|Dynaudio Contour Speaker System (S 1.4, S C, Sub 250)|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Tuesday, 01 July 2008|
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Dynaudio supplied stands to go along with the Contours. The stands consist of two metal tubes that screw onto a base on the bottom and into the speakers on the top. The bottom base consists of two metal plates, sandwiching a rubber vibration-absorbing substance. The rear tube has provisions for running speaker cables. Both can be filled for additional damping. I strongly recommend filling the tubes, using loctite on all screws. My friend Jeremy Bryan reports great improvements in sound quality with modified Dynaudio stands. I can’t recall all the specific modifications, but I know the base plate was modified or replaced by a seriously heavy piece of metal plate.
I commenced my audition with one pair of Contour 1.4s and Sub 250s in my two-channel system. The speakers were placed a little over six feet apart and three feet from the front wall. The subwoofers were along the front wall just outside of the speakers. I began my listening sessions using my favorite integrated amplifier, Krell’s FBI. The FBI was connected to Classe’s CDP-202 via Transparent Cables’ MusicLink Ultra series cables. Speaker cables were Transparent Cables’ MusicWave Ultra speaker cables. The components were plugged into an EquiTech power conditioner with Richard Gray Power Company’s High Tension wires. Toward the end of my audition, I received a Conrad Johnson CT5 preamplifier, which I used both with the amplifier section of the Krell FBI and with Halcro’s massive DM38.
My surround system generally consists of Halcro’s SSP-200, EC-800 and MC-70, with Kimber and Tributaries cabling. The 1.4s were placed eight feet apart, flanking my projection screen with the SC under the center of the screen. The Sub 250s were placed in the front corners. The surround speakers were a second pair of 1.4s. Dynaudio also offers a similarly-performing wall mount speaker, the SR.
The Contour 1.4s were previously-used demo speakers that were already broken in. Nonetheless, I had let them run for a few days before sitting down to listen to them. I began my listening with both the Contour 1.4s and the Sub 250s. Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” from the album Live at Sin-e (Columbia Records) is a well-recorded piece that I have heard on several wonderful systems. The vocals were portrayed with a stunning sense of realism. Closing my eyes, it was easy to picture Buckley playing his guitar in the front of my room. The sense of space was uncanny. The Contours were good not only with vocals, but with instruments as well. The speakers were tight and accurate enough to capture the texture of the guitar without sounding overly analytical. Towards the end of the track, the dynamic range increases greatly. The 1.4s had no problem keeping up, showing no signs of strain despite their small size. Moving along in the same vein, but with more weight in the lower registers, I listened to Michel Jonasz’ “Le Temps Passe” from La Fabuleuse Histoire de Mister Swing (Warner Music Group). This track is good for demonstrating male vocals and has a sensuous drum track that goes low without loss of detail or resorting to an R&B one-note bass line. While I was able to get a nice blend between the Contours and the subwoofers, I found that the subwoofers were not necessary for most listening in my relatively small (12 feet by 16 feet) stereo listening room. The Contours hit the lower notes with sufficient weight and authority that I was not left wanting for more.
I then decided to see where the Contours’ limits were in a stereo system. Any pipe organ or rap bass line, when played at volume, will push these speakers to their limits. Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Posse on Broadway” from the album Swass (American Recordings) easily found the lower extension limits of the Contours when played at moderately high volume.
Before moving the speakers to my multi-channel room, I revisited some songs I listened to with Dynaudio’s Audience speakers several years ago. I had Blues Traveler’s self-titled album (A&M Records) handy. I listened to “Dropping Some NYC” and “Gotta Get Mean” and found that the overall sonic characteristics between the two systems to be similar. Both speakers are extremely clean and detailed, with their bass reproduction leaning slightly towards the tight and detailed, rather than being heavy. The Contours were able to disappear easier than the Audiences, with cleaner, smoother highs and were overall more refined. The soundstage was similarly extended with both speakers, but the Contours had more solid and consistent placement within the soundstage.
The Contours’ stereo performance was exemplary, making them among my favorite stand-mounted speakers. The speakers disappeared with most listening material, leaving behind an appropriately-sized soundstage with solidly-placed individual sources. The Contour 1.4s never overloaded my listening room, yet they could not reproduce the lowest octaves, either. If you are going to listen to a lot of bass-heavy music at high volumes, you will need to supplement the 1.4s with one or more subwoofers or find larger speakers. The overall tonal character is slightly lean of neutral.
I eventually took the Contours out of the stereo room and placed them in my theater room. Watching The Rock on DVD (Buena Vista Home Entertainment), a movie full of high-energy sonics, I never found the Contours overwhelmed by either the soundtrack’s complexity or dynamics. I set my processor to cross the speakers over at 50Hz, relieving them from the strain of trying to reproduce frequencies below that level. In the shower room scene, the vocals were clear and distinct, as were the different amounts of reverb, depending on the person’s placement within the room. When the gunfight broke out, the speakers were able to easily able to discern the differences between the various weapons without congestion or compression.
The Godsmack concert video “Changes” (Zoe Records) features an incredibly dynamic drum duet, “Batalla de los Tambores.” While watching this duet at concert levels, I found the limits of the Contour 1.4s. When I ran the speakers that large without a crossover in place, they reached their limits and bottomed out. With the crossover in place, I was able to play the Contours as loud as I wanted to without break-up. The subwoofers sounded good as far as they went, but could not fill my 17-by-12-foot room to concert levels. To the extent that they reached, the drums were articulate, crisp and natural.