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.

Matt's picture

I wish more manufacturers would do this (ie, active displays of their lower end offerings). While I can appreciate their need to show off their very best, I very much like to read about "real world" systems that I might actually be able to own.

Knik's picture

I hope this system is reviewed by Stereophile in the future.

Stephen Scharf's picture

Jason,I have the big brother to the Contours you auditioned here, the Contour S3.4s, and they are also an amazing speaker. They are especially strong at challenging music,e.g. full-scale classical or complex like traditional Irish music. They are excellent at keeping everything together under total control on climaxes as well as at rendering instrumental timbres. I recently bought Speakers Corner's superb reissue of Albeniz' Suite Espagnola, and Asturias (side 1, track 2) has dynamics that damn near blew me out of my chair the first time I listened to it. The Contours took in stride without a even a hint of strain. The bigger S3.4s are like the 1.4s except that they provide more bass and more impact and dynamics. These speakers scale like nobody's business. Surprisingly, no one in the published media has ever reviewed them, which is a shame, as they really deserve a review. For a $6000 pair of speakers, they rival speakers costing 3-4X more.

Peter's picture

Very intresting reveiw. I´m aboute to change my floorstandig speakers to monitors and have listening to the Dynaudio Confedence C1 a couple of times now, and I like them in every way very much. After this I certainly need to give the Contour 1.4 a listening session, thou they are only 45% of the price of the Confedence.

bob D. Stuckiez's picture

NOT expensive enough. Can't be any good. Can I still spend $4000 for a DAC and $2000 for speaker wires?

coby's picture

I just bought these speakers with stands along with some Tara Labs The 2 speaker cable and am now researching which integrated amp or pre/amp combo to pair with it. Any suggestions??Thanks in advance for the help!

Dmitri's picture

Coby , my advice would be to get transistor integrated with a good current and power rating of at least 100W 8ohm (don't worry Dynaudio will not sound edgy or bright) they have a dark sound and lack of crystal treble or treble-spikes that are main characteristic of live music. Aside from that , they are very competent speakers. To those who likes Dynaudio sound I would recommend to look at much better built ATC SCM11 or ATC SCM19 speakers. ATC speakers, while retaining similar sound signature and spot-on timbre have better drivers (built by ATC) and better craftsmanship at almost HALF of what Dynaudio charges.

Terry's picture

I would respectfully disagree with Dimitri, the fact that Dynaudio does not have treble spikes or a crystal treble is what makes them sound MORE like live music, I listen to live music at least three to four times a month and the that lack of "hi-fi" treble and close miked resolution is an integral part of the character of live acoustic music.Dynaudio has a reputation for the best built drivers in the world not to mention tweeters and their cabinet construction is enviable, just take a look at the cheaper xcite lines and see how well built they are and this quality goes from bottom to top.Coby I would recommend a tube amp to take advantage of Dynaudios' stunning midrange and neutrality, anything with 50 watts or more should do.

Andrew's picture

I just bought Dynaudio Contour S1.4 along with the Naim Nait 5i 50W Integrated Amplifier (this one is positioned as an entry level amp). This "low budget" configuration works fine for me, although after being used to equalized sound from Bose, my first impression was, of course, lack of low frequencies. High-frequencies are amazing, I tested with several SACD classical and nature sound recordings. However, I assume this sound is more natural, and I just need more time to "warm up" the new speakers (a few weeks or so) and get used to the linear amp. If you are on a relatively low budget like me, this combination of speakers and the amplifier may work for you too. Be aware though that Nait 5i has very minimal set of convenience features, for example, it lacks power on/off on its remote handset.