Speakers tend to have distinct characters, which is why they evoke such passion amongst enthusiasts. B&W, Revolver and Castle are resolutely British in demeanour, all fine woodwork and subtle voicing, if a little dull; mid-fi Japanese speakers sold with plasticky system products are all boom and bellow.
This Duo system strikes me as pure Blackpool Bling (even if they are based in leafy Surrey). I suspect that they would be ideal for the sort of dude who has gold trims on his Lexus, and gold taps in his bathroom. Finished in a paint called pearl piano black, they are deeply glossy and the coating contains tiny slivers of genuine mother of pearl shell from the oyster industry. You can actually see into the finish and the pearlescent specks shine with all the colours of the rainbow, under any light, natural or artificial.
For those who are not so keen on full size ceramic leopards, by the time you read this, the products will be available in simple piano black. However, just because the fleck effect is a bit 70s custom Capri for my tastes doesn't mean that you'll not find them lovely to behold.
No chain, you gain
Arriving in four sizeable cartons all at once, the whole package is sold direct by Duo Acoustics. As a consequence, the vendor is thus able to offer this pile of kit for far less than if it went through the normal distribution chain. The folks who specified the speakers are the same who sell them to you. The result is nothing short of excellent value.
The left and right speakers are very narrow across their frontages but their enclosures reach back and encompass a large cubic space. The top section of each tower houses three of the white coned 76mm drivers, one of which has a pole piece protruding through it to do no more than house a blue LED lamp bulb. As the power wicks up, you suddenly illuminate this LED and it looks cute. The grilles are skinny and are cloth and wood framed but have tiny steel pieces sunk in them to hold the grilles onto the speakers magnetically via the hidden magnets in each enclosure. The grilles are the only thing you could look at and think 'budget', as when you turn them over, their finish is a bit rough.
Duo recommends that despite using a proper grille cloth, it's better to play the speakers without the grilles in place. They have two gas flowed ports around the back plus paired binding post terminals held together as one by jumper pieces until such time as you might bi-wire/bi-amplify them.
They share their tweeter-in-taperedtube with the centre enclosure, which has only two of the white paper 3in drivers. But on each flank, the towers wear a 6.5in midwoofer, intended to fatten up the lower end. Thus each tower has two midwoofers, three midbass drivers and a tweeter, making them 3-way designs, while the centre is a two way and the rears, which are little more than a box with two of the 3in drivers and no separate HF driver, are a single-way or full range design.
I'd thought the lack of tweeter in the rears was going to leave a big sonic hole. However, as the cones are so small, mobile and take so much power, they happily play up to 16kHz.
The subwoofer is a cube stood over its own driver and boundary-compression plinth plate. Where all the other boxes are ported, this relies upon a single 10in driver of huge fat surround suspension that can really shift some air and is pressurised against the wooden panel it is mounted a scant two inches above. It is driven by a 150W nominal amplifier and it plays absurdly deep for its price and size, has simple phono input, crossover and gain controls but is also graced by a continuously variable phase control knob as well, which again is going it some for budget kit.
This set takes some time to burn in. I was initially unimpressed, until after a few days they started to come to life. I put on a Blue Man Group DVD-A with a DTS 96/24 recording in 5.1 as well as the DVD-A tracking and wicked it up. Suddenly all the system needed was some watts up its terminals and it came to dramatic life. I was surprised at how good the rears sounded; they are only small but they can pack a punch.
If you play them loud enough to light the blue LED on the main towers, you will be treated to a potent, dynamic performance with headroom, snap and attack through the whole range of sound, finishing with a sub that pleased with a seriously cool ability to decipher melody from bass line information. It was way past what I had expected to find in a package of this price, I suspect that if this system was on open retail sale via traditional dealers, they would be asking a minimum of £1,200 for it and would probably get it too.
The Duo-77 system looks pretty yet can still spank at volume. It might not deliver the scale of a huge system, but the sheer fulsome entertainment value of this package is impossible to ignore. I can even forgive the sparkly looks.