Someone here on Audiogon wrote a review of these a while back. You should be able to dig it out.
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I was in the same boat as you a couple of months ago. My local dealer here in Chicago actually had a wide range of Dynaudios in his showroom and I was able to demo them back to back.
Using a Simaudio stack, I believe it was the W-7 amp, p-8 preamp, and Supernova cd player, he started at the Focus line and went up to the Confidence series.
What it came down to was what you are primarily looking to achieve. If price is not a concern (5.4 is 35% more than the 3.4), the biggest difference between the two would be the Esotar2 tweeter found in the 5.4 over the Esotec found in the little brother. Even to a newbie like me, I was able to instantly tell the difference. Also with the extra woofer, the bass output is larger than with the 3.4s. However that being said, there are some that say the 3.4 is a better overall balance for music despite the better tweeter (and also value).
If your system is primarily for music, I would really consider the C1 for slightly more than the 3.4. The musicality of these monitors are AMAZING. Not to mention that the bass output is surprisingly significant from such "small" monitors. The C1 also uses the Esotar2 tweeter as the 5.4, but for some reason provides a better coherent or enveloping sound than either of the Contour models.
I was originally buying for 80/20 HT to music, so I pulled the trigger two weeks ago on the 5.4. However, with such a huge sound improvement over my Focus 110 I had before, now I rarely watch the television and the ratio is now 10/90 HT to music. I'm sure over the next several months, the usage would even out, but I've found a new love of music. I've got them paired to a Sim I-7 and Supernova player.
As a Dynaudio dealer, I really like how Sailboat310 answered this thread. And, I totally agree with comments in regards to the C1's. Just an amazing speaker.
If anyone cares, I chose the C1's mated with the Confidence Center and Contour SR's for my personal system. I could have chosen any of the speakers mentioned thus far, but the C1's made the most sense.
I will say though the S5.4 has the ability to be very delicate, yet rock out with the best. I personally feel it's the best $10K speaker on the market.
Thanks for the responses! I am going to have to audition the S5.4s. What i'm looking for is pretty simple, really. I love the "tone" of the s3.4s, the imaging potential, the coherence to the midrange; vocals seem to have that organic ,natural tone...the treble... I could hope for nothing better actually...BUT, what I think would be even better would be all of these qualities PLUS a more hefty impact/bass extension. On paper the C2's seem like they would enhance that which i like about the s3.4s, but not really add anything to the bass area...the S5.4's and C4's have more surface area; larger bass driver area...as I don't want to drop 10 large on speakers at the moment, the S5.4s seem to be the way to go...I just hope that Esotar2 tweeter is not too bright, as I love the silky smoothness of the s3.4s..maybe what I really should just do is add a REL sub and forget about it...what do you think?
"Have any of you C1 enthusiasts tried pairing a sub or subs with them? What kind of success have you had or heard about?"
Yes, I have many times. With my C1's I have tried both single and dual Dynaudio Sub500's. Both sound great, but ultimately I went with a dual sub configuration.
Another sub I've been moving in and out of the system is from Triad. The Triad Gold Powersub sounds awesome and mates EXTREMELY well with the Dyn's. It is very tight and accurate and I think I prefer this setup over the Sub500's. The Sub500's do have some nice features I find hard to live without if your system is a dual HT/Music system. Being able to set Xover and Gain by the push of button is hard to live without once you have it.
Can't rule out the Velodyne DD Series either.
I guess what it comes down to is I love sealed subs with the Dyn's more so than ported designs.
Ttowntony or anyone else
Have you heard the Rel Storm III with the dyns? THis is in my price range and seems to be pretty decent from what I read. I definitely prefer speaker level level inputs as I feel you get the best integration. I've used subs with preamp inputs they alwasy seem to sound the same to me; not integrated and basically "weird" sounding...