Dayton Audio MK442T Measurements and Analysis
The Dayton Audio MK442T speakers were measured in free-air at a height of 7.5 feet at a 2-meter distance from the microphone, with the microphone raised to a 10’5” elevation that was level with and aimed at the tweeter center. The measurements were gated at 11-milliseconds. In this time window, some resolution is lost below 200 Hz and accuracy is completely lost below 100 Hz. Measurements have been smoothed at a 1/12 octave resolution.
The above graphs depict the MK442T’s direct-axis and horizontal dispersion out to a 100-degree angle in ten-degree increments. The most stand-out aspect in these curves is that we can see a spectral tilt toward lower frequencies. This should give the MK442T a relatively ‘warm’ sound that might also be described as ‘laid-back.’ I didn’t get a particular sense of warmth in my own listening to these speakers, but it may be something that is more readily apparent in an A/B comparison with a neutral speaker or perhaps something with hot treble. What is interesting is the direction that Dayton Audio has taken with the voicing of the MK442T speakers; in our review of their bookshelf and MTM counterparts, they had rather elevated treble, the MK402s especially. The voicing on the MK442Ts is almost an opposite. That is OK with me as I prefer a warm sound over a hot sound. The MK442Ts should be very easy to listen to, and those who get hearing fatigue from too much treble ought to give the MK442Ts consideration. What’s nice about this is that budget speakers tend to have hot treble, so here is a very affordable speaker that’s much more easy-going. What is also convenient about the character of the treble response is that, like the MK402, the elbow of the change occurs at a frequency where a typical treble tone control becomes active, so those who want a more neutral and less warm sound can simply raise the treble tone control up by 2 or 3 dB.
The on-axis response has a low-Q peak around 2.5 kHz but that settles down outside of a 30-degree angle. In fact, at 50 and 60-degrees, the MK442Ts have a nicely flat midrange response, although that does come at the expense of output at 10 kHz and above. One thing to note is the ragged response at bass frequencies. There is a high-Q null at 300 Hz followed by a peak just under 400 Hz. These are succeeded by some other minor dips and peaks above that point. These look to be pipe resonances from the transmission line. They are harmonic resonances of the transmission line’s resonant frequency that occur when transmission lines are underdamped. These resonances can be heard in outdoor test sweep tones, but they aren’t as audible in complex content. The dip would be difficult to notice, but the peak would probably be noticeable were this speaker compared directly to one with a flat response in that range. The thing is I didn’t notice anything out-of-whack when I was actually listening to the MK442T’s in-room. The most severe portion of this ragged response occurs below the transition frequencies of most rooms where the room acoustics will mangle the response anyway. The bottom line is that while it would be better if these speakers had a flat bass response, these flaws aren’t enormously audible. Automated room correction programs like Audyssey may be able to trim the peaks in the bass response, but even then, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s worth the penalties that such programs bring in upper frequencies. Some forms of room correction equalization can be limited to bass frequencies only, and in those cases, it may be advisable to run that kind of program on these speakers, but systems with that ability are probably not usually going to be paired with speakers in this price range.
The above polar map shows the same information in the preceding graphs but depicts it in a way that can offer new insight regarding these speakers’ behavior. Instead of using individual raised lines to illustrate amplitude, 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 dispersion behavior more easily. The foremost feature of the horizontal dispersion of the MK442Ts is its very wide coverage. This speaker projects sound out at a very wide angle, as was promised by its design. Dispersion does tighten up above 10 kHz, so those who want that very high treble ought to listen as closely to the on-axis angle as possible, but most listeners will still get a relatively full sound even past a 70-degree angle. Some good news is that there is a relatively good correlation between the on-axis response and off-axis response, so EQ changes made should have a proportionate effect at all angles. The MK442T is a great choice for those who want wide coverage, and this can be advantageous for a wide seating area relative to speakers’ positioning.
The above graph shows the Dayton Audio MK442T’s low-frequency response that I captured using groundplane measurements (where the speaker and microphone are on the ground at a 2-meter distance in a wide open area). In this graph we get a closer look at the null centered just below 300 Hz. As was mentioned before, it is a bit too narrow to be intrusive in listening to real-world content, but it is a blemish, nonetheless. Below that dip, the response is smooth, with a gentle taper from 200 Hz down to 40 Hz below which the response falls off at a much more rapid rate. Dayton Audio’s claimed 40 Hz extension spec for the MK442T does pan out here. 40 Hz is deep enough to cover most music recordings, so those buying these speakers for music are covered unless they want high SPLs in bass.
The above graph shows the electrical behavior of the Dayton Audio MK442T speakers. Dayton Audio’s impedance spec of 4 ohms turns out to be rather conservative. Impedance doesn’t really dip below 5 ohms. However, too much of the impedance curve is too low for the MK442T to be said to be an 8-ohm speaker. If Dayton Audio had said this is a 6-ohm speaker, I would not have argued with that spec. Either way, it’s not a tough load for amplifiers, despite its official specification. Any AVR or amplifier should be able to run these speakers pretty easily. We do see a few ripples from 200 Hz to 400 Hz which are more evidence of the pipe resonances of the transmission line. Dayton Audio specified the MK442Ts as having an 87 dB 1 watt/1 meter sensitivity. I measured 84 dB for 2.83v at 1 meter. The difference may be attributable to Dayton Audio’s measurement of watts and my measuring in voltage. These aren’t enormously sensitive speakers, but that is a given due to their design. As was mentioned before, these aren’t party speakers or hand-banging speakers, however, they should have enough dynamic range for most people.
Perhaps a good way to sum up the Dayton Audio MK442T is to look at it through the lens of the preceding products in its series: the MK402 bookshelf speaker and MK442 LCR/center speaker. The MK402 was an extraordinarily high-value small bookshelf speaker with good bass extension but hot treble, although the treble was easily controllable with systems that had a treble tone control. The MK442 was a good value center speaker but an outstanding value as a vertical LCR that granted a smooth yet detailed listening experience for which we at Audioholics awarded it the product of the year among budget bookshelf speakers. The MK series were not perfect- no loudspeaker of such a modest cost could be- but were very good for the pricing, and the MK442T is likewise an excellent value. For my own tastes, the MK442T is my new favorite among the MK speakers due to the warmer voicing that make them very easy to listen to.
Before bringing this review to a close, I want to briefly list some of the MK442T’s ups and downs, and, as always, I will start with the downs. In my opinion, their chief limitation is the dynamic range, but this isn’t really a criticism since these aren’t intended for large rooms or really loud volume levels. This is more of a memo to novice speaker buyers, as those who are more experienced in audio will know that this kind of design won’t blow the doors off their hinges. However, as was mentioned before, when used in a medium to small room, these should have sufficient dynamic range for most users. They can get loud, just not blazing loud. One thing that users can do to increase the dynamic range is to use subwoofers with a high-pass filter on the speakers. That will take a big load off the woofers which are the bottleneck in this regard.
Another limitation with this speaker is its jagged mid-bass response. This looks worse on paper than it sounds in practice, in fact, I didn’t hear anything that particularly bothered me in the mid-bass, but I am guessing that Dayton Audio could have obtained a more linear response with similar extension by just using a traditional ported design. However, as I mentioned before, room acoustics in small and medium sized rooms do terrible things to bass frequencies, so the raggedness of the mid-bass might be disguised by normal room acoustics. I do have to give Dayton Audio credit for trying something different here, even if I don’t think it was quite one-hundred percent successful.
Now let’s talk about the MK442T’s positive aspects. For me, its best attribute is its frequency response which is not terribly neutral but still pleasant. It’s an easy-going speaker that has a full sound and is not fatiguing to listen to for long stretches. While there is a downward tilt in the response, I didn’t think they lacked detail or sounded at all muffled or shaded. Another aspect of its pleasant sound is its very wide and relatively even dispersion which creates an enveloping soundstage and a surrounding presence. It also allows the user to have good coverage over a wide seating area. This makes the MK442Ts a good choice if you have listeners seated off to the sides. While I did criticize the mid-bass for having a somewhat rough response, the MK442T’s bass extension is very good for a budget tower speaker with a solid response down to 40 Hz. Overall, the MK442Ts sound good, and I can say that without the caveat of “for a budget speaker.” They are simply enjoyable to listen to with a pleasing, well-rounded sound.
Their positive attributes don’t stop with the sound. They look very nice for a budget speaker and are probably the nicest looking entry-level tower speaker out there. They are not a large speaker and will not have a major physical presence in a typical room. They don’t weigh a lot and are easy to move if needed- and that is a much greater convenience than most people realize. The build quality is as good as if not better than anything else in its price range. Buyers can have confidence in the speakers arriving in good condition on account of the above-average packing.
In the end, I would say that Dayton Audio has produced another winner. $228 gets you a space-conscious floor-standing speaker that looks nice and sounds good. That is a real bargain. The MK442T speakers are a great entry-way into high-fidelity. They are perfect for bedrooms, office rooms, media rooms, or any other small/medium sized room where space is at a premium. One thing I would like to see in the future is for Dayton Audio to expand on the work here to develop a loudspeaker along these lines but more powerful. What could Dayton Audio do when less restricted by costs; if they can produce a speaker this good for $228/pair, what could they cook up for $500 to $600 a pair? I would be very interested in seeing what they could do with a three-way design capable of higher SPL within this product line. Take that as a challenge, Dayton Audio!
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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.
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And another variation is where the woofer(s) are located within the line channel - having the driver at the closed end, is the “simplest” and therefore I like to think of that as a transmission line. The MK442T has the drivers at *about* 2/5ths from the closed end, and that “dead end” portion is going to resonate (whether or not it is straight or tapered), and therefore it is adding an additional element to the idea of a transmission line.
The ideal transmission line (in my opinion) does several things:
* Prevents the reflection of the backwave from the cone - from “bouncing” off the back of the cabinet, and then coming back out through the cone
* Has minimal cabinet pressurization, which minimized structural resonances
* Prevents bass cancellation - this is the main job of any cabinet - it gets more bass from a smaller woofer
* Extends the bass by mass loading the woofer at the lower end of its response with the air / damping within the transmission line
I agree that widening the line channel toward the opening is closer to a folded bass horn. I think tapering it smaller toward the opening is the better way to go. At the top of its range, the woofer acts similar to an open baffle, and as the frequency drops, it transitions gradually to having more and more mass loading. So the bass response is more even, with no drastic change like a ported design can have.
Transmission line designs are the best of all worlds: clarity and speed of open baffle, but better bass from smaller drivers, like sealed and ported designs.
NeilBlanchard, post: 1439836, member: 93711No. A voigt pipe has the closed end tapered to a surface area of zero and flaring to the open end. This is a classic Voigt Pipe, not folded.
This is actually closer to a Voigt tube
Note, Voigt himself thought this a flawed design.
Weems designed his line on the Voigt Pipe, but found having a small surface area at the narrow closed end improved performance:
NeilBlanchard, post: 1439836, member: 93711What you describe has been called Transmission Lines, true, but the most efficacious way of placing the drivers is along the length of the line preferably at the node of the Third Harmonic, then again at the node of the Fifth Harmonic if using a second driver. These placements help neutralize those more destructive harmonics in a manner that Damping/Stuffing the line does not.
For it to be a transmission line, the drivers would have to be at the closed end, and the entire length of the transmission line would extend to the opening.
Also of note is that having the driver at the end of the line, rather than along the length, borders on the design actually being a Rear-Loaded Horn, especially if it flairs toward the open end.
Lowther Horns are a prime example:
Most modern Transmission Lines tend to be either Mass Loaded designs or built as Tapered Quarter Wave Tubes with the closed end being wider and tapering to the Terminus (see G. Augspurger, M. King).
This post from a forum member shows his TQWT Subwoofer based on Augspurger's program.
So, it would have to be reconfigured to be a “proper” transmission line. Don't judge transmission line designs by this one - they generally have wonderful bass - they combine the reduced loading of an open baffle with the greater bass extension from smaller woofers, of sealed or ported designs.
Now if I could only stop staring at his ears. Looks painful.