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.
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.
Max power 180W
Frequency response 39Hz–23kHz
Dimensions (hwd) 44 x 21.5 x 36cm
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Sound 5
- Compatibility 4
- Build 5
Read our Dynaudio Contour 20 review
Read our KEF Reference 1 review
Read our B&W 805 D3 review