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Dynaudio Contour 20i review

These standmounters are star performers Tested at £3999 / $5250 / AU$9000

5 Star Rating
Dynaudio Contour 20i review
(Image: © Dynaudio)

Our Verdict

The 20is build on the solid foundations of the previous version and remain one of the best at the price

For

  • Composed and muscular sound
  • Excellent detail resolution
  • Pleasing rhythm and dynamics

Against

  • Needs care in positioning
  • Amp must have some grunt

We’ve long been fans of Dynaudio’s Contour 20 standmounters. Their combination of a muscular and expressive sound coupled with fine build made them a firm recommendation at the price. This latest Contour 20i version aims to build on those solid foundations without altering the fundamentals of a great product.

On the surface, little seems to have changed between the two generations of Contour 20s. Indeed, compare the headline specifications and they’re pretty much identical. Start to look closer and the differences between the two emerge.

Build

Dynaudio Contour 20i build

(Image credit: Dynaudio)

One of the highlights is the revised Esotar tweeter. This new 20i version still uses the company’s usual 28mm fabric dome, but much has changed behind it. Now there’s a larger chamber for the dome’s rear-firing sound to get absorbed in, and at its entrance is what the company calls a Hexis inner dome. 

This fixed dome structure helps to manage the airflow behind the moving diaphragm and, together with the larger chamber, is claimed to reduce distortion and give the tweeter a smoother, flatter frequency response.

Dynaudio Contour 20i tech specs

(Image credit: Dynaudio)

Sensitivity 86dB

Max power 180W

Impedance 4ohms

Frequency response 39Hz–23kHz

Dimensions (hwd) 44 x 21.5 x 36cm

Weight 14kg

Other changes for this updated Contour 20 are a revised suspension for the 18cm MSP (Magnesium Silicon Polypropylene) mid/bass and a simpler crossover network, thanks to the improved drive units. The crossover point remains unchanged at 2.2 kHz, which is a pretty typical value for speakers of this type.

The Contour’s nominal impedance is rated at 4ohms. While this may make these speakers look like a tough electrical load, that’s not the case. Dynaudio tends to engineer its products with relatively flat impedance curves, making them kinder than the specs indicate. Even so, we’d still recommend an amplifier with a bit of grunt if you want to get the best out of them.

The 20i’s 44cm tall cabinet remains unchanged from the previous generation, and that’s no bad thing. Like most rivals, it uses MDF but here the back panel is 38mm thick and is coupled to 16mm sides. There’s extensive bracing to control resonances and improve stiffness.

That front panel is a mix of a 14mm aluminium panel lined with 16mm MDF – a combination that results in a rigid and well-damped platform for the drive units to work from. The only differences from before are revised internal damping and smarter finishes. There are three finish options; high gloss black, walnut and high gloss grey oak.

Compatibility

Dynaudio Contour 20i compatibility

(Image credit: Dynaudio)

Any speaker at this level demands a talented system and the Contour 20is are no different. We think the bare minimum is something like Naim’s SuperNait 3 (£3500, $4299, AU$8000) or Rega’s Aethos integrated amps (£2999, $4000, AU$5999) with a comparable source. But, if you really want to hear what these Dynaudios can do, you’ll need more sonically capable electronics, which will cost far more.

We use our usual reference set-up for this test. That’s Naim’s ND555/555 PS DR music streamer and the SL-1000R record player from Technics, partnered with Burmester’s 088/911 Mk3 pre/power combo.

Don’t judge these speakers straight from the box. They need some time to settle, but once they do you’ll be greeted with a surprisingly capable performance. The character of the sound hasn’t shifted strongly from the last generation but there are improvements across the board. It’s a clearer, more precise and expressive performance.

Sound

Dynaudio Contour 20i sound

(Image credit: Dynaudio)

We start with Hans Zimmer’s densely produced Interstellar OST and these Dynaudios sound right at home. Their bass output grabs our attention first. It’s impressively powerful with a sense of weight and punch that seems out of keeping with a box of this size. Yet, despite this rich and full-bodied approach to lows, these boxes still have enough in the way of agility and tunefulness to satisfy.

The sheer quantity of low frequencies these speakers produce could be a problem if you use them with an amplifier that has poor bass control, or if you place the Contours without care.

In either case, you will end up with overblown lows that will dominate the rest of the frequency range. The company provides foam plugs for the large rear-firing reflex ports to help with compromised placement - up against a rear wall, for instance. But using these is very much a fix rather than a cure.

Look past the impressive sonic authority and scale and you’ll find that these Dynaudios dig up a lot of detail, more than we remember for the first-generation model. They offer class-leading insight, tracking delicate instrumental strands with ease and rendering sonic textures superbly. Dynamic nuances are resolved with considerable skill.

But listen to a track such as Mountains and you’ll find that these speakers are equally happy to punch out the huge dynamic swings, delivering each crescendo with enthusiasm and an impressive amount of composure. You can drive these boxes to high volume levels and they refuse to harden up or sound stressed in the way some rivals can.

Dynaudio Contour 20i sound

(Image credit: Dynaudio)

Tonally, they’re smooth and even. These are the kind of speakers that may not wow on a short listen, but give them time and you’ll find their formidable range of talents becomes more obvious.

Stereo imaging is good. Without matching the spaciousness of Bowers & Wilkins’ 805 D3s, these Dynaudios still manage to set up a pleasingly expansive and well-focused soundstage. Instruments sound stable and remain locked in position, even when the piece becomes busy, which is no mean feat.

You can add refinement to the list of plus points too. Given the almost demo-like quality of Bruce Springsteen’s Terry’s Song, the Dynaudio strikes a great balance between showing the rough edges of the recording and still letting us enjoy the raw emotions of the track. 

The Contours are skilled at tying together musical strands and making them work well together. We listen to a variety of tracks from the likes of Kate Bush’s Watching You Without Me and Major Lazer’s Pon The Floor and each time these speakers make sense of the music superbly.

These tracks also highlight the 20i’s rhythmic drive and ability to convey the changing momentum of the music. If you want speakers that get to the heart of the music rather than just play the right notes, these Dynaudios deserve a high place on your shortlist.

Verdict

There’s no shortage of talented rivals for these Dynaudios. The obvious contenders are KEF’s Reference 1s and B&W’s 805 D3s. Both of these are excellent performers and deserve a serious audition. The KEF’s are impressively transparent and deliver even more in the way of bass authority thanks to a dedicated driver, while the B&Ws have sweet lovely highs and offer an impressive degree of resolution.

Yet, these Dynaudios hold their own even against such formidable opposition. They’re more rhythmic than either, and also edge ahead when it comes to musical cohesion. Let’s not forget that they cost less than both – and that makes the Contour 20is a great buy in our book.

SCORES

  • Sound 5
  • Compatibility 4
  • Build 5

MORE:

Best stereo speakers 2020

Read our Dynaudio Contour 20 review

Read our KEF Reference 1 review 

Read our B&W 805 D3 review

  • hilroy48
    Hello there, I ordered a set of these, and they will be here in 4 weeks. My room is 13'x19'x8'ceiling. I have acoustic panels on the walls as well. My amp is a Sugden SPA-4 Class A and and LA-4 pre Amp. I recently purchased an Aqua LA voce DAC. Will this be enough amp to drive these speakers in your opinion? Also What would you consider proper speaker placement? Distance from side walls and rear wall. I had set of B&W CM-10's connected to this combo, and it sounded great. I have since moved the CM-10's to the basement.
    Reply
  • tbitblula
    Hi hilroy!

    A fine setup you got there! Did the speakers arrive? How are they?

    Coming back to your question, depending on the volume you’d like to listen to, even though it delivers masterclass sound, the Sugden might be a bit underpowered for the hungry dynaudios. I have no experience with the Contours but I do own their cheaper sibling, the 4 ohm Focus 160, and they prove a challenging match to most amps I tried, to date. Then again... I never owned a Sugden, but being a pure Class A amp you usually get a lower power output than you would normally expect from such a hefty box.
    Reply
  • hilroy48
    Hello everyone. I got my new Contour 20 i's this morning Nov 14 2020. I have been playing them all afternoon, and i can tell you i am completely blown away by them. I have them placed in the room correctly, and let me tell you my new Sugden gear is more than capable of driving these speakers with little effort. The Sugden amp and Contour speakers are a great pairing, the clarity is insane, the bass is amazing. The speakers are capable of playing a nice warm recording such as Ruth moody, Nora Jones. And then something punchy like Melissa Etheridge and Genesis. I played Chris Isaak Heart shaped world today as well, Incredible. These speakers make you feel like you are at a concert and the stage is right in front of you. The speaker is not harsh or fatiguing in any way. Best money i have ever invested in High end Audio.
    Reply
  • Zeeshan Anwar Chowdhury
    hilroy48 said:
    Hello everyone. I got my new Contour 20 i's this morning Nov 14 2020. I have been playing them all afternoon, and i can tell you i am completely blown away by them. I have them placed in the room correctly, and let me tell you my new Sugden gear is more than capable of driving these speakers with little effort. The Sugden amp and Contour speakers are a great pairing, the clarity is insane, the bass is amazing. The speakers are capable of playing a nice warm recording such as Ruth moody, Nora Jones. And then something punchy like Melissa Etheridge and Genesis. I played Chris Isaak Heart shaped world today as well, Incredible. These speakers make you feel like you are at a concert and the stage is right in front of you. The speaker is not harsh or fatiguing in any way. Best money i have ever invested in High end Audio.

    Hi hilroy ,

    Nice to hear your comments and feedback about contour 20i.

    Currently ,I am using Accuphase E380 which is 120w per channel in 8ohms ,I am going to order a contour 20i ,but I am afraid whether my amp can drive this speakers smoothly ,I actually like a bit bright sound ,please advise
    Reply
  • hilroy48
    You have an amazing amp there. My Sugden Is pure class A power at 75 watts @ 4ohms. The speakers have a 4 ohm impedance as well. If i can use the old school graduated scale on the volume knob, i dont need to go past 3 on a scale of 1-10. These speakers are so efficient even at low volume, I listen to wifi radio during the day and the sound quality is amazing . So it doesn't take much to drive these speakers in my opinion. I am sure your amp will pair nicely with these.

    I can tell you room treatment made a huge difference. With my old Arcam A-49 amp and B&W Cm-10 speakers up here, no room treatment, the sound was very bright . I also have a large picture window in this room.

    Fast forward > New Sugden amp, B&W speakers, with the equipment all moved to new location in the room. The sound was way better, so speaker placement in the room is very important. Sound still very bright and lively.

    Now add acoustic panels, find the proper first reflection points etc ,the whole thing changed drastically. The room calmed down, and i felt less anxious listening to music. It had a more warm softer feel to it.

    Now with all my new current gear, the Aqua Ladder DAC, new Dynaudio speakers and Wireworld cable, i have a sound and feel that i absolutely love, and can sit and listen for hours not getting tired or fatigued.

    This has been a huge learning year for me, and a huge eye opener about audio gear and what can make the most significant difference .

    Hope this helps somewhat? You will have to try some things in your listening space and see how it goes. We all have a listening preference, and we all hear differently.
    Reply