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Dayton Audio MK442T Transmission Line Tower Speaker Review

by July 02, 2019
Dayton Audio 442T Tower Speaker

Dayton Audio 442T Tower Speaker

  • Product Name: MK442T Tower Speaker
  • Manufacturer: Dayton Audio
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: July 02, 2019 01:00
  • MSRP: $ 228/pr ($199/pr + free shipping @ Amazon)
  • Buy Now
  • Design: 2-way dual 4" transmission line tower speaker
  • Woofer: Dual 4" high excursion driver with a treated paper cone
  • Tweeter: 3/4" soft dome
  • Finish: Black vinyl
  • Power handling: 80 watts RMS/160 watts max
  • Impedance: 4 ohms
  • Frequency response: 40 Hz to 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 87 dB 1W/1m
  • Crossover: 3 kHz, 2nd order low pass, 3rd order high pass (acoustical slopes)
  • Terminals: 5-way gold plated binding posts
  • Dimensions: 38.1" H x 5.7" W x 9.6" D (Depth includes removable grill)
  • Weight: 26 lbs.

Pros

  • Easy-going, non-fatiguing sound
  • Wide, enveloping soundstage
  • Broad coverage over a wide angle
  • Nice looking
  • Doesn’t eat up much physical space
  • Light and easy to move
  • Very affordable!

Cons

  • Rocky mid-bass response
  • Somewhat low sensitivity for a floor-standing speaker
  • Not powerful enough for large rooms

 

Dayton Audio found widespread acclaim last year for their low-cost MK402 bookshelf speaker from a swarm of positive reviews including our own. All of this praise must have compelled Dayton Audio to expand their product line, because they have introduced a floor-standing version, the MK442T. While it is still extremely affordable, the MK442T costs more than the MK402 but is also a more ambitious loudspeaker. Dayton Audio could have simply plugged the same drivers in a larger cabinet and called it a day in creating a tower speaker variant of the MK402, but, as with the MK402 itself, they wanted to do something special. The MK442T is a low-cost tower speaker using a transmission line cabinet. That is a challenging design even for much more expensive enclosures, but Dayton Audio is giving it a shot in the budget speaker realm. So how good is this speaker pair that is priced at a very affordable $228? Let’s take a closer look to see what Dayton Audio has delivered at this modest price point…

Packing and Appearance 

442T box    442T packing

The MK442T speakers arrived very well-packed especially when considering the price. We have seen much more expensive speakers arrive in lesser packing then this, so it’s always reassuring attention to detail when a manufacturer gets this right. The speakers come double-boxed with sturdy polyethylene foam blocks holding the speakers at the top, bottom, and middle. Plastic wrapping protects the speakers from moisture. These speakers are well-packed enough to take the inevitably brutal shipping treatment that pretty much all the major parcel delivery businesses are known for.

442T grilles    442T pair

Once unpacked, two nice looking, and, dare I say, attractive speakers emerge. The aesthetic norm for floor-standing speakers in this price range tends to be merely utilitarian, but the MK442Ts are actually handsome speakers and should fit in the decors of most homes. One aspect that helps in this regard is that they are relatively narrow tower loudspeakers and so do not draw as much attention to themselves as would a more regular-sized tower speaker. They have a textured black vinyl wrap like so many other speakers use these days, but it isn’t bad and it’s a good deal sleeker than basic matte black. Personally, I prefer this finish over the faux-wood vinyl wraps that are sometimes seen in low-budget speakers. The tweeter and woofers are relatively nice looking as tweeters and woofers go, and the beveled edges at the top and bottom of the cabinet go a long way toward bringing style to these budget speakers. The speaker rests on a plinth to give it stability, and the plinth itself has some beveling which adds a touch of class to the MK442Ts. At a glance alone, I wouldn’t guess that these speakers were as inexpensive as they are. Dayton Audio has done a great job in the industrial design department here.

Design Overview

442T close

The Dayton Audio MK442T is a two-way floor-standing speaker using two 4” bass drivers and a ¾” dome tweeter. As mentioned, the cabinet uses a transmission line to supplement the low frequencies instead of the typical port that you would expect to see in a speaker in this price class. The drivers used in the MK442T are the same as that used in the MK402 and MK442. Although the woofers are relatively small in diameter, they are serious performers. I will not go over all the details of their design since that was covered extensively in our review of the MK402/MK442. Suffice it to say they are of a higher-quality construction than one would expect to see in such a low-priced speaker. The same is true of the tweeter.

442T crossover2 

The crossover is a 7-element piece using three capacitors, two resistors, an one air-core and one iron-core inductor. The spec’d frequency is 3kHz with a 2nd-order low-pass and 3rd-order high-pass acoustical slopes. As with other aspects of the MK442T’s design, that is a much more substantial crossover than one expects to find at this price point. The crossover is mounted on the back of the cup for the speaker terminals, which uses a 5-way binding post- another feature not commonly seen in speakers of this price class.

442T interior 

The cabinet uses ½” MDF side-panels with a ⅝” front baffle. While that might seem somewhat thin, it doesn’t feel that way when given a knock test because the cabinet panels are so narrow. There is just not a lot of room to flex with such small surface area width, and the transmission line divider also does a lot to brace the side panels as well. There are also blocks in the internal edges for added bracing. The MK442T enclosures do not feel lightweight; they feel surprisingly solid. The cabinet is attached to a plinth which uses some rubber feet. The plinth has the same kind of stylized beveling seen in the upper half of the cabinet.

442T rear    442T base

As a whole, the cabinet forms a quarter-wave transmission line. This design uses the backwave pressure from the woofers to vibrate the mass of air inside the cabinet at frequencies determined by the length and shape of the air pathway inside the cabinet. That is different from a conventional ported design where only the air in the port is loaded so that its resonance is what generates sound. A similarity between ported designs and transmission line designs is that the standing wave acts on the back of the driver cone thereby attenuating its motion. This helps to dramatically reduce distortion around the transmission line’s resonant frequency. Unlike a ported loudspeaker, a transmission line does not have a full cycle of phase delay from its open end. A quarter wave transmission line has a much shorter 90-degree delay from the open end, and since most of the output of the speaker is coming from the opening of the transmission line at low frequencies, this does not turn into a big conflict with the woofer’s output. Proponents of transmission lines claim they have the transient response of a sealed speaker along with the low-end efficiency and output of a ported speaker.

442T cross section   442T close2

What do these design decisions all add up to? Like the MK402/MK442, I wouldn’t expect the MK442T to be an output monster. Two 4” woofers have about the same surface area of a 5.6” cone. But no one shopping for floor-standing speakers in this price range should be expecting dynamic range over-achievers anyway. They should still be able to get more than loud enough for regular users though, and though the cone diameter of the woofers is on the small side, they do have an unusually high excursion. As with the MK402/MK442s, I would expect wide dispersion, so that sound is projected out at a very wide angle. Unlike the MK402/MK442, I would expect these to handle low-frequencies better. The MK402s, in particular, had a very small port in order to achieve a low port tuning, but this meant that they could be driven into port turbulence (“chuffing”) without too hard of a push. So what we should be looking for is MK442-like performance but with a lot more capable low-frequency performance. That would be a recipe for a terrific loudspeaker! Let’s now give these a listen to see how close they come to the promise of their design…

Listening Sessions

In my 24’ by 13’ (approximately) listening room, I set up the speakers with stand-off distances of about three feet between the back wall and sidewall, and equal distance between speakers and listening position. Listening distance from the speakers was about 9 feet. Amplification and processing were handled by a Pioneer Elite SC-55. No room correction equalization was used.

Music Listening

For a good recording of a vocal, I was loaned an aNoPlaceLikeHomelbum of folk music called ‘No Place Like Home’ by John Simon. While folk music is not my personal go-to genre for listening enjoyment, I gave ‘No Place Like Home’ a spin on the MK442Ts to see how they performed with simpler music that had an emphasis on a singular vocal. This charming set of original folk compositions set John Simon’s singing against a couple of acoustic guitars while occasionally throwing in a few other accompanying instruments on various tracks. The production quality was excellent and could serve as demo material for any hi-fi stereo system. The MK442T’s reproduced ‘No Place Like Home’ with clarity and precision. The acoustic guitars were given a sense of sprightliness and authenticity, and Mr. Simon’s voice came through with a similar lifelike naturalness. The imaging was nicely focused, with John’s voice having a well-defined central position and instrumental accompaniment nicely delineated across the soundstage. This album plain old sounded good on the MK442Ts without even considering their entry-level pricing. An A/B comparison against more expensive and less cost-conscious speakers might be able to reveal their shortcomings, but from just sitting down and listening to this album, I could not tell you that the MK442Ts had any shortcomings. I did not find this particular musical recreation lacking in any significant way, which is a real win for a $230/pair speaker set. 

Borrowing once again from the ‘In Classical Mood’ music set that has appeared in prior reviews, I turned to the album ‘A Night at the Opera’ which is a collection of superb opera recordings of compositions from the likes of Verdi, Puccini, and Mozart. The individual tracks are taken from other recordings, so the performers, Night at the Operasetting, and recording techniques differ from track to track, but the production quality and sound engineering remain first-rate throughout. Many if not all of the performances are recorded in concert halls, but the recording techniques differ, and this can be heard through the MK442T speakers. Some of the tracks have more distinct imaging that must have been recorded in closer proximity to the performers while others have a more reverberant sound that would have been recorded at a greater distance. As one would expect of an opera-themed album, there were many high-powered vocals at the fore of the performance, with vocals spanning every range from baritone to soprano. The MK442Ts ably delivered these performances to my living room and for less than the cost of a typical opera ticket. These are not the speakers one would want to use to recreate the actual SPLs heard at a live opera, but if your dynamic range demands are more modest, the MK442Ts can produce a nicely enveloping concert hall ambiance thanks to their wide dispersion. The soundstage was wide, yet the imaging was sharp. Voices were vivid and clear and never became lost in the orchestral accompaniment even at roaring crescendos. Choral passages, in particular, had a terrific spaciousness that sonically transformed my humble living room into an immense concert hall, and that to me is well worth the modest admission cost of these speakers.

I decided to listen to something with a bit less acoustically natural that used more sound enginDark Sky Islandeering trickery for a more ‘sculpted’ sound, and the album I selected for this was Enya’s 2015 release ‘Dark Sky Island.’ As a longtime fan of Enya, her voice and her signature production sound are well-known to me, so her albums are a good choice for me to gauge the tonality of a sound system. ‘Dark Sky Island’ doesn’t break much new ground for Enya, and it pretty much sounds like many of her previous efforts, but that is OK with me since her music is always a gentle and pleasant escape from the stresses of everyday life. The MK442Ts reproduced ‘Dark Sky Island’ with all the lush, sweeping sound that one would expect from an Enya album. The MK442T’s wide dispersion is likely an advantage here in that it may be able to better project Enya’s often panoramic soundscapes by producing a greater ratio of reflected-to-direct sound than a typical two-way loudspeaker. In other words, much of the sound arriving at the listening position is acoustic reflections from sidewalls and other surfaces which hit our ears at wider angles than the speakers are positioned at. This may be able to impart a greater sense of spaciousness than the sound that mostly only arrives from a single direction. The irony here is that this effect tends to make small loudspeakers sound ‘big’ since smaller drivers project sound out at a wider angle. Those looking for an affordable loudspeaker that is good at creating a large soundstage would do well to look at the Dayton Audio MK442T, and this is amply demonstrated in its playback of ‘Dark Sky Island.’

One album that I used to get a sense of the MK442T’s bass capability was the 1995 electronic music compilation ‘Transmissions from the Planet Dog.’ The music in this album lay somewhere between Techno, Psychedelic Rock, Ambient Music, and all with a very heavy Jamaican Dub influence. That adds up to lots of bass, fat percussion sounds, twisted analog lead synths, and a meaty low-tempo jam for those who like their chill in an altered state of consciousness. This music isTransmissions Planet Dog trippy yet fun and easy-going, but it really benefits from a sound system that has some low-frequency capability. So can the MK442Ts bring a solid low-frequency foundation to ‘Transmissions from the Planet Dog?’ The answer is an unequivocal and resounding yes! I did move the speakers closer to the rear wall to boost the bass more through boundary gain, but the speakers were not bass shy even when placed in an open area; I just happen to like this type of music with stronger bass, and boundary gain is an easy way to boost bass frequencies without boosting the low-end EQ. Outside of the thick bass lines and beefy kick drums, the MK442Ts rendered the unearthly soundstage created by the synthesizers, samplers, and effects processors in an expansive and enveloping aural environment. Strange sounds imaged well outside the width of these speakers’ placement to the extent that I have to question the usefulness of side-surround speakers when you can have speakers like these.

One thing to note is that to achieve the loudness level that I was accustomed to listening, I did have to have the gain dial at a significantly higher setting than normal. That, of course, tells me the MK442Ts are not the most sensitive around, but, given the design, that was expected. Still, there is only so much wattage that two 4” woofers and a ¾” dome tweeter can handle, so these are not party speakers. Regarding their 80-watt RMS power-handling specification, I don’t know that I would want to throw a continuous 80 watts at these; that seems like a lot considering their specs. I found the dynamic range to be good but not mind-blowing, and I would guess it has a wide enough dynamic range for most people in a medium-sized or smaller rooms. They would likely be over-taxed in a large room, however, I do think they would be able to get pretty loud in a small room. They are not large floor-standing speakers and would best be placed in a room commensurate with their size.  

Movie/Television Watching

Our recent review of a low-cost floor-standing speaker2010 used the film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ as evaluation content, so I thought it would only be natural to use its sequel ‘2010: The Year We Make Contact’ as a chance to let the MK442Ts stretch their legs. ‘2010’ is not as purely musical of an experience as its predecessor, but it is still an interesting aural experience of its own. It does use a couple of musical cues from the first movie including Richard Strauss’ ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra,’ but it also takes a different musical direction with David Shire’s mix of electronic and orchestral pieces. Another direction that ‘2010’ took differently from ‘2001’ was the decision to add effects sounds to events that take place in the vacuum of space such as the roar of rocket thrusters. I left the subwoofer off for this film and gave the full range to the MK442Ts. They did not disappoint, although I know that there would not be any extremely deep bass in this movie that would exceed the MK442T’s specified range below 40 Hz. They had no trouble recreating the music, effects, and dialogue of ‘2010.’ While the MK442Ts are not what one would use for reference level listening, they still managed to bring force to the crescendo of ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ and the rumble of the atmospheric braking scene of the slingshot around Jupiter. The MK442Ts could tackle ‘2010’ with no problem, but I wouldn’t want to throw a contemporary science fiction movie on them without the assistance of a subwoofer. The low-frequency content of ‘2010’ still managed to make the MK442T’s cones visibly move, and it would not have much bass below 40 Hz. A modern soundtrack, by comparison, can have strong low-frequency content below 20 Hz, and that would surely overwhelm those 4” bass drivers at anything over a very modest loudness level. A subwoofer should be used with these speakers for watching modern action and science fiction movies.

One television series that I watched with the MK442Ts was AmazHannaon’s ‘Hanna,’ a remake of the 2011 action movie. I figured that ‘Hanna’ would be a broad guide to these speakers’ ability to handle a contemporary sound mix since it was a show whose audio mix is likely centered on dialogue but with plenty of effects sounds and music. I set my system for two-channel only so that the MK442Ts would be forced to handle everything. ‘Hanna’ ended up having more music than I expected with a variety of alt-rock tracks peppering the sound mix. Of note regarding the sound mix is Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury’s brooding, atmospheric music score that was punctuated by pieces from Karen O’s gentle, intimate vocal songs. Barrow and Salisbury were the duo behind the stunning music score for ‘Annihilation,’ and the work they do here is just as intense if not as exotic. I watched all eight episodes of this series, and I didn’t feel like I missed anything using the MK442Ts despite their very low cost. Music, effects, and dialogue sound all came through loud and clear, and the speakers had sufficient bass extension that I don’t think the addition of a subwoofer would have been a major boost in the sound. The MK442Ts had a full sound and seemed to capture the entirety of this vibrant sound mix.

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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:

shadyJ posts on July 04, 2019 17:25
TLS Guy, post: 1324809, member: 29650
Well Shady, I have good news. This speaker is capable of very significant improvement. As I suspected the pipe volume is too small and the taper not adequate.

These speakers model very well in a TL. You can get and F3 of 50 Hz, in a TL when Fs is half an is about a quarter octave higher. 6db point is 40 Hz and it still has useful output to the 30 Hz region being about 18 db down. The pipe works very well with driver using only 1 mm of it 4 mm excursion at full power. The model shows how well a TL properly aligned can control cone excursion.

The pipe volume Vp is 50% undersized. Now the designers may well not have been aware that Vp has to be calculated. This was realized only 19 years ago. Until then pipe length was though to be all important. The realization the Vp had to account for driver Vas was a huge breakthrough and explained why design of TLs had been so hit and miss with a lot of suboptimal designs. The taper for these speakers needs to be 4/1. To get this and the required volume would mean making the speaker a total of 14.25“ deep if 3/4” MDF was used, which it should. The turn should be properly turned over with the correct internals at the top. The port should be 3“ high.

Here are some screen shots of the model.

FR, Impedance, cone excursion and group delay.



Model showing only 1 mm cone excursion.



response limited to 500 Hz



The model specs.



This design change would of course increase cost, as there would be more material and shipping and packing costs. All these multiply up. However this speaker would be a bargain at three times the cost. The acoustic response of those drivers is excellent. They only cost only $12 a piece!

This is a tantalizing design and if produced to the correct dimensions could be not only outstanding value but among one of the best and most listenable speakers at any price. It shows you can get very respectable bass performance from 4” drivers. I can get similar good bass to 40 Hz with my vintage 4“ JW drivers. So I have known for 60 years at least that you can get good bass, and I mean good high quality bass from 4” drivers.

I would strongly advise Dayton the market an higher end version of this speaker. It would likely be a very good seller.

If any member wants to build this speaker I would strongly encourage them to do so.
Very cool analysis. I will bring this post to Dayton Audio's attention. They will be interested although they may not willing to produce a model that is twice as large. Still, that doesn't sound like a particularly difficult build considering it's a TL design.
ryanosaur posts on July 04, 2019 16:06
@TLS Guy
Its super-cool that you took the time to share all of that!!! Its also very nice to see that Dayton got pretty close to “getting it right!” Thank you for for all the information.

Now, I just need to learn how to determine open-end and closed-end areas (So and Sl?), and Vp on my own!

Best!
R
TLS Guy posts on July 04, 2019 15:51
carlthess40, post: 1324818, member: 83811
Have you sketched up any plans for the box ?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

No but it would be very easy. They have the pipe length correct. So the closed end needs to be 9“ and the open 3”. The turn needs to be 6" all the way round the top of the internal, with the corner pieces to keep the turn constant. Then you just increase the depth of the box to accommodate the changes. The fill it with half a pound of Acousta Stuff of Polyfill per cu.ft internal volume evenly spread but keeping it a few inches from the port. I use polyfill from Walmart. It is very cheap.
carlthess40 posts on July 04, 2019 15:26
TLS Guy, post: 1324809, member: 29650
Well Shady, I have good news. This speaker is capable of very significant improvement. As I suspected the pipe volume is too small and the taper not adequate.

These speakers model very well in a TL. You can get and F3 of 50 Hz, in a TL when Fs is half an is about a quarter octave higher. 6db point is 40 Hz and it still has useful output to the 30 Hz region being about 18 db down. The pipe works very well with driver using only 1 mm of it 4 mm excursion at full power. The model shows how well a TL properly aligned can control cone excursion.

The pipe volume Vp is 50% undersized. Now the designers may well not have been aware that Vp has to be calculated. This was realized only 19 years ago. Until then pipe length was though to be all important. The realization the Vp had to account for driver Vas was a huge breakthrough and explained why design of TLs had been so hit and miss with a lot of suboptimal designs. The taper for these speakers needs to be 4/1. To get this and the required volume would mean making the speaker a total of 14.25“ deep if 3/4” MDF was used, which it should. The turn should be properly turned over with the correct internals at the top. The port should be 3“ high.

Here are some screen shots of the model.

FR, Impedance, cone excursion and group delay.



Model showing only 1 mm cone excursion.



response limited to 500 Hz



The model specs.



This design change would of course increase cost, as there would be more material and shipping and packing costs. All these multiply up. However this speaker would be a bargain at three times the cost. The acoustic response of those drivers is excellent. They only cost only $12 a piece!

This is a tantalizing design and if produced to the correct dimensions could be not only outstanding value but among one of the best and most listenable speakers at any price. It shows you can get very respectable bass performance from 4” drivers. I can get similar good bass to 40 Hz with my vintage 4“ JW drivers. So I have known for 60 years at least that you can get good bass, and I mean good high quality bass from 4” drivers.

I would strongly advise Dayton the market an higher end version of this speaker. It would likely be a very good seller.

If any member wants to build this speaker I would strongly encourage them to do so.

Have you sketched up any plans for the box ?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Russdawg1 posts on July 04, 2019 15:18
TLS Guy, post: 1324809, member: 29650
Well Shady, I have good news. This speaker is capable of very significant improvement. As I suspected the pipe volume is too small and the taper not adequate.

These speakers model very well in a TL. You can get and F3 of 50 Hz, in a TL when Fs is half an is about a quarter octave higher. 6db point is 40 Hz and it still has useful output to the 30 Hz region being about 18 db down. The pipe works very well with driver using only 1 mm of it 4 mm excursion at full power. The model shows how well a TL properly aligned can control cone excursion.

The pipe volume Vp is 50% undersized. Now the designers may well not have been aware that Vp has to be calculated. This was realized only 19 years ago. Until then pipe length was though to be all important. The realization the Vp had to account for driver Vas was a huge breakthrough and explained why design of TLs had been so hit and miss with a lot of suboptimal designs. The taper for these speakers needs to be 4/1. To get this and the required volume would mean making the speaker a total of 14.25“ deep if 3/4” MDF was used, which it should. The turn should be properly turned over with the correct internals at the top. The port should be 3“ high.

Here are some screen shots of the model.

FR, Impedance, cone excursion and group delay.



Model showing only 1 mm cone excursion.



response limited to 500 Hz



The model specs.



This design change would of course increase cost, as there would be more material and shipping and packing costs. All these multiply up. However this speaker would be a bargain at three times the cost. The acoustic response of those drivers is excellent. They only cost only $12 a piece!

This is a tantalizing design and if produced to the correct dimensions could be not only outstanding value but among one of the best and most listenable speakers at any price. It shows you can get very respectable bass performance from 4” drivers. I can get similar good bass to 40 Hz with my vintage 4“ JW drivers. So I have known for 60 years at least that you can get good bass, and I mean good high quality bass from 4” drivers.

I would strongly advise Dayton the market an higher end version of this speaker. It would likely be a very good seller.

If any member wants to build this speaker I would strongly encourage them to do so.

I was actually looking at these drivers for a design, seeing the incredible performance for such a low cost. I did not think of modeling them in a transmission line enclosure but after seeing this, it’s regained my attention and I may build this!

Thanks!
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