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July 2016
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
HIFICRITIC
XTZ TUNE 4 DSP / Powered Monitor
Harriet Bryant tries out an active loudspeaker system from a Swedish operation that's committed to direct sales.

Review By Harriet Bryant

 

XTZ TUNE 4 DSP / Powered Monitor Review

  XTZ is a new name to this writer and editor, perhaps because it relies mainly on selling direct to customers. It's a Swedish operation with such a vast range of models that finding the TUNE 4 on the very complex website proved quite difficult. Fans of the Muppets' Swedish chef should find the company's problems with the English language quite entertaining.

If you want your next speakers to be smaller than a breadbox, XTZ's TUNE 4 speakers are small, quick to set up, contain their own 'Class D' stereo amplifier in the left speaker, and have a corresponding app which is 'powered by' (augmented by) Dirac correction and equalisation software. So the €480/£370 per pair TUNE 4 may well meet the requirements of somebody looking for a stereo pair with enough bass to infuriate the neighbourhood. XTZ builds a 30 day returns period into its direct sales, so the purchaser can test the versatile range of input options and make an informed decision before final commitment.

The speakers look both stylish and cute, with rounded corners and a finish that looks almost ceramic (but is actually spray-painted MDF). They're designed to fit on a desk, a wall, or really anywhere else one might desire, and the tweeters are offset to reduce edge reflection effects. Each speaker is 140mm wide, 252mm tall and 180mm deep, with a 25mm tweeter and a 120mm mid bass cone driver.

 

 

 

Our particular pair came finished in matt white with black horn-loaded silk dome tweeters and carbon fibre woofer cones; they're also available matt black. The system is essentially ready to play: with analogue, digital and Bluetooth inputs and the integrated amplifier, it is incredibly easy to set up, even for the inexperienced. It took me around ten minutes, much of that time looking for a replacement mains lead without a Swedish plug. Tried out in different locations, I tested them on low carpet, a coffee table and a desk, with various Apps through an iPhone 4S, and via various input combinations, and all proved easily optimised. A high-end CD player, a PC and a smartphone were connected via the analogue, optical and Bluetooth inputs respectively; from an interface perspective, these are great loudspeakers.

The system comes with a simple Quick Start Guide, in imperfect but understandable English, and a remote control that is fashioned from a solid aluminium block. The remote handset is necessary for changing the source, as the speakers themselves don't have a button for this (but do display a different coloured light depending on the selected input). The remote also has the power button and the amplifier's volume control, so it's a vital part of the system.

 

 

Also included is a 3m cable to join the second speaker to the amplifier in the first speaker, a 2m optical cable, and a 1.5m (Swedish) mains lead. Additional hard rubber feet adjust the angle of the loudspeaker, and pieces of shaped foam can be inserted into the ports on the back of the speakers to retune the bass alignment usefully as required. The 'master' speaker, containing the amplifier and all of the inputs is on the left. Indeed, everything but the Bluetooth connects directly to the rear panel, including the right speaker. It even includes a USB port that doesn't function as an input but instead acts as a charger for a Bluetooth device or Chromecast Audio.

 

Input Options and Sound Quality
XTZ has released a free 'powered by Dirac' App, which is designed to allow the listening experience to be customised. (This is not the full Dirac software which also includes automated room correction.) Digital Signal Processing (DSP) can be used to correct measureable issues with the audio and adjust it based on location and setup. It provides six settings: regardless of the setting used, the App plays music more quietly than the iPhone 4S's generic Music App or even YouTube, and I found that it did not sound demonstrably better.

While 'Bass Boost 1' and 'Bass Boost 2' undeniably do what they say, 'On Desk', 'Bright (2.1)', 'On Wall' and 'Reference' all altered the sound files in a way which may have corrected the frequency response, but also did so with side effects I did not enjoy, to the extent that even Apple's own Music App was considered preferable. With the Dirac equalisation turned off, Apple's Music App plays the same file at a different volume and with a different sound quality than the XTZ Player; this was true, even with XTZ's Dirac HD turned off, or in Reference mode.

The iOS XTZ App will only play files that are actually on the rendering device rather than in iCloud. And if you only own one song from an album, it refuses to replay it without either having pre-set it to repeat, or starting another in between. In most situations, a decent tonal balance can be established with the settings, but we found the sound at its most naturally dynamic and interesting when no DSP correction at all was applied.

The Windows App version of the Dirac audio processor operated via the analogue input performs the same way as the iOS App through Bluetooth: we played CD-quality and high definition sound files through each of the six settings and found similar results. We also sent a query to the support team regarding the setup for this version of the App and received a fast and helpful response. Unfortunately both versions of this App impaired our enjoyment of the music, no matter which setting was selected, probably due to DSP and code limitations.

 

 

The frequency response corrections cannot be made when used with an analogue source, as the correction does not take place in the TUNE 4 but at the digital audio source. However, feeding the TUNE 4's analogue input from a high quality CD source provided far better quality sound, while the most interesting and enjoyable music was found when playing high definition files via the optical input. This resulted in a more lifelike and dynamic sound quality, but still suffered from some mild colorations.

Using the optical connection from a computer proved just as good as using the analogue input, with high definition files producing an even more involving experience. This mode of operation also shows that the chosen music player software has a considerable effect on the sound produced. During testing, Apple's iTunes sounded less articulate than either Windows Media Player or Foobar2000. The latter in particular sounded tighter with greater natural detail, better dynamics and superior timing. This clearly audible distinction between players and Apps does reveal some inherent positive performance capabilities in XTZ's TUNE 4 system.

From an audio perspective, the TUNE 4 shows potential: it improved considerably after running in, and the bass in particular became freer and more natural. It was then easy to hear the quality of the file playing and to identify which Apps and settings were being used.

The plugs to tune the bass ports work well, improving timing and increasing the clarity across the audio band, while reducing the port thump. Focus and staging are a strong point and it is capable of presenting surprisingly good depth perspectives when carefully set up. It has reasonably high levels of detail and is articulate on speech which can enhance a video viewing experience over standard desktop speaker fare. It can also work with a television. Disappointingly, however, music can lack synchronicity across the stage, resulting in timing anomalies between the bass and the treble. It is certainly musically competent on a variety of genres even if it does suffer from some colorations: while this might annoy the aficionado, it is likely to be more than acceptable in the context of the market segment at which it is aimed.

XTZ recommends adding a subwoofer for increased bass performance and its range contains suitable matching items, but even when operating alone, the sound from these little speakers can certainly fill a room with sound to surprisingly respectable levels. Within its limits it is often entertaining and can provide an enjoyable musical experience. There is a volume point above which it starts to clog up fairly rapidly: it also loses detail and increases in harshness so if you want much higher volume levels, a bigger speaker will be preferable.

 

Conclusions
XTZ's TUNE 4 can impress when provided with good quality material from either digital or analogue sources, and although colorations are evident, they don't necessarily detract from the musical enjoyment. However, the XTZ Player App seems to add more coloration, and this is particularly noticeable when its Dirac equalisation is employed. Performance is very source dependent, and under our test setup Bluetooth did show some deficiencies but could well prove adequate for more casual listening.

As a neat, easy-to-use desktop speaker and addon to a computer or Bluetooth-enabled device, it's a usable, wideband stereo system that produces very decent volume levels. It's reasonably priced at €480 and has a level of finish and style that makes it visually desirable. The audio itself may not fit perfectly with our ideals, but the TUNE 4 system can be fun, charming and genuinely enjoyable.

 

 

Specifications
Type: Two-way active loudspeaker with DSP 
Tweeter: 25mm soft done
Midrange / Woofer driver: 4" cone driver (Multi-layer C-Cone) 
Frequency Response: 52 to 40,000 Hz (+/- 3dB) 
Nominal impedance: 4 - 8 Ohm 
Connection Master-Box (input): Analog (3.5 mm jack), digital (S/PDIF, optical), Bluetooth (4.0 with aptX) 
Connection Master-Box (output): gold plated screw terminals (Connection to slave box), subwoofer output (RCA), USB charging port (DC 5V, 1A) 
Settings: Bassreflex / sealed, six DSP EQ curves via Dirac Audio Processor DSP software (Free for Windows, OS X, iOS, Android) 
Dimensions: 5.6” x 10” x 7.2" (WxHxD) 
Weight: 14.5 lbs per pair 
Color: Matte black or matte white 
Warranty: 5 years (electronic: 2 years) 
Included Accessories: Speaker cables with banana plugs (3m), optical cable (2m), 3.5mm jack cable (1m), power cable (1.5 m), all-aluminum remote control 
Price: €480

 

Company Information
XTZ Group AB
Voice: +46(0)345-20049 
E-mail: info@xtzsound.eu  
Website: www.xtz.se

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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