It’s a sad thing, to know that this might be the last time I’ll ever get to hear my beloved Dahlquist DQ-10m* speakers. I’m moving and the new place won’t accommodate speakers this large, so into the garage they will go…tomorrow. But tonite, I gave them a last listen to my favorite jazz recording, Dexter Gordon’s GO! OK, I admit, it was the CD. I had stupidly packed away my LPs yesterday and moved them to the new digs…so sue me.
What’s so special about them? They have spatial qualities that I haven’t heard in many speakers. But to be less technical, they sound natural. I know that in the many decades since they were designed around 1974 that technology has marched plenty forward. I dinna care. The DQ-10s are and were my first love. You know how that goes.
I had quit going to college in the late 1970s and found a job through an advertisement in the San Jose Mercury newspaper classifieds. It was a warehouse job for some company, which turned out to be the Soundworks, a stereo outfit that was secretly owned by Pacific Stereo. Pacific Stereo was all over the place in California, or so it seemed. The Soundworks was a very different store, however. It was a megastore, before there were megastores. It was huge, like today’s Best Buy, except we sold nothing but stereo gear and TVs. No washing machines, no phones, no lies (ok, that’s a lie). The store was located on Stevens Creek Blvd in Santa Clara, CA.
We had a special room for the best gear. There were speakers called Gale GS401s that were supposed to be great and at first listen, I thought they were pretty good. They were pretty, too, having chrome sides. Yea, CHROME! I think the stands were chrome as well. But compared to the Dahlie’s, they sounded like little, closed-in boxes. And that’s what DQ-10s do to you. They sound open, airy and full of music not just wide, but front to back. They cost $1000 a pair but my employee discount cut the price nearly in half. Still, back in the late 1970s, that was a major chunk of change. I recall a Soundworks salesman telling me that they might be the best speakers made. As a young man, that was good enough. I had to have them and have been very satisfied since.
The DQ-10s were the first attempt to align the sound coming from the tweeter, to the mids and then to the woofer, so they reached your ear at the same time (DQ-10s are five way speakers). That’s why the speaker drivers are NOT all on the same plane of alignment. They are slightly in front or behind the other drivers to align the time, or phase of the audio signal. Yes, you can argue that is really isn’t possible to physically align phase this way, but all I can tell you is that the speakers exhibit a three dimensional quality that I find is lacking in many speakers. So the rest can fly.
How good are they? There’s an article here about how the DQ-10s are among the 12 most important speakers ever made. No, the author doesn’t wax poetic about them, but he acknowledges their place in audio history. He argues that the later DQ-20 was a better speaker. I heard them in a showroom and didn’t think they were as good as the 10s.
The 10s are also well known for having a very smooth midrange, but less than great bottom end. For that, you can buy the dedicated Dahlquist subwoofer and electronic crossover. I’ve also read that many owners unplug the super tweeter. I’ve never done so. Even when I first bought these speakers I could not hear anything coming out of the super tweet, and I’ve read the same from other owners. Designer Jon Dahlquist has said that they don’t start working until 12K.
I had to store them for many years in one of those rental-storage places and they deteriorated there. So a few years back I finally refoamed the woofers and mids and all was well. Until I had to move, that is. All I can do is hope that someday I’ll be living in a space that lets them breathe music again. When that happens, Dexter Gordon’s GO! will be the first LP on the turntable.
If you’re interested in more about my listening systems, go here. Here’s a slideshow with a few more photos from when I had to remove the mid woof and woofer to be refoamed by Millersound (By the way, if your Adobe Flash player isn’t working, neither will this slideshow. I don’t like Flash, but it’s how these shows work on WordPress…for now!):
* The “m” stands for mirrored. The tweeter/mid array is not centered in the DQ-10m, it’s set left and right, as you can see in a few of the photos. I place the tweeter arrays so they are closer to the center space between the two speakers.