Dynaudio Confidence C1 loudspeaker Page 2

While auditioning the C1, I received a copy of Twin Falls, by Deidre Rodman and Steve Swallow (CD, Sunnyside SSC-1149). Duets of fretless electric bass and piano can be a hard row to hoe, but Swallow is endlessly inventive, and Rodman has a Debussyan flair for melody and dynamics. The C1 seemed particularly adept at conveying the nuances of touch and attack—and at capturing the instantaneous shifts in direction that occur in improvisation at an exalted level. The combination of e-bass and piano seems designed to bedevil any two-way loudspeaker; if the crossover has any weaknesses, the leap from woofer to tweeter is bound to accentuate the difference between tonic notes and their harmonic overtones.

Piano and bass a problem? Not here—not for a minute.

Many a little makes a mickle
Usually in a Stereophile equipment report, this would be the section where the device under review is compared with a similar product that has already been covered in our pages. Choosing such a product in the Confidence C1's case was not so clear-cut. An expensive thoroughbred, it should be able to stand comparison with others of that ilk—say, the Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy 8.

However, one stand-mounted two-way loudspeaker should be compared with another. In the end, I decided it was horses for courses and had it both ways, comparing the C1 to the WATT/Puppy 8 ($28,000/pair) in my large room, and, in the small room, with my long-term reference monitor, Dynaudio's own Special Twenty-Five ($5200/pair).

As you'd expect, the Special Twenty-Five and C-1 share a family resemblance. Both sounded full-bodied in my small room, and both developed detailed, solid soundstages. However, the C1 had a top-to-bottom coherence on the Rautavaara that the Special Twenty-Five just didn't match. This was caused by two distinct effects. First, the Twenty-Five is a bit forward in the upper midrange, which can come across as hardness. I'm not convinced that it is hardness, but it can lead to listening fatigue, so I'm not sure the difference is worth the argument.

The Special Twenty-Five also has an oddity in its high-frequency response that John Atkinson described as affecting the soundstage depth. I might not have picked up on that without his noting it, but the Twenty-Five has a conviction in the bottom two-thirds of its response that its top end lacks. Not so the C1: its mids are to die for and its top end is solid.

In general, the Dynaudio house sound is "revealing," which can sometimes be audio code for "forward" or "overly detailed." I understand why some listeners think this, but I haven't ever been as sensitive to it as the most outspoken of them. Yet the C1 had less of this characteristic than any other Dynaudio speaker I've heard. Nor did the C1 give up the Special Twenty-Five's strengths of dynamic authority and weight. In other words, while the Special Twenty-Five is still quite special, the C1 is new and improved.

Things weren't quite so clear-cut in my large listening room—which may not be quite a shocker, given the $21,000 difference between the Wilson and the Confidence C1. Long story short, the WATT/Puppy 8 has a lot more bass and couples to my big room's acoustic more holistically, delivering a lot more of the recorded acoustic than the C1.

That said, even while offering less deep bass, the C1 sounded rounder and fuller in the midbass than the WATT/Puppy 8. The Rautavaara's soundstage was smaller with the C1s than with the Wilsons, but also a touch more alive in its bottom third. Less punch, more bloom might be one way of saying it.

Through the WATT/Puppy 8, Twin Falls sounded more like a Steve Swallow album than a duet session. The C1, while balanced more toward a joint delivery, did present the music on a smaller canvas, which will bother listeners who value impact. I understand that, but I felt the C1 made a more convincing argument for the "truth," whether or not it was truer.

There's no question that the Holmes Brothers benefited from the WATT/Puppy 8s' slam and low-end extension. However, if not as big as life, the C1s certainly delivered Wendell, Sherman, and Popsy Dixon in tremendous detail and convincing solidity. Those yips in "Gasoline Drawers"? Well, they were as dynamically explosive through the C1s as through the Wilsons—and that's saying something.

There's no denying that the C1's diminution in scale affected the impact of Sugar Hill—after all, both the piano and the tenor sax need effortless power to be realistically recreated, and the same is even truer for acoustic bass and drums. If you have a large listening space and you need your jazz life-size, there's just no substitute for power, and the WATT/Puppy 8 delivers it as few other speakers do.

But what if I weren't comparing the C1 to a full-range, state-of-the-art loudspeaker? I would be quite happy with the sound of Sugar Hill as conjured into being by the C1s. However, when listening to Joni Mitchell or Emmylou Harris, I preferred the Dynaudios. No, they didn't sound as big as life, but female voices sounded sweeter and rounder through the C1s. Not a lot, but enough. Oh my yes, enough.

Little bodies have big souls
In many senses, it's difficult to know what to make of the Dynaudio Confidence C1. At $6950/pair (stands included; add $500 for a premium finish), it isn't an impulse purchase, and as a two-way stand-mounted monitor, it doesn't fit many audiophiles' notions of a "real" loudspeaker. That's okay—the C1 is an "inside baseball" product.

The Confidence C1 delivers world-class performance in a real-world package. If you value openness and tonal clarity, the C1 is a contender. It will mate with small to midsize rooms in ways that larger speakers simply can't (yes, you can have too much loudspeaker), and it won't be overwhelmed by large spaces.

All which makes it sound as if I'm trying to convince you to buy the C1 because it's a logical choice. Maybe it is, but there's nothing inherently logical about a $7000/pair loudspeaker—you buy it because you've fallen in love with it. That's something no amount of logic can convince you of.

So I'll shut up. You listen. You'll know what to do.

Dynaudio A/S
US distributor: Dynaudio North America
1140 Tower Lane
Bensenville, IL 60106
(630) 238-4200