Dynaudio Contour 1.3 Mk.II loudspeaker Page 2

That transparency was allied to the ability to throw a huge, stable soundstage. On this issue's "Recording of the Month"—the Manhattan School of Music's live reading of Mahler's Symphony 6 (Titanic Ti-257), conducted by Glen Cortese and superbly engineered by Jerry Bruck—every tiny detail in the scoring was apparent, yet without that detail being thrust forward at the listener.

And what dynamic range Jerry B. has captured. Set the playback level using the frenetic opening measures, and the work's climactic hammerblows blow you out of your seat—even on these Dynaudios! For a relatively small speaker, the 1.3 Mk.II produces a surprising amount of low frequencies. There was useful bass power evident down to the 32Hz warble tone on Stereophile's Test CD 3 (STPH006-2). While this extension will not be as apparent in much larger rooms than my erstwhile Santa Fe room—approximately 19.5' by 16' by 9'—or at playback levels approaching those heard live, this is still impressive performance.

The designer of a small speaker will often try to boost the low-frequency extension by peaking up the upper bass. The Dynaudio's design team appears to have resisted this temptation, preferring instead to compromise ultimate sensitivity, a decision I applaud. Well-recorded double-bass—on the Joni Mitchell album, for example, or Stanley Clarke's awesome solo on "Nevermind," on Test CD 3—had just the right balance between leading edges and body tone. And while Dean Peer's electric bass on "Lord's Tundra" (Test CD 3 again) didn't have the ultimate midbass weight it had on the Joseph Audio RM7si Signature, it was better-defined via the Dynaudio, both in its tonal color and in its recorded space (both artificial, I know, but it's the perceived result that matters).

Downsides? Just one: The speaker's mid-treble balance could be too unforgiving at times, which will make matching the 1.3 Mk.II with ancillary components somewhat difficult. Use a CD player that itself tends to brightness and recorded trumpets will acquire too much of a chromium-plated edge. And I preferred the system balance with the Mark Levinson No.380S preamp to the theoretically more transparent Z-Systems rdp-1 digital controller.

Listening to the Dynaudio Contour 1.3 Mk.II after the budget-priced speakers I have reviewed in recent months brought back a rush of memories of the first time I heard the Rogers LS3/5A, 23 years ago. Up until the spring of 1977, my speaker experience had been strictly bargain-basement—when I hooked up the BBC-designed monitors, I realized how much more refined it was possible for a speaker to sound. It was the same story with Dynaudio's 1.3 Mk.II: yes, it was neutrally balanced; yes, it had generous low frequencies; yes, a pair of them threw an enormous, detailed, stable soundstage; but it's the sheer refinement of its overall presentation that remains in my memory. This little speaker is a thoroughbred!

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