29 October, 2013

Review: Dayton Audio B652

Click pics to enlarge. This one shows the double-stacked.
Review: Dayton Audio B652, Part I

Update May 4, 2015: A very brief Part II has been published.

Talking about cheap(tube)audio, this is the cheapest loudspeaker I have ever bought new or reviewed. It is even cheaper than the excellent Pioneer SP-21BS-LR that I previously reviewed (now superseded by the SP-22BS-LR).

Controversial? The Dayton Audio B652 (spec's can be found in the official link) is very famous for its bang for the buck, and has been praised even by mainstream press like stereophile and cnet. However, It is not without its detractors. If you do a quick google, along with all the positive views you shall also find a significant number of negative comments. There was also an issue of different iterations. Keep in mind most of these (almost all) are paired with low-end electronics or used casually.

Buying I bought mine in June 2013 through Parts Express. If you buy 4+ pairs it is only $35, with free shipping! I initially bought only 1 pair, but after being impressed ordered 3 more pairs as Parts Express was so nice to adjust the price so I got the better deal. What service!

Construction is very basic, nothing like the Pioneer. Unlike the Pioneer, the B652 uses a first-order crossover. Speaker terminals connect directly to the woofer (no coil and working as a "full-range"), and with just one cap to the tweeter (no resistor). Note that in the version (current) I have the capacitor is different in value from some description I found on the net (older versions). This site describes the cap as 3.3mu, which translates to a crossover point of 12,000Hz for a 4-ohm tweeter, but mine is 6.8mu, which means the crossover point to the tweeter is a much lower 6,000Hz or so for the same 4-ohm impedance (more or less I presume). This substantiates that there are different versions. So how does this latest version sound?

Basically I placed it on my Sonus faber stand and listened to it rather near-field through my reference setups used for the iPhono review, and that is much better partnering equipment than in any B652 review you shall find on the internet!

Analog 1: Linn LP-12 Lingo/Ittok LV-II/Airtight PC-1
Analog 2: Clearaudio Concept/Koetsu Black
Analog 3 (mono): Thorens TD-309/Denon DL-102
Phonoamps used: Nagra BPS and iFi iPhono (review here) Fosgate Signature (my experience here); AQVOX 2CI MkII used only for MC (here); Musical Surroundings Phonomena II (here); Audio Technica AT-PEQ3 (only MM);
Digital: Ensemble Dirondo Drive + Dichrono HiDAC
Preamp: Manley Neo-Classic 300B
Amp 1: Sunfire 300
Amp 2: Wavac MD-811 SET amp
Amp 3: Elekit TU-8300 300B amp

General Aspects At 87db, the B652 is not too efficient, but that is on paper as it is well known to be easily driven by low-powered T-amps (the magnets are not big and the simple crossover helps). Of course, I had no trouble with my Sunfire, but what pleased me the most is that I got decent sound out of them when I used my 300B amp (~8 wpc). If like mine your room is not too big and you don't listen too loud, the 300B is just enough with most material, even complex ones, though some break-up is inevitable in dynamically demanding passages. So, this can be an entry level speaker for the SET lover who has a small room (or desktop). The B652 is even-handed generally but even if you give it a lot of power it cannot play too loud (no heavy metal or big orchestral showpieces at high volume). The bass is limited but of good quality that I did not feel I needed a subwoofer. Soundstage is impressively deep and reasonably wide.

Transparency and Coherence The B652 has exceptional transparency and coherence. The transparency is impressive at the price, though it may come at the expense of a tendency to have just a little over-emphasis in the treble when the going gets rough or if the partnering electronics is not so good (most of the cases out there). The coherence is even more impressive (until the runaway tendency manifests itself with high volume), and that is a trait of good first-order designs (think Loth-X, Reference 3A and B&W CM1, to name just some).

HopeRhythm and Pace Given the fine coherence and first-order crossover, it is natural that PRaT are excellent. Miles' Tutu showcased this perfectly - the various strands are sinuously woven together and flow is natural. The ultra-demanding Stimela track from Masekela's Hope was reproduced with fine scale, though of course the last degree of oomph is necessarily missing compared with more powerful magnets. Nonetheless, the fine microdynamic turns render the experience highly pleasurable.

B652 vs Pioneer SP-21BS-LR I did not have the Pioneer with me but aural memory is still fresh. For sure the Pioneer is a little less efficient and more controlled, and can play louder with composure. However, overall, for my taste, the B652 has better PRaT and I prefer the way it makes music come alive. Also, I like its bass quality more than the Pioneer.

Two Better than One? One reason I bought more is because I wanted to give a pair to a friend. Another is to give a stacked pair a try (see pic). Thus stacked, the double B652 gained a degree of solidity though the bass was only minimally fuller. Sometimes a stacked pair are easier to drive - not so here, the 300B amp clipped more easily, so for the SET person this is not a way to go. However, for those with enough power to spare, two may be better than one!

Tweaks There are articles devoted to mods, but I think easy does it. I am certain changing the cap or perhaps the hook-up wires shall reap certain benefits. Moderation.

Conclusion: A bargain and Best-Buy!


  1. Hi, thanks for the wonderful review! Question for you: I've got a simple setup of a McIntosh 2505 and C26 preamp. I'm in between vintage speakers right now, and was thinking of throwing a pair of these Dayton B652s on my system. Would that be a foolish thing to do? After reading your review, perhaps not, since your gear is light-years beyond mine anyway.

    I have my eye on a vintage pair of RtR Exp-12 speakers for $50, but they're not in great shape. Would these Daytons have better sound than the average 30+year old speaker without refurbishment?


    1. I am not sure I understand. Your McIntosh C26 + 2505 is NO SLOUCH, and deserve good speakers! RtR I have never heard, but if they are older alnico models in good condition they must be worthwhile. And you cannot compare a 12" woofer with the tiny one that the Dayton sports. The Dayton is a minimalist modern and current product. As such it has its own pro's and con's that cannot be measured by absolute value compared with second-hand prices of older stuff. Vintage stuff almost always are worth more their price indicate. BUT, for a very small layout, with the Dayton one can get a taste of a modern design, which is IMHO not bad at all for the price. For a pittance, it is worth consideration; but I'd also invetigate your particular find of RtR further.

  2. hi Dr
    i remembered your review and was just about to advise a friend about the Daytons but discovered recent very controversial feedbacks online. it appears the Dayton suffered major and cheap mods, ue to change of suppply contractors - probably to match the growing demand - and quality went totally downhill... a shame really