Pros: smooth, relaxing sound; wide soundstage; warm, non-muddy midbass; that DCM "je ne sais quoi"
Cons: need a subwoofer for deepest bass; image depth only good; not the most dynamic
DCM Time Windows were my main speakers from 1985 through 2001 or so. They were considered “audiophile” speakers in their day, but never got the press that other high quality speakers of their era did, including those from Vandersteen, Snell, Thiel, and Spica. In fact, my Time Windows outlasted Vandersteen 2Cis, Snell EIIIs, and Spica TC-50s in my system, and remain among my favorite speakers overall from what I call the “post-vintage” era.
Time Windows were introduced in the late 1970s and could be had in the mid-1980s for about $800, which was pretty expensive for that time period, but actually a bit of a bargain compared with their direct competition. I think Vandersteeens 2Cs were going for about $1100 or $1200 during the mid to late 1980s, while Snell Es cost about $1000. Today, a pair of used Time Windows can be had on eBay for only $150 to $300, depending on condition.
Time Windows are two-way speakers, but they have an unusual design. They are tallish columns, measuring about 36” in height, 15” wide and under 12” deep. The backs are rounded, but the fronts are more or less prism-shaped, with two flat surfaces firing approximately 30 degrees left and right of straight ahead. On each of these flat surfaces is a 6 ½” woofer (possibly from Philips; they look quite pedestrian), a small Philips tweeter (3 11/16” across, mounted beneath the woofers), and a port which terminates a “transmission-line” enclosure. Connection is via banana plugs at the bottom of the back of the enclosure.
Aesthetics and set-up.
Aesthetics are a matter of personal taste, but I think DCM Time Windows are really nice looking. They are a tad “Freudian” in their overall appearance, but the angled front panels look functional and cool. A black foam sock wraps around the entire enclosure, while walnut veneered top and bottom panels lend a classy touch.
The Epinions photograph makes the Time Windows look shorter than they are, but some decent shots of these speakers (with and without grilles on) can be found by Googling "DCM Time Windows" and clicking on Images. Setting up Time Windows is a snap. The speaker wire taps are easy to access, though you need banana plugs to attach the wires to the backs of the speakers. There are no tweeter level adjustment controls. Moving Time Windows around is easy, though they weigh about 40 lbs each. The flat bottoms means you can slide them without problems, and the top panels provide something of a handle when you’re carrying them short distances.
DCM Time Windows have a distinctive sound, though going from conventional box speakers to Time Windows is not as shocking as going from box speakers to, say, Maggies. Because they use two tweeters on each side, Time Windows' imaging is not as “pin point” as with conventional box speakers, but the soundstage is unusually wide, if a bit diffuse.
Time Windows are balanced toward the mellow. I can hear cymbals and other high frequency information, but it is not as prominent through Time Windows as it is through some other speakers, including New Large Advents, ADS 400s or 810s, or my Cambridge Soundworks Towers. Because of this balance, Time Windows are easy to listen to for long periods of time without listener fatigue.
On male vocals, like Greg Brown's The Poet Game CD, the Time Windows provide a nice degree of heft, but they don't sound too chesty, as Advents (especially original Large Advents) can. Accompanying instruments are presented with good delicacy, and the bass is just right. The instruments don't have the "in the room," dynamic feel that come with speakers like ADS 810s and Klipsch Heresys. Rather, they have a relaxing "behind the speakers" feel that is seductive and conducive to long periods of listening.
On female vocals, whether it be highly processed music like Enya's Watermark or jazz vocals like Dianna Krall's When I Look in Your Eyes, the Time Windows are actually at their best. The sound of female vocals is smooth, with non-exaggerated sibilants, and a seductive overall feel. Both Enya and Krall are presented slightly further back in the soundstage than with speakers like ADS 400s or New Large Advents, but they sound warm and convincing, never small or pinched. The first time I ever heard DCM Time Windows, they were playing Laurie Anderson's Big Science, and it was that combination (Time Windows doing well-recorded female vocals) that began my seach for a pair of Time Windows for my own system.
On jazz music, like Jim Hall's Concierto, instruments are spread nicely across the stage, and cymbals are presented in a smooth and non-tizzy fashion, but slightly down in level. Jim Hall's guitar sounds really nice through the Time Windows: on the mellow side and slightly larger-than-life, but not enough so to sound unrealistic. Paul Desmond's saxophone sounds remarkably smooth and palpable.
On rock music, the Time Windows sound good, though they are not as dynamic as ADS L-810s, New Large Advents, Klipsch Heresys, or Cambridge Soundworks Towers. The Time windows' mid-bass is tight and slightly warm, providing a nice foundation to the music, and the musicians are presented mostly behind the plane of the speakers. I've read other reviews on the internet that make reference to Time Windows' ability to "rock," but I've never really considered them "rock speakers" per se. They can play pretty loud without distorting, but their presentation, at least to my ears, always seems to be a bit on the understated side.
On classical music, I really like the Time Windows' warmth and broad soundstage. They do a great job with Baroque music, and a good job with more bombastic Romantic music like Beethoven or Saint Saenz's Third Symphony (a favorite of mine). When I'm listening really loud, I get a sense that there could be more dynamics, but the presentation is still satisfying overall. Soundstage depth is good with the Time Windows, but I think my Cambridege Soundworks Towers provide a greater sense of depth and size. In fact, on really bombastic classical music, I've been particularly impressed with the depth and overall sense of dynamics provided by New Large Advents as well. KLH 6s are also particularly good with classical music, though they are perhaps a bit less dynamic and detailed than New Large Advents.
It was my search for the next level of dynamics and image depth that led me to try other $1000 speakers during the years I had Time Windows. I was searching for something that had the Time Windows' mellow balance (why I never owned Thiels), coupled with an even more holographic soundstage. The Vandersteen 2Cis had deeper bass and more pin-point imagaing, but they never put me in touch with the emotion behind the music the way Time Windows did. Snell EIIIs sounded good overall, but I found the sound to be less liquid than that of Time Windows. Spica TC-50s imaged like nothing I'd ever heard, and were incredibly delicate sounding on small-scale music, but they were simply too small to handle bombastic music without their woofers blowing up. And so the Time Windows always found their way back to the front of my listening room.
The fact that Time Windows served as my references for 15 years speaks volumes. There were other speakers that had greater image depth (Spicas for sure), deeper and tighter bass (Vandersteens, for example), and more pin-point imaging (Snells, in addition to the Spicas and Vandersteens), but none provided more musical satisfaction overall than the Time Windows. I did use a subwoofer along with my Time Windows for the last ten or so, and that helped add both depth and attack in the deep bass. But other than deep bass, the only areas of fault I can think of are image depth/specificity (the image is wide, but you have to listen into the Time Windows' soundstage--they don't make your back wall disappear, at least in my experience) and ultimate dynamic capability. They were to the 1980s what KLH 6s were to the 1960s: smooth and slightly mellow speakers that could be listened to for a long time without any fatigue.
There were several later incarnations of the DCM Time Window including the Time Window 1A, Time Window 3, and some others I'm not familiar with. The original is the only one I've listened to extensively, and this review applies to that speaker. If anyone has heard the 1A or later incarnations, I hope they'll leave a comment.
If you're looking for a cool "post-vintage" loudspeaker that is easy to listen to, has a wide and pleasing soundstage, and has that certain "je ne sais quoi" that puts you in touch with the emotion behind the music, keep your eyes open for original Time Windows on Craigslist and eBay. They can often be found for less than $250 a pair (I recently saw a very clean pair of Time Window 1As go for around $300), and at under $200 they are a bargain.
An aesthetic/refinishing note: Something about the way the tops of the Time Windows were made rendered said tops vulnerable to chipping. If you decide to restore a "cosmetically challenged" pair, note that DCM did use several coats of some kind of polyurethane or lacquer on the tops, and this should probably be sanded down before you fill in the chips with wood putty or bits of veneer. The tops are finished in real wood veneer, so once you've created a smooth surface, you can oil them (I use Howard's Orange Oil) and then put a few coats of matte/satin poly over the tops to render the surfaces uniform. The socks that surround Time Windows also tend to tear over the years and finding replacements isn't easy. On a pair I recently refinished, I chose to use black fabric glued to the backs of the grilles to "patch" them. On original Time Windows, the grille socks are attached to a long plastic strip that's nailed into the back of the enclosure. Removing and replacing them isn't easy, but it can be done with patience and care.
Time Windows are a bit of a cult favorite (see if you can find comments about them on the various stereo geek internet blogs) and are worth a listen if you're on the market for vintage, or almost-vintage, speakers.