DYNAUDIO CONTOUR 60 LOUDSPEAKERS
Dynaudio’s brand new—and they are brand new!—Contour 60 loudspeakers are not just good speakers, they’re truly great speakers…
Ican hear you all now. ‘Not another review of a speaker from Dynaudio’s Contour range,’ is what you’re all mumbling under your collected breath. Yes, this IS a review of a model from Dynaudio’s Contour range, but it is a brand spanking new model, never before seen in Australia—much less reviewed—and when I say brand spanking new, ALL the drivers in this Contour 60 are newly designed—except for the tweeter—and have never appeared on any previous Dynaudio loudspeaker.
Dynaudio has had a ‘Contour’ range since it first started building loudspeakers forty years ago (yes, 2017 is the company’s 40th anniversary), so it’s the company’s longest-running range. It’s been updated several times over the years, but for the first time this new version is not an ‘update’ as such, but a complete re-design. The company has simply kept the old ‘Contour’ name for nostalgia’s sake.
The Contour 60 is a floor-standing, four-driver, three-way, bass-reflex design using dual 240mm bass drivers, dual ports, a dedicated 150mm midrange driver and a 28mm soft dome tweeter.
One reason for the newly-designed drivers is that they weren’t designed by Dynaudio’s own in-house design team. Well they were designed by that team—a team that has recently been greatly enlarged by the new owner of Dynaudio (Goertek) it must be said—but for this project Dynaudio’s own team was joined by two additional design teams, one comprised of budding engineers straight out of university, and the other of ‘grey-beard’ engineers who had been designing for other European loudspeaker manufacturers.
The result of the collaboration is a major change in the shape of the bass driver cones from previous Dynaudio models, and a reduction in the thickness of the magnesium silicate polymer (MSP) used to make the cone. (Although the cones have a new shape and thickness, the material the cone is made of is still the same MSP the company has been championing for years, and the dustcaps are still attached using the same unique method.) The reduction in cone thickness (from 0.5mm down to 0.4mm) was to reduce mass to extend and improve the performance at high frequencies (well, high frequencies for a bass driver… midrange, if you like). The change in cone shape (it’s more trumpet-shaped than previous Dynaudio bass drivers) was to ensure the cone retained its rigidity through the pass band, despite the reduction in the thickness of the cone and also to give a 20 per cent increase in cone area. Other major changes included the use of a fibreglass voice-coil former, a 24 per cent longer voice-coil winding, and switching the profile of the 7.6mm roll surround from being semi-circular to elliptical. In what I think is the most unusual change, Dynaudio re-designed the spider to have asymmetric, rather than symmetrical pleating. According to Dynaudio, this helps prevent any irregularities in cone movement and enables increased cone excursion.
The dome tweeter is one that Dynaudio has used previously on its more expensive models, but it’s new to the Contour line. It is the famous Esotar2, which has a doped fabric dome backed by a damping chamber and a neodymium magnet. According to Roland Hoffman, of Dynaudio, the company actually toyed with the idea of using hard-dome tweeters on this new Contour Series but for a number of reasons, which he decided not to share with us, decided against it.
Compare the cabinet of the Contour 60 with previous Contour cabinets and you won’t need me to tell you the changes that have been wrought! Your eyes will do the work for you.
But you can’t see inside the cabinet, and so I’ll have to tell you that the Contour 60’s curvy side panels are 16mm thick, the front baffle is 26mm thick (12mm of MDF plus 14mm of aluminium sheet) and the rear panel is 38mm thick. Also, Dynaudio is using slotted internal MDF panels both to stiffen the enclosure and also to break up internal reflections.
The rear of the Contour 60s holds a few surprises. Firstly, rather than just a single port or slot, there are two ports, and they’re spaced very widely apart, with one almost at the bottom of the enclosure and one right at the top. Both ports can be ‘tuned’ by fitting foam bungs, which are provided with the speakers. Each bung is a two-stage design, so you can block the port completely, or simply reduce each port’s diameter. Because there are two ports, you have eight different ‘tunings’ available per speaker (and since the tunings don’t have to be the same in each speaker, even more tunings available ‘per pair’).
A second surprise was that there’s only a single set of speaker terminals. I would have expected two sets so the Contour 60s could be bi-wired or bi-amped. The terminals are very high-quality WBT NextGen types that are highly-praised by most reviewers, but I can’t say that I’m a huge fan as I find they don’t bite down onto bare wire very well. But if you use spades or rings or pins to terminate your speaker cables, they’ll work just fine.
I have to say that the finish on our review sample was one I haven’t seen previously, and it was simply glorious! Called ‘Grey Oak High Gloss’ it has become my favourite finish. (The speakers pictured in this review are the Natural Walnut finsh). If you’re not so sold on it, the Contour 60 is also available in more conventional finishes: Walnut (with a light satin finish), high-glass Black or White Piano Lacquer, Ivory Oak and Dark Rosewood (High Gloss). However, the premium finishes demand a premium price. Whereas a pair of Contour 60s finished in Natural Walnut and Ivory Oak Satin finishes cost $15,999, a pair in Black High Gloss, White High Gloss, Rosewood High Gloss or Grey Oak High Gloss will set you back an additional $2,300 per pair.
IN USE AND LISTENING SESSIONS
As I noted earlier, the Contour 60s are very tall, and the footprint is quite small. Dynaudio has extended the footprint by using a base that extends the fixing points past the perimeter of the cabinet (a metallic structure shaped like an ‘X’ fixed to the base) but even with this extension the cabinets could overbalance sideways if given a hefty shove. Something to bear in mind.
The height of the speakers and the fact that the tweeter is so high on the cabinet mean that the tweeters will be above the seated ear-height of many listeners, and for this reason I’d recommend that you use the provided spikes to slightly tilt the speakers forward so they’re aimed precisely at your ears. At the same time I would also suggest angling the speakers so the cabinets are toed-in so that the tweeter of the left channel is aimed directly at the left ear, and the tweeter of the right channel is aimed directly at the right ear. I suggest this because I found that when the speakers were aimed directly up my room, so that the tweeters’ paths were parallel with the side walls, I found the treble just a little ‘soft’, whereas when the speakers were aimed as I suggest, I found it perfectly balanced. This high-frequency ‘balance’ is also a form of tuning, so by all means experiment with different offset angles.
You should also experiment with the position(s) of the cabinets relative to the rear and side walls, because I found that the bass extension and level varied a little more than usual with changes in speaker position relative to nearby boundaries, which I surmised was most likely due to one of the ports being so high. Note, however, that if you completely block both ports, or simply just the upper ports, the positioning behaviour is the same as any other rear-firing bass-reflex speakers or infinite baffle designs.
Dynaudio has earned a well-deserved reputation for building speakers that sound true-to-life and this was immediately evident from the very first track we span, Rooting For You, which is the intro track to London Grammar’s latest album, ‘Truth is a Beautiful Thing’. First, there are those eerie synth sounds then we hear Hannah’s Reid’s sharp intake of breath before her earthy voice sings ‘ Let winter break, let it burn ‘till I see you again’ and the immediacy of the sound from the Dynaudio Contour 60s is such that you’re immediately immersed in the mood of the album, which is more laid-back and measured than what they’ve done before. The accuracy of Reid’s pitching is made perfectly clear by the Contour 60s, particularly so on the more difficult intervals. The stripped-back quality of sound continues with the second track, Big Picture, and this time the acoustic instruments become more dominant in the mix, and Reid’s voice is recorded a little more naturalistically, giving the Dynaudios the chance to shine even brighter, revealing even better the clarity of their reproduction. Then, at about 1.18 into Big Picture, be prepared to sink deeper into your listening seat with satisfaction when you hear the way they deliver deep bass, which is flawlessly. Listening to the depth and power of the bass on this track, we could hear instantly why Dynaudio committed not one, but two 240mm drivers exclusively to delivering it. And when we turned up the volume the room became completely energised by the low-frequency energy, yet the drivers were still very obviously working well within their capabilities with no hint of distortion, doubling, overdrive ‘waffliness’ or any of the other ‘tells’ of a driver that’s being overdriven. Those over-sized voice coils and the newly designed suspensions are obviously pulling their weight!
Those drivers are certainly delivering down deep. We played our recording of Jean Guillou playing The Great Organ of Saint Eustache in Paris and the power of the low-frequency sound from the Dynaudio Contour 60s as they accurately reproduced the low-frequency notes from the lower manuals and pedals of the organ was almost breathtaking: it was as if there was a subwoofer present in the reference system. Indeed the lowest bass was of such high quality that we doubt that any system using the Contour 60s would gain much benefit from adding a subwoofer.
To evaluate the midrange of the Dynaudio Contour 60s we headed for an old favourite,
Jimmy Dowling’s Blessing and Cursing, which despite its biblical references (Blessing and Cursing is mentioned more than twenty times in the Bible, and if you didn’t get the biblical reference, the opening track, Black Book, certainly gives it away.) Although Dowling is a baritone, the sound of the guitars (the usual suspects, plus pedal steel), mandolin and the higher-pitched backing vocals from Lucie Thorne and Liz Stringer mean that it’s a perfect audition album for midrange, not least because of the superb production by Matt Walker (who also plays guitars and mandolin) and the equally superb recording quality (it’s on Stovepipe Records). Very quietly poetic and not nearly as ‘country’ as you’d imagine from Dowling, this album is not only great for demoing systems, it’s also a fantastic listen, for the musicianship, the lyrics, the sonics… the lot. We didn’t need to hear all fifteen tracks to hear that the Dynaudio delivers a perfectly flat and beautifully uncoloured midrange, but the joy of hearing the midrange so perfectly rendered ensured that we stayed glued to our seats and heard the entire album out anyway.
Did we mention that the Contour 60s also create images across the soundstage that will have you turning your head to the new source of sound whenever another musician chimes into the mix. We were turning our heads all through Eagle and the Wolf’s self-titled album of soul, blues and country (Eagle and the Wolf being Sarah Humphreys and Kristen Lee Morris). Absolutely love the bluesy Mama, Son and the Holy Ghost and listening to them harmonising on These Nights you’ll instantly know why Kasey Chambers is one of their biggest fans, being on record as saying ‘ separately Sarah and Kris are two of my favourite singer/songwriters ever but the first time I heard their voices together I was taken to a whole other place! The blend was like nothing I had ever heard before and broke my heart in the most beautiful way.’ Thanks to the delivery of the Contour 60s you hear not only the positioning of instruments and voices across the soundstage, but also the depth of that stage.
We’d heard there were many differences of opinion about whether Dynaudio headed off in another direction when it came to the type of tweeter that might be used in the Contour 60, with some of the ‘greybeards’ on the design team even suggesting going from a soft dome to a hard one, so we were intrigued to hear the Contour 60’s treble in the flesh. We’d have to say ‘typically Dynaudio’, in that the Contour 60s deliver exactly what’s needed, yet don’t over-deliver by making the high frequencies sound more impressive than they were actually recorded. This means that the extreme highs can sometimes sound a bit ‘soft’ on initial audition, but if you listen a little longer—and pay attention—you’ll hear that all the highs frequency sounds are there, and at the correct level, just without any ‘tizz’ surrounding them. One caveat though, which is that you’ll only hear this if you angle the speakers in so they’re facing the listening position, and adjust the spiking to get the vertical angle also at the listening position. If you aim the speakers directly up the room, the high frequencies are perceptibly softer in the mix. One thing you won’t have to bother about is removing the grilles for serious listening sessions and replacing them for background music or when the speakers aren’t being used at all, because we found the Contour 60s sounded exactly the same irrespective of whether the grilles were in place or not… so Dynaudio has certainly aced this part of the design as well.
When you put an enormous amount of time, energy and investment into any project, you expect a pay-off, particularly when you’re a company with virtually unlimited design and manufacturing skills, acoustic expertise and technical resources, such as Dynaudio. So it’s no surprise that these new Contour 60s aren’t just good loudspeakers… they’re truly great loudspeakers. Readers interested in a full technical appraisal of the performance of the Dynaudio Contour 60 Loudspeakers should continue on and read the LABORATORY REPORT published on the following pages. Readers should note that the results mentioned in the report, tabulated in performance charts and/or displayed using graphs and/or photographs should be construed as applying only to the specific sample tested.