Introduced in 2016 the Dynaudio Contour 20 is the smallest member of a range that keeps the longstanding Contour name alive for Dynaudio. Evolution has not only changed the size but also the drivers, the looks, the materials and the crossover into a modern product, looking extremely fresh for the Danish who have always been strong on design.
The most striking element is the aluminium baffle that the drivers are fixed to, albeit this can be hidden behind a magnetically attached grille. The form of the cabinet is not what you expect from Dynaudio, with the curved shape and rounded sides making the cabinet smaller at the back, where you find a reflex port. I got my pair in stunning high gloss grey oak, but you can have them in piano lacquer white or black, walnut, white oak satin or high gloss rosewood, the high gloss finishes cost more however. The cabinet is 44cm high and weighs 15.5kg , compared to my small Harbeth P3ESR they look big, which of course they are not since many standmount speakers are a comparable size. Behind the grille you will find a Dynaudio Esotar2 tweeter with a 28mm soft dome and ferro fluid coolant for improved power handling. The 18cm mid/bass has an MSP cone (magnesium silicate polymer), which varies in thickness to ensure the right combination of weight, stiffness and damping. A new spider was developed especially for the Contour range and centres the cone in a cast aluminium basket, this open as possible but still very rigid to give the driver a solid grounding. The aluminium baffle part is a step up from the steel one in previous models and has nice curves to look elegant on the curved MDF cabinet. The woodwork has 11 coats of paint or lacquer before it is ready for the drivers, so the finish is truly sumptuous. The second order crossover has custom capacitors and air-core inductors alongside Mundorf parts on a low-resonance printed circuit board. Terminals are made by WBT. Most specifications do not matter, but you need to know that the nominal impedance is four Ohms and the efficiency 86dB, so you need a well-designed amplifier with decent current reserves for the finest results.
The systems used for this review consisted of Pass Labs class A and AB power amplifiers, Metrum Acoustics DAC/preamplifiers, NuPrime DAC/preamp combined with NuPrime bridged class D power amps and Bluesound/NAD digital sources. Most of the time I used my big Pass Labs X250.5 power and Audia Flight preamp, not that the Dynaudio is very power hungry, more because that amplifier is in permanent use in my 32sqm listening room. The Contour 20 also performed very well in a 12sqm room, but the extra space was more than welcome. I supported them on open and lightweight Custom Design stands, I prefer this type of stand to the high mass types that might offer more bass solidity but often reduce speed and air.
A singer who particularly hits my pleasure button is Lori Lieberman. Her recordings are often very pure, and the band uses acoustic instruments most of the time. Her Ready for the Storm album opens with piano and voice grabbing my attention from the first note. Lori’s voice is not always easy on the ear and some loudspeakers can’t control it. Not on the Contour 20, which gives her all the freedom she needs, in a pure and natural way not heard on most modern recordings. This Dynaudio gives its best at higher volume settings, play it too soft and you might turn your attention to other things, on the right setting it lives up to your expectations. We are taking about an average of 80dB at the listening position, very acceptable in domestic environments. Next in line is Ane Brun, a Scandinavian singer often heard at Dynaudio demos in the Netherlands. Her live recording made in Stockholm contains great tracks like ‘The Fall’ and ‘Big in Japan’. Both are able to bring forward that little extra that most live recordings have: energy and ecstasy. ‘Big in Japan’ has an excellent guitar sound, with the Contour 20 it’s easy to imagine Ane’s voice above the guitar where it should be of course, albeit that’s not always the case. Also live but totally different is ‘Somebody Already Broke My Heart’ by Sade. The bass does not go as deep as on my transmission lines but it’s tight, controlled and unmistakably present. Sade’s warm voice enters your body to fill you with joy, while the public shouts and whistles their approval during instrumental parts. On the Contour 20 you become one with the crowd and I almost join them on the round of applause. More up tempo is ‘Smooth Operator’, which takes me back to the Olympia Halle in Munich where I had the pleasure of seeing her performing the Lovers Live concert. A bit more volume level brings on realism, the Contour 20 is very capable of handling the extra power, it’s always in control and never gets harsh or distorted.
As Pat Metheny’s Quartet plays ‘A Night Away’ and other songs the Dynaudio delivers the the bass and the percussion with openness and speed before piano joins in to take the lead. The instruments are separated in the stereo image but in such a way that you can still imagine the compactness of a quartet on stage, and you can almost see the smiles on the player’s faces when they produce more and more energy together. On this title track drums and cymbals are fast, explosive and detailed, adding to the listening experience in a positive way. Any complaints? Not that I can think off so far. A different style is played by Count Basie on his recording 88 Basie Street. A large stage appears in front of me with a solo trumpet closer to the listener than band, piano up front, brass section wide and impressive. This big band blows your troubles away and blows the dust of the speaker cones too. It’s great how the Contour 20 turns the orchestra into one, while at the same time revealing so much detail from individual instruments. Take care to listen to the details, they are part of an experience that takes over your brain and pulls you into the music as a whole. The last piece of jazz for now is ‘Spanish Phrases For String & Bass’ by Stanley Clarke. I used to have the record but accidentally dropped it while cleaning so I have to stick to the FLAC file. It’s not as impressive as the vinyl but I can live with it on the Contour 20. True, deeper bass would be welcome, on the other hand what the Dynaudio delivers is tight, fast and never overdone or boomy. You can wind up the volume to realistic levels and still enjoy the sound of a famous bass player trying to ruin his instrument.
Anna Netrebko made her Russian Album in 2006, it’s filled with beautiful songs from her opera repertoire. It’s nice to hear how well the Contour 20 acts when playing large orchestral works with a soprano voice on top. The orchestra never overpowers the singer because the loudspeaker is always able to separate the notes from each other, even in the densest parts music flows with ease into the room. I didn’t mention this flow before, but it was there on all the music that I played over the past few weeks. You never get tired or bored with the Contour 20. To get me out of my listening chair and start air conducting I put on Vivaldi Compositions played by Sol Gabetta. Her cello play is lively at times and almost sad at others, there’s never a dull moment listening to a complete CD. These cello parts seem to be composed especially for Dynaudio the way they fill the room. The Contour 20 seems to like every kind of music, from singers, jazz, pop to classical works in their many forms.
Enjoying the last few cello tracks I look at my notes again and find that this is one of those loudspeakers that is true to the music. It seems to add nothing on its own, nor does it leave any details out. Music is presented to the listener in a long pleasurable flow, enjoyable, entertaining and with an ease only a few manufacturers are able to put into their systems. The Contour 20 likes to be played a little louder than others in this respect, but there is no need to blow the roof off. More power from the amp gives you that little extra to make this speaker shine. Build quality is excellent, looks are terrific, size might be a factor if you expect a small loudspeaker. Remember the laws of physics and you will understand: loudspeakers need air inside and outside to be able to play really deep bass notes and breathe. The bigger Contour 30 or 60 will give you deeper bass, but I wouldn’t expect it to be better bass. This is an excellent loudspeaker built to the standards established by previous generations of Dynaudio Contour models. It’s firmly recommended, in fact once you discover how neutral and honest it is with your favourite music the Contour 20 might be the last loudspeaker you will ever buy.
Type: 2-way, reflex loaded, standmount loudspeaker
Sensitivity: 86dB (2.83V/1m)
IEC Power Handling: 180W
Impedance: 4 Ohms
Frequency Response (± 3 dB): 39Hz – 23kHz
Box Principle: Bass reflex rear ported
Crossover: 2 way
Crossover Frequency: 2200Hz
Crossover Topology: 2nd order
Woofer: 18cm MSP cone
Tweeter: 28mm Esotar2
Dimensions (W x H x D): 215 x 440 x 360mm / 8.5 x 17.3 x 14.2in
Dimensions with feet/grill (W x H x D): 215 x 440 x 396mm / 8.5 x 17.3 x 15.6in
Weight: 15.5kg / 34lb