. But I also know life is short and money is not everything. Enjoyment of life is, and music touches my heart and soul and sort of recharges me at the end or even start of a day. It enriches my life much more than a watch, a boat, a huge house or fancy car.
The bottom line is that these speakers are a masterpiece. They are musical as can be, and have plenty of warmth, midbass and bass to where a sub is not required as long as you are not in a huge space. They also offer 3 dimensionality, nice organic style imaging and a cohesive “as one” sound that I have never really heard quite like this before. Again, part of this is the amp I use and prefer. It has some magic dust inside for sure.
These are, IMO one of Dynaudios best bookshelf speakers ever, regardless of cost. You can spend more, but you will only get “different” rather than “better”. If you try these out, make sure your amp and front end gear is up to the level of the speakers and you will be rewarded. If these are a bit too steep in price, the Special 40’s are an excellent alternative for half the cost. The S40’s are fantastic at the $3500 price point and a bit easier to drive as well.
These are special speakers, and limited to 2500 pairs worldwide. Dynaudio says “when they are gone, they are gone” so if you have that itch, the funds, and can audition them, find a way to do so. You may fall in love as I did.
SEX AND CANDY by Maroon 5 from the “Remixed and Redone” album on Tidal.
With the Pass Labs INT-25 this song sounds organic, huge, sweet, detailed, and warm leaning. The bass is just right and well defined. The Mids are warm leaning and make the vocals pop with a reality that’s hard to come by. The guitar sounds are well defined and separated but also not overdone. I can hear the reverb from the studio as well. Sounds super musical and the sweetest I have heard this track in my room. So clean, yet so smooth and again, these speakers sound “as one” which in turn makes the music sound this way, as it should.
FAST CAR by Tracey Chapman. Tidal.
Before my father passed away in 2000 he came to love this song as he heard me play it on my system a few times. I remember after he found out he had Cancer (and was told he would not last the year) I came down to my basement when he was over at my house. He was on my couch, alone, listening to this song with tears in his eye (I had a disc playing). I sat next to him and this is when he told me to take care of my mom, made me promise. It’s partly why I moved 23oo miles cross country from a warm climate to a cold one, to be closer to my mom who is now up there in age herself. My father passed about 2 months after that night and every time I hear this song I now get tears in my eye, remembering that day in my basement. While this song is not the best recording quality (at all) I figured I could test the speakers with a less than desirable recording. It’s a tad bright and compressed but as I sit here with my eyes swelled up it doesn’t matter, I am enjoying the music. With that said, and taking my emotions out of it the Heritage Specials presented this song with again, musicality. It took the less than stellar recording and made it listenable. The vocals are dead center as they should be, and the bass line is there behind the voice with the guitars and drums sounding a bit thin. Even so, an enjoyable listen that managed to tear at my heart strings.
MARLENE DIETRICHS FAVORITE POEM by Peter Murphy. Tidal.
Had to turn this one up to 47 on the INT-25 as this recording has a lower volume. It’s this way on any system. Once turned up the magic started flowing from this 80’s recording. I enjoyed this song in my younger days, and remember playing it on my then “killer” system which really wasn’t so killer. Even so, I enjoyed it. This song as such a nice sound with the great vocals and guitar strings strummed ever so sweetly to the sides. There’s a lot to hear in this song, if you listen deeply. The Heritage allows you to do this if you like, all while staying musical.
YIN AND YANG (the flowerpot man) by Love & Rockets. Tidal.
It’s strange but I am finding myself going back to lower quality 80’s recordings as I am finding them to sound smoother, bigger and better with these speakers. These recordings are harsher on other speakers I have heard but on the Heritage I am enjoying them for the first time, in the case of this song, since 1986! Another song lower in volume, I have to crank to 50 on the INT-25 but when I do LOOK OUT! Wait for the “beauty-beauty-beauty-beautiuful” chorus and then the hard hitting bass beat along with the crazy sounds coming from everywhere. A huge WALL OF SOUND appears somewhere around 2:45-2:50 and HOLY WOW, I feel as if I was taken back to 86 in a time machine and am in a smokey club watching these guys perform this rhythmic song. The grit, the drive, the infectious rhythm is there. BEST I HAVE EVER HEARD THIS as it is usually sort of unlistenable. Here it is INSANELY good with the INT-25 and Chord setup with the Heritage Specials. I couldn’t imaging listening to this on this system on mind altering drugs. (no I do not use mind altering drugs but if I did….it would be a wild ride when played LOUD). After a listen to this 6 minute song, I played it again and soaked it all in.
This is Heaven to Me by Madeleine Peyroux from Tidal.
This song, when played on my past systems either sounded a bit thin or hard and lacking body or even muffled on some Sonus Faber systems I have had. With the Heritage Specials I am hearing an all new song. Each instrument is separated with body and heft, the vocals are natural and floating in the center but with a fullness that makes it sound more natural rather than etched. The bass is what is surprising me as when it kicks in, its so present yet so tight and tuneful. I hear the plucks of the fingers on the bass, and it is so perfect sounding. The music starts to swell and expand outwards as the voice sounds seductive and sweet. With a wide soundstage along with detail, weight and warmth and immense detail, I never realized how well of a recording this is. Beautiful. Present. Rich and layered.
Kundalini Express by Love and Rockets from Tidal
Another one from my old teen days that I have rediscovered due to the Heritage Special. The music is very wide open, 3 dimensional and vocals are rich and throaty and detailed. You can hear the gruff in the voice of Daniel Ash as the wall of guitars appear just behind the speakers. Never heard this track sound so good. It immerses me within the music and the drums have some weight rather than sounding overly thin and weak. Fleshed out, fluid, 3D and it’s the mids that truly help. It has to be the mid/bass driver from that $85k speaker doing it’s thing! Listening mid day with my INT-25 set to 41 I am getting a huge room filling and almost too loud sound but it sounds sooooooo good! When the chorus kicks in the sound explodes across the boundaries of my room. Sweet!
I’m a Harmony by Linda Perhacs from the album of the same name on Tidal.
This song will take you on a spiritual ride through the heavens and earth. With a relaxed state of mind, you could really envision yourself floating through the skies with this track on the right system. Trippy, eclectic and unusual it starts out with a mellow and interesting vocal with background vocals that sound odd but as the song moves on it explodes into a huge soundscape filled with instruments, voices and 3 dimensional sounds. This is a song you should listen to in full, from start to end as it really does take you on a ride. On the Heritage Specials it is very wide open and I hear all kinds of sounds I have missed on the Klipsch Heresy IV’s. The drums are delicate and hitting behind vocals with cymbals crashing all around. At one point we hear the drums get heavier and this is when you know the ride is just starting. Strap in and enjoy the ride. This is a great test track as it showcases a speakers ability to separate the sounds, voices and instruments. Many speakers will fail as the sound will all be mushed together. Some speakers will go to extremes with imaging here, and be clinical. The HS does it just right, with fluidity and mid warmth and depth yet at the same time we hear the delicate highs as sounds float off into space. Near the end we have a very real sounding vocal from Linda as she tells you that you are her favorite in such a delicate way. We hear all the nuances in her voice here with the Heritage Specials.
My Gear as of Feb 2021:
Speakers: Klipsch Heresy IV, Dynaudio Special 40, Dynaudio Heritage Special.
Amps: Pass labs Int-25, Naim Nova, Willsenton R8, Musical Fidelity M5si
Digital: Bluseound Node 2i (streamer), Chord Qutest (DAC), Chord MScaler (Upscaler)
Cables: Nordost Blue Heaven LS full Loom from speaker to interconnects to digital to power cord for the amp.