Peaceful, Easy Feeling
The sonic field the Contour 30s laid out for this Super Bowl rematch was sweet and rich, and this impression remained from the first formative moments of listening until my last audition. This is an exceptionally easy product to “get.” Like a well-designed luxury midsized sedan, it’s accessible, comfortable, safe, and intended to perform on real streets for your real commute, not solely to set impressive times at the Nürburgring.
If you have the reaction that many of today’s loudspeakers assault your ears and senses with a hyped, forced quantity of detail, the Dynaudio’s sweet, soft, wide dispersion just may cause you to scream “Hallelujah!” Take Bonnie Raitt’s much covered “I Can’t Make You Love Me” from her 1991 album Luck of the Draw on Capitol that I’m listening to right now. This album has a real pop sheen that can easily detract from the listening experience (I’m being kind here). Through the Dynaudios, the sheen is tamed enough to allow both Bonnie Raitt’s wonderful vocals and Bruce Hornsby’s instantly recognizable piano runs to be appreciated and enjoyed without the need to swear about the recording…as much.
Cueing up Andrés Segovia’s guitar on Bach’s Suite No. 3 for solo cello (had me swaying), or Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton (with Taj Mahal on vocals) performing the slow-marching “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” from Play the Blues/Live from Jazz at Lincoln Center [Reprise, 2011], and you’ll be engaged from the instrumental inside—the body of the guitar rather than the fingers on the strings. You will be getting more of a deep massage than a light tickle, which results in a warmish, easy flow.
You don’t need to be an experienced sonic sleuth for the Contour 30’s voicing to make itself known, either. Independently, both my eight-year-old son and my wife—within 60 seconds of first hearing the Dynaudios (no exaggeration here)—used the same word: soft. Now this is a loaded term for audiophiles, so I asked my son what he meant, and he said that “when the person was singing, it wasn’t like there were a whole bunch of voices shouting. It was just that person like they were in the room singing directly to you.” Well, thanks, Jai for a nice description of a sound we like to call both present and natural. And I agree with Jai that the sound of the Dynaudios is more in your room (IYR) than in their room (ITR, i.e., that you feel transported to the space of the recording venue). Here, the instruments appear from a very black (not noisy) background.
Dynaudios are intentional objects, and as one of the two most defining characteristics of the Contour 30s (the second of which will be described shortly), its voicing is, I believe, an effort to offer a loudspeaker more easily accessible to a wider audience, and able to be integrated into a wider variety of real-world listening rooms. Its sweet personality was broad in reach—it didn’t matter if I stood, sat, listened in another room, in the sweet spot, or in the corner of my room. And while I normally use some targeted early reflection treatment for serious listening, with the Dynaudios I almost preferred the untreated approach, as if their friendly/forgiving tonal balance and wide and even dispersion were meant to allow an unfussy enjoyment of music in your actual living room. Perhaps even a room that can’t be turned into a sound studio or laboratory.
One last point about the voicing here. The warm foundation was not (as in some brands’ offerings) an accidental result of poor low-frequency control or heavy port output. If you want my technical reading of what they’ve done here (and I suppose you do if you’re reading this), it feels like a very subtle shelving down above 1kHz or so, not a “goosing” or fattening of the low end. In fact, when sub-1kHz material was isolated, the Contours were remarkably clean. Greg Brown’s voice on “Who Killed Cock Robin” from Honey and the Lion’s Head [Trailer Records, 2004] inhabits an area that can easily become murky through a loudspeaker with “fake” warmth, but the Contour 30 avoids this unforgivable sin. In fact, its dual-port setup (both tuned to the same circa-32Hz region) has been designed in such a way as to “spread out” (in space and size) any potential port signature.
OK, we can easily get its accessible and warm chocolate voice. But the Contour 30’s other most noticeable characteristic ability made itself known once again as I wrote in the last paragraph while listening to Bill Withers sing a version of “Let It Be” from Just as I Am [Sussex Records, 1971]. You know what I noticed? I was clapping along…