Definitive Technology Incline Review
If you were of a certain age at a certain time and into audio at all this is what you saw when you closed your eyes. This ad was in every audio related magazine, everyone who reviewed it said it was the gold standard of kicking ass with sound. Just look at all of those drivers, they even have a full set pointing out the back just to say they can. Bipolar is not really possible due to physics and stuff, but damn man they stuffed a 15 inch woofer on the side of the speaker and a 1000 watt plate amp. At this point in time four digits of watts were unheard of outside of very limited prosound offerings. This was all very ground breaking stuff. Of course by the time I got to hear big bipolar towers it was about 15 years later and they were a disappointment.
Fast forward another 10 years and here I am with tiny little bipolar towers for the desktop. The potential for being let down is there, but I've got high hopes.
These speakers from what I can tell have a plastic cabinet covered in grill cloth and secured to aluminum stands.
The few degrees of lean these guys have is where they get their name, Incline.
The little details and build quality on these speaker shows off the original asking price, which was around $400 when they first hit the market. For whatever reason these speakers were not very popular and now sell for closer to $200 for the pair.
After many attempts to figure out this puzzle box I have settled on the fact that the grill is not going anywhere. Instead I am using the wonders of flash photography to look into the speaker and see the secrets that hide beneath.
I'm pretty sure the tweeter is a dome of some sort with some horn loading to keep it recessed behind the grill, the woofer is a bit small, and the radiator is even smaller. The rear tweeter might be a cheaper cone tweeter, but it's very hard to tell. At any rate it's impressive to see this many transducers in what is one of the smallest speakers I've reviewed, with a cabinet volume more in line with the Audioengine A2.
Lots of options here, although they are hidden behind a little plate. I set the speakers up using the USB input as it offered the cleanest install. Didn't need to download any drivers and the system just worked with both Windows 7 and 10.
It's hard to believe that Definitive was able to fit everything in these little boxes. based on the wiring I'm going to guess that this is a 4 channel amp, with some DSP functions for bass and maybe tonal correction.
I first setup the speakers flat on the desk surface without any stands, depending on the tilt of the speaker to try and get the sound up to my ears.
I'm in utter shock and disbelief. The speakers sound tonally correct with only a little bass boost to the actual bass, not the lower midrange where many little speakers try to sneak in perceived thump.
With the speakers flat on the desk the imaging is way too strange with an swimming in sound kind of effect that I'm sure many people will like, but was too phasey for my taste.
Pulling out the desk stands made all the difference in the world. When the tweeter is at ear height the drivers are physically time aligned from the tilt of the speaker. Very sneaky, in a good way.
Things are sounding very good with more direct sound from the front of the speaker doing more of the work. The tone is still a little heavy on bass.
I notice that when I push the volume up the sound gets distorted like the amp is running of steam or that the drivers are reaching critical mass. Also, as the volume rises the tone becomes more correct with the built in bass limting making the speaker more flat tonally the louder you play it.
These do get pretty loud for near field, but the distortion is keeping me from pushing them further.
Here you can see the bass boost going away as the volume increases
Individual driver close mic measurements, looks like a nice steep crossover slope between the tweeter and the woofer. No comb filtering here, and great driver integration.
Here is an interesting look at the polars of the speaker, this shows an average from 6 measurements moving the mic up vertically, and then another 12 measurements as I spun the speaker around 180 degrees. This speaker is omnidirectional, and damn flat while it does it as well.
I tried a few different ways to pull out the bass boost, but in the end I decided against it because the speaker does very well with its own limiting... and bass boost is not a real deal breaker with most listeners preferring some boost in the lower frequencies (as long as it's not in the lower midrange.)
These speakers are alright, and for a natural response that is not DSP corrected they are winners in the very tiny desktop speaker category. The sound is unique. Some will love it, while others will hate the omnidirection nature of the speaker. Nice thing is that you can put them up on stands and they sound more like monopole speakers than omni in the nearfield.
The only issue that I have with the Definitive Technology Inclines is amp distortion. The crappy amp is really obvious and I can hear it strain with distortion whenever it is pushed. If you are looking for a desktop speaker for a work enviroment where you don't think you will be pushing the volume up these will do a hell of a job, and look very sharp doing it.
One thing that happened while testing the speakers is the USB connection would drop (My washing machine made problems for these as well as the Vanatoos.) Whenever the connection dropped and it picked back up the speaker defaulted to 100% volume. There were a few times when I wanted to hit these speakers with a hammer because they started blasting my face off out of the blue. To avoid this problem in your setup you can use the optical connection on the speaker instead of the USB.
Check out the system finder to see what I recommend.
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