Speakers

Can a Danish high-end speaker rock the Audiophiliac's world?

The Audiophiliac spends quality time listening to a new Dynaudio speaker, the Contour 20.

Søren Gammelmark

I know the sound of Dynaudio speakers well, I've lived with more than a few of them over the years, but with my first impressions of the new Contour 20 it was clear something's changed. With previous generations of Dynaudios the sound was big, rich and hearty; the new sound is more agile, livelier and more fun to listen to. Finished in Walnut, White Oak, Black Gloss or White Gloss, Contour 20s run $5,000/£3,750 per pair.

Dynaudio Contour 20 speakers

Søren Gammelmark

The look is curvier than previous generations of Dynaudio speakers, and the build quality of this made-in-Denmark speaker feels super solid. The Contour 20 is a rear-ported design, with a solid machined aluminum front baffle set into a beautifully finished multilayer cabinet. The 1-inch (28mm) Esotar tweeter is easily one of the very best dome tweeters in the business, and it's mated to an all-new 7-inch (180mm) mid/bass woofer with an aluminum voice-coil and a vented dual-ferrite magnet system. Impedance is rated at 4 ohms. The Contour 20 measures 8.5x17.3x14.2 inches (215x440x360mm), and it weighs 32 pounds (15.5 kg).

The Contour 20 may be a stand mount (bookshelf) speaker, but it has the full-range power of a small tower. The sound is a touch leaner than Dynaudios I have known, but there's more get-up-and-go. That's it, the Contour 20s really cut loose with acid jazz/rap pioneers Us3's "Hand on the Torch" CD. The kinetic beat and big bottom feel had me tapping my feet, and the energy levels were high, so we were off to a good start.

Next, I played blues harmonica master Junior Wells' dazzling "Come On In This House" CD, where he's backed up with some astonishingly good players. The realistic presence of his voice and harp made me sit straight up in my seat -- the Contour 20s' midrange is truly excellent. The tonal balance strikes me as neutral, so the bass, midrange and treble are smooth.

The rest of the playback system for this review consisted of a Hegel CD player, a Mytek Brooklyn digital converter, a Pass Labs HPA-1 headphone amp/preamp and a PrimaLuna Prologue Premium tube power amplifier. The listening room was small, just 13 by 11 feet (4x3.4 meters), but the sound wasn't the least bit hemmed-in, and I'm sure the Contour 20s would sing in much larger rooms as well.

When I played the "Swiss Army Man" film soundtrack the score's choral pieces the Contour 20s projected a huge soundstage -- there was even a sensation of height. That is, some of the sound seemed to come from a few feet higher than the speakers!

Rocking out to the Mystery Lights' debut album the Contour 20s could do no wrong. This record was made in 2016, but has a 1960s sound, with massive reverberation and a "live in a club" feel. Even when I played the Mystery Lights tunes really loud the Contour 20s didn't flinch.

To finish up I played a few LPs on a Roksan Radius 7 turntable, and the Contour 20s reminded me once again why the vinyl sales boom shows no signs of letting up. The sound was "organic" with the Modern Jazz Quartet's "Third Stream Music" LP. Resolution of fine detail was superb; vinyl at its best gets closer to the sound of live music than what I hear from digital recordings. The Contour 20s made that abundantly clear.

There may be a newfound vibrancy to the Dynaudio sound, but the Contour 20 faces stiff competition from Bowers & Wilkins 805 D3 ($6,000/pair) and KEF Reference 1 ($8,000/pair) stand mount speakers. The 805 D3 is the clearest of them all, but lacks the brawny bass I get from the Reference 1. All three speakers have lifelike midrange tonality, but the Reference 1 (a review will post soon) is the best in that area. The Contour 20 is the most nimble performer of the three, letting me hear into dense mixes and complex rhythms with unrivaled ease. All three speakers are superb.