Dynaudio Contour 3.0 loudspeaker Page 2
Spikes are provided for leveling the cabinets. These screw into threaded sockets in the 3.0's separate base. I used the rounded ends for coupling the speaker to my living-room floor's finished wood.
My listening room is large: 26' long, 13' wide, and 12' high, with a semi-cathedral ceiling. The back of the room opens into a 25' by 15' kitchen through an 8' by 4' doorway. The Dynaudios were set up 5' from the rear wall (faced with framed watercolors 8' from the floor) and approximately 30" from the side walls (faced with sliding equipment shelves).
I began my critical listening sessions seated 8' away from the Contour 3.0s. Then I moved back to my favorite listening distance of 18', which I found much more satisfactory. The Contour 3.0s were also auditioned in my 15' by 10' study, which is furnished with wall-to-wall carpeting, an area rug, and a couch. All listening tests were done with the port plugs removed.
Although the speakers had been broken-in at the CES, I broke them in further by playing my favorite rock selections—Fleetwood Mac's The Dance (Reprise 46702-2), and David Bowie singing "Putting Out Fire" from the Cat People soundtrack (MCAD-1498)—played for two hours at 104dB peak levels (footnote 3).
The Contour 3.0's average voltage-sensitivity rating (86dB/2.83V/m), its dipping impedance in the bass range, and my large listening room meant that I needed powerful solid-state amplifiers for this very enjoyable "break-in" session. Although the Contour 3.0 handled these levels without distortion, my Bryston 4B-ST clipped whenever Mick Fleetwood worked his kickdrum. This meant I was using the 4B-ST's full output—more than 250Wpc into 8 ohms. Switching to the bigger Bryston 7B-STs—the pair of them capable of 613W into 8 ohms and 954W into 4 ohms, according to Thomas J. Norton's tests (Vol.19 No.10, p.291)—ensured that the amplifiers weren't clipping, but now the sturdy Dynaudio woofers were "thudding" instead of playing kickdrum notes. Al Filippelli, President of Dynaudio USA, explained that the Contour 3.0's woofers "thud" when pushed through their full excursion because the pad on the inside of the cone strikes the pad on the speaker magnet's top plate. I was pushing them too hard—something the reader should avoid doing! Moving the 3.0s to the smaller listening room, I was able to play the same music at the same SPLs without clipping the amp or "thudding" the woofers.
Even so, I found that the Contour 3.0/Bryston 7B-ST monoblock combo delivered the best sense of pace; the deepest, best-defined bass notes; the widest and deepest soundstaging; and the strongest dynamic contrasts when driving the Contour 3.0 in my large listening room. It was a match made in heaven! Of course, the Contour 3.0's low distortion and lack of compression meant that its woofer could be easily overdriven by this 600Wpc amplifier. I had to restrain myself and keep the Krell KBL preamp's volume control set earlier than 12 o'clock—hard to do, because the sense of rhythmic pace got better and better the louder I played the 3.0.
Sweeping the Contour 3.0 with a signal from a sinewave generator revealed that its bass response extended down to 35Hz in my large listening room, with bass output rising at 40Hz. The speaker's port was free of any chattering sounds when driven hard by a 40Hz signal.
Despite the implications of this test, the Contour's reflex-loaded woofer delivered tight, defined bass notes that seemed to go at least 5Hz deeper while playing music. This was shown by its ability to handle the growling, sinister synthesizer on the "Main Title" track of the Clear and Present Danger soundtrack (Milan 35679-2), which reproduced as tight, well-defined, subterranean tones with no evidence of doubling. The organ-pedal notes at the beginning of Rutter's "A Gaelic Blessing" on Requiem: Five Anthems were full, dense, and solid. I used the rounded metal spikes to further tighten and define the Contour's bass response in my room. Contrary to my expectations, the spikes reduced the "trampoline" effect from the 3.0's baseplate sitting on my flexible wood floor, which otherwise tended to fatten the bass.
As good as it was, the Contour's bass response had its limits. The speaker did reproduce the church's "tremendous sense of space" JA describes in the notes to his recording of Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius on Stereophile's Test CD 2, but could not give the full weight to the organ-pedal chords that "underpin the work's tonal foundations." Inserting a new Velodyne FSR-18BV servo subwoofer into the system reinstated the full mass and heft of this lowest register, but also caused a subtle thickening in the midbass that I could not completely tame. Overall, I preferred the more natural and involving sound of the Contour 3.0 on its own.
Footnote 3: I measured the Contour 3.0s at 1m with my RadioShack Sound Level Meter set to its A-weighted, fast-response mode.