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

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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.

Conclusion

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
MetricRating
Build QualityStarStarStar
AppearanceStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStar
ImagingStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStar
ValueStarStarStarStarStar
About the author:

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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Recent Forum Posts:

Paul Lane posts on July 16, 2018 19:23
I recently bought this Center Chanel speaker to improve my Logitech surround system.. It's Good to VG..
For $35 it's AOK..
gene posts on July 16, 2018 17:43
The Dayton Audio B452-Air speakers are technically cheaper than the Monoprice MP-65RT on sale by 11 cents that we've recently reviewed. But, will Dayton swing you to save your pennies and stick with them?

We've been looking at a few budget bookshelf speakers lately that defy logic by their low asking price. At $45 pair, we look to see if the Dayton Audio B452-Air are good enough to provide satisfying sound for an audiophile on a budget. Are those AMT tweeters really worth it?

We do detailed measurements and listening tests to answer that question and even discuss product shortcomings and how to get the most out of these speakers.

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Read: Dayton Audio B452-AIR bookshelf and C452-AIR center Review
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