The Dynaudio Contour speakers are rich, but that must not be read as “sloppy.” In fact, the most frequent listening notes I have from my time with them express the opposite: They are rhythmically agile. And, you can hammer the hell out of them. They almost seem happier when pushed.
The fast, funky grooves of Maceo Parker from Life on Planet Groove [Minor Music. 1992]. The smooth flow yet controlled, precise rhythm of Lyle Lovett’s “Penguins” [Live in Texas, MCA, 1999]. Grungy psychedelic riffs from Zappa’s “Willie the Pimp” [Hot Rats, Reprise, 1970]. The Minnesota Orchestra performing Tchaikovsky’s Hopak on Reference Recordings’ Exotic Dances from the Opera from 1996, a track whose pace I’ve heard slowed over many systems. How about two of my favorite “I’ve got more rhythm in my pinky finger than in all of you” artists, Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Smith, performing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from Ultimate Wes Montgomery [Verve, 1998]? Like everything else I played, just groovy. If your body can still move, it will with the Contour 30s.
Something with a more subtle and complex rhythmic structure? How about Miles Davis’ “Shhh/Peaceful” on an LP reissue of In a Silent Way [Sony/BMG, 2008], which includes my favorite jazz bassist Dave Holland? For the better part of this whole song/movement (which is Side 1 of the LP), exactly two closely executed notes on Holland’s bass are repeated over and over to anchor this beautifully fused work. Genius. Without this rhythmic center, I’m afraid the spell would be broken, and the Dynaudios allow Holland to drop his anchor. Simple, but very challenging. I love this piece of music, and the Contours let the temporal essential come through here.
We’ve laid out the idea of a friendly, somewhat forgiving and sweet voice combined with the ability to involve you in the groove. Time to get out the air guitar then.
Like late 60s/70s blues rock? Cream, anyone? If you don’t already know or own it, just get Robin Trower’s Live album [Chrysalis, 1976]. Don’t buy it because it’s going to be your next audiophile treasure that you pull out for your buddies… buy it because you can pretend to be a real guitar hero when your friends aren’t around. Recorded live in Stockholm for the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation, Trower didn’t know he was being recorded for an album, and so he suggests they were really on and free for this concert. Sounds like it, too. My copy of this LP is far from “demo-worthy” (wayyy far) in the traditional sense, but man, I rocked out hard on this through the Contour 30s. And loud. As mentioned before, these speakers don’t mind a hard nudge. The newly developed, longer-throw woofers will show their worth when called upon, as they did here.
What They Don’t Do
The Contour 30’s are Dynaudios, and that means they don’t do surprises, or what I like to simply call mistakes. There are no manufacturers I trust more for engineering consistency than Dynaudio, and the Contour 30 follows this tradition, while adding a degree of modern polish to the overall concept, both aesthetically (my judgment, but you have eyes, too) and sonically. The speaker was carefully crafted by experts with resources in human and machine testing, and it shows. So, while there is a voice, which is distinct from that of, say, the Dynaudio Confidence line above it (which is more “neutral” and revealing overall), this voicing has been implemented without bumps and hiccups along the sonic way. There is pride and value in owning a Dynaudio, and unlike many offerings out there, I looked forward to reviewing the Contours because they’re a real product in terms of support, development, and execution.
What they also don’t do is give you more dimensional insight into the soundstage or offer you a more detailed textural picture. That’s not the Contour 30’s modus operandi. You can’t be a Lotus Evora and a Mercedes E300. And if you put most people in a Lotus, they’d say it was cramped and uncomfortable to drive. The Contour 30 is a Mercedes E300, which means that there will be a little sonic understeer at the limit (just a handling reference for those car geeks reading this). With these particular Dynaudios, the choice has been to have a polished, accessible, comfortable, relatively easy to drive (in terms of character) loudspeaker that isn’t looking to follow every crack in the road and require your complete attention at every turn of the wheel. This means I can enjoy the Robin Trower without any nasty sonic distractions, but traditional “audiophile” recordings are left a little less impressive. It’s not a speaker you use to set new audiophile track records. Dynaudio has its Confidence and Evidence product ranges for this.