Review: Teufel Ultima 40 Active laudspeaker and Dual 400 USB recordplayer: Teufel was one of the first to pioneer the sale of its own speakers and audio systems via the internet. With great success, thanks to products that offer a lot and competitive prices. It started offering bundles a while back. Still with its own speakers, now supplemented with electronics from third parties. Here’s a package for the vinyl enthusiast who also wants to upgrade the TV sound.
We probably shouldn’t tell you: a large pile of audio devices is no longer welcome in most living rooms. However, there is one exception to the ‘less is more’ rule. More and more people do want a record player again. This package from Teufel responds to these trends, without losing sight of sound quality. The Berliners therefore bundle their proven Teufel Ultima 40 speakers in an active version and with HDMI with a turntable from Dual. A fully automatic record player even, which means that you can sit and watch completely lazy while the tonearm positions itself on the record. Music done? Then the arm rises and returns to its resting position. For this old school-new school merger you will pay somewhere between 949 and 1,049, depending on promotions that Teufel regularly runs.
No additional equipment required
The Ultima 40 comes in a passive version (an additional amplifier is required) or an active version (everything is built-in). It is that last version we receive. No further purchases are required to get sound, just plug in. A first major advantage is that less space is taken up and that fewer cables are lying around in the living room. Although we have to put that into perspective a bit. The Ultima 40 Active speakers are larger columns with a considerable depth. Especially in their black version – there is a white and black edition – they are really very present in our living room with white walls and light wooden floor. It’s quite a contrast to the tiny Danish System Audio Air 1that was tested for it. Visually, with and without a grid makes a huge difference. With you get two sleek and neat columns, without you look at an impressive collection of drivers and a shiny front. It immediately looks a lot more technical, too much for our Scandinavian-inspired living room.
Moreover, Teufel opts for a semi-active approach. One of the two speakers is active, so a speaker cable runs to the second, passive speaker. To put it very precisely: you will receive an Teufel Ultima 40 Active laudspeaker MK2 and a passive Ultima 40 MK3. Anyway, you only need one socket, but there is a thin speaker cable (included) that you have to hide. Also keep in mind that a cinch cable runs from the turntable to the active of the two speakers. You get one of a reasonable length, but because the Dual sends out an amplified signal, you can safely buy a longer one. From a sound point of view, it is interesting not to place a record player too close to a speaker – and you may prefer to place your turntable centrally on a TV cabinet.
Subwoofer can, certainly should not
When it comes to connections and possibilities, we absolutely cannot complain. The Ultima 40 Active is well equipped in that regard, comparable to more expensive systems. For many, the most important will be HDMI-ARC (and this is also apparent from research we recently received from another manufacturer). You can connect a TV via this HDMI input, there is an optical connection for, for example, a console or a CD player, and the analog aux input is available for other sources. In our case: the Dual turntable. If you want to stream, you work via Bluetooth. WiFi streaming (such as Chromecast or AirPlay) is not on the menu. Although you can still purchase a separate streamer from Teufel that offers more options in that area, including Chromecast and DLNA.
The micro USB port on the back does surprise us. You can connect a computer through this. Usually you do this via a square USB class B plug. There is also a sub-out on the speaker to connect a separate subwoofer, but you have to be a very convinced bass lover to consider that. Or have a very large living room. True to the German Teufel image, the Ultima 40s are quite muscular in low frequencies anyway.
Expandable to surround
We connect the Teufels to our LG OLED55C9 and experience no problems. We don’t even have to switch the sound from the TV to PCM stereo. After all, the Ultima 40 Actives process Dolby Audio streams, although this set will of course simply play everything in stereo. Keep in mind that you need a long HDMI cable. With a wall-mounted screen, you can quickly use 2 to 3 meters of cable. It is best to buy something of a good quality to avoid dropouts. We would also recommend that you place the speakers symmetrically around your TV screen to match the sound to the image. That being said, there is a balance setting with which you can more or less compensate for a speaker that is closer to the television.
A relatively unique feature of the Ultima 40 Active is that you can expand it with separate rear speakers to build a basic surround system. These Effekt speakers are compact things that can stand on optional stands and connect wirelessly to the Ultimas. They cost 399 euros per pair; we have not tested them, but we think it is an interesting upgrade to do (possibly afterwards). This also explains why the Ultima 40 Active can process Dolby Audio without any problems.
Teufel has understood very well that a remote is an important part of the user experience. That’s why you get a luxurious metal remote control with these Ultima 40 Active speakers. We often test products that cost a multiple of this system that come with a cheaper-feeling box… Cleverly done by Teufel, so. With the remote you can adjust more than you would expect. In addition to the obligatory volume control and input selection, you can adjust the bass and treble and control the Dynamore function. The latter is useful, because it centers certain frequencies more in the middle. Voices in particular seemed to come out of the screen more, which helps to be immersed in a movie or series. Incidentally, there are also a series of touch buttons at the top of the active speaker with which you can operate everything. Looks good,
During all that button press, your attention will be drawn to the display that is placed quite subtly at the bottom of the active speaker. With its large red letters in the eighties style, it really stands out. You can set the brightness, which is handy in a darkened room. You can adjust this and more via the settings that you reach with a button on the remote. There are some surprising things, such as a calibration mode. No room correction, but a test tone that you can measure with a decibel meter. This seems more relevant to us when you expand the Ultima’s with extra speakers.
For vinyl lovers, Teufel offers different sets with a record player. They are all supplied by Dual – a name that used to stand for one of the largest German vinyl brands, but which, like many other historic hi-fi brands, was sold at the low point of interest in vinyl.
We test the DT 400 USB, the most expensive Dual that Teufel offers. With, we must admit, a certain reserve. In this case, the most expensive means 250 euros, which is still a relatively modest sum for a record player. A turntable remains an analog device in which, among other things, the materials used quickly become expensive. For example, in the construction of better record players, solid wood is often used, a raw material that is now becoming very expensive. Price increases of thirty percent are becoming commonplace for brands that aim higher anyway. However, not everyone wants to spend 500-600 euros or more on a record player, and for them a turntable like this is a good solution because it is a professionally built product. And you can’t say that about every budget player. In any case, the Dual DT 400 USB offers a complete package for its price, including dust cover and a built-in amplifier. It also focuses on features that you don’t often find anymore. We are of course talking about fully automatic operation. Until recently, you could hardly find that anywhere, although this has suddenly changed since this spring. After all, automatic start and stop functions have long been seen as impossible to implement without seriously affecting quality. This is why most turntables of the last decade or two have been able to do less than your (grand)parents’ set. although this has suddenly changed since this spring. After all, automatic start and stop functions have long been seen as impossible to implement without seriously affecting quality. This is why most turntables of the last decade or two have been able to do less than your (grand)parents’ set. although this has suddenly changed since this spring. After all, automatic start and stop functions have long been seen as impossible to implement without seriously affecting quality. This is why most turntables of the last decade or two have been able to do less than your (grand)parents’ set.
With the DT 400 you can choose how you approach it. If you grab the tonearm yourself to place it on a record, the player will automatically start to rotate. However, you can also press the ‘Start’ button and the tonearm will rise, move to the beginning of the record and then land. Since this unit cannot actually detect the size of the plate, there is a switch to choose between 17 and 30 inches. If you have picked up a record with an eccentric format at a flea market, it is best to work manually. At the end of a record (or if you press the ‘Stop’ button) the arm automatically returns.
As the ‘USB’ at the end of the model name indicates, this turntable is equipped with a USB Class B port. You can use this to connect to a computer to digitize a record. We have not concerned ourselves with that, whoever wishes to have to get started with the free Audacity software. More relevant to us is that the DT 400 has a built-in phono amplifier that you can switch on or off. We switch it on for this test, because the Ultima 40 Active does not have a dedicated phono amplifier.
Powerful and well designed Teufel Ultima 40 Active laudspeaker and Dual 400 USB recordplayer
It is not our first encounter with the Ultima 40 speakers, not even with the active version. These speakers are really Teufel’s showpieces and the brand has been offering them for years. However, they are constantly being improved, hence the MK-and-a-number designation in the technical specifications. The audio design of the Ultima 40 has now been really refined, so that these Teufels offer a lot for a very reasonable price. The bass reproduction in particular has been greatly improved, so that you can now count on powerful yet controlled lows. This means that measured techno beats, such as those from Berlin’s Moderat on ‘III’, resound in the room in a tight and rhythmic manner. It is a good idea to place the Ultima speakers slightly away from the wall to maintain that control. Streaming via Bluetooth is smooth, and quality is fine thanks to support for the aptX codec. Since we were working on an older Moderat album anyway, we jump straight to their new ‘More Love’ single. Ideal fodder for these speakers, which fill our rooms with a cozy thick layer of beats. A nice mature display at this price point.
The Ultimas are basically good music players, and you benefit from that when watching TV. Especially when you watch something where music is central, like the surprisingly good ‘The Weeknd x The Dawn FM Experience’ that recently appeared on Amazon Video. It is a great concert film in Dolby Digital 5.1, but also in stereo it remains a great experience. That’s because the Ultimas have a nice, fairly wide soundstage on which The Weeknd’s voice is clearly positioned. Dynamore proves its worth here, and widens the gap even more with the standard speakers of the LG OLED55C9 TV. We also note very solid musical performances in ‘Letters from you’, the Bruce Springsteen recording off-docu on Apple TV.
We find the Dual record player weaker in the story. We still look with a crooked eye at how the needle falls on our record, with a little more force than we find pleasant. That being said, the sound that comes out is still good for a device that really costs little. The emphasis is rather on the middle frequencies, and because the Teufels focus on larger basses, you eventually get a solid reproduction that is rock solid.
Conclusion – Teufel Ultima 40 Active laudspeaker and Dual 400 USB recordplayer
The Dual turntable is a reasonable purchase for its price. The fully automatic operation is something quite unique and some people will really like this aspect. The turntable plays quite well, although you have to realize that you are staying far from the pinnacle of vinyl here. If you really want to listen to vinyl intensely, we think aiming higher is a good idea.
The Teufel speakers are the real stars in this package. The active Ultima 40s aren’t just great speakers with a penchant for powerful, immersive playback. All electronics are housed in the housing, so you can still listen to music with a minimum of cables. The presence of an HDMI input also makes them a great alternative to a soundbar. They are a bit bigger than such a loudspeaker bar.
Pros of Teufel Ultima 40 Active laudspeaker and Dual 400 USB recordplayer
- A lot of speaker for a reasonable price
- No additional amplifiers or equipment required
- HDMI and Bluetooth (aptX)
- Convincing, large display suitable for pop, rock and movies
- Nice remote, speakers have just been finished
- Fully automatic turntable
Negatives of Teufel Ultima 40 Active laudspeaker and Dual 400 USB recordplayer
- WiFi streaming requires additional device
- Even this higher Dual model remains a budget turntable
- Ultimas are stronger speakers