16th October 1997

Speaker manufacture being a sort of black art halfway between science and cunning, Australians, of course, excel at it. One company that has been fiddling away in the back rooms for longer than most is Adelaide-based Duntech. This company sprang out of an unlikely alliance between the South Australian defence industry and university research into sound propagation.

It applied the results to making orchestras sound sweet and clear. As a consequence, Duntech has sold extremely well in the super-fi markets in Asian Tiger countries, said general manager James Alexander, but has never really shone in its home country.

Alexander attributed this partly to the local market being full of cheaper imported speakers, and to the high cost of many previous Duntech models. The top-of-the-range Sovereign demands a wallet-tightening $33,500 to pass through your door. "We decided to make a completely new range we call the Gemstones, which have the same quality as our more expensive speakers but at a much more affordable price." he said.

The first of the Gemstone line-up to be released is the Opal, a two-way, three-unit floor-standing speaker, which sells for around $2499.

The boxes give an excellent initial impression - absolutely stunning jarrah veneer, polished to a mirror finish and with a plain black grille up front. The two 16.5-centimetre bass-mid-range drivers are mounted above and below the 2.54-centimetre tweeter, the top one in a sealed enclosure and the bottom one venting to the outside world via two tuned ports. The approach gives the best of both worlds - decent low-down bass response without too much "boom box" resonance, but still with a reasonable level of power.

The real pleasure of these speakers, however, is not so much the extended response - in fact, there are many that will beat it at the bottom end - but its superb stereo imaging. Switching between these and the resident Venturis gives a notable tightening up of instrument location, together with a very clear mid-range. This is probably due to all the special bits of felt stuck on and around the drivers. The designers claim these give better results in terms of pulse coherency (speaker geek-speak).

Whatever the scientific description, they sound very clear and precise. The speakers come with extensive instructions and a set of floor spikes to isolate floor-based vibrations. If you are looking for military clarity and precision from your favourite recordings, these speakers are well worth a look.