The words “there are no accidents” rang through my mind early in the auditioning of these Dynaudio Contour 30s as I listened to the album Mindif [Enja, 1988] from South African musician Abdullah Ibrahim. I’ve listened to this album for years, only just now to discover that it served as the soundtrack for the wonderful French film Chocolat. Experiencing the soft, silky analog textures on Mindif’s title track and looking around me at the half-eaten chocolate bunnies following a sugar-high Easter feast, I was reminded that one should always heed the advice of 1000-year-old Kung Fu-legend tortoises. There are no accidents. Chocolat, indeed.
Something else that was most certainly not an accident? Having designed, tested, and built complete loudspeakers and loudspeaker components for over 40 years, Dynaudio is one of a handful of high-end manufacturers that can be termed “soup to nuts.” As but one indicator of just how intentional every design decision is on a Dynaudio product, the company says it took a year of measuring, recording, and listening tests just to select the type of glue used to join the voice-coil and cone on the new Contour models. Apparently, approximately 80% of its team could hear these sticky differences. The Contour owner’s manual makes clear that the development of the series was a collective effort down to the smallest details (for more on these details, please see the Technically Speaking sidebar).
The two-and-a-half-way $7500 Contour 30 is the literal middle of the extensive Dynaudio lineup. The newly designed Contour series sits above the Emit and Excite models, and below the Confidence and Evidence lines, while the floorstanding Contour 30 model itself nestles between its $5k Contour 20 stand-mount and $10k Contour 60 floorstanding line mates. The term “newly designed” for many companies can mean just about any day of the week. With Dynaudio, it signals an important and rare event. This is the third iteration for the Contour moniker, the first having spanned 1989–2003, while the last covered 2003–2016. That’s a 13-plus-year product cycle…. Not a company in a hurry to make a splash with the “latest and greatest,” so perhaps we should make a special note of what this Contour has to offer, as it promises to be with us past 2030!
Let’s put the Contour 30s to use and first settle a score.
Super Bowl LII Redux
Earlier this year, Super Bowl 52 saw the Philadelphia Eagles defeat the New England Patriots 41–33. I live in the Boston area, and many in New England are still a little bitter about this, even with the Pats’ abundance of success in the last 16 years. Looking through some of my albums, I noticed two performances of Prokofiev’s Love of Three Oranges. One was Arthur Fiedler and The Boston Pops [RCA LSC-2621, 1962], and the other was Eugene Ormandy’s Philadelphia Orchestra [Columbia MS 6545, 1964]. Great time to replay the Super Bowl, get Boston a win, and learn something about the Dynaudios along the way.
Boston on offense first, and the presentation of this LP was both rich and dramatic. Tremendous weight and foundation here. These two-and-a-half-way Dynaudios felt big and complete, and I mean felt, as there was real presence beyond what you could simply “hear.” The brass was sweet, never straying into an annoying edge. In fact, the only edge was an atmospheric emotional one, not a sonic one. On this RCA, it was clear that the Contour 30s were kindred spirits to the recording, which perhaps led to an overall “heavy” sensation—a full-bodied presentation on a rich recording. And the Pops? I wrote in my notes “machine-like,” but here I didn’t mean this in the most positive light. I was always aware that it was a performance. “Showy” but not convincing. Like…well…like a “Pops” Orchestra.
The stylus handed over to the Philadelphia Orchestra, and now things were much better. While the tactile, foundational weight of the RCA wasn’t there, what had been substituted was a more playful, lively, and engaging stage. Though a more brightly lit recording, at no time did I feel the need to reach for the volume control, even on some of the woodwind passages, where the Columbia’s somewhat “mid-rangey” character could serve as a painful distraction. Here, with these Contours, there was a safety factor built in. The Columbia had been tamed somewhat, and the balance placed in a more favorable light against the RCA. The strings could now breathe without getting lost in the darkness of the lower brass and percussion, as they had when Boston had the needle. Performance? Liked what Philadelphia did better here too. Held my interest in the piece. More playful and satirical than the Pops’ regimented seriousness.
I’d like to be a homer on this one, but unfortunately Philadelphia wins again, 28-17.