How do Dunlavys compared to new stuff?

I attended a Stereophile show in the 90s and the Dunlavy SC-IV was my favorite. I'm considering new speakers (thanks for the help on previous threads) and wondering if in 15 years newer designs have left them behind. How would these compare to similar designs/cost speakers of today?

There are some IIIs for sale, how do they compare to the IV? How much would IVs cost do you think?

I purchased new old stock SC-III.A's about a year ago, replacing Dynaudio Confidence C1. I had never heard this model but I did hear the Aletha at CES several years ago and I've never forgotten that experience. The III.A is the last iteration of the what had been the Aletha. In the past 10 years, I have owned speakers from ProAc, Harbeth, Thiel, JM Reynaud, Dynaudio, Manger, Omega and Green Mountain Audio. I've enjoyed them all and I'm sure there will be other speakers in the future. I'm not going to say something silly like "I couldn't be happier," but I must say that the Dunlavys are the most musically satisfying of the bunch -- or more accurately, my system is now the most musically satisfying (there have been other changes). The quality that I heard at CES is what I'm getting at home, for which I would use terms like natural, organic, tonally true. The resolution is not there in the way that some speakers -- current and past -- deliver, but the total package is really working for me. And I like detail and resolution as a rule, it's just that I like music to have a human, flesh-and-blood quality and the Dunlavys deliver that. And they play well with the widely eclectic music I favor (rock, jazz, classical, folk, world, ambient, avante-garde).

Dunlavy used relatively inexpensive drivers and crossover component and there have certainly been improvements in those areas since the company ceased manufacturing. A friend of mine who has Thiel 3.7's (which sound great) thinks the Dunlavys are hopelessly out of date. But as I say, I'm very happy with them. It comes down to what your sonic priorities are. Which other speakers have you heard that you like?
Thanks for the very thoughtful reply, Drubin. I have been set with my system containing Snell Es since the 90s. It's been a long time since I auditioned stuff so don't remember that well. I do remember liking Vandersteens (ci?), did not like NHTs as they seemed too sterile, and have liked the Proacs I have heard. Listening to many speakers at the Stereophile show, I really can't remember brands or impressions except that I always remembered that late in the day when I heard the Dunlavys I had the experience that I was sure without question they were my preference. My Snells have a sweetness I haven't heard in many speakers, but they lack in detail and imaging (and it could be my placement etc). I just thought I'd like to move up.

Before I changed I would change the internal wiring for something like Cardas and get new binding posts. Spikes or spiked stands might also be a good idea. You would be amazed how much more can be gotten out of equipment, especially speakers, with some simple upgrades. What speaker cables are you using now?
Thanks Stanwal. I use a large gauge multistrand wire obtained from an electrical supply. I should probably invest in some real cables. However, cost is certainly a factor and I wonder if investing a lot in these is a better choice than an upgrade to a better (imaging) speaker? Something has just happened with Snell and I've been trying to see if driver replacements are still available, the foam surrounds have already gone out once (in the nineties).
I would definitely look for IVAs rather the IVs. I have owned both and the IVA is superior IMO.

On a related note: I've often wondered what the Dunlavy IVA would have sounded like with top notch drivers and crossover components. Of course the prices would have been significantly higher but it could have been quite a speaker.
On a related note: I've often wondered what the Dunlavy IVA would have sounded like with top notch drivers and crossover components. Of course the prices would have been significantly higher but it could have been quite a speaker.
Member jadem6 worked extensively on the crossovers in his IV-As as documented in this thread
Speaker cables do make a difference, Mapleshade are quite good and reasonably cheap; for DIY try something from Madisound or other suppliers of audio rather than electric gear; you will hear the difference.
I think they compare rather well. Dollar for dollar, embarassing a lot of the new stuff.
River, I've been in this hobby for decades and after owning and auditioning more speakers than I can remember I bought a pair of Duntech Princesses, the older sibling to the DAL SC-IV. I ended up keeping them for 19 years, only selling them to downsize in preparation for a move. Through out that time I continued hearing other speakers at the CES, THE Show, Stereophile shows, dealers, etc., many costing multiples of the Princesses, but without hearing any I would trade for even up. Good design and construction do not go out of style. I personally favored the Duntech speakers over the DAL models but still feel the DALs are way above average and represent excellent buys in the used market.
I don't think they are current. They focus on frequency response, extension at both ends and don't really serve the music. There are new and much smaller speakers that would serve you better. Might even prevent a divorce. Think it through.

Good luck
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I have never owned Dunlavy but have listened to the IV's at a friend's house whose system consists of top McIntosh pre-amp; 1201 mono blocks, top Mac CDP; Boulder's top phono pre amp, Continuum's Caliburn turntable, Cobra arm and Dynevector top end cartridge and the Dunlavy speaker more than holds it's own! My friend has owned them for years and could buy anything he wants, but hasn't found anything he likes better! Too bad John has passed on; truly a great designer with real world pricing.
Why would another company continue with what the did. I never heard Dunlavy, but a salesman at one of the local audio shops owned a pair. I asked him why he owned speakers they do not carry in the shop. He said they were better than anything the store carried.
They focus on frequency response, extension at both ends and don't really serve the music.
How's that?
I had a pair of sc III's driven by cary slam 100 monoblocks;these speakers were the best I had owned at that time.
I would think the difference in the 3's compared to 4's or 5's would be in the bass response due to the 4's and 5's having larger woofers than the 3's.
How large is your room and what electronics would be driving these speakers?
Either way I think you will not be disappointed as I think they still compete with speakers are made today.
Stanwal: you should read what Mr Dunlavy had to say about high-end cables. It would turn your head around 360.

I have been through the speaker mill over the years myself. From Vandersteen 2Cs to Meadowlark Audio Heron Hot rods, to Apogee Mini Grands, Mirage M3si, Dynaudo Contour IVs, JM Labs Mezzo Utopias and more. I currently have a pair of the DAL SC-IV Improved ( not the Full IVA but almost ) paired with some Final Labs 12" sealed box subs. I am done lusting after speakers. The SC-IV has a natural presentation that I find very revealing and musical at the same time.
Sounds Real's comment makes me wonder if he listens to music or sine waves or if he has ever actually listened to a pair of SC-IVs . "I don't think they are current. They focus on frequency response, extension at both ends and don't really serve the music". I understand everybody is looking for their OWN sound but somehow I get the idea that a speaker that "focuses on frequency response, extension at both ends" would be a good thing. The funny part is the SC-IVs DO NOT focus on extension at least in the bass. I mean, a 6 foot tall sealed box that only goes down to 45hz!! How is that "focused on extension at the extremes"?
Anyhow, I have really taken to the overall presentation of the SC-IVs. Set up is IMPORTANT but then setup of ANY speaker is important. Your room and how it works with the dispersion patterns is what you must learn and how any speaker performs in it is a combination of the hard performance factors of the room and speakers work together as a system. Move them around, move your seating, move your furnishings, move you equipment out of the middle of the speakers ala Jim Smith of Get Better Sound. I have my speakers well into the room and off the side walls. The room dimensions are not symmetrical ( stairway opening and no real rear wall for almost 30 feet ) and the setting up process took me a few weeks of trial and error. Fun trial and error. Learning your own room and your likes are a ton of fun and the SC-IVs make it easy as the bases move well over carpet or hard surfaces.
I have paired the SC-IVs with both tube and SS gear and right now am getting all I want from a 20 year old 100 wpc Ayre V3 amp.
Not to hijack the thread but if anyone has actually read this far I have a question or two.

1. Can 50-60 watts of Balanced Audio Technology VK 55 or VK 60 make the SC-IVS walk and talk?

2. What sort of spikes/cones/points does anyone use for isolation on carpet and a sprung floor?

Back on topic, River251 if you can find a pair of SC-IVs and they are in good shape and not too hard to get ( shipping, WAF etc. ) then by all means go for it. All you have to gain is more experience listening to your room and your music with some new to you speakers. What's not to love?
Why wouldn't other audio companies mimic this design? It sounds like a darn good one.
Meadowman, when I had the Princesses I tried four 1" TipToes (aluminum cones) to couple each to my carpeted, wood-suspension floor. They transfered too much energy, exciting the wood floor. Overall balance was better with the speakers directly on the carpet in my situation.

I'm afraid like so many aspects of set up, you will need to experiment with your own system. And River same for you if you buy DALs or Duntechs.
Kclone, easier said than done. Other companies might not have the technological know how, be willing to hand match components and tune each pair to a reference, deal with the large size and weight. Too many other companies seem to be more concerned with building uniquely voiced speakers, rather than accurate ones. The sad part is that John Dunlavy's health failed him before he could pursue his even more promising designs. It would be nice if someone could purchase the rights to those designs, develop them, and bring them to market.
Lipinski Sound speakers do seem to mimic the Dunlavy design.
One unresolved mystery to me was (I could be wrong on this, as rumors abound)that Mr. Dunlavy did not believe that speaker wire made a difference.
This is not to imply that all wire that 'costs more' is better, but that wires that are well conceived, made of purerer grades of copper (silver/gold)can sound better.
I've been involved in too many 'blindfold listening tests' to discount that. But the last I was aware he discounted this...odd it seems for someone with his knowledge.
I'll gladly fold if someone knows this story more intimately.
John Dunlavy didn't believe reasonably(?) standard wires made a difference. He claimed that audio reviewers regularly could not discern the difference in cables in his "blindfold listening tests". With that said, he did develop and market wires. His argument being that they followed sound engineering practices, but he still maintained that the differences of his cables and lamp cord were inaudible. The man didn't pull any punches.
I also have a pair of the Dunlavy SCIV improved, but not IVA's. I have had these for many years and they are still my favorite speakers of all time. They do more things right and seem to be so even balanced. They are extremely revealing, so you can tailor the sound you to what you want by choosing the equipment to meet your needs. Careful setup is important. But I am serious, they make instruments and voices sound REAL. They soundstage like nobody's business, and they still give me goosebumps after all these years.

If your room can handle the IV's, get them over the III's. If your room can handle the V's, GET THE V's.

I have had Klipschorns, ProAc's, still have vintage Tannoy Monitor Golds in custom cabinets, and have heard many other respectable speakers. One thing I can say with absolute certainty....I will be keeping my Dunlavy SCIV's for life.
Meadow man.

Here is a quote from a review.

And how was the Dunlavy's deep bass? Stupendous! Measured anechoically, the SC-IV/A's rated -3dB point is specified as 20Hz, compared to the SC-IV's 33Hz. Keeping in mind that going from 40Hz to 20Hz represents an entire octave, this is a big difference.

Are we taking the same speaker?
No Regrets,

What do you power your SC-IVs with? Have you tried a few different amps? I would love to hear your impressions of amp/speaker pairings.
Hello Meadowman,

I have found that even though the SCIV's are a relatively low impedence speaker, that because their impedence is very flat and not all over the map that they present a pretty easy load for amplifiers. The key is to use an amplifier with an excellent circuit design, powersupply, and outstanding transformers to give you the "quality" of watts, not necessarily the "quantity" of watts (within reason of course).

I have tried in the past a 50 watt Class A solid state design by Forte, a division of the Threshold Company. It did a fine job and was one of the better sounding solid state amps I've heard.

I am currently using a single ended triode amp using 845 Transmitting Directly Heated Triodes that gives me 37 watts rms with peaks of over 70 watts that to my ears sound simply amazing. It does not sound syrupy, or colored at all. The frequencies are not rolled off, in fact this amps response is capable of -3db from 6 Hz - 35 kHz. With this amplifier, the sound fills the air with a harmonic density that reminds you of real acoustic instruments being played. Piano, tenor sax, cellos, acoustic double bass, etc sound very, very real. I say this because I not only listen to live unamplified music several times a week, but I also am a musician. I play tenor and bass trombones as well as the cello. If the quality of the recording is there, the sound is goosebump real.

These speakers are capable of dynamics that sound natural, they throw a convincing soundstage with instruments and bodies that sound lifelike. As large as these speakers are, they are capable of disappearng. The bass that they have will reproduce an acuoustic bass with excellent pitch definition and without sounding boomy or one notish at all.

These descriptions are from listening to acoustic jazz, vocals, and classical music thru my equipment and with my ears. I am not a rocker or head banger, so I'm not sure how they will sound with rock, rap, etc. but the SCIV's can play full symphonic orchestral music very loudly with an excellent sense of dynamic scale.

I love the sound of this 845 amp on these speakers. Now if you have a huge room, you may want more power, but then I'd also rather opt for the SCV's then as well.

I have also used a custom made EL84 amp giving me a very potent 15 watts of push/pull. They sounded very nice and quite dynamic, especially the micro dynamics, but will run out of steam for the most demanding of full symphonic crescendos. They did very admirable though with simple music.

These speakers are very revealing and very transparent. If you put a hard or sterile sounding amp on them, that is how they will sound. If you put a warm, syrupy, slow lathargic amp on them, that is how they will sound. So be fore warned. They can handle a lot of power, but it is not needed if you have a quality amp and do not have a carnevous room to play them in.

I hope this helps a little.

We are talking about a similar speaker. The SC-IVA was John's response to the reviews and customer reactions to the original SC-IV. The A went significantly lower in the bass dept. due to different woofers and crossover changes as well. Still, the speaker is not a true full range design. I have heard many pairs of IVs in the original, improved and A designation and not one of them had real usable bass much past 35 hz and in most rooms the 40hz range was more common.
More to the point, how does a speaker that focuses on frequency response and extension at the extremes fail to serve the music? Please do not get me wrong, I have heard more exciting mid range and more well defined imaging in other speakers but to MY EARS* the SC-IV gets so much right and does so little wrong that it not only stands up to today's designs, I feel it would be really hard to find any current speaker that holds a candle to the SC-IV or SC-IVA at anything close to their cost when new, let alone used pricing.
The great thing about the audio gig is the fact that we are all listening with our own ideas of what is good and correct and pleases us. I am so glad we have made it out of the "Specs are Everything" era. Remember when manufacturers claimed .0005 % THD and that was supposed to be all we needed to know about an amplifier?
If you are not pleased by the Dunlavy's that is more than just OK. That is part and parcel what makes this hobby/addiction so darn much fun.

Like many have said: Equal or usually surpassing new stuff regardless of price range. YMMV a bit but not by much! In my electronics have come and gone but my Dunlavy Vs and IVs sig remain. Just about recently, i have found electronics as capable as my Dunlavy's. I also have kept my IIs sig and Is sig. Don't that "use of old design, low quality speakers, lack of high tech materials, blah blah mumbo jumbo" fool you. If you can manage, get at least IVs. At the used prices that would one the greatest bargain in audio!
A very interesting set of responses and there is no doubt that speakers like the IV's still make beautiful music. But the reality is they ARE dated. They do not possess that quickness, resolution and dynamics of some todays great speakers and I do think the inexpensive drivers are part of the issue. Go listen to the likes of Green Mountain Audio or Merlin and then tell me that speakers have not evolved a LOT since the Dunlavys.
Saying that, there is still no question that they remain very good speakers and a great value. But I could say the same of many fine speakers. I recently spent time with Spica TC-60s and Snell JIII's and they were still very impressive.

I also own the SC4s, and have from almost the time they originally appeared. One significant improvement to mine occured when I freed the internal driver wires from those nasty clips, cut off the splayed ends, tightly wound the newly bared ends and soldered them to the drivers where the clips had previously resided. This resulted in a smoother and more musical/relaxed sound in the treble range(YMMV). Otherwise, I concur with those who cite the flexibility in tailoring the sound of their Dunlavys with different associated equipment. For example, changing the tubes alone in my Air Tight ATM-3 monoblock amps made a very considerable difference in regard to projecting a soundstage of impressive breadth as well as imparting a greater sense of fullness to instrumental voices. I've had very few if any misgivings about the Dunlavys.
One year at the CES John Dunlavy used a Bel Canto amp (the SET-40 like No_regrets?) to drive the SC-IIIs. It may not have offered full bass extension but otherwise was one of the best sounds at that show.

While respective models between Duntech and Dunlavy Audio Labs have similar sonic character, they do have different drivers and crossovers. As a result I believe the Duntechs require more power while the DALs can be paired successfully with less powerful amps. But both lines will be very revealing of whatever is upstream and will reward their owners for choosing quality components.
Many speaker's parts are better than the sum of their designs. Dunlavy's speaker's design is better than some of their parts.
Pryso, the Bel Canto SET40 is exactly the amp that I am using with my Dunlavy SCIV's. It does an excellent job of reproducing the lowest octaves of an acoustic double bass and the wallop of kettle and bass drums in a symphony. For me, that is all I can ask as I do not listen to rock, rap, or synthesized music. To my ears, in my room, I feel it is a great match.
John Dunlavy was a fan of switching amps. His future plans included speakers with active digital cross-overs, independent switching amps for each driver, different cabinets and baffles than his previous designs.
No_regrets, I saw your earlier post where you identified your amp. My comment implied that I only remembered that Dunlavy used a Bel Canto amp at the CES but I was unsure of the model. And my comment about lack of full bass extension was directed more to the SC-III than the amp. While the mids and highs may be very similar to his larger models, I don't think anyone would expect the bass from the SC-III as from the SC-IV or larger speakers. But I agree quality is quality, even when it misses greater quantity.

Unsound, you may be questioning some of the parts selection with the DAL models, I'm not sure. But my Duntech speakers had Dynaudio and ScanSpeak drivers which I don't believe can be criticized from a quality standpoint. My personal feeling was the Duntech speakers offered slightly better performance than the comparable DAL models. This was in part due to better, more expensive drivers plus a more sophisticated cabinet design. So perhaps we are saying the same thing in a slightly different way?

Lastly, I'm not surprised to hear about Dunlavy's consideration of switching amps. One year at the CES he brought a prototype speaker that was tri-amped internally. It was suggested that Adcom power modules were used but I couldn't confirm that. I just know the idea of an active speaker system appealed to John.
Pryso, the point I was trying to make was, that many other speakers with more expensive parts didn't seem to work out as well as Dunlavy's with less expensive parts. FWIW, I slightly prefered the Dunlavys to the Duntechs. YMMV.