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Dayton Audio B452-AIR Bookshelf and C452-AIR Center Speaker Review

by July 16, 2018
  • Product Name: B452-AIR Bookshelf Speaker and C452-AIR Center Speaker
  • Manufacturer: Dayton Audio
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStar
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: July 16, 2018 14:00
  • MSRP: $ 44.88/pair - B452-AIR, $34.88 each - C452-AIR

B452-AIR Bookshelf Speaker:

  • Design: 2-way sealed bookshelf speaker
  • Woofer: 4-1/2" polypropylene cone with 4-layer voice coil
  • Tweeter: 1" AMT
  • Finish: Black ebony pica vinyl finish
  • Power handling: 30 watts RMS/60 watts max
  • Impedance: 6 ohms
  • Frequency response: 85 Hz to 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 84 dB 1W/1m
  • Terminals: Spring-loaded clips
  • Weight: 4 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 9.5" H x 5.5" W x 5.7" D

C452-AIR Center Speaker:

  • Design: 2-way sealed MTM center speaker
  • Woofer: (2) 4-1/2" polypropylene cone with 4-layer voice coil
  • Tweeter: 1" AMT
  • Finish: Black ebony pica vinyl finish
  • Power handling: 60 watts RMS / 120 watts max
  • Impedance: 6 ohms
  • Frequency response: 85 Hz to 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 86 dB 1W/1m
  • Terminals: Spring-loaded clips
  • Weight: 7 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 5.5" H x 15.75" W x 5.7" D


  • Reasonably balanced sound
  • Very inexpensive
  • Small and lightweight
  • Easy to mount
  • Easy to drive by any amplifier


  • Needs subwoofer with high crossover - not much bass capability
  • Somewhat sibilant treble
  • Limited dynamic range


B452 w grilles on and off2.jpgThe Dayton Audio B452-AIR bookshelf speaker and C452-AIR center speaker are an expansion of the Dayton Audio B562-AIR, which itself was an offshoot of Dayton Audio’s classic original B562. What has made these series of speakers notable is the extremely low pricing for full-sized bookshelf speakers. At the time of this writing, a pair of B452-AIR speakers can be had for one penny short of $45, which makes them the least expensive speakers ever reviewed at Audioholics (Monoprice MP-65RT on sale still cost $0.11 more/pair). Inexpensive doesn’t necessarily mean bad though, and if we thought the B452-AIR bookshelf speakers and C452-AIR center were going to be poor-sounding products, we wouldn’t have requested a set for review. When we looked at the outward design and specifications, we thought there could be potential here for a reasonably good sounding speakers as we mentioned in our preview for the AIR speakers, although there were certainly going to be limitations necessitated by such a humble price point.

What compromises did Dayton Audio make to achieve this especially low pricing? How far can clever engineering go in coaxing good sound from modest components? Compared to much pricier speakers, how close in sound quality can these very affordable speakers actually get? What exactly is the cost entry into high-fidelity sound? Let’s try to answer a few of those questions right now…

Packing and Appearance

Since the B452-AIR and C452-AIR speakers are only available through Parts Express (that also sells through Amazon.com), buyers will very likely have to receive them through parcel delivery.

AIR packing.jpg

The AIR speakers were well-packed and arrived in a box with two large foam pieces sandwiching them and wrapped in plastic bags. Since they are light speakers, they will not be as susceptible to damage from shock as heavier designs. Unpacking them reveals some rather neutral black speakers that are not especially distinctive from an aesthetic perspective. That is not to say they look bad; they just do not look very flashy. With grilles on, they are conservatively-styled, vinyl-wrapped black boxes, although the rounded edges certainly help to soften their looks.

B452 Grilles on.jpg   B452 pair2.jpg

center w grille.jpg     AIR center.jpg

Removing the grille gives them a busier appearance but more personality. The mellow grey cone of the woofer and its glossy dustcap sit well with the textured vinyl veneer. The copper yellow of the AMT tweeter and its oval plate give the AIR speakers a touch of distinction. Overall, with grilles on, the AIR speakers are innocuous but a bit flat, and without grilles they are less elegant but a bit more distinguished.

Design Analysis

The B452-AIR and C452-AIR speakerB452 single2.jpgs are not quite as heavy-duty as the speakers that Audioholics normally reviews. The bookshelf and center speakers that we review can not usually be picked up with one hand. The B452-AIR weighs 4 lbs. and the C452-AIR weighs 7 lbs. However, the fact that they are somewhat small and do not have a lot of mass isn’t necessarily an indicator of poor performance. It is an indicator that they will probably not have much in the way of deep bass output, but that isn’t really expected given their specs. What we are more interested in is their nominal performance in mid-bass frequencies and above. With a stated 30 watts RMS power-handling, I am not expecting concert-level loudness ability either.

It is too much to expect a really wide dynamic range or deep bass extension from a smallish pair of $45 bookshelf speakers and a $35 center speaker. So, what should we properly expect? What I am hoping for is a balanced sound at regular listening levels and a wide dispersion pattern so that content is clearly delivered and easy to listen to in situations like a small bedroom system or office or perhaps as desktop PC speakers. On the face of the Dayton Audio AIR speakers, the ingredients are there to make this happen. Let’s examine the components that could make the potential for a reasonably good sound for this design.

AIR tweeter close up.jpg

The standout feature of these Dayton Audio AIR speakers is the implementation of an AMT tweeter. AMT Tweeters are not typically used in speakers in this price range. AMT tweeters are a folded-ribbon design that has become a popular tweeter type in recent years. AMT stands for “Air Motion Transformer”. As opposed to conventional dome tweeters that oscillates pistonically, AMT tweeters contract and expand the folds of a pleated membrane to produce sound. To explain using an example, imagine the folded surface of a half-closed curtain- then line the interior folds of the curtain with conductive rods on adjacent sides of the folds, and set two powerful magnets on the sides of the curtain. Run some alternating current through the conducting rods and their newfound electromagnetic field will rapidly collapse and expand the folds of the curtain, and, in doing so, squeeze air in and out of the folds thereby creating pressure waves that we experience as sound.

A major advantage in this design is that since the folds of the diaphragm are much deeper than they are wide, air is ejected out at a much faster speed than the vibration of the diaphragm itself- as much as five times faster. Another advantage is the very light mass of the diaphragm that makes it very easy to move and to change direction since it does not have the momentum of the weight of typical dome tweeters. These elements give AMT tweeters an extended response well into ultrasonic frequency ranges. Also, since AMT tweeters can have a relatively large surface coupled with the air, they can have a very wide dynamic range. The AMT tweeters used in the Dayton Audio AIR speakers are on the smaller side, but they still may well have a major advantage over the dome tweeters used in their sister speaker line at Dayton Audio that uses dome tweeters. Given that the AIR series are considerably more expensive than the dome versions, one would certainly hope that the AMT tweeters are a lot higher performing.

C452 woofer3.jpg  B452 woofer.jpg

The 4.5” woofers use a polypropylene cone and a 4-layer coil. They have a good-sized 6.5cm diameter by 2cm thick magnet in the motor section. Curiously, the woofers between the C452-AIR and B452-AIR have a difference; the C452-AIR woofers have bucking magnets on their backplate. Bucking magnets are used to shield the magnetic field of the permanent magnet of the motor so the field won’t interfere with much beyond the speaker enclosure. They were mostly used to prevent the magnetic field from distorting CRT video displays, which would have been a sensible feature, once upon a time ago, for a center speaker. Since CRT displays are very seldom used anymore, Dayton Audio could omit this feature with little consequence.

 B452 crossover.jpg   C452 crossover.jpg

B452-AIR crossover (left) and C452-AIR crossover (right)

There isn’t much of of crossover circuit on these speakers, not that such a feature would be expected at this price point. The C452-AIR center speaker only has a small capacitor, while the B452-AIR bookshelf speaker uses a capacitor and resistor, and all connections are soldered. The capacitor is used to protect the tweeterB452 rear.jpg from being fed frequencies deeper than is safe for them, and the resistor is being used to pad the tweeter down on the B452-AIR so that it isn’t playing at levels way above the woofer. This all means, of course, that the woofers are running full range on these speakers. While that isn’t ideal, it is probably a concession that Dayton Audio has to make to achieve their target pricing. It does not have to be a severe flaw so long as the woofer is engineered to have relatively benign breakup modes, which is very likely the case here. In other words, the woofer can be designed to keep its upper-frequency misbehavior from being heavily intrusive in the speaker’s sound.

The cabinet is pretty minimal but it should get the job done. Cabinet resonance may not be a serious concern when the panels are this small. The AIR speakers are built with 1 cm thick wood-composite panels all around with some wedge bracing around the interior of the front baffle. There is a healthy amount of stuffing in the cabinet with should assist in damping. The AIR speakers are sealed, so there are no ports to help bass output, and this means they are exchanging more powerful bass sound for a gentler low-frequency rolloff. Such a design choice can be beneficial, as a flat response to low frequencies that ported designs can have can end up becoming too boosted when placed near surfaces or other boundaries. The sealed design of the AIR speakers may yield a more natural bass sound when placed near boundaries, which is made all the more likely by keyhole mounts on the back of the speakers.

AIR center rear.jpg

The AIR speakers use spring-loaded clips for the speaker wire connection. The B452-AIR speakers do come with speaker wire: two 10 foot long wires that look to be about 20 AWG thickness. For runs longer than 10 feet, owners are advised to use larger thicknesses than 20 AWG. I would use thicker wire even for a 10-foot run, personally. The feet are just some small adhesive rubber pads. The removable grille is held in by some thick plastic pegs and is constructed out of a ¼” thick sheet of MDF with shaped cutouts for the drivers and is overlaid by a black acoustically-transparent fabric. The raised edges of the grille cutout around the tweeter is likely to cause some diffraction, so for the best sound, leave the grille off.

See: Speaker Cable Gauge Guidelines

Listening Sessions

In my 24’ by 13’ listening room, I set up the speakers with stand-off distances between the backwall and sidewall, and equal distance between speakers and listening position, with speakers toed-in toward the listening position. Listening distance from the speakers was about 7 feet. Amplification and processing was handled by a Pioneer Elite SC-55. No room correction equalization was used. At times, subwoofers were used to supplement the bass. Different crossover frequencies were used for the subwoofers, and a 150 Hz crossover was settled on. That is an unusually high crossover frequency, but the way these speakers were positioned gave them no assistance in bass, since there were no nearby boundaries to boost the bass. The bass on these speakers is not powerful, and they will need boundary gain (i.e., they need to be placed on a wall or a desktop or close to large surfaces) to reproduce any reasonably good bass unless subwoofers are employed.

The B452-AIR manual gives this placement advice:

“If possible, position your speakers so that when you are seated in the primary listening position your ears are 10-12 feet from the tweeter. Viewed from your seat, the angle between the speakers should be 30 to 60 degrees.”

This is not bad placement advice, however, in my view, 10 to 12 feet is a bit far from the listening position for speakers that are going to have the inherent dynamic range limitations that these will. Such a long distance from the listening position will increase the ratio of early-reflections to direct sound from the speaker which can create a more spacious and pleasing sound. That is fine if you only listen at modest loudness levels, but these speakers only have a 30-watt RMS power handling rating and a specified 84dB 1w/1m sensitivity, so I was worried about their safety for the volume levels that I intended to listen at, even with the high crossover frequency to subwoofers. The bottom line here is that users should be mindful about the speaker’s loudness ability when determining distance from listening position.

Music Listening 

As usual, I start listening with something that placModern Cool.jpges emphasis on vocals, because if a set of loudspeakers doesn’t get the human voice right, there is not much hope for them. For this task, I selected Patricia Barber’s “Modern Cool,” a fiery yet glum jazz vocalist album of compositions expressed from a dreary perspective on the various subject matter of the songs yet beautifully executed from a sheer musical perspective. It is a staple of audiophile demo albums due to its superb and dazzling technical production and masterful musicianship. From the first notes onward, I was impressed with the dexterity with which the B452-AIR reproduced this album. Percussion was surprisingly lively, even with such a small woofer and tweeter. Trumpet playing was animated and appropriately squelchy, and piano had a lifelike timbre if perhaps not the powerful dynamics that a real piano has. Imaging was good, with Ms. Barber’s voice nicely centered, as were the trumpet and guitars. Percussion was spread nicely over the soundstage with each percussion instrument having its own distinct location. Ms. Barber’s voice was for the most part nicely rendered, although I did note some sibilance in the ‘S’ sounds in the lyrics. I also noticed that the hi-hats had some extra sizzle to them. This extra energy in treble wasn’t too severe, but once I realized it was there it wasn’t easy to forget. Still, considering the cost of these speakers, they reproduced this album very well, although it has to be remembered they were greatly supported by subwoofers. The speakers themselves would have missed a great deal of the double-bass and bass drum if they were asked to reproduce “Modern Cool” on their own.

For a more intimate listen to a singulBeethoven.jpgar set of instruments, I found a highly-regarded recording by the renowned violin quartet Quatuor Mosaïques: “Beethoven: String Quartets, Op. 18, No. 5 and No. 6.” Quatuor Mosaïques are a highly-accomplished violin quartet that are among the rare few who actually use period instruments in their performances. The pieces played in this recording, Op. 18, No. 5 and No. 6, were composed by Beethoven in the midst of the process of losing his hearing, but the compositions themselves are delicate and playful pieces that do not betray any anxiety on behalf of their composer who, one would presume, must have been very troubled at the time of their creation. Whatever high-frequency excess the B452-AIR speakers might have had were not very evident in the reproduction of this recording. The instruments sounded natural and clear. The only effect that the high-frequency excess might have had here is perhaps provided a bit more detail of the instruments’ harmonics. The B452-AIR speakers created a nice soundstage with vivid instrument placement: cello on the right side, viola closer to center, and the two violins center and left side of the stage. Imaging was stable and the instruments did not wander. Of course, recording techniques have at least as much to do with imaging as speakers, but it does take good speakers to reproduce that imaging, and on this count, the B452-AIR speakers do well.

For a larger-scale sound, I turned to an orchestral recording, and for this I listened to a new recording of BrucBruckner.jpgkner’s “Symphony No.9” by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and led by conductor Riccardo Muti. This recording has received some very high praise, so I decided to see what the fuss was about and hoped that the Dayton Audio AIR speakers could project some of what garners this recording so much acclaim. “Symphony No.9” was left unfinished since Anton Bruckner died while writing it, and some people have rewritten it and given it their own interpretations and finales, but Muti sticks close to the source and does not add anything that Bruckner did not write himself. It is a grandiose and very deliberately-paced work that is given an epic treatment by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The B452-AIR speakers acquitted themselves nicely. Imaging was good with distinct locations for brass on the right side of the stage, woodwinds at center left, and string sections covering the breadth of the soundstage. There were moments of ambiguity and fuzziness at mass polyphonies of strings, but I am not sure that was the fault of the speaker. To my ears, the brass might have gained extra definition due to the elevated treble, as well as the upper registers of stringed instruments. It wasn’t so severe as to sound badly unnatural but perhaps expressed some detail in the sound that might have been more subtle from a more neutral speaker. These little bookshelf speakers did manage to belt out the crescendos with a surprising amount of power without losing composure. Doubtlessly, the subwoofers gave them a leg up here, but within their preferred frequency range the B452-AIR speakers are more potent than I would have guessed. Overall, I enjoyed “Symphony No.9” on the B452-AIR speakers. They produced a relatively balanced presentation that had an unexpected capability to make the more forceful passages of this recording come alive. 

To really press the B452-AIPhoenix_Metabolism.jpgR’s dynamic range limitation, I selected an album of hard electronic music that is loud and spectrally dense all the way through: Panacea’s “Phoenix Metabolism,” a hellacious sonic journey of heavily distorted breakbeat percussion and rip-roaring basslines that would be an endurance test for any speaker at loud drive levels. While I did not crank this album to deafening loud levels, I still pushed the loudness well past levels that I normally listen at and likely over the B452-AIR’s spec’d power handling of 30 watts RMS. I don’t doubt that I could have cooked the driver coils if I had wanted to, but I decided to only push the speakers a little bit past loudness levels that they should reasonably be expected to play at. These little speakers managed to not only survive this ordeal, they didn’t exhibit any obvious distress during playback. They can get relatively loud. One thing that allowed them to rock on this album was the high crossover frequency to the subwoofers. I doubt they would have lasted long without that protection, and, in fact, I raised the crossover frequency to 200 Hz as a precaution. A sealed, low-cost 4” woofer will not have a lot of bass capability and is certainly going to be the bottleneck on dynamic range for these speakers. Once alleviated of the task of mid and low bass frequencies, that increases the dynamic range considerably. I am not saying go ahead and go nuts on these speakers; they still have their limitations, and I won’t be held responsible for anyone who destroys them if they read this and think it’s a good idea to use them for karaoke night. However, it genuinely surprised me how much abuse they tolerated and still sounded great doing so. 

Movie and Television Listening

One movie that I watched with the B452-AIR bookshelf speakeTheTown.jpgrs and C452-AIR center speakers was the 2010 crime drama “The Town.” This critically-acclaimed film concerns the plight of a career criminal who becomes romantically involved with a woman whom, unbeknownst to her, he once took as hostage during a robbery. I decided to watch “The Town” due to its balance of dialogue, music, and effects in the sound mix, but mostly because I like this movie and just wanted to watch it again. Dialogue intelligibility was mostly good, but some exchanges escaped me, although that might have been due to the thick Boston accents and slang. The score by Harry Gregson-Williams and David Buckley was rendered well, but it was a bit bass-heavy, and the subwoofers were carrying much of the bass range, so the speakers weren’t given any heavy lifting to do. While I did not watch this movie at an enormously loud level, the AIR speakers recreated the action scene sound effects with a gusto that I did not expect from such small and inexpensive speakers. While a more powerful speaker might have given the car chases and gunfights more pop, the AIR speakers did not lack much verve here even when considering the higher subwoofer crossover point. Watching “The Town” with the AIR speakers showed me that they can work for home theater nicely, but they do have their limitations. They are not intended for reference-level listening, and they require a higher than the average 80 Hz subwoofer crossover point.

I finished the second season of “True Detective” that I started True Detective S2.jpgwatching in this string of affordable bookshelf speaker reviews (Polk T15 and Monoprice MP-65RT) with episodes seven and eight. As I said in the other reviews I think “True Detective” is a good trial for dialogue intelligibility because of how abridged and elliptical the dialogue can be at times even though it is all well-recorded. Music is also beautifully recorded; it is generally foreboding and atmospheric but has some folk music performances in a grim and sad style that compliments the show. The AIR speakers were a fine match for the second season of True Detective. I had no problems with dialogue intelligibility or music lyric intelligibility. The music soundtrack sounded good, and the clarity was better than expected for such a modest speaker. There was never any confusion in reproducing the sound mix, nor did I hear any serious shortcoming from the speaker. But again, I understand that these speakers have limits, and did not try to use them in a manner that would have over-taxed them. They can achieve pretty loud levels- but in a small room or in a relatively close proximity to the listener and with subwoofers in use with a high crossover frequency.

Dayton Audio B452-AIR Bookshelf and C452-AIR Center Speaker Measurements


B452 outdoor testing.jpg

The Dayton Audio B452-AIR and C452-AIR speakers were measured in free-air at a height of 7.5 feet at a 1-meter distance from the microphone, and the measurements were gated at a 8.5 millisecond delay. In this time window, some resolution is lost below 250 Hz and accuracy is completely lost below 110 Hz. All curves have been smoothed to a 1/24 octave resolution.

B452 spin-o-rama.jpg      C452 spin-o-rama.jpg

Dayton Audio B452-AIR (left) and C452-AIR (right) response curves

The first thing that is apparent is that the upper mids/lower treble is a bit recessed compared to the rest of the frequency range, especially with respect to the bass since it abruptly descends in amplitude from 1.5 kHz down to 2 kHz. I am guessing the reason for this behavior is that the woofer has been damped somehow to reduce lower treble playback in order to lower cone breakup effects. Cone breakup is when the frequency of movement is too fast for the cone to retain a uniform shape, and it starts to flex and bend at higher frequencies more than the stiffness of the cone material can cope with. This effect can be manifest in a very ragged high-frequency response. Breakup effects are still present in these measurements (that sharp spike around 6 kHz in the B452-AIR graph is definitely a cone breakup artifact), but clearly some measures were taken to control their effects.

The treble is quite elevated with respect to the upper midrange, and I am sure this was the cause of the sibilance. Sibilance is usually caused by heightened treble above 5 kHz or so. While these measurements do not show perfection, these speakers did not sound as flawed as these curves would indicate. The sink in the response at around 2 kHz is likely going to be most significant flaw, and the audibility of that may vary depending on the individual listening. Since the first reflection and listening window curves follow the direct response curve, that means much of these problems can be alleviated by equalization. Equalization would not be able to solve these problems if they were caused by diffraction.

 B452 waterfall graphs.jpg     C452 waterfall graphs.jpg

Dayton Audio B452-AIR (left) and C452-AIR (right) Horizontal Responses +/- 100 degrees 

The above graphs depict the Dayton Audio Air speaker’s lateral responses out to 100 degrees in ten-degree increments. The graph of the B452-AIR pretty much tells the same story as was seen in the above graph; that is, the shape of the response stays largely the same wherever you are on its horizontal plane. However, the lateral responses of the C452-AIR change dramatically depending on the angle. The reason for this is that the two woofers of the C452-AIR are cancelling each other’s output at different angles and different frequencies. This cancellation pattern is called lobing, and Audioholics has published multiple articles about this effect in center speakers such as Pros and Cons of Various Center Channel Designs, Vertical vs Horizontal Center Speaker Designs, and Center Channel Speaker Design Additional Considerations. All speakers that use drivers on a horizontal plane that are separated by a distance will produce this effect. It’s not a desirable trait for a center speaker, but all MTM center speaker designs (horizontally oriented) will have this kind of dispersion pattern, so don’t think that this is a particularly bad measurement.  The bottom line here is, as it is with all center speakers that nest a tweeter between two woofers on a horizontal line, try to listen to the C452-AIR direct ahead of it for the best sound. The woofers start to fight each other at all other angles thereby making for an erratic response anywhere else.

B452 polar map.jpg      C452 polar map.jpg

Dayton Audio B452-AIR (left) and C452-AIR (right) Horizontal Responses +/- 100 degrees: Polar Map

The above graphs show the same information that the preceding graphs do but depict it in a way that offers new insight regarding these speakers’ behavior. Instead of using individual raised lines to illustrate amplitude, these polar maps use color to portray amplitude and this allows the use of a purely angle/frequency axis perspective. The advantage of these graphs is they can let us see broader trends of the speaker’s behavior more easily. In the B452-AIR graph, we get a better sense of how the dip at 2 kHz projects itself outward at different angles. Since the response is so uniform across frequencies, it is something that can be addressed with equalization. The C452-AIR is a completely different response though, and equalization will not be able to address the off-axis problems evident there, since the response at each angle is so unlike the response at adjacent angles, and none of them resemble the response of the direct axis. 

So the bad news about the C452-AIR is that equalization cannot fix that dispersion pattern- but the good news is that this type of lobing pattern can look a lot worse in quasi-anechoic measurements such as this than it will perform in-room. The reason is that the nulls or lines of cancellation in the response actually change in frequency depending on distance, so that if this measurement had been taken at a different distance, these lines of cancellation would shift up or down in frequency. The advantage of that kind of behavior is that, in-room, with dozens of different acoustic reflections from the speaker reaching the ear, many of these lines of cancellation can ‘even out,’ or randomize to a response that can shore up the nulls. Of course, many factors will affect this, such as the ratio of reflected sound to direct sound for a particular room’s acoustics, listening position with respect to the speaker, etc., but it still may be possible to get a reasonable response without any severe dips even when not seated on direct axis for this speaker.

B452 vertical response.jpg      C452 vertical response.jpg

Dayton Audio B452-AIR (left) and C452-AIR (right) Vertical Responses +/- 100 degrees: 3D view 

The above graphs depict the B452-AIR and C452-AIR’s frequency response behavior on their vertical axis, where zero degrees is directly in front of the tweeter, negative degree values are below the tweeter, and positive degree values are above the tweeter. The B452-AIR’s response pretty much falls apart in upper midrange frequencies and treble when not listened to on a height roughly level with the tweeter. This is not unusual for a speaker of this design, and it is a lobing pattern that occurs where the tweeter and woofer share the same frequencies range; they will cancel each other out in that range where they are not in phase. On the B452-AIR it is a bit more severe than normal, since the woofer is running full range and creeping well into the tweeter’s territory. Luckily, the vertical response isn’t nearly as critical as the horizontal response since human hearing isn’t as sensitive to reflections coming in from the floor and ceiling as it is to lateral reflections from side-walls. Furthermore, most people tend to listen at around the same height, unlike horizontal angles in which listening positions can be spread over a wide area.

The C452-AIR’s vertical response is a heck of a lot better than its horizontal response, since the woofers are at an equal distance from the microphone at all angles and are always in phase with each other. This speaker would be much better used on its side (vertical orientation) than its intended orientation that places its woofers in a horizontal line. Of course, not many people have room for a tall center speaker. One thing to note is that the vertical dispersion graph of the C452-AIR greatly resembles the horizontal dispersion graph of the B452-AIR. These speakers would be timbre-matched if the C452-AIR was used on its side, but, in its intended orientation, it will inevitably have a different character than the B452-AIR speakers. The same is true for any speaker series that offers a MTM center speaker with their corresponding bookshelf speakers; they can never be timbre-matched unless you listen on direct axis of the center in a room that has little or no acoustic reflections (an anechoic chamber).

 B452 low frequency response.jpg

Dayton Audio B452-AIR groundplane bass response 

The above graph shows the B452-AIR’s low-frequency response that I captured using groundplane measurements (where the speaker and microphone are on the ground in a wide open area). While the B452-AIR starts rolling off at relatively high 200 Hz, it does so at a very gradual slope and is only down 6 dB by 100 Hz. At that point it starts a more traditional rolloff for sealed designs with 12dB/octave slope downward. The C452-AIR will have a similar low-frequency response. These speakers have bass output, but it is just not very powerful. This sort of curve is good for getting a boost out of boundary gain for a flatter bass response, unlike ported speakers which can end up getting an over-boosted bass response from being placed too close to a nearby surface. However, even a healthy amount of boundary gain is not going to make these speakers the king of bass mountain, and I would want a subwoofer to assist them no matter what. Their bass output is there, but it is slight, and this 4” woofer simply does not have a lot of displacement ability. For this reason, I recommend a high crossover frequency to subwoofers with the Dayton Audio AIR speakers. The higher that these speakers can be crossed over, the louder these speakers can be run without fear of harming them.

B452 Impedance.jpg      C452 Impedance.jpg

Dayton Audio B452-AIR (left) and C452-AIR (right) Impedance and Phase Response

The above graphs show the electrical behavior of the B452-AIR and C452-AIR speakers. The B452-AIR is specified by Dayton Audio to be a 6-ohm speaker, but the truth is it is it has quite a bit more impedance than that. At worst, this is an 8-ohm speaker, and Dayton Audio could even spec it at 10-ohms nominal, and no one could reasonably argue with that. The phase response doesn’t add any stress to the impedance either. This is probably the most benign load I have ever measured, and pretty much any amplifier in the world could handle this speaker easily. The C452-AIR impedance shape is much like the B452-AIR but the impedance is halved, so it’s clear that the woofers are wired in a parallel circuit. Dayton Audio spec’s the C452-AIR as a 6-ohm speaker, and I would say that is mostly correct. The C452-AIR is not a bad load but it is not as easy on amplifiers as the B452-AIR. It is essentially twice as difficult to drive for the same input voltage, but since the B452-AIR is such an easy load, that still isn’t bad. Any AVR can drive a set of these speakers with no problem.

I measured the sensitivity of the B452-AIR at 81.4 dB at 1 meter for 2.83v. That is low but not surprising for this design. The C452-AIR sensitivity measures at 86.8 dB at 1 meter for 2.83v which is almost exactly what would be expected given the impedance and design differences between it and the B452-AIR. While the C452-AIR is a more difficult electrical profile for amplifiers, it is four times more sensitive than the B452-AIR, and that means that it’s actually be easier to drive, since it can still achieve the same loudness level for half the wattage.


It’s true that the B452-AIR and C45B452 single.jpg2-AIR speakers are not perfect. The high-frequency response is elevated and does produce some sibilance. They have no substantial deep bass output below 100 Hz and require subwoofers with a high crossover frequency to produce a full sound. There is a fairly wide-Q dip from 2 kHz to 5 kHz. Their sealed 4” woofer design makes them unsuitable for very loud listening or as speaker systems for larger rooms. I would consider these serious problems- in much more expensive speakers. But the B452-AIR speakers cost $45 a pair and the C452-AIR costs $35 each. In this price range, it’s better to focus on what the loudspeaker does right, and that is the real story here.

The Dayton Audio AIR speakers produce a reasonably balanced sound, and by that I mean, for all their faults, they still manage a natural presentation of human voices and musical instruments. When set up correctly, there is nothing obviously off or notably out-of-whack. They make music enjoyable without sounding like anything serious is missing. Sure, if you directly compare them again five-figure speakers back-to-back, there will be an obvious difference. But, if you just want to relax and listen to some tunes or watch a show, the Dayton Audio AIR speakers will allow you to lose yourself in whatever it is you are listening to rather than constantly remind you that your experience could be better if it weren’t for some nagging, obvious flaw.

What’s more is that they are small and light and can be used in many more locations than full-sized bookshelf speakers.Dayton Emblem.jpg They can be easily wall-mounted on account of their keyhole wall-hanger bracket. They can be used with any amplifier too, on account of their very friendly electrical load. These speakers are better than your typical home-theater-in-a-box satellite speaker and far better than television set built-in speakers. The wide dispersion of the B452-AIR speakers ensures good coverage of sound over a broad area. So long as a subwoofer is used, they would work nicely as an affordable desktop speaker system, a surround sound system for a small room, and a decent speaker set for background music in an office, kitchen, or garage. They could also make for a nice stereo set for a dorm or bedroom, or they can be used with a small amp simply to improve television sound for those not happy with TV speakers. The bottom line is that, for the extremely modest asking price, the B452-AIR and C452-AIR speakers are terrific little speakers.

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
Build QualityStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStar
About the author:
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James Larson is Audioholics' primary loudspeaker and subwoofer reviewer on account of his deep knowledge of loudspeaker functioning and performance and also his overall enthusiasm toward moving the state of audio science forward.

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