Equipment Review:
Duntech Sovereign

Updated 20.4.2000

Tapani Lappi
Translated by Robin Lybeck

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In the 80's Duntech became known as "the most neutral and accurate speakers in the world". John Dunlavy, the founder and CEO of Duntech unveiled the "Sovereign" in 1987 and the speaker is still a part of the manufacturers´ product line.

Harry Pearson of "The Absolute Sound" (USA), Bert Whyte of Audio Magazine and others were at the time enthusiastic about the speaker, German "Audio" magazine chose it as their reference and it spent several years as number 1 on their "Referenzklasse"-list. I remember reading an article where the Sovereign was compared to a live presentation by guitarist John McLaughlin. The board of listeners were supposedly unable to discern the recorded version from the live one.

John Dunlavy sold his share of Duntech, returned to his native country in 1992 for "family reasons" and set up Dunlavy Audio Labs in Colorado Springs. According to unofficial sources he still owns a 20% share of Duntech, although he no longer participates in the operational or technical work.


The Sovereign is a real "phone booth" in terms of size. In the vertical plane, above and below the 19mm dome tweeter, are located first two 54 mm midrange drivers, then two 175 mm drivers for the upper bass and on the top and at the bottom two 300 mm bass drivers. The drivers are located on a "stepped" front baffle in order to achieve a phase-coherent signal and an accurate impulse response. The goal of the vertically symmetrical driver placement is to achieve a strongly directional signal and reduce the amount of first reflections. The crossover is a first order design.


Balance: the overall impression is of a neutral tonal character, leaning to the darker side. The impression is more of a slightly warmer sound rather than "cool and sharp". The lower register certainly isn´t lacking in extension, even the lowest notes are delivered without strain.

Resolution: good throughout the whole frequency range, somewhat "round", but still quite good. 

Transparency: good, although somewhat veiled. Compared to the contemporary level of transparency delivered by (for example) Wilson and Dunlavy, the Sovereign loses out a little. Realism is generally good with the Sovereign. The speaker doesn´t have any real colorations, except for a slightly dark tonal balance, which gives the speaker a "pleasant" character. Instruments and vocals are reproduced naturally without a sense of strain. 

Treble/"highs": in relation to the overall tonal balance, the treble is a bit recessed, but nevertheless very articulate and clean. 

Midrange: natural and neutral. All instruments are reproduced without coloration, including the hammer of a grand piano, which sounds excellent. All vocals are free from distortion and colorations. 

Bass/"lows": extended and deep, as well as quite detailed. There is, however, a slight "roundness" and excess warmth in the lower registers. 

Dynamics: impressive, although not quite as explosive as some of the bests I have heard. 

Spatial information: Good. Due to its large size, the speaker can really draw a picture of a live event, with the appropriate impact. Instruments are precisely located in the soundstage. The speaker is quite picky with placement, demanding some work before the best possible result can be reached. 

Visceral impact: Impressive, the music is reproduced on a natural scale, with a lifelike character smaller speakers can´t match. Listening to a speaker like this, you have to wonder if the appropriate scale of a live recording can ever be reproduced correctly by smaller speaker designs.

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The overall sound of the Sovereign could be characterised as natural, accurate and free of colorations. In addition to this, the rendering of dynamics and scale are very impressive. As a less positive point, I perceived some softness, or "roundness" in the sound, as well as a level of transparency that isn´t quite up to the level of the best modern designs. On the other hand, the "roundness"  is essentially a matter of taste, many listeners will probably like the sound the way it is.

The designer made himself known in the world of high end audio with the Sovereign and the smaller Princess. The Sovereign is, regardless of its increasing age, a world-class reference speaker and a true classic, like the Quad ESL-63 or B&W 801 (and others).

How the manufacturer will be able to keep up it's good name with audiophiles all over the world is somewhat unclear, as no new "revolutionary" designs have been introduced after the departure of John Dunlavy. Distribution in the USA, the biggest market for high end audio, ended a few years ago, and the brand has also gotten quite rare in Europe. In Finland the situation has been improved, as Highend Studio started importing the brand in 1999, after a few year's break.

Associated components

  • CD-player PS-Audio Lambda
  • DAC: Krell Studio
  • Preamp: Krell KRC
  • Powerap: Krell KSA-300
  • Cables: Van den Hul Second, Van den Hul Revelation

Technical details

Frequency Response
Measured at 3.5M (11.5ft) on the tweeter axis
Efficiency 90dB SPL
Referenced at 1M (3.3 ft) on tweeter axis with an input of 2.83 volts RMS (1 watt at 8 ohms)
Nominal Impedance
4 ohms
Variance 3.0-4.5
Power Rating Peak 1000 watts power for 10 mS
Recommended Amplifier Power
100 watts Minimum RMS per channel
Pulse Coherency Factor
Less than 20µS Propagation time error at 3.5M (11.5 ft) on tweeter axis
Harmonic Distortion
Less than 0.3% THD above 50Hz
Referenced at 1M (3.3 ft) on the tweeter axis with an input of 2.83 volts RMS (1 watt at 8 ohms)
Relative Phase Variation Versus Frequency 80Hz-18KHz Varies less that ±25 deg
First order type
Woofers 2x300mm (12")
Bass 2x175mm (7")
Mid 2x54mm (2")
Tweeter 1x19mm (3/4")
Input Terminals
Gold plated and accepts banana, spade or cable connections
Bi-Wiring Yes
Passive Bi-Amplification Yes
Footnote: All measurements taken at ambient temperature of 23°C (72°F)
Brazilian Rosewood
Golden Oak
Acoustically transparent black cloth

1875mm (74")
360mm (14")
862mm (34")
Per cabinet







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