How low can you go? It’s a question often asked in many contexts. When it comes to loudspeakers, that question usually refers to bass extension, but with Dayton Audio’s T652-AIR speakers ($125/pair on Amazon) what it refers to is the price. With an MSRP of $125 you can get your hands on a pair of compact tower speakers that sport dual 6.5″ woofers and a 1″ air motion transformer (AMT) tweeter.
Specs and Features
Speaker type: Ported 2-way compact tower
Frequency response: 45 Hz – 20,000 Hz (+/-3 dB)
Power Handling: 90 watts (RMS), 150 watts (peak)
Sensitivity: 88 dB 1W/1m
Impedance: 6 ohms
Woofer: 2X 6.5″ polypropylene-cone drivers
Tweeter: 1″ AMT (air motion transformer)
Dimensions: 30″ (high) x 7.1″ (wide) x 9.5″ (deep)
Weight: 34 pounds (pair)
Grill: Included, removable
Finish: Black matte vinyl
Warranty: 5 years
A 1″ AMT tweeter provides treble for the T652-AIR speakers. Photo by Mark Henninger
The spring-loaded speaker terminals accept 14-gauge wire easily. Photo by Mark Henninger
For this review, I used the Dayton Audio T652-AIR speakers in a “lifestyle” 2.0 stereo system powered by a Denon HEOS amp ($500 on Amazon)—spec’d at 100 watts per channel into two channels—with the Tidal HiFi streaming service as the music source. It’s a super-simple system, with only one power cord and two speaker cables, and the HEOS amp could just as well be a Sonos Connect Amp ($500 on Amazon) or some flavor of DTS Play-Fi amp. Anyhow, the HEOS unit is what I’ve got, so it’s what I used.
From the moment the box containing the T652-AIRs arrived, I realized that “compact tower” is a description that needs to be taken very literally, given that the speakers are only 30 inches high. The good news is the tweeter is above the two woofers and is located only a few inches below where you’d find it on taller towers.
If you tend to use bean bags or rockers instead of couches and recliners, perhaps in a TV/game room, where the compact tower form factor is fine because the tweeter will be at the right height for that application. And while I’m sure that limiting the height of these speakers saved in material cost and shipping, for regular seating, my recommendation is to give these speakers a four to six inch boost by placing them on top of something solid—I used brick paver stones to lift them four inches.
These speakers ship with a pair of 10-foot, 18 gauge speaker cables, but I opted to use two 15-foot segments of 14-gauge Amazon Basics speaker cable I already had on-hand. I can confirm that the spring-loaded connections on the speakers can easily accommodate 14-gauge cables.
Please note, I will follow this 2-channel review near future with a 5-channel review that incorporates Dayton Audio’s C452-AIR center channel speaker ($32.80 on Amazon) and B452-AIR bookshelf/satellite speakers ($55/pair on Amazon).
These speakers exceed expectations on multiple levels. Most importantly, they are subjectively pleasing and exciting to listen to, with a crisp and detailed sound that is airy and—at least to my ears—an improvement over cheap domes. Furthermore, they can play fairly loud without introducing unpleasantries, and they produce a legit deep & wide soundfield with precise imaging.
T652-AIR towers sound surprisingly good considering the MSRP. Photo by Mark Henninger
I listened to the Thievery Corporation – DJ Kicks quite frankly found the sound defied the price point of the speakers. On many tracks, I did not miss the presence of a subwoofer—the bass was taught and at higher volume levels, physically tangible. And listening to the latest Thievery album—The Temple of I & I—was all the proof I needed that these are speakers I could actually live with.
Crucially, the bass these speakers produce is never boomy or flabby. Instead, it sounds balanced with the mids and highs—a behavior that measurements confirmed. Moreover, these speakers are of sufficiently good quality that you could spend the money you save (by choosing them) on a decent sub. You’d get more satisfaction out of that approach than spending a lot more on tower speakers.
Some “quick and dirty” measurements revealed a few eccentricities, namely a hump in treble output—highs are about 3 or 4 dB “hot” from 9 kHz to 18 kHz, when measured on-axis. Some listeners are likely to find that a bit bright for their taste, others will be thrilled at the detail the enhanced treble brings to the table. Interestingly, response is just about flat when the speaker is measured 20 or 30 degrees off-axis, so if you aim these speakers straight forward (no toe-in) you should get balanced response when sitting centered.
The T652-AIRs breezed through a collection of classic rock albums like Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Magical Mystery Tour by The Beatles. Indeed, if judged by how they handle rock, I’d say these are the new price/performance champions among the ultra-affordable passive speakers that I am familiar with and the AMT tweeter definitely deserves some credit here.
Rap classics like Dr. Dre’s Chronic 2001 and Gang Starr’s Moment of Truth also fared well, with clear vocals and bumpin’ bass. You can’t turn these up to “house party” volume levels—you’ll need to spend more or sacrifice quality to get that—but again, for daily listening it’s all good.
W:/2016ALBUM/ by Deadmau5 delivered a great demo of what these speakers are about, with holographic imaging that sounds like it could not possibly be coming from short, $125/pair tower speakers. It just does not compute, with throbbing bass, crystalline synths, and punchy drums that’s putting a smile on my face as I write this.
The rough measurements taken from my listening position may be unique to my room, but overall struck me as favorable. The lowest usable in-room bass response, based on multiple measurements correlated with subjective listening, is 30 Hz. However distortion keeps that from being usable at anything but fairly low output levels. By 60 Hz the bass is loud and clear, even at higher output levels. This indicates an 80 Hz crossover is ideal if you use a sub.
Speaking of subwoofers, I did not ask Dayton to send me one with these speakers, but I did add my reference subs—a pair of JL Audio F112 V2s—to the mix. I’m not going to get into how that combo sounds because there’s such a mismatch in price, but suffice to say I thought the combination sounded great and the combination make the T652-AIR speakers deliver sound akin to that of much more expensive speakers.
I did not expect much from $125/pair speakers, so when the Dayton Audio T652-AIR speakers turned out to be more than just an enjoyable listen, I was thrilled because it’s always great to have speaker options to suggest to folks on a super-tight budget.
If you don’t listen to bass-heavy music genres and don’t blast music at concert levels, you probably don’t need a sub to enjoy the T652-AIRs. They can deliver a quality listening experience on their own, which is what I expect from any self-respecting tower speaker. But if you are like me and have a collection full of tracks that demand deep bass to fully appreciate, you’ll want to look at your subwoofer options and go with a 2.1 system.
Make no mistake, when you look at the Dayton T652-AIR speakers, you can see costs were cut in many areas—the enclosure being one obvious area. These loudspeakers are small, light, and cheap. But somehow, miraculously, the cost-cutting still left enough money to build an engaging performer that can surprise even jaded listeners.
Ultimately, these speakers are so cheap they are practically an impulse buy. I think they sound great, but since they are sold by Amazon, what I suggest to anyone who’s curiosity is sparked it to try them for yourself. These are not “miracle speakers” but they exceeded my expectations by a wide margin.
Perhaps you’ve got a garage or workshop that you always wished had decent sound, and a spare receiver just waiting for a second life… barring something both cheaper and better coming along, these T652s are exactly what I’d hook up to it. For delivering surprisingly high fidelity at rock-bottom prices, I’m giving the Dayton Audio T652-AIR compact tower speakers an AVS Forum “Recommended 2018” nod.
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