Danley Sound Labs SM100 Series Loudspeakers In-Depth Review
By Scott Oliver - President, Centerline AV
12 Years of ongoing innovation and refinement for lots of different applications!
(Click images for specs)
While we here at Centerline are probably perceived as only liking big hulking loudspeakers like the Jericho J1, nothing could be further from the truth! Yes we do like doing rooms with the J1 and other Jerichos like the J3, there are some situations where it's just not possible, or necessary for that matter. The fortunate thing for us is we get to hear a lot of different boxes; not just those built by Danley but a lot of others as well. Anytime the phone rings with a sales rep on the other end asking us to come hear what they have to offer, we go, we listen, we compare, and pull no punches when comparing their loudspeakers to Danley's. So far, nothing we've heard beats a Danley loudspeaker, regardless of the size. Big ones, medium-sized ones, small ones, and little teeny ones all have that signature Danley clarity and fidelity that hasn't been matched...so far. We're still waiting for someone to bring us something better, but as of this writing it hasn't happened.
When I first started writing this review my original plan was to only cover the SM100B, but as I progressed I realized that in order to best describe this speaker and what makes it so great, it was necessary to give a little history on how it was conceived. Then it dawned on me that the entire SM100 series needs to be covered in order to fully understand there's a lot more that deserves to be covered. So, we're off to the races.
The very first speaker ever offered by Danley Sound Labs is the SM100 (originally called the SH100). While Danley is now known for their super high output mains and monster subwoofers, few actually know how Danley got their start. In talking with Ivan Beaver, Head of Engineering at Danley about this review, he explained that the reason they decided to start with a single 8" coax box. Mike Hedden, the owner of Danley wanted a well behaved speaker with a very low "Q" that could be used in a lot of churches that at the time only needed one speaker. Remember, there was a period in America where most churches only had small 300 seat sanctuarys. Mike had a vision for something that would cover these rooms with only one speaker, and the SH100 was the first product of that vision.
Ivan Beaver Tom Danley Mike Hedden
Ivan went on to say that when he heard Mike and Tom [Danley] wanted to build an 8" Coax box to launch the company with, his reaction was something along the lines of "Really? You have got to be kidding me. An 8" Coax box? C'mon guys, let's do something a little more substantial here!" What they discovered after building the first prototype was they were onto something really special. Additionally, other than a few component value upgrades on the crossover for greater power handling, and a few small cosmetic changes, the production versions today are exactly like the original prototype that was built over a decade ago. This is also the very first of the Molded Horn series for which Ivan hand formed-the composite horn in the prototype. Another important thing worth mentioning regarding the Danley molded horn component and why they sound so good is they are built like tanks! They are very thick, dense, and heavy. When you tap on one with your knuckle, all you will get is a thud. No ringing like the old Altec horns of yesteryear.
After some listening tests and measurments in the lab, what they discovered was they had a really special thing going not only in new speaker innovations, but as a team as well.That was in 2005 by the way. Now, here we are 12 years later and Danley is quickly becomming the standard by which all the others are measured (pun intended). There are literally hundreds of loudspeaker manufacturers all over the world, some of which are legendary, so it's no small feat to rise to the top like Danley is now doing. The SM100 is still among the top selling products for Danley! I can't think of a single speaker manufacturer other than Danley that is still offering the same products today as they were 12 years ago. When it's right, it's right.
SM100s on sticks with a THmini sub. Portable Danley goodness.
Now you may be thinking that an 8" coax box could not possibly be a serious contender in a world jam-packed with the ubiquitous 12" and 15" 2-way horn/woofer design, and you would be partly right. The SM100 alone while offering bucket loads more clarity than the typical 2-way box will not have as much low end as the aforementioned horn/woofer designs. But, that matters little when you add a Danley THmini or Mini15 subwoofer with it. At that point it becomes a game changer. As far as clarity goes, the others are just also-rans compared to the Danley. Though the SM100 was intended to be an installation speaker, it also works great as a portable PA speaker. A pair of SM100s and either one or two THminis and you have yourself one killer little PA that will handle most weddings and partys. For an acoustic set, this little system has no equal. A small 4-channel amp with DSP and something like a Soundcraft UI16 or Allen & Heath QU-PAC iPad (or a computer or other tablet) controlled mixer and you have a PA that will fit easily in the back of a small SUV! Easy load, easy setup, easy mix, easy pack. You're in business, and you're able to charge the big bucks because you sound so good! Remember, you heard that here first. We've used them as main PA cabinets and choir monitors with great success as well.
Since the introduction of the SM100 12 years ago there have been four additional models introduced that are based on this 8" Coax Molded Horn platform. The one that first got my attention was the SM100B. Basically, its an SM100 with a unique Danley aligned bass section using four high power 8" long-excursion low frequency drivers wrapped around it. And boy oh boy is it one sweet loudspeaker! Is it a flamethrower? No it's not, but a pair of them will get plenty loud enough for a contemporary worship band in a room of up to somewhere around 500 seats, especially when paired with something like a DBH218 subwoofer. On the other hand with a peak output of 130db it is certainly no slouch. It's a pretty serious box indeed. You can run them without subwoofers and still get a very healthy bottom end. Depending on your room, you may not need a subwoofer with the SM100B. That's one place we here at Centerline can help you to decide.
SM100B - subwoofers optional
As with any Danley product, the SM100B sounds extremely smooth and even throughout the frequency range. And as with any other Danley product, how it predicts in EASE or Direct is exactly how it will behave in real life. What you see is what you will get...and what will you hear in terms of coverage. It's really cool to build a model, then walk the room after they are installed and notice the results are just like the model!
Centerline AV System Examples Using the Danley SM100B
The following pictures are of just three of the SM100B systems we have done along with their respective EASE models and some short client testimonials. I hand picked these three projects because each room is unique and vastly different from the others. Proof that the SM100B is a great choice for all sorts of small to medium-sized rooms.
Hendersonville First United Methodist Church- Hendersonville, TN
We love our Danley SM100B speakers! They are fantastic, and I could not live without them. Huge performance from a small box. Getting a great mix is so easy. Luke Davis, Audio Engineer Hendersonville First United Methodist Church
First Baptist Church - Manchester, TN
I could not believe how seamless the sound transferred from the left side of the room to the right side of the room. It was as if there is only one speaker in the room, but there are two in stereo! Simply Amazing. Jake Hill - Visiting Artist at Hendersonville First Untied Methodit Church
The sound is amazing. Their clear and clean sound really enhances our worship time. I love the fact that I can run them at any volume and get consistently bold and dynamic sound. We can run them softly and they sweeten and quiet occasion or we can crank them up and have a rock concert. Todd Green, Worship Pastor - First Baptist Church - Manchester, TN
Passtime Theater - Winfield Alabama
We just love our Danley SM100B's! They are SO easy to run, and they sound great regardless of what show we are doing. They always deliver just what we need! Fantastic!
Stephen Preuninger - Head Engineer, Passtime Theater - Winfield, AL
But wait, there's more...The SM100F!
In 2013 the idea to further expand the SM100 line was born out of the fact that since more and more people are using subwoofers, why not build a version of the SM100B that did not need to go as low. It's pretty much common knowkledge that when you want to go louder from a single box, you just give up a little bit of low end extension. And with a newer and more advanced, and stronger version of the 8" coax driver that's similar to what is currently being used in the SM100B, it made a whole lot of sense to expand the line based on the molded horn flare that has been so successful in the past. Had this same driver been available when the SM100B was conceived they would have used it, according to Ivan Beaver.
Furthering that concept also gave them the idea to subsitute the four 8" low frequency drivers used in the SM100B with a singe 15" driver while still maintaining the outside box dimensions. Additionally, they started from scratch with the crossover design, so this is not just a speaker built from an erector set of components they already had on the shelf. Best of all, it costs less than the SM100B.
Danley's website sums it up by saying " The SM-100F is the most powerful broadband product we offer in the smallest package. Incredible punch in very compact enclosure". I couldn't have said it better myself.
Up until now, I have only used the SM100 and SM100B in our systems simply because that's what I started with and I had no reason to use the SM100F, until just recently.
A new client came to me that had heard about the Danley sound, so I invited him to come and hear one of our systems. He of course was sold immediately, but his church did not quite have the budget for the SM100Bs, so we introduced him to the SM100F.
Since we had already decided on Danley's DBH218 for the low end, it made all the sense in the word to go with the SM100F instead of the SM100B in order to save the budget.
As of this writing the system has not been installed, but the EASE model to the right shows just how great the SM100 design covers a room of this size and shape. The 100-degree conical dispersion will provide great stereo coverage with no energy being spilled on the stage.
Plus, the mix position in the balcony will sound the same as it does ont he floor and at every other location in the house. In a word..."Perfection".
Floor Monitors that sound like Studio Monitors
There are two versions in the SM100 floor monitor series. The SM100M, and the SMLPM. At first it appears they are just cosmetically different, but there are some small differences that might make a difference in your buying decision once you know what they are. Oddly enough the smooth looking SHLPM was the first in the series. In talking with Ivan about these two, he stated that had the SMLPM not come first it might have never seen the light of day. The biggest reason is the cost assocaited in making an enclosure with all the smooth arcs found in such an elegant design. It cost more in manufacturing to put all those curves together seamlessly. The SM100M was born out of the desire to have a lower cost version available.
In my experience however, the SHLPM has been our biggest seller of the bunch. Most churches like the rounded look of the LPM over the more squared M version. And, who can blame them? I do too! Like I said, it does come at a higher price, just like leather seats and wood dashboards in a car. If looks matters to you, and it does to a lot of people, be prepared to pay a bit more. One consideration is to use LPMs in places that are more visible and Ms in places not so visible.
Other considerations are the angles of the horn flare. By design the LPM's horn flare angle puts it closer to the floor so it eliminates the first reflection and the crazy notch that comes along with it. Is this a major consideration? Not really, but it is worth mentioning. The other thing that you might notice is the ports on the SM100M are located at the four corners of the molded horn while the ports on LPM are hidden in the handle cavities on each side. Pretty trick eh?
As a very active player and studio rat myself, I am very critical of what a a good monitor should sound like. Be it sitting on the floor, or in front of you while you are mixing, it should sound as neutral, accurate, and as pleasant as possible. Personally, I have never liked the sound of most floor monitors because basically all the designer did was take a PA cabinet, cut a wedge out of the back and plop it on the floor.
Due to that excellent coaxial driver and well thought out crossover, the SM100 series wedges provide an extremely flat reference monitor sitting on the floor in front of you, without that nasty tone of the typical horn flare ripping your face off. Yes, I said tone. Not just sound, but tone. And any musician will tell you that the better you sound on stage, and the more comfortable you are with the other sounds coming at you from the instruments and vocals in the monitors, the better you will play.
Not getting into the in-ear monitor debate in this article, but for those players that understand the difference between great wedges and little speakers stuck in your ears, great wedges are essential to playing great in a great band.
Yours truly holding my Musicman Luke II. If Danley built guitars, it's likely they would build something like the Luke. Gobs of solid-body electric love.
Daddy-O Digital Studios at Centerline AV's Planetary Headquarters. Conveniently located between Mars and Venus.
In my small project studio here at Centerline (also known as Daddy-O Digital Music Production) I use a pair of JBL's ubiquitous LSR6328P as my main monitors. Honestly, at first I did not like them but after hours of mixing I learned them and now I am extremely happy with them. They are not flattering and will not lie to you. It's pretty much the same with the SM100 series floor monitors.
While I am not real big on graphs and measurements, they are essential when disecting how a speaker performs and in determining what you are hearing. What it actually sounds like in the real world is what matters most though. However, in this case when you compare the curve of the JBL LSR6328 in Figure #1 to the curve of the SM100M in Figure #2 it's fairly easy to see that both are very flat and would sound very close in terms of frequncy response.
I suspect JBL used a tad more smoothing than Danley, but not enough to be dishonest.
The bottom line is the SM100M sounds like a reference monitor you place on the floor in live situations. Now if we can just get Danley to build us a studio monitor, we'll be cooking with gas!
Figure #1: JBL LSR6328
Figure #2: Danley SM100M
If there's something that sounds better than the Danley SMLPM, prove it to me.
Jeff Baggett - Chief Engineer, First Redeemer Church
One key feature you can't see is something all of Danley's products now feature. Designed by Ivan Beaver to be a fail-safe high frequency protection device, the "Sentinel" high frequency protection network is hiding inside to help you rest easy when it comes to rogue feedback, and other occurences that might take out a high frequency driver. Not going into a long and drawn out explanation on how it works, but what I will say is you won't be buying a lot of replacement diaphragms on any Danley product!
If you want a more in-depth technical explanation, just click on the picture and it will take you to a video explaining how it works and what it does.
Unlike a lot of manufacturers who offer a product for a few years, then discontinue it for something newer and supposedly better, Danley continues to innovate and expand on their proven designs that were right from the beginning of the company. Just like Fender with their Stratocaster, Gibson with their Les Paul, and Martin with their D-28 guitars, Danley builds products that stand the test of time and the SM100 series is the best example of the breed. While it was Danley's first full-range cabinet, it is still one of the top sellers in the Danley line. These loudspeakers sound gorgeous, and will reward you with many years of wonderful service. I know this to be true because I have a lot of these systems in the field and a lot of happy clients who use them, and we keep on selling them! Sonically, it gets no better than these.
Is the SM100 series right for every situation? No, of course not. But the SM100 series covers a lot of ground and in America where most of the venues and church sanctuarys are not 1000+ seats, this series is the best choice by far both asthetically and sonically for those with 500 seats and under.
Call us or email us and we'll arrange for a demo in your facility REGARDLESS of where you are located. You will be so glad you did!
Centerline is an authorized Danley dealer and we're here to help YOU!