Playing around with sub-$200 Dayton MK442t loudspeakers

For the past month or so, I have been swapping out speakers in my system just because. This includes a pair of Monitor Audio Silver 3i, Elac Debut B6, and of course my Sonus faber Venere 1.5. All of which are receiving full frequencies from my amps. They play fullrange with the subs crossed over somewhat low to blend in.

I’m playing around with a now well broken-in pair of these Dayton’s in my system for the heck of it right now, and they are doing a lot more right than they are doing wrong, and doing more right than the 3i’s, B6’s and 1.5’s, which the 1.5’s are 10x the price of the Dayton’s.

Price doesn’t always dictate performance or value. This is a perfect case of that.

This post will focus on the Sonus 1.5’s and Dayton’s since the 1.5’s are the best performers of the three different bookshelf speakers that I own.

I’ll be honest, as I was removing my 1.5’s from my system and hooking the Dayton’s up, I really was not expecting much. In fact, I was expecting total disappointment just on the price difference alone. They are in the same location where I had the 1.5’s, five feet out into the room. The 1.5’s are rated down to 50 Hz with a single 6" driver whereas the Dayton’s are rated to 40 Hz with dual 4’s. The 1.5’s are rated at 85 dB, the Dayton’s at 87 dB.

The Dayton’s provide a slight bit more heft in the bottom end and better evenness of that heft throughout, offer a bit more output given the same volume level (obviously), better dynamic range and an overall very pleasing and detailed sound. Midrange is quite neutral and great on both male and female vocals with more lifelike body. That little .75" tweeter is shockingly airy and smooth. Together, they produce a balanced dose of naturalness, detail and space. And when matched up with my dual JL e110 subs (crossed around 55-60 Hz), they combine extremely well and make for a nice large sound stage with decent width, height and depth (in this crappy room) beyond the speakers, and keep a tight grip on a realistic sized center image with plenty of weight.

In fact, staging width, height and depth, imaging and a bolstered center image are much better with the Dayton’s than what the 1.5’s are capable of!

The only thing I did differently with the Dayton’s is toe them in a little bit more than the 1.5’s, and since the Dayton’s are not bi-wirable, I swapped out my Wireworld Oasis 7 bi-wire cables for my AudioQuest 72v DBS CV8 cables, and raised the output on the subs just a touch to compensate for the extra 2 dB output of the Dayton’s.

Last night I was playing the old Fourplay album, Between The Sheets. This is a very familiar album and I was playing it quite loud, a lot louder than I can safely play on the 1.5’s. Where the 1.5’s would be giving me signs of distress, these little Dayton’s were literally just singing along nice and clean, with zero signs that they were being pushed anywhere near their limits. They remained completely composed the entire time, never getting compressed or shrilly.

I am rather shocked and actually very amazed at what these little Dayton’s are doing in my system and room. A pair of tower speakers that cost me $198 are far outperforming my Sonus faber bookshelf speakers that cost $1200 ($1600 with included stands). I never expected that!

Are these Dayton’s the end-all speaker? Heck no. Of course not. Far from it. But if someone is on a tight budget and is looking for something that will provide solid “audiophile” sound on the cheap, these little guys are going to be pretty darn difficult to beat at the $200 price point, even more so than the highly praised Elac offerings.

Just thought this would be a neat little “review” of these Dayton transmission line towers. I actually like them a lot. Seems a bit odd having all of this PS Audio gear and power in front of these speakers, but it works and sounds pretty good! Better than the Sonus!

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I was interested, and gratified, to hear that. It means that by complementing the speakers with a $150 streaming amp you could get a very acceptable sounding entry level system. When we grumble that the audiophile quality is not held in any great esteem it could be because it seems to be so ridiculously expensive and complicated. What we should be encouraging is moving to something better than earbuds or a cheap bluetooth speaker to get an improved listening experience. If you can say “for less than $400 you can listen very enjoyably” it is a much more acceptable proposition. Once that step has been taken some may move on to better systems.

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I’m in the minority that believes the cost ratio preached for decades may no longer be relevant.

Maybe speaker design and, specifically, driver design have matured so greatly that inexpensive speakers paired with expensive electronics gets one further into fidelity than ever before?

I think about how hearing ELAC B6 speakers with $$$ of Audio Alchemy gear (now part of ELAC) blew my mind.

I think advice regarding system cost ratios needs revision or should be deprecated altogether.

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You know what? After listening to these little Dayton towers in my system for the past few days, I tend to agree with you. These speakers just do so many things right, at all volumes. I can’t help but think that having very decent gear and cables ahead of them helps tremendously.

I plan on selling my Sonus faber speakers once we move into the house. If I “had” to sell them and keep these Dayton’s, I wouldn’t mind at all. They’re that good!

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Listening to this album right now through these little MK442t’s… Man, unbelievable. It’s hard to grasp how a pair of loudspeakers in this price range can sound this good. Almost too good to be true.

I’m hearing a very natural, life-sized image of Stacey’s voice right smack in the middle of my TV screen, which is about 18" above the tweeters in these little towers. She’s standing just about a foot behind the speakers, between them and my equipment rack. Not to mention she’s locked directly in the middle of the speakers.

One of the things I’ve always disliked about the Sonus Venere 1.5’s, the center image always wavered back and forth between the speakers. They never produced a locked-in center image.

Agreed. The intended price/performance ratio for speakers and the gear that provides the source and drives them seems to be out of wack. I have a full PSA BHK/DMP/DAC/P20 system with lowly Magnepan 1.7’s and love it. A near 20 to 1 price ratio. To your point, I would bet $5k of electronics with good $500 speakers would sound better than the reverse.

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That is interesting. My lifetime prejudice has always been that the opposite is true!

Look at Steve Guttenberg, THE Audiophiliac. He’s got something like $40k of gear in front of a pair of Maggie 1.7 as his reference.

Birds of a feather or just delusional. My wife thinks the latter. Thanks for the comparison.

In all reality, both are true…

You can have really good speakers and average or sub-par gear and it will still sound pretty good. It’s just that the gear will not get the full potential out of those really good speakers.

Likewise, in my current situation, you can take really good gear and put it in front of well designed, entry level speakers and get the full potential of those well designed speakers.

Now theoretically, keeping within their limits, my Sonus faber’s “should” perform much better than these Dayton towers given their price points, but they don’t. In fact, the way these two compare, you would think the Dayton’s cost considerably more than the Sonus’.

And on top of that, they’re not too terribly bad looking either.

And just for fun…