There’s an easy – but wrong-headed – dismissal of Dynaudio as just a safe pair of musical hands. The notion is understandable: the company makes very well-built loudspeakers with a significant amount of objective test and measurement in the design process, and they are created to work with the maximum amount of possible combinations of upstream electronics. Dynaudio’s styling is conservative, too. All of which also makes it easy for someone to dismiss Dynaudio by calling on a product from a quarter of a century ago. The Dynaudio Contour 30 floorstander ably demonstrates why that kind of lazy criticism is wrong.
The Contour 30 is a tall, slim, deceptively heavy floorstander, beautifully finished with curved front and rear panels that yield an elegant one-piece look. The gloss white of the review pair, or any of the five other finishes is offset by a curved contrasting aluminium 14mm thick baffle (silvery grey-white in the white models, matt black in the black and tree-coloured models). There is also a matching grille, which is magnetically attached, but only reaches down to the Dynaudio logo on the front baffle – this gives a three-tiered appearance (cabinet, baffle, grille) that looks good, but is the one deviation from the otherwise minimalist, clean lines. There’s a standmount Contour 20 and a larger Contour 60 tower in the range.
This Contour 30 model is a two-and-a-half-way, rear-ported design, with the company’s latest 28mm Esotar2 tweeter (back when Dynaudio used to sell drive units to speaker builders, the Esotar tweeter was the one you saved up for, because the soft-dome fabric tweeter sounded more effortless, more clear-sounding, and more ‘right’ than its rivals, and the Esotar2 only builds on those properties). This tweeter is joined by a pair of new 18W55 180mm MSP cones, with doubled magnets, a longer aluminium voice coil, and thinner cone material than previous models. This is met with a high-grade crossover network bristling with Mundorf caps and air-cored inductors.
In most speakers, that would be enough. You could stuff those elements in a fairly ‘blah’ box and get a good sound. Not Dynaudio, though. The ‘deceptively heavy’ bit is the asymmetric use of MDF across the cabinet. The front, top, and bottom are 26mm thick, the rear is 38mm thick, and the side panels are 16mm thick. These are further strengthened with MDF bracing near each driver, and an internal acoustic treatment called KERF. Sounding a little like an obscure sport (“Yay! We won Olympic Bronze in the Mixed Kerfing”), the KERF-cut is a series of MDF diffraction strips running along the internal side walls of the Contour 30’s cabinet, designed to reduce the influence of standing waves. The cabinet is filled with three kinds of acoustic absoption. According to Dynaudio, each cabinet takes over 90 minutes to turn on a five-axis CNC machine, the lacquering process takes 40 hours to cure, and 16 pieces of sandpaper make the ultimate sacrifice in order to finish the speaker to Dynaudio’s standard.
A set of outrigger feet and the single-wired multi-way terminals seal the deal. Except they don’t: Dynaudio discovered that the performance of the Contour 30 was improved by a new set of high-grade feet, both supplied as standard to new customers and available for free to existing Contour 30 owners. They make a big difference, too. I like the fact the company didn’t just sign off the design, but updated it – even something as seemingly trivial as feet – but I really like that this is a free retrofit for all existing owners. That is all existing owners who feel inclined to heft these loudspeakers off their current perch.
The Contour 30 is not a difficult loudspeaker to drive, although an 87dB sensitivity, a four-ohm minimum impedance, and 300W power handling all suggest use of a meaty, high-performance amplifier. I used it with effortless ease with a Naim Uniti Nova (although I think further up the Naim range will help), and it also performed perfectly well with the D’Agostino pre/power combination tested on page 20. The loudspeaker isn’t cable fussy and doesn’t make too heavy demands on the user in terms of installation or room treatment; just follow the manual. The speakers are best used away from the rear wall (I think about a metre is a good starting place) and ideally about a metre from the side walls. That being said, the more you put in, the more you get out in installation terms. OK, so there isn’t a £20,000 loudspeaker lurking inside the box waiting for the magic installation to let it out, but following good first principles of levelling, position, toe-in, and the rest of the general housekeeping that applies to loudspeakers makes a big difference.