ProAc DB1 Speakers Review

I get to listen to many loudspeakers from so many manufacturers and at so many different price levels, from the very reasonable to the downright obscene amounts of money. Is it worth paying what some would call obscene amounts, well there is no simple answer to this dilemma but it is all relative, relative to the buyer, relative to the associating equipment but most important is does the sound improve to what would seem relative to the price? Well, there is one British company that have been building speakers for approx four decades and they have always delivered the goods when it comes to quality and performance. ProAc has built and become a master at building smaller monitors with excellent sound for what is to most audiophiles, not a bank-busting amount.

 In comes, the ProAc Response DB1's which replace the outgoing ProAc D1 monitors which were already an excellent and well-established monitor in their stable. Stewart Tyler is always looking at ways of improving the sound with new materials and more refined cross-over networks. This is a monitor which offers a bigger sized sound in a smaller package and at an affordable price but still manages to offer the serious audiophile a higher fidelity of sound which ProAc are renowned for.

Features and Build Quality

As usual, the ProAc DB1's comes boxed and packaged so well in the one box but with some serious weight which is always a good sign of quality. Upon opening the speakers, they have foam inserts to protect the beautifully finished wood and cellophane over each DB1, also included is a nicely laid out manual which goes into more detail about your new speakers. What I love about ProAc is that when they send out a pair of speakers for review they always provide such excellent documentation which really helps and I just wish other manufacturers would be as thorough. Each of the DB1's is finished in a gorgeous Walnut wood veneer. I love the smell of newly finished wood speakers, they have such a wonderful aroma about them, this all makes the buying experience that more special. The cabinets are very solid and they have a lot of weight to them, better bracing and dampening materials all help to control any unwanted cabinet resonances. The driver configuration is made up of a 1" silk dome tweeter as used in the D2, a newly developed long throw very linear 5" mid/bass driver with a mikapulp cone and acrylic pole damping phase plug. They also have dual speaker terminals for bi-wiring or bi-amping, from experience bi-amping has better performance results. The cabinet is also ported at the rear for a better bass response. The newly developed cross-over also has a flatter frequency response and better performance at high levels. The slim front baffle has a grill and a lip which sits at the front of the speaker, it looks so sleek with the grills on but I much prefer looking at the beautiful drivers so settle with the grills off. The impedance of the DB1's is rated at 8ohms with the sensitivity at 88db making them a relatively easy load and good performance can be obtained from amplifiers ranging from a very modest 20 watts to 100 watts per channel.

Sound Quality and Performance

For this review, I am using my McIntosh Labs MA8000 Integrated amplifier with dCS Network Bridge streaming my music through to my Mytek Brooklyn DAC. Roon is the preferred choice for media player and transports all my digital music through the dCS. I use my Cyrus CDi player as a transport only. Cables used are all Transparent Cables and I have a very solid pair of Atacama stands which the ProAc DB1's are sitting on. Some trusty Blu-tac sits in between the stands and speakers and does a good enough job of holding them in place.

I am using various pieces of music in digital file format with MQA encoding but also some good old CD's as well. Most of my listening recently has been on CD but a lot of my new music sits on my various NAS drives.

My first album is from the Hoff Ensemble POLARITY which is arranged and recorded by the brilliant Morten Lindberg on the 2L  label, it is encoded and authenticated MQA and as you can expect it sounds divine. Although I understand the theory behind MQA, I find that music encoded in this way sounds exceptionally good, the DB1's totally does this recording justice. Track 4 POLARITY is a beautifully crafted piece of music with Jan Gunner Hoff on keyboards, Audun Klieves on drums and Anders Jormin on double-bass. The DB1's manage to recreate the sound stage beautifully and what surprises me the most is the size of the sound stage that they manage to create, it is cast very wide but with lots of depth too, allowing the listener to hear deeper into the recording than what their size suggests. Each strike of the keys on the piano has an immediacy and accuracy that is captured with such refinement and melodic style that it just sounds wonderful. The drumstick brushes move around the drums with a delicate but defined sound, the DB1's manage to pick up on all the finer details within the recording and it is recorded immaculately. Track 8 Euphoria has great pace and rhythm with an etched out sound stage in the listening area, with the ProAc DB1's placing each instrument firmly in the space around you, with plenty of air around the instruments. There are some ferocious keyboard skills from Jan Gunner Hoff and some brilliant percussion from Audin Klieves.

Having listened to this fantastic new offering from the Hoff Ensemble I just had to have a listen to one of my all-time favourite jazz albums, from the same group and again on the 2L label, it is a Quiet Winter Night produced by Morten Linberg and encoded in MQA. Track 6 Biagutten sounds simply sublime with yet again some great percussion and trumpet playing. The DB1's produce such weight and impact for such small monitors and the imaging is spot on with real depth and the timbre of the instruments sounds so right and realistic, that for a few moments you can imagine the band is playing live right there in front of you, this is a great testament to the musical ability of the ProAc DB1's.

Moving on and this time with an album on CD from the Submotion Orchestra - Kites, Track 1 Prism is a fast-moving piece of music with one serious bass line, the DB1's manage to drop really low with a hard-hitting and punchy bass line. Considering the mid-bass driver is only a 5" unit it is quite an achievement to think that these small monitors can keep up with this type of music, but they do a convincing job and continue to impress in all departments of sound. Track 2 Variations continues in the same vein as the first track with a stunning bass note which has real impact and great tonality. This album is a symphonic masterpiece with a mixture of electronic and jazz/fusion which makes this music sound so effortless. Track 6 has a haunting melody and some more electronic wizardry but the DB1's gives you a stereoscopic insight into the music, with a scale and perspective that is not uncommon from much larger cabinets. Kites is a fantastic album which sounds stunning with the ProAc's and proves that these speakers can handle any type of music with aplomb, giving you an incredibly in-depth and musical pair of monitors.

Conclusions and Final Thoughts

The ProAc DB1's have been with me for a good few weeks now and I have listened to many more albums than just the ones that I have featured in this review but they have completely surprised me with the way they have handled all types of music with ease. Once in full flow, they manage to completely submerge you into the music with their fabulous abilities and attributes which considering the price, just shy of £2,000 is a proverbial bargain. ProAc has once again produced a stunning example of how a stand mount speaker should be built. If you are looking for a serious audiophile monitor that does it all and have a budget of less than £5k then these should be at the top of your list.

They are an Outstanding product and I could easily live with a pair hooked up full time to my system.

Price at time of review, £1,900 for standard finishes and £2,187 for Ebony and Rosewood finishes.

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