What We Like
- A robust, functional design which is highly inert.
- A form factor which, while deeper than most, is still versatile.
- An extremely detailed, clear audio performance across the board.
What We Don’t Like
- The design, aesthetically speaking, is fairly dull and uninspiring.
Definitive Technology is a distinctively American brand. Having been around since the ‘90s, they have made a name for themselves relatively quickly within the highly competitive landscape that consumer audio constitutes, and that is usually a good sign.
Perhaps the most obvious initial takeaway when first laying eyes on the SM65s is that they don’t look a lot like bookshelf speakers. Or at least they don’t look a lot like the bookshelf speakers we are used to seeing. Whereas many designs gravitate towards becoming cube like in their proportions, DefTech has eschewed this convention and gone for a design that is significantly deeper and taller than we are used to. It looks more like a desktop computer, or a classic speaker design that has had a little extra depth tacked on to the end.
This is by no means a criticism. An actual criticism would be that there isn’t much more to say about the design than to point out its slightly idiosyncratic dimensions as there is not a whole lot going on visually. The SM65s are available only in a black finish which, while nice, is nothing exceptional. It’s nice in a very utilitarian, no frills sort of a way. On the inside, there is a good deal of corner and cross bracing which goes a long way towards helping to make the cabinet inert and unable to muddy the audio with extra, superfluous vibrations.
To begin, let’s dig a little deeper into the driver specs.
Starting with the tweeter, it’s a pure aluminium dome affair which is heat treated first to “relax the crystal structure of the metal” before being coated with ceramic to help produce the sparkling, subtle highs that you would expect from a speaker at this price point.
The twin, 5.25” mid/bass drivers feature what they describe as Balanced Dual Surround System technology. Essentially, this just means that a surround is placed at both the outer and inner edges of the speaker cone as opposed to the single surround you would usually see. The benefits of this kind of design are manifold, but the easiest way to conceptualize it is as providing significantly more stability to the driver than would a single surround. This results in a sound that is both clearer and more accurate, even towards the higher end of the volume spectrum.
The sound is extremely accurate, and the detail goes well beyond what we are used to hearing from even the high end of bookshelf speakers. The treble response is particularly excellent, and the double treatment of the dome means that you can almost hear every fibre of the wire brush as it sweeps across a snare. Mids are similarly good, and the clarity with which vocals are reproduced makes it genuinely sound like you are in the recording studio with the artist rather than sat at home in front of a pair of fairly small bookshelf speakers.
Even in busy tracks with lots going on across the mix and at different ranges, the performance is articulate and easily allows for differentiation within the surprisingly broad soundstage that the track inhabits as it is effortlessly pushed into the room.
Definitive Technology has managed to cram a whole lot of quality inside the comparatively small body of the SM65s. Despite an underwhelming aesthetic, the performance more than makes up for any visual qualms and leaves you wanting a whole more.