Review: Dunlavy Audio Labs SC-IVa


Category: Speakers

When I decided seven years ago to upgrade my audio system, I started by finding a speaker I loved. I searched for almost a year listening to every speaker available in the Minneapolis area. I found Magnepan and MartinLogan to be stunning but too dry and fatiguing for my taste. The midrange was not as deep and rich as I was looking for. Wilson had great sound but beyond the budget I was hoping to stay in. B&W sounded thick and boomy to me and Meridian was electronic and artificial. Thiel, Audio Physics and Dunlavy became the finalists. Being a late ‘60s early ‘70s guy, I came from Marantz and MaIntosh electronics and JBL and Altec Lansing speakers. The size and depth of the sound of Dunlavy along with the exceptional midrange were the final factors in my choosing Dunlavy IV as the speaker I wanted. The problem was I could only afford the Dunlavy III, exceptional midrange but not the ultimate bottom end of the IV.
It was about two years after buying the III's that I had the opportunity to upgrade to the IV's. It turned out that over those two years Dunlavy had improved the IV's and had a new model, IVa. They amazed me to find the IVa was even richer and deeper than the old IV model. The Dunlavy IVa speaker consists of two 10" woofers, two 5" mids and one 1" composite textile dome tweeter. Frequency response is 25Hz to 20 kHz, and Sensitivity is 91 dB with an Impedance of 5 ohms. Size is 72" high, 15" deep and 12" wide with a weigh of 190 lbs. each. $8495/pr
I believe Dunlavy speakers have no rivals within their price category. John Dunlavy is obsessed with designing the most accurate reproductions of sound. To meet this stringent standard Dunlavy has built one of the worlds best-equipped laboratories in order to test his designs. This has lead to some very harsh discussions between John Atkinson of Stereophile and John Dunlavy. It seems that JA does not like being out engineered by one of the great loudspeaker designers and the result was punishing JD by putting the once Stereophile "product of the year" Class A component into their B class after Dunlavy improved the speaker to JA's recommendation. Despite the politics of Stereophile Magazine, this speaker will hold its own with speakers two and three times its cost.
The highs are clear, grain less and extremely extended. JA spoke of them appearing a bit forward but I have never felt that was the case with this speaker, and can hardly believe a comment like that when compared with some of Stereophiles favorites MartinLogan and Meridian. Comments like these only strengthen my lack of trust for this Magazine. The midrange on all Dunlavy speakers is amazingly magical. I have not tried any other speaker that is as pure and life like with the female voice than Dunlavy. They display all the color and texture of the midrange with a crispness and transparency. Bass has long been the contention point of the IV series. The fact that they rate them at 25Hz meaning that it cuts off one organ pedal is hardly an issue for me. On the double bass, even the lowest note is crisply defined with no bloating or smear. The famous subway as heard on Water Lilly Acoustics "Natures Realm" with the Philadelphia Orchestra is deep under my floor forward and to the right. On Cowboy Junkies "Trinity Sessions" the foot pounding on the stage is as if he were in my livingroom pounding on my floor. I have no lack for bass from my speakers, in fact any more might be too much. Sound stage is wide and very deep. Excellent transient speeds, superb impact yet with an effortless smoothness. I truly believe these are the best speakers I can afford and is very much at home in my system. They have never left me lacking or longing for something better. That says a lot for a guy who is always looking for more, but never from my speakers. These are simply great speakers, and their service is exceptional as I found out with my III's, I twice had drivers replaced although it turned out the speakers had nothing to do with the problems I was having.


Associated gear
Sony SCD-1 SACD player
Placette active pre-amp
Plinius SA-102 amps
Nordost Valhalla speaker cable
Nordost Valhalla and NBS Statement interconnects
NBS Statement power cords
Hydra power conditioner

Similar products
Thiel CS7 series
Audio Physic Virgo
Wilson Watt/puppy
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Like I said before, I loved my Dunlavy's for almost 4 years with the best ref stuff from ARC, Levinson, BAT etc... I think my upstream was pretty good!! I still miss the scale and weight of their presentation. After hearing my puppy 6's and Totems for example you realize the coloration factor. All in all a great speaker however.
If you change the sand cast 10 cent resistors for non inductive type sold under the North Creek Music branded name or better yet a resistor bridge made of multiple Vishay metal film type's you will hear a world of detail released from a black grainless backround.. Your first exposure may bring tears to your eyes.The same improvement can be performed in many esoteric high priced speakers. I have a parked pair of much experimented on and highly modified SC4's.. I was told by a couple of speaker designers swapping resistors would make no difference..I hear them to be mistaken..Tom
I think ive discussed this with you briefly once before audiotweak. I have recently had to sell my 4a's and actually have a pair of Athena's on the way. I might be willing to try something like this if its not too involved and easily reversible. With my associated gear, the detail is great and although the sound is forward, it is not fatiguing in the least. There have been times however when I thought it would be possible to hear deeper into the music. For instance, on a particular recording, I could hear an instrument doing something if I had my ear up to the speaker but from my listening spot I couldn't quite make it out. I concluded that it was probably the room. Perhaps a better component in the crossover could have made a difference. Does this describe your experience?
Yes we did talk about crossover upgrades by changing parts..and I also remember us speaking about the angled baffles that I used atop my SC4's to reduce bass cancelation caused by dissimilar distance between upper and lower woofers in relation to floor loading and ceiling loading..You should not have this variance in bass loading in the Athena.Never having heard the Athenas but familiar with the rest of the Dunlavy line there probably is a family history of crossover components.Tom
Hi Tom, do you have a list of components and values for the capacitors and resistors you would suggest for me to change in my crossover?