DynAudio C4 _ Explodes my sonic perspective

Category: Speakers

After having my Vandersteen Quatro Signature II woods awhile, I got to know the sound very well. Of course, Richard makes two other primary speakers “above” the Quatro, so even he knows each model has set abilities for what you are willing to pay. The question is how much and who’s speaker? I took a gamble and decided to find out.

Ok what exactly am I hearing that needs improving? I listen for hours at a time, and really just sit and listen. No TV, no “doing stuff” at the same time. The weakness of the Quatro, is a sometimes a little cloudy midrange on source material, not all but some. It’s as if the voice should be two feet from a rear wall, but gets stuck in it if that masks sense. My ear wants to pull this out and away from the constrictions the wall creates. Is it really the speaker, or is it just the way it is?

I’ve been out of this business of looking and buying for thirty years. I looked at 0-10K range speakers when I upgraded a dying stereo this last year, but that’s it. So, I have about ZERO politics and preconceived notions on what to buy, or eliminate before I listen to it. I really don’t know what’s supposed to sound like what. I went alone, on purpose, so I would not be told this speaker is crappy because, “fill in the blank”. Sure, I listened to brands before I bough the Quatro model, and that experience will answer itself shortly. I went to two locations based on general upper-end line selection, not so much what they were as I have no idea about truly expensive speakers above 10K.

I brought my own source material as I want to audition what I have heard, and not involve new source material, too. After I hear what I need to, we can play with stuff I don’t own (hi-definition 24-bit digital).

The first stop was the Magnapan, Wilson, and Theil dealer. I listened to a Wilson a ways back and didn’t like it at all. Thin, no imaging and too bright. But, I listened to a set in a smaller room (to me too small) that seemed to sit too far apart and you sat too close, but they were very good sounding. Imaging was terrific, voices were natural and at even very low volume. Bass seemed thin, though, especially compared to the Quatro. But, this Wilson speaker did indeed pull voices into the soundstage and off that strange from a wall sound I hear in the Quatro at times. Then we went to another bigger room, and listened to a set called Watt Puppy’s, a strange name for a speaker. Nope, these were the same as the once ago experience. Thin and no solid image between the speakers. The other model was, to me, clearly better sounding. I believe it was called a Sasha, and was in the 15K-price range. The other speaker was almost 25K. The cheaper model is still 50% again more than the Quatro (ouch!) but there ARE speakers that clear up the midrange issue I hear. So this is good, and bad. Good that I can do it, but it will cost me. I want to keep the fantastic full range and deep effortless bottom end of the Quatro…but maybe I can’t afford to? I will have to return and listen to the Sasha in a bigger room to see if the imaging and soundstage is still as good. The speaker is kind of ugly on purpose, but it is well built. Not a deal breaker, my 801’s were ugly. The magi’s had too many issues for me. Imaging was less distinct, no deep bass and weaker dynamics. For a cheap price thought, they are killer nice. Older or new models weren’t too different. I had an appointment at the next store, but was glad I listened to the Wilson and didn’t judge all of them based on my first experience.

The next stop was to audition the B&W801 and a speaker I didn’t even know what it was. It was also ugly (A common theme anymore) compared to the laid back and stately Vandersteen Quatro Wood signature II models in mahogany and black grill clothes. He played “his” music awhile and they were VERY open and dynamic. Good bass but maybe not as good as the Quatro’s in my “room”. So it’s a tough call on bass. But, it was far and away better bass than the Wilson Sasha. Still, we need to get those Wilson’s in a bigger room. I’ll be back to do that. I changed to my source material that I know well, and these unknowns were still amazingly open and imaged like crazy. No hunting down where things are, they are THERE. Here the Quatro, Sasha and these unknowns were keeping expectations in tact. After about an hour of my music, we switched to the 802D. In fifteen minutes (less really, but I gave them a chance) I knew this was a step backwards. The imaging was good, but it fell into the are of what I want to improve, midrange transparency and openness. They were too heavy in the mids while sitting in about the same location well into the room yet had weak bottom end. They seemed to want you to listen to “this” and not “that” which tells me they maybe aren’t as neutral as I’m used to. I asked to move back to the tall, and still ugly, speakers, the ones with too many drivers to sound good…on paper.

Damn, these are nice. I listened for three hours on them and played record, CD’s and 24-bit. Everything was better. The midrange was completely open all the time. It moved, was bigger or smaller, but never lost that person in a room and not standing against a wall sound (maybe a record was recorded with a guy or gal with his back against the wall?). Now I though that these seem to be my top pick by far. I made sure we listened to the same SPL with a handy Radio Shack SPL meter. 80-85dB is where I listen 99% of the time.

What were they, they were the DynAudio C4’s (unfortunate name, to me C4 blows up). But, to get something really better than the deal of the decade Quatro, you need to spend 17K-22K on these! OK, I go do research AFTER I blind listen (why look at design if you don’t like the speaker?) to see what’s what. Too many drivers, soft dome tweeters are so out of fashion to DIAMOND, aluminum, beryllium, ceramic coated aluminum ETC. They are first order crossover speakers, which, of course, the Vandy’s are not that that means much as they are vastly different configurations. The Wilson Sasha image real well, but I think they use steeper X-over slopes, for instance. The highs were immensely agreeable. So the soft dome are a none issue to me. I’m 54, and can’t hear bats echo location any way. Who am I kidding? I did NOT hear the 802D’s diamond tweeter make me want to have it. It was good, but I just didn’t think, “WOW, a whole new dimension in sound!” I just heard a little more color than I’m used to, with no real bass, and that same issue with some voices seeming inside a wall trying to escape. Maybe a little less than the Quatro, but still fundamentally there.

So the DynAudio C4 went BOOM wow in my mind. After my audition, I read the reviews and they seem pretty close to my audition EXCEPT the bass. They had bass, but it was still not extending like my Quatros in their room. It was uniform and tight (I like that) just maybe not enough of a voice at times. However, the review reports are the OPPOSITE on bass, and that they can over power you with deep bass and / or mid bass in a room depending on the size. My room is an entire basement that is L shaped. The speaker’s face the LONG length of the room (thirty feet or more) and one has to sit closer to a side wall (three feet or so), the other out away from a side wall (twenty feet away). The ceilings are eight feet or so high. My question is, those of you who own this product, what do you think in a real room in your house? How is this speaker doing for you? DynAudio was not even a brand when I left the industry thirty years ago. So far, it seems like a really nice full range speaker that is pretty even handed in auditions. Once I heard it, nothing else was “right” to my ears. The product just falls away from the stage and leaves music. I found this speaker totally my accident looking at the B&W’s. It is weird on many things I thought were “wrong”. Number of drivers, type, location, phase of all the drivers ETC. My ears say so what!

This speaker is low impedance so my solid state DNA-225 will still work OK. I bought, on purpose, fairly neutral stuff. MAP-1 and DNA-225, Benz Micro Ruby 3, and OPPOS BDP-83SE optical player so about anything should be ‘OK”. Once I really have what I want in a speaker, I can tailor to finer granularity. Not till then, though.

The bad news is how much you have to spend to improve on the Quatro signature II woods. Yes, a seemingly small not always there blemish on some source material seems nutty to worry about like a pimple on a teen, there one day gone the next. But, I guess I’ve matured above that…and may be dead broke on account of it!

Let me know your situation with EXPENSIVE speaker auditions and what pitfalls got in your way. I think going alone, and using my source material was a big advantage, and also being 80% ignorant on the politics. I just listen and look at nametags later. It is nearly impossible to hear many speakers in this price range or really, performance range, I don’t care about the price as long as it is 0-20K. I just covered the 0-10K with the Quatro and still came to the same conclusion there, damn nice FULL range speaker for the money. But BOOM WOW the C4 made a big noise in my perspective on what’s capable.
Rower30, Well done! I have the C2s. I, too, auditioned the same speakers you listened to, and them some... I always returned to the Dynaudio sound. A friend brought over his Vandersteen's 3aSignatures to audition on my 2-channl. Again, I,too, felt that something was mission in vocals. My C2s are driven by Theta Digital CBIII and Balanced Audio VK-6200. I don't think that I could ask for anything else...aside from maybe C4s...or even the Evidence.
Happy listening!
I really liked reading about your adventure auditioning new speakers.

Have you taken the plunge and bought yet?

I consider Dynaudio to be a modern gold standard in regards to sound. You may pay for it, but most all Dyns I have heard are hard to fault in their respective class.

I wonder if you have heard Dyn's mid-cost Contour line and if those might fit your bill?

The line that has helped keep me out of more expensive waters in the quest for my perfect sound is OHM Acoustics.

When I was looking to change from B&W and Magnepan a few years back, I started with the Dynaudio Contour 1.3mkIIs. These met my expectations for several months. Then I decided I needed to either add a sub or go more full range to get the lowest octave and do it well.

HAving owned OHM speakers as well for many years, and reading good things about their latest line, I decided to give their latest models a try before doing anything else. I picked up a pair of "Super" Walsh 2's, which were OHMs latest (at the time) 100 series 3 drivers on vintage Walsh 2 cabinets for ~ $600 used on A'gon. These appeared to be the right size OHMs for the 12X12 rooms the Dyn monitors were used in.

I found the OHMs did the job of matching the sound of the Dyns but with a more extended low end perfectly. I then also acquired an additional pair of OHMs biggest and best OHM 5 series 3 speakers for my larger L shaped basement room (sounds similar to yours).

I've been running the Dyns and OHMs now for several years in my 3 main listening rooms. I audition other high end systems regularly whenever I can, but have had no temptation to change. PLus I look forward to listening as much as I can, generally many hours per week, which is always a good sign.

OHM sells factory direct and offers an extended in home audition period. The only cost to a buyer if things do not work out is cost of return shipping. Maybe something worth considering if you are looking to perhaps save some $$$S and have not bought yet.

Then again, if you like and can afford the big Dyns, and they have won your heart, then by all means go for it. Dynaudio speakers are still a gold standard for me, and I do not throw that title around loosely.

Based on my experience with a similar shaped room, I think the Dyns could work well in your L shaped room.

The OHMs are more omnidirectional and do imaging differently than directional box designs.

In my L shaped room, they tend to fill the wider portion of the room where they stand just a couple feet from rear and side wall with their sound stage, kind of like a stage at a live show. This makes for a very involving and low fatigue listening experience at any listening position.

More directional models will tend to fire sound more directly into the length of the room. Not a bad thing, but different. I have used some smaller directional box designs in my room prior (OHM and B&W) and also MAgnepans. I was never able to get things quite right in all regards. The more omni directional OHMs solved that problem plus I can listen from most anywhere in teh room without loosing much. This may be harder to accomplish with more directional designs, but may be possible in a long and narrow listening area.
Thanks for the responses.

I took the plunge and got the DynAudio C4 Series II signatures. I never listen from or go into the short leg of the "L" shaped room, so the forward fireing speaker design isn't an issue.

I about wet my pants writing the check, but everyone seems to agree with the C4 sound. I was really surprised, to say the least. The can sound almost Martin Logan like with seemlessly electrostatic midgrange integration, except the bass is also 100% integrated and dynamic, too.

When I first auditioned, the speakers were brand new (less than ten hours on them). When I went back, holly bass batman! The low-end was fully fleshed out and deep. Pink Floyd Dark side of the moon..ya baby!

Having said that, the weak spot is maybe too much on records that I have that are too much on the Quatro's, too. I'd bump it down a touch if I had a bass knob on my pre-amp. Now having said THAT, the bass is so good that it is very listenable, though. So it's more of a commnet than a deal breaker of any sort. Accuracy may be a touch lifted, but it is still not a bass "peak" sound. But do these go DEEP!

I'll have to report back on what these actually do in my room. I know others may want as much info as you can get on CLASS A (more finiky) speaker set-ups. But dog gone, the two momo amps and speakers all need to break-in to be accurate. I figure 50+ hours easy before it's an accurate situation to even comment on. Some say 120+ hours for the amp bias to settle down. Turn on the Sony radio and leave for work every day for two weeks, then stick my head in the basement!

So they are ordered. Figure six week out...rats.