Dynaudio's Little Dynamo
Dynaudio had something for almost everyone with an exhibit that ranged from affordable to cost-no-object. At one of the room stood the imposing Consequence SE, whose bass was so powerful that it would interact with the spongy wall behind it unless the mighty Michael Manousselis braced himself against the corner. But on the other end of the long room sat a marvelous little system composed of the Contour S 1.4 ($3500/pair, with optional stands costing an additional $450), Octave V40SE 40Wpc integrated amp ($4900), and an optional capacitance Black Box ($1200) that increased the capacitance of the integrated amp's power supply. Interconnects were from Tara Labs, and speaker cables the Ocos Pro ($900/3 meter pair).
The first thing that struck me about this system was how natural instrumental timbres sounded. Everything was spot on. But what truly amazed me was when I turned to Mike and asked if it could handle something as large-scaled symphonic as a Mahler symphony.
"Go for it," said Mike. "These speakers are bullet-proof."
On went the beginning of Mahler's mighty Symphony No.2, in my 2010 "R2D4" Channel Classics version conducted by Ivan Fischer. I was amazed. This little system absolutely caught the bite of the cellos and basses, and the strength of the attack. It also held everything together on climaxes. Given that the speakers only extend down to 41Hz 3dB, it couldn't transmit the weight of the lowest notes of the double basses. Nonetheless, its clarity and musical accuracy put a number of the ultra-expensive systems I've heard here to shame. This and the Manley/Gershmann system I wrote about on the first day of CES have earned my hardly scientifically arrived at budget awards for CES 2010.