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Dynaudio Contour 30 floorstanding loudspeaker

Dynaudio Contour 30 floorstanding loudspeaker

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.


Like many modern reviews, the review sample has ‘been around the houses’ and is one of the company’s show models, so any notion of running-in was dispensed with several demonstrations ago. Any loudspeaker benefits from a shake-down period, however, where the product ultimately loosens up and shows what it can really do and in Dynaudio’s case, this can take some time.

The joy of the Contour 30 is it is perfectly designed to work precisely where it should work: in mid-sized rooms. The loudspeaker is large enough to physically and sonically dominate small rooms, and is probably just not quite loudspeaker enough in really big rooms, but in a medium sized room it works nigh-on perfectly. I can’t help but think of Goldilocks and the Three Bearshere. In a smaller room, if you want this performance, go with a Special Forty or a Contour 20 (but probably the Special Forty) and in a bigger room, possibly go for the Contour 60 or the C2 Platinum. That’s the other secret joy of Dynaudio – the company has nailed consistency. There’s no batch variation in individual models, and the individual models have a consistent sound through the ranges. Many brands make that claim and some achieve that goal with a smaller and more high-end portfolio. Dynaudio smashes this one out of the park – if you like the sound of the bigger or smaller models but have a room that’s too small or too big, the Contour 30 fits. If you think this sounds like faint praise, guess again.

In fact, what this does is ‘right size’ music to your room. In the process, it makes both the room and the speaker disappear. This becomes a major bonus when playing orchestral pieces, especially the more bombastic end of the orchestral canon. The last movement of Solti’s version of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony [Decca] for example. You get a scale of sound that you would normally expect from huge speakers in big rooms. Or the concert hall.

If the Contour 30 was just about big sound, that would be enough for many, but the loudspeaker scales ‘down’ as well as it scales ‘up’. ‘Take the Night Off’ by Laura Marling [Once I Was An Eagle, Virgin] highlights this perfectly. Suddenly we shift from a concert hall packed with the largest confluence of orchestral musicians, choir, and organ you can think of, to an intimate, sparse recording of close mic’d voice and guitar. Both have their appropriate sizes, and both are represented here perfectly.

That too, would be enough for most listeners. A soundstage that adapts to the musical scale, but has excellent dimensionality ticks the boxes for many audiophiles. But then there’s the detail and ‘direct injection’ honesty of the timbre of the loudspeakers, which comes across as an articulate and precise performer. Articulate is the key here: I played ‘The Murder Mystery’ from The Velvet Underground’s third and eponymously titled album [MGM]. This has four vocalists (Stirling Morrison and Maureen Tucker panned hard left, Lou Reed and Doug Yule panned hard right) reciting completely different lyrics at the same time. It’s designed to confound, but the Contour 30s allow you to focus more on one channel because they are so precise. This is only possible if you have a speaker that goes for absolute realism and doesn’t blur or exaggerate.

We are getting into the realm of ‘good stuff’, but there’s more. That more is the bass, which is both deep and extremely rhythmic. That rear port doesn’t tend to choke up when playing fast electronic beats (it only just fails the ‘Chameleon’ test from Trentemøller’s The Last Resorton Poker Flat records, and then only at higher volumes), but play a good bass line or a tight rhythm section and the Contour 30’s infectious sense of ‘bounce’ wins out. I played ‘Memphis Soul Stew’ by King Curtis [King Curtis at Fillmore West,ATCO], which has both a kicking bass line and the kind of drum work (from Bernard Purdie) that gives other drummers panic attacks. This live cut is served up with remarkable clarity (it sounds like you are sitting at the mixing desk), but most importantly for this recording, with the kind of foot-tappingly right sound from the backline musicians that makes you just want to listen to the whole album. Even the mediocre covers.


Although the speaker has an outstanding bass, an honest and accurate treble, and sets the standard for soundstage scale and detail, the overall dynamic range is slightly foreshortened. This is, at best, mild and feels like nit-picking when set against the excellent performance this speaker achieves throughout. And, in fairness, you are going to have to actively seek out recordings that highlight this dynamic range limitation (Pickard: The Flight of Icarus[BIS] for example) and in many respects it’s the right course of action for a loudspeaker intended for medium sized rooms, because the kind of wild swings of dynamic range I’m describing here often overdrive such rooms. Nevertheless, if a lot of your music is a mix of fanfares and tympani, you’re gonna need a bigger speaker. And room. When it comes to that audiophile obsession – microdynamics – we’re on safer ground. The subtle cues that separate a natural reverberation from a reverb unit, and those almost imperceptible squeaks of finger noises on stringed instruments (or the sound of valves being pressed on brass) are extremely well preserved. 

Dynaudio is clearly on something of a roll at the moment. The remarkable Special Forty is one of the best standmounts you can buy, and the Contour 30 extends that ‘wow factor’ to floorstanders. Its also almost tailor made for typical Shard living/listening rooms (as opposed to giant man caves) the world over, both in looks and sound. I can’t help but be impressed. For many listeners, you’re done. This is all the loudspeaker you’ll ever need.


Type: Two-and-a-half-way floorstanding monitor with bass reflex cabinet loading

Driver complement: One 28mm fabric dome Esotar2 tweeter with proprietary DSR (Dynaudio special recipe) coating, two 18cm 18W55 mid-bass driver with MSP (magnesium silicate polymer) diaphragm

Frequency response: 41Hz–23kHz, ± 3dB

Impedance: 6 Ohms

Sensitivity: 86 dB (2.83V/1m)

Dimensions (H×W×D): 360 × 198 × 322mm

Weight: 8.1kg

Finishes: Grey birch/black trim, red birch/black trim

Price: £6,612


URL: dynaudio.com

Dynaudio UK

Tel: +44 01638 742427


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