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Definitive Technology Incline Desktop Speakers: Conclusion


This is Definitive Technology’s first foray into the desktop speaker market.  Their presence in this space is a breath of fresh air and shows that you don’t need to compromise your desktop audio experience.

Def Tech Incline Desktop

Definitive Technology Incline Desktop Speakers in an Office Environment

The Incline speakers are smart, stylish, and really great sounding.  I enjoyed my time with them immensely.  They keep a small footprint while delivering rich audio and exceptional bass response without the need for a sub.  You can use them for both music and movie watching and, if the great bass response still isn’t as controlled or good enough for you, then you still have the option to add an external sub. 

With lots of input options, there is plenty of flexibility to use the Incline speakers for just about any application.  If the speakers had sported wireless connectivity, then it really would have been the icing on the cake.  Should you absolutely want Airplay or wireless connectivity, there are options available to address that issue too.

Nevertheless, the Definitive Technology Speakers are all about audio quality not a features punch list.  And, this level of quality comes at a cost.  The $399 price tag comes close to what people are now paying for entry-level computers. That may make some potentially balk, but I hope not.  What you’re getting back in sound quality for that price is well worth it.

The Inclines certainly won’t make you jettison your audio or home theater dedicated setup.  Yet, for the Audiophile who wants a quality audio experience at his desk, the Definitive Technology Incline speakers are an easy top pick and should be at the top of your Christmas list. 

Note 1: Because I found the bass response to be surprisingly good, I ran the Inclines through my Revel LFO Test CD, which has a series of low frequency patterns. I was shocked when I got the speakers to give me a (faint) response all the way down to 38Hz.  If I listened very, very carefully and put my ear close to the speaker, I even got an oh-so-faint response at 36Hz.  The frequency response started to fall off most noticeably at around 45Hz.  All that was pretty darn impressive for a speaker with such a small profile.  The Incline’s official frequency response measurements from Definitive came in at: 30Hz – 20KHz, 45Hz - 18kHz +/– 5dB in full range (no subwoofer) mode.

Note 2: Back Cover and User Manual.  I was informed that Definitive has improved the fit of the rear input plate cover in subsequent production runs.  The review pair I had evidently came from one of the initial batches.  I haven't been able to see those improvements first-hand so I can’t comment on what the improvements are.  I also understand that Definitive Technology will be addressing inclusion of the plastic cover on the rear and the priority of the inputs in a forthcoming update to the user manual.  I'm very happy to see the company taking such a proactive stance on the constructive comments identified in the review.

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 QualityStarStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStar
About the author:
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Theo is a serious audiophile and home theater enthusiast—a passion he's enjoyed for over 20 years. He heads up many of our speaker system and receiver reviews as well as covering the latest in streaming technologies and Ultra HD video.

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Recent Forum Posts:

noah katz posts on October 29, 2020 01:33
In case @TheoN is still around or someone else can help, I'm puzzled by the following parts of the review.

“It’s not immediately obvious, but the Incline speakers can process the USB signal from your computer in two different ways. The first (and default) method allows you to adjust the volume from your computer. The second method bypasses the computer’s gain stages and volume controls. Definitive says bypassing the computer’s (usually) inferior gain stages and volume controls maintains a purer signal path and gives you the highest sound quality. Once you engage this second method, your computer’s volume controls won’t have any impact on the speakers’ volume. You’ll only be able to adjust the volume from the Incline’s volume keys, located on the right speaker. ”

Regarding the first method, if the computer's USB audio output is used, the output is digital and presumably volume is controlled in the digital domain, so there are no gain stages involved.

Or perhaps the problem is that the computer's DAC doesn't have enough bits of resolution so that sound quality is compromised at lower levels?

“The Incline has a great selection of flexible digital and analog inputs: Optical Toslink, USB, and 3.5mm stereo “mini” analog line-level in. If you choose a digital input, the Incline’s built-in 56-bit DSP will handle the processing.”

This seems to imply that when using the 3.5mm output, either the DSP/response shaping won't be used, which seems like it would result in radically different/inferior sound, or that the Inclines' will reconvert the signal back to digital before feeding to the DSP.

Can someone straighten this out for me?
Justin1996 posts on January 27, 2016 21:13
Stupid question but what is Definitive Technology? In brief
slipperybidness posts on January 13, 2016 16:40
Chilly, post: 1113112, member: 77712
This post is a little dated but I have a question I cannot find the answer. I have the inclines and PRO800 sub that are wonderful.

I know the USB connecting uses the built in DAC on the speaker. If I have a sound card connecting to the inclines through an optical cable is the sound controlled by the DAC in the sound card or the DAC in the speaker?
Well, optical connection = digital connection
So, it seems that you must be feeding digi to the DAC in the DT
Chilly posts on January 13, 2016 15:58
This post is a little dated but I have a question I cannot find the answer. I have the inclines and PRO800 sub that are wonderful.

I know the USB connecting uses the built in DAC on the speaker. If I have a sound card connecting to the inclines through an optical cable is the sound controlled by the DAC in the sound card or the DAC in the speaker?
AllanMarcus posts on May 18, 2014 23:06
Moronic design decision!

TheoN, post: 1013265
Hi Allan,

It was a lot of fun reviewing the Inclines. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to listen to either the AudioEngine A5s or the Polk Heritage desktop speakers. I thus can't offer you an educated opinion on that one to tell you my impressions about the differences between the speakers. Simply from a design and spec's POV, there are a few differences that strike me:

First, the Inclines are bipolar speakers vs. the Audio Engine and the Polks. The bipolar speakers do enhances the sense of soundstage depth and breadth. If that's something you like, then you'll like the Inclines.

Second, on paper the Inclines go down into the low 40's at +/-3dB. The AudioEngine speakers are only listed as going down to 50Hz.

Third, there are connectivity differences between all the speakers. The Polk seems to have the fewest options of all. The Inclines give you lots and a sub out.

Fourth, the Inclines have a “direct” mode as indicated in the review. That may or may not be something of value.

Fifth, they all sure do look different. Aesthetics play a role

Like most well-designed speakers this may simply come down to preference and I'd encourage you to try both out in your own setup and decide on which will work best for you.

Thanks for the feedback. I just ordered a pair for my son, but he has a turntable and a computer input. The turntable has a pre-amp built in, so a simple RCA to 3.5mm should work. It's just such a moronic design decision not to have a way to switch inputs. He will have to unplug the turntable to play from his computer. I may have to get him a small pre-amp/switcher. Good think I got the speakers used from amazon for a significant discount.

I imagine DefTech will add an input option in the next version. I would have loved to have heard the engineering pitch for three inputs, but only one can be used. Something like: Our marketing folks tell us that our audiophile customer are idiots, so let's design something only an idiot would appreciate.

At least the sound quality is good.
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