Review: Dynaudio Confidence C1 Monitor
:: Dynaudio Confidence C1 loudspeaker ::
:: at first glance ::
These smallish and slightly funky-looking 2-ways monitors will certainly make you do a double take. First, by the narrow and understated danish design lines; and secondly, by the sonics that come from them.
:: hardware ::
Mine arrived in the richly-hued rosewood color, and were accompanied by the black and dead-heavy metal Dynaudio Stand2 speaker stands. The C1's ship individually in double thick and rugged cardboard containers, all within 4" of super dense spongy foam bumpers and clear plastic bags for protection during transit. The Stands2's triple metal and rubber layered hardened floor base plates and vertical columns are easy to attach to the C1's bottom-side via the provided screws. Quality floor spikes for the base plates are provided and remind me slightly of the Zoethecus flooring spikes which always struck me as over-sized and well finished. The most positive aspect of the Stand2's is that they absolutely complement the C1's cosmetics and negate the need for finding another stand with the C1's unique bottom surface dimensions. The only drawback of the Stand2's is that the holes provided for the connecting screws are the same smallish holes needed to fill the columns with sand. Yes, you can fill them, but it isn't necessarily easy nor fast. I'd recommend to Dynaudio to consider using a metal screw-cap at the ends of the columns instead, which would be easier to un-screw, fill, and then screw in as currently designed.
The outside surfaces of the C1's appear to be more narrow and long'ish as opposed to the typical squarish dimensions of most smaller 2-way speakers that you have seen. The most obvious Dynaudio family resemblance is the inverted and tapered metal face-plate that conceals the inverted driver array behind. The 2-drivers are nicely recessed and precisely nested within the metal flared front plate openings while hiding behind the tapering grill cloth. Speaker cabling can be connected via top quality WBT translucent binding posts and are not bi-wirable, per Dynaudio design philosophy.
:: drivers ::
Driver arrangement is the inverted style; with the larger driver positioned above the smaller driver, that has proven to be a successful orientation for the upper echelon line of Dynaudio products in the past and present.
:: break-in ::
I held off doing this write-up of the C1's for months for a couple reasons. First, I wanted to ensure that the C1's were extensively broken-in with hundreds of hours of playback, as well as allowing enough time to experiment with different speaker toe-in and floor room positions. I also wanted to be able to compare my earlier listening impressions with later listening sessions. Note: the Dynaudio family of products (including the C1's) will honestly sound different with hundreds of playback hours on them, as compared to new out-of-the-box pairs with few playing hours on them. Additionally, re-positioning the pair will yield different sonics. Without taking the time and effort to experiment with the positioning as mentioned, you might miss out on the true abilities of the loudspeaker in your listening venue; whether it be in a store or home.
:: personal taste and bias' ::
You have em.
I have em.
Let's not pretend that we don't.
Before I try to describe the sonics of the Dynaudio Confidence C1, it might prove helpful if you understand what I expect (personal taste & bias') when I listen to any 2-channel audio system:
Simply put, I expect and want a natural and believable sounding 'mid-range' presentation, combined with as much resolution as possible, and quality bass information. I prefer and expect all of this, but NOT at the cost of increased listener fatigue. In other words, if the mid-range of a system doesn't come across as natural and organic, or realistic sounding; then nothing else for performance will really impress me. Even, if I get the n'th degree of sheer resolution and tons of detail vertically hanging 10' feet above the ground -- it cannot be at the expense of the mid-range. I also consider "listener fatigue" the most evil of listening woes (i.e. hard sounding, thin, edgy, bright, antiseptic, and in-your-face). If the gear cannot present a realistic mid-range and the illusion of imaging and of soundstage, then the rest of the sonic presentation doesn't really matter to me.
I also have a preference for articulate bass, not mushy and not overblown/woolly; i.e. I expect the bass detail and textures (within the lower-mid bass to low bass) to be as tangible as possible (if it exists within the source recording). Some folks I know, prefer the dynamics and dizzying snap of resolution all the time, even if the soundstage is more collapsed or thin, or the bass information is blurred or soft. However, that is not my personal taste. Note: the above described bias' are not expected if the source audio recording is very poor to begin with.
I also have a bias about tweeters. As I've yet to audition** a metal tweeter that didn't (at some point in time); come across as "ringing/hard/canned/spitty/or metalic" sounding during audio-playback. For whatever technical reasons withstanding; I have learned that I prefer the sound of a soft-dome tweeter versus a ribbon tweeter, super-tweeter, or metal tweeters. This doesn't mean that I won't encounter a fabulous metal tweeter someday that I could enjoy long-term, it just hasn't happened yet. If I get ‘bit’ by a metal tweeter too many times – I usually dump the speaker. I also have a small bias for Plinius amplification (leans towards relaxed & slightly tube/romantic), as well as the benefits of using TransparentAudio cabling (newest versions w/MMtechnology). ** I just auditioned the Kharma 3.2s, and it's focal metal tweeter performance is on par with the Esotar2 soft-dome, without the typical symptoms of metal tweeters.
I enjoy listening to music much more when the fatigue factor is very very low. Imaging and soundstage presentation is very critical, and above all else - realism. Volume preference is hardly ever at super loud levels in my living room; typically I listen at medium volume 70% of the time, and lower listening volumes the other 30% of the time.
:: heard it ::
Let me begin with a frame of reference for those of you familiar with the Dynaudio sound, or brands and models that you may recognize or might have heard. I've have owned many of the B&W Matrix and Nautilus models, WilsonAudio Witts, and the recently introduced Dali Euphonia MS4's. Additionally, I owned the Dynaudio 1.3Special Editions, Dynaudio S3.4s, and the Dynaudio Special25s. I have parted/sold/traded-in everything listed above except for the Dynaudio Confidence C1's.
If you are a fan/owner of the Dyn Special25 model in particular -- kindly take note (spoiler ahead). I will do my best to describe what differences were apparent between the Special25s and the C1s; but I would encourage you to 1.) stop reading this and 2.) find a location that has both and do an A/B comparison for yourself, and lastly 3.) come back to this write-up and see if we have similar findings.
:: spoiler ::
Clearly, the C1's are doing some things that none of the above mentioned models are capable of. When I did a direct multiple A/B comparisons in my house, the Special25's (which I very much admire) instantly presented themselves as veiled and flatter sounding as compared to the C1. Of course the S25 alone does not play poorly, but I found myself shaking my head in dis-belief when doing the A/B with the C1s and S25s. These C1’s are all about grace, body, textures, resolution, timbre and clarity. Bass articulation is top rate when called upon.
Note: I've often found a good A/B session quickly highlights the differences between models very rapidly. You might have found that most audio-high-end-shops don't make a habit of doing A/B comparisons; and you can draw your own conclusions as to the 'why' they don't do it. The biggest difference between the C1 as compared to the S3.4 & S25 -- was the level of realism. The C1 has a realism and openness with all voices and instruments that the other models cannot match. This was the case on all material that I played.
:: purity and wholeness ::
No other Dynaudio product that I have heard (except for the Evidence Temptation model) has successfully re-created the mid-range purity and wholeness like the C1's. (note: the Dyn C2 and Dyn S3.4 are also excellent in the mid-range arena). What I find most compelling about the C1 is that it’s physical size and dimensions would indicate that this level of performance would be seemingly impossible. There is a weight to the sound, that is never over-ripe or bloated -- only exceptionally clear. The contrast in performance as compared to the Special25 is really unbelievable; whether it be on any 2-channel music or dvd film. If you have the chance to audition a C1 you’ll be more than surprised.
One area that contributes to this advantage seems to be the cabinet design of the C1. The C1 cabinet is absolutely dead quiet and inert. I never sense or hear that the cabinet is contributing any resonance ‘self-noise’ during audio playback. However, during the A/B sessions, I distinctly heard the S25 cabinet adding something that was not music; and I believe it to be it’s own S25 cabinet. Since then I've had varied conversations with Dyn dealers and Dynaudio (North America); and further details have become available. Evidently, the S25 was designed with a particular price point in mind, and it was necessary to retro-fit existing parts/drivers into an existing cabinet size/space/quality in order to achieve the finished product. The C1 on the other hand was designed from scratch without a specific price-point in mind, and the cabinet and driver design was designed from scratch, additionally the drivers and specifically the Esotar2 tweeter in the S25 is not identical to the version that is found in the C1,C2,C4, Temptation, and Master (paraphrasing). The C1 is part of the Confidence line of products, and is the only compact model available at that performance level.
Now, here is where it gets interesting. The low bass response of the C1 in my medium sized room doesn't compel me to purchase a sub-woofer. The reasoning is due to the quality and punch of the C1 lower bass. The spec’s of the C1’s seem very conservative and are not very helpful when comparing items such as frequency response as compared to what I experience in my room. The texture, and tone of the lower bass makes you immediately forget about how deeply [or not deeply] it is going. The weight and fullness of the C1 with respect to it's lowest bass is on par with the Dyn S3.4 up to medium and fuller volumes, and only at very loud volumes will the S3.4 really have a noticeable deeper bass response advantage (quantity vs. quality). Again, it's important for you to 'get' that the quality of the C1's presentation really eclipses both the S25 as well as the S3.4 in many significant areas, including and specifically the quality of the bass. Driver integration is flawless. Also, the size and realism of the soundstage, the decay of instrument notes, the timbre and textures of the music, and overall the voicing of the C1 is full and rich without ever coming through as being veiled or flat. If you get anything from reading this write-up this is it: The C1 is one of the most consistently musically-realistic sounding loudspeakers I've ever heard.
:: music examples ::
[ darol anger/mike marshall band . track 3 – a real test for the C1’s, as there is a lot of interplay between violin, guitar, drums, bass, mandolin, cymbals, fretless bass, piano, drums, electric bass. During all of it the C1s retain their composure and deliver all the goods without smearing or compression. The musical notes have momentum and energy without being blurred or lost during the 7 minute track. The C1’s can play loudly and full without going into fatigue territory. I re-played this track at the very lowest volume level immediately after first playing it loudly; and all the details were still retained, the momentum and energy was also heard – with the only difference being the overall volume/loudness. If you need a speaker that sounds beautiful at the lowest of listening volumes the C1 can do it in spades.]
:: music examples ::
[ yo-yo ma . track 4 – introduction of an absolutely beautiful piece of music, and delivered via the C1’s in a very moving way, I immediately lose track of the C1 speakers and the rest of the gear every time I hear this track and delicate musical presentation. The C1’s pull you into the mood of this track instantly. Track 5 – rhythm and pacing of female vocal and subtle instrumentation makes me look around the stage that is presented in front of me.]
:: music examples ::
[ stan getz . everything sounds fundamentally real, nuff said. ]
:: music examples ::
[ pat metheny . from the distinct drumsticks riding the cymbals, to the floating central image of Pat’s guitar work; nothing is left un-heard. the concert stage is wide and deep and never in-your-face, the piano keys are easily discernable throughout the performance even amidst the horn, drum, and guitar work. Rent, borrow or purchase this dvd if you are a music lover with an appreciation of jazz, creativity, and want one of the best sounding and visually produced jazz concerts for home enjoyment.]
:: music examples ::
[ steve tyrell . track 9 – 2 minutes into it the saxophone solo breaks in with wonderful dynamics with guitar to the right and piano in the background to supplement, tons of resolution and textures, voicing of the C1’s is one of amazing clarity, easily eclipsing the Dyn S25 and S3.4 models which sound duller in comparison. ]
:: music examples ::
[ diana krall . any track – one of the better produced concerts I’ve ever heard. Diana’s vocals are superbly rendered. The bass lines are strong and vibrant and have rich body. I can’t find any faults with the size of the soundstage wide or deep; with the only exception being that the C1s don’t seem to reach forward; toward my listening chair with this disc. ]
:: drawbacks ::
Aesthetically the C1 might be a tough pill for some to swallow. It has grown on me over time and I actually now appreciate it's looks. I'll admit that at first glance they are slightly funky looking, mostly due to the oversized flaring front grill cloth. The C1 does at certain angles can appear ‘top-heavy’ or just slightly too large for it’s dedicated stands; but they remain stable and rooted with a narrow profile with minimal danish dimensions. The C1's would prove a difficult load for tube owners, but not a problem for any solid-state units that have high current or healthy power reserves. My Plinius 9200 amp will provide more than 300 watts into an 4-ohm load [which is what the C1 spec’s indicate]. If you are expecting the bone-jarring bass lines during dvd action movies, then a sub-woofer might be an option for you. For 2-channel music fans, a sub is not necessary.
:: short term vs. long term ::
Has my enthusiasm lessened since day 1 of hearing the C1's ? Nope. Do I secretly hunger for huge monolithic towers of multiple drivers with side dual sub-woofers ? Nope. Do I feel like I'm missing the lowest bass information ? Sure, perhaps 10% of the time I am sure that I’m missing some of the deepest of bass information, but then again - not all of my music and dvd’s actually have gut-wrenching deep bass to begin with. However, for ALL of the existing high’s, mid-range, and lower bass information that IS there – remains un-blemished through the C1’s.
:: summary ::
Of all the compact sized monitors I’ve auditioned or owned the Dynaudio Confidence C1 is without peer. The strength’s of this model outshine the Dyn 1.3SE, S25, C3, and S3.4. Certainly and without doubt – this is Dynaudio’s Reference model for compact loudspeaker design (past and present). Within the context of my Plinius and Transparent Ultra cabling, the C1’s strengths incorporate a very large soundstage without ever being in-your-face, and is delivers exceptional musical resolution from high 30hz on up . This small 2-way design produces musical realism and resolution on-par with larger and more expensive floor-standing solutions. Further, it’s meaningful bass quality; can and will outshine the deeper reach of many other full sized loudspeaker alternatives; The Dynaudio Confidence line of product is indeed an upgrade from the Contour line of product. Though the Contour line is impressive at it’s respective price-point, the performance envelope of the Confidence models proves easily to be a sonic and more importantly; a musical upgrade. The C1 has got to be the biggest bang for the buck model of the Confidence products, as it is not just a simple small 2-way, instead, it is a completely whole and believable singer.
Other longer-term items to note: I have yet to experience any listener fatigue with the C1’s and have found them to portray a high level of realism with vocals and instrumentation layering, strikingly reminiscent of the Dyn Temptation mid-range. I have been more emotionally ‘moved’ by these C1’s than with any other speaker in my home, and on that point alone, means a great deal to me. For anyone with a medium sized room and quality solid state amplification, the Dyn Confidence C1 will provide you with clarity and realism that makes you wonder what you’ve been missing with your current loudspeaker solution up till now. There is more than enough lower bass response for a majority of your musical playback, except organ music lovers J.
Though slightly pricey and aesthetically challenging for some – the Dynaudio Confidence C1’s ability to sing and perform, will instantly draw you into the music won’t let you go. The very long running debate of ‘compact 2-ways vs. larger multi-driver solutions’ will not be solved in this brief write-up, but in the meanwhile; for those of you more interested in raising the level of musical realism within your home -- the C1’s will certainly deliver.
:: 2 channel music only source material ::
Steely Dan . Goucho . cd
Stan Getz . Bossas and Ballads The Lost Sessions . cd
Steve Tyrell . This Guy’s in Love . cd
The Darol Anger Mike Marshall Band . Jam . cd
Yo-Yo Ma obrigado : Brazil Live in Concert . cd
:: 2 channel video dvd film source material ::
Pat Metheny . Still Life Talking Live . dvd
Minority Report . dvd
Diana Krall . Live in Paris . dvd
Kill Bill 2 . dvd
Lord of the Rings . dvd
:: room dimensions ::
16w x 22l x 9h, carpeted
typical living room furnished
tweeters are approx 8’ apart
sitting distance is approx 10’-11’ back
C1’s are toed-in so that I can barely see the inside vertical sides
stands are spiked into carpet and leveled
:: gear ::
Plinius 9200 amp
PS Audio Power Director PD 3.5
PS Audio Extreme Plus ac power cords for all power cords connections
Transparent Audio Ultra loudspeaker and interconnects (newest models with MM technology)
Sony dvd digital 2-channel music and dvd film player, Philips 963SA
Dynaudio Confidence C1 loudspeakers
Dynaudio Stand2 stands
Dynaudio S3.4s [also a 2-way]
B&W Matrix 805s
B&W Nautilus 805s