Dynaudio Special Forty vs. Contour 20

Hey all - new account on Audiogon, but not new to the site. I used to be a reviewer for a now-defunct publication and have spun off my own audio blog, The Audiophile Weekend Warrior (TAWW). As you can tell from the name, I'm trying not to take myself too seriously. :)

Anyway, thought I'd spin off some discussion here based on my recent quick audition of the Dynaudio 2-ways:

Context: I'm searching for a new reference speaker to upgrade my Merlin TSM-MXe. In short, I liked the Special Forty better, but neither really did it for me. Fire away with the questions/comments/flames! :-D

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Hey James, it's a fair point, and I totally agree that there's no substitute for a long in-home audition - that's why I review things for months at a time after all. That said, with some experience and skill I've found you can parse out some of the environmental factors and get a general feel for the character of a piece of gear. I've gone back to my listening notes from the beginning and end of an audition, as well as heard gear in both a show and home environment, and other than break-in effects and some deeper unpeeling of layers, I've found them to be remarkably consistent.

And not to claim my hearing is superior or anything, but I have a number of years of classical musical training and can usually zero in on things pretty quickly. Without naming names, I've found audible issues with gear early in audition periods that the designers themselves didn't catch until I mentioned it to them. 

Again, just personal impressions, take with as much salt as you like. :)
@james_w514 that all said, I'd love to hear what you thought of these speakers! I'm still very interested in the SR1's but need more time with them.
You may want to consider just upgrading your Tsm's to the black magic edition. I upgraded my vsm mxe's to the black magic and as reported on many threads the upgrade is not subtle. Call Rich at Signature Sound for info.
Interesting, I haven't heard the Special 40's yet but thought the C20's sound incredible. Very engaging and slightly warm. I heard them with the Primaluna integrated though, so maybe that was a factor. But I do prefer high resolution speakers that are a touch warm.
If you have the electronics....The special 40’s are insane, give them clean clear power and they will amaze, I did mention power right? Ya, they need that in fact twice what they are rated for! And no tube amps here they want fast  dynamic power with the ability to take control and grip them from a very musical high end solid state amp.

Matt M
I have read an interesting review of Dynaudio Special Forty in HiFi Plus and I just wonder how this minitor speaker compares with the famous ATC SCM19  monitor speaker. Has any one had a chance to do this comparison?
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@mobilesax I think I've reached the end of the road with the Merlins. I'm sure the Black Magic upgrade is great, but I'm looking to make a more fundamental change. In particular, I'm looking for something more SS-amp friendly. While the TSM's have gotten more and more accommodating of SS with each successive upgrade, they really need tubes to reach the next level and that's a nonstarter for me.

@nitewulf : like the Merlins, maybe the C20's need tubes to loosen up (the Stereophile review also alluded to this). That said, there was something about the driver integration that bugged me. I actually thought the Forty had a smoother-sounding crossover than the C20. 

@mattmiller : that sounds about right, based on my quick listen they could definitely benefit from a powerful, lean SS amp that can exert a lot of control over the woofer. (Maybe Bryston?) That said, I don't see how you get around the apparent resonance/coloration in the upper bass, regardless of amp. It really sounds mechanically underdamped to me. I don't doubt you can massage that with some tweaking but I'm not sure you can completely overcome that sort of tuning issue. 

@james_w514: sounds like you go through a lot of speakers. :) I haven't heard ATC, I should get around to that. What are you using now? How did you like the Audiovector?
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@james_w514 thanks for the input. Interesting, I thought the Audiovector SR1 (in Avantgarde Aretté form) had very good bass - not thunderous by any means, but very "true" in that you mostly don't notice it, but it really hits you with speed and trueness of tone when called for. I thought piano and cello sounded great, though pop/rock sounded light. I'm coming from very lean Merlin TSM's so my bar for bass is probably low. I agree that in terms of raw speed and resolution, they are really tops, better than the majority of megabuck stuff I've heard at shows.

I will seek out an ATC dealer and if they seem like they might float my boat, see if I can get them in-house... 
@james_w514 unrelated question, how do you find the Bryston Cubed amps? I'm considering requesting one for review, but not sure which one to try. I've heard that the 2.5 is the sweetest of the bunch but I'm tempted by more power...
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I heard the Special 40s at RMAF.  They sounded really nice, clear, punchy and a little warm.  The thing that put me off was the finish.  They put such a high polish on the things the wood looked like plastic.  I like wood to look like wood!  I don't think I could live with them.
Hi there from a newcomer from Denmark. I have heard the special 40 but I already have Focus 160 same size. Major bass and super high resolution and not that difference for me. After 6 year the CEO of dynaudio is comming to my place  him self and pick up my focus because of  a reclamation. He will give me a lent pair  of their new series... That's custumeseevirvic.Sorry for my T9. BR Ulrich

Reclamation? Was your Focus 160 a demo pair?


I've been surfing your blog. Highly recommended, with common sense and really very well written. That's a skill that I envy;-). 

I've being looking at your posts on the Audiovector SR1 arretee. It's the size and price I'm looking for an upgrade of my monitors.  The documentation on audiovector site is not good, but seemingly there is an active version

it's not clear to me even what type of amplifcation they are using.  Have you listenned to the active version?. 
Always wonder how the Special 25 would fit in the conversation.
I occasionally see them available.
Hi @cortes - thanks for the kind words about the blog, always happy to hear if it's useful at all. I've fallen a bit behind on reviews the last few months (day job keeping me busy) but try to keep up with more regular updates on my Instagram/Facebook.

I haven't heard the active version of the Audiovector. No idea about the internal amp, but I can drop Mads Klifoth @ Audiovector a line to ask. It's possible with the flexibility of active, the integration between drivers will be even better - it's quite excellent as-is on the passive SR 1 Arreté, but with perhaps a bit of energy loss that my colleague Martin DeWulf referred to at the end of his quick take review. I've taken some rough in-room response measurements and see a little room for improvement in the 2-3kHz range that seem related to his (and my own) listening observations. That said, still a superb speaker, and IMO a meaningful step up in resolution and accuracy vs. the Dynaudios.
Experimenting with my dynaudio C1 signatures is been great fun and rewarding. I start with SS system from Audio GD that was amazing for the money. All the detail and good high end stuff one could ask for. After a couple of years and having no experience at all with tubes, I made a choice after much research and comparison between PCM and DSD to get a lampizator 4 DSD DAC and HQ player for my computer. What a surprise, not only I liked DSD better but also the tubes made the sound stage wider taller and deeper, textures, clearer and smoother sound, details and tones that to me sounded more like real live performances. After this dose of tube injection like a junkie I just wanted more. Next I rebuild my computer complete fan-less with linear PSU, Jcat USB card and DSD 512 capable, another big step on the right direction. Then I found a good deal on a used lampizator big 6, major steps forward. Finally I sold my Audio GD system to buy a Ayon Spirit lll generation 4 and never looked back. From the first listening sessions I liked this integrated a lot, but though bass was definitely good it was not near as powerful as the SS gear. Then my journey with tubes and cables rolling began. After I research some NOS tubes and experimenting with it, the sound got moving in the right direction again from top to bottom, better stronger and deeper bass. Now for cables at the time I was using Acoustic Zen Holograms for speakers and Krakatoa for power with great success with SS system. Finally I started messing with cable rolling and wasn’t until I tried some High fidelity cables that I felt the system was rewarding me with great improvements across the spectrum, but it was when I added the High Fidelity CT-1 speaker cables that the low end came to a level I could not believe possible for a cable alone to accomplish . Anyways the Ayon spirit lll is a great integrated amp for the Dynaudios and more, they have enough power and great synergy.