Review: Dynaudio Contour 1.3se Monitor

Category: Speakers

It was time to address my “lack of pure listening enjoyment” that was occurring while listening to my current 2-channel system. (75% 2-channel, 25% Dvd playback). I have owned and auditioned many loudspeaker systems over the last 20 years. So I read the reviews, talked to many different dealers, spoke with fellow music/audiophile friends, and spend months auditioning many fine lines of product. However, after the dust settled – my wife and I couldn’t have been more shocked with the results from the company called Dynaudio.

I had been an avid B&W fan for many years… but my brand loyalty was out the window the day I heard the Dynaudio Contour line. (It also helped that I couldn’t quite stomach the “bright-edginess” of the new Nautilus tweeter no matter what equipment and cabling I tried) To be fair, I will say that I had many countless hours of enjoyment from my B&W Matrix805’s and B&W Matrix 802sIII’s as well as my WilsonAudio Witt’s ( too big and heavy for my house and required too much breathing space ). So, after countless hours of auditioning, we selected a new pair of Dyn’s 1.3SE’s (Special Editions), hooked them-up, and broke them in for approx. two weeks of low, then medium/moderate play volumes.

The following weekend my wife and I sat down in our living room with high expectations of our newly broken-in Dynaudio’s. I had hoped that my wife ( with very discriminating ears ) would not be quickly turned-off. As she usually knows very quickly when auditioning loudspeakers whether they are “keepers” or not. So we sat and played some music, a few favorite tracks, some jazz, pop, instrumental, vocal, and soundtracks – then we stopped.

We were totally dumb-struck. We were at a loss for words. But – we both knew instantly that the 1.3SE’s had hit the mark. What we experienced was : a clarity of sound, with such a natural presentation that we were stunned. What we heard and continue to hear daily is: “realism”. With the 1.3SE’s there is a sense that when an instrument plays – it actually sounds like the instrument; i.e. it doesn’t sound like a loudspeaker at that moment. We also notice that there were many more “musical layers” happening vertically and depth-wise within the recordings that we had not heard before.

Bear in mind we have now lived happily with these 1.3SE’s for almost 2 years and are constantly surprised with every new cd we try. ( In comparison to the Nautilus 805 which at first use had some very “exciting” behavior – but not for long term enjoyment. Our initial excitement with the N805 quickly diminished as we listened for longer periods of time and at louder volumes, needless to say we sold the B&W805N’s off within a couple months… )

The 1.3SE’s have depth/height/and especially very wide imaging, a true soundstage beyond the physical size of the box, a very quick articulate mid to lower bass response – much lower than you could reasonably expect from such a small box, unbelievable high frequency reproduction. The “texture” and “realism” of instruments and vocals is truly fantastic. We have been “startled” many many times when something comes through the 1.3SE’s and sounds REAL, it’s kinda spooky. Additionally, the speakers sound just as good at low to medium volumes, and are easy to drive.

In summary: the Quality of Sound from the 1.3SE is the most Natural and Realistic that we’ve had in our house, almost shocking at times. Don’t let the size fool you – bigger is not always better. These little buggers sound better than a lot of floor-standing exotics we’ve heard and owned. We have owned many speaker systems, many of them more expensive and exotic – but we never listened for such long periods of time, and enjoyed listening to all kinds of music and recordings as we do now with the Dynaudio 1.3SE.

The Dynaudio 1.3Special Editions are highly recommended.
System: Plinius 8200mkII integrated, Transparent MusicWave Super Speaker Cable, MusicLink Super Interconnect, Target stands, Sony DVD & TV

Creates the illusion of real musicians and instruments better than many (and more $$$) full range floor-standing products, and other monitor types I’ve heard and owned, imaging is overwhelming, sounds are never fatiguing, size and ease of placement are very user/house friendly.

Couldn’t expect anything better for a speaker of it’s size and price.

Associated gear
System: Plinius 8200mkII integrated, Transparent MusicWave Super Speaker Cable, MusicLink Super Interconnect, Target stands, Sony DVD & TV

Similar products
Owned: WilsonAudio Witt, B&W Matrix 802sIII, B&W Matrix 803, B&W Matrix 804, B&W Matrix 805, B&W Nautilus 805, Mission, BostonAcoustics and others.
I agree that the Dynaudio Contour 1.3SE are one of the best speakers around for their size and price range. Superior to most speakers costing at least twice as much. Mid-range and vocals are about as life-like as you can get. I was about to buy a pair, but chose the Dynaudio Contour 3.3. I use a Plinius SA250 MKIV amp and they are a good match.

One suggestion is to get better cables. I found the Transparent MusicWave Super (and Ultra) speaker and interconnect cables roll-off a bit on top. Try to demo a pair of NBS Monitor III's (or if you can afford it, Monitor I's or 0's, or the newer NBS Omega line) which are comparable in cost, but far superior in retrieving all the detail of the source, darker background, lower noise floor, more precise soundstaging and superior delineation and bloom of each instrument.
I used to have the Dynaudio 1.3SE and Revel M20. They sound very close and for the money I'd pick the Revel.
I tried to live with 1.3s, but found that they needed more power than my Pass Aleph 3 could produce. I listened to them (after I sold them) with a Simaudio W5 and was blown away. At that time, I felt that I should have changed amps, not speakers. They need power to sound their best!
I to have choosen the 1.3 se for the very same reasons you have mentioned. Namely the tonality of these speakers is to die for. Clarity, musicality, and rhythm. I am surprised to hear the one poster say he preferred the M20. I auditioned these speakers in the same system head to head and well to say the least my conclusions were the complete opposite of Royy. The M20's, to me, sounded lifeless. I am sure they are dead neutral on a frequency plot but that doesn't mean I want to listen to them. My main beef with the speakers (the m20's) was that they had no emotion and no "boogie factor" They were very clear and precise, teetering on bright (but never crossing the line) yet lacked the realism of the Dynaudio's.
Oh well I gues that's why they make different speakers.
I've auditioned the 1.3se and too feel that they are the best monitors I've heard. Paired with an amp of sufficient power, there is just no beating it. I have just one concern about them : Being of lower sensitivity, I recall that they didn't really come alive until played at medium to high listening levels. The Stereophile review seems to imply as much. Can any of you long-term owners comment on how they sound at late-night listening levels?