Review: Dynaudio Special Twenty-Five Monitor
First off, let me say that in typical audiophile fasion, I have tried many speakers in the under $6k range, including PMC, spendor, ATC, B&W, KEF, and others. For the last 2 years I have been happily using Dynaudio Contour S1.4s. I loved them and they were a perfect match for the room and electronics. However, I recently moved to a new home and my new space had me thinking about new speakers. Since I love the Dynaudio sound I considered moving up to the Dynaudio C1s, but settled on the Special 25s instead for two reasons. First, they go lower and have a larger bass driver. Secondly, they are cheaper. Another consideration is that Dynaudio has stated this recent reissue would absolutely be the final run. So I took the plunge without hearing them first. No way to demo these. Very limited production and availability. I felt the risk was small due to the fact that I enjoyed my S1.4s so much and these were an upgrade in the family. I have now had these speakers for about 10 weeks.
This reissue version sells for $5700 a pair. They are finished in a special high gloss over maple veneer. They are very attractive in my opinion and look expensive. Although mine are in a dedicated man cave I would expect high WAF from these. I have them placed on Dynaudio Stand 4 speaker stands which are filled with sand. These are very sturdy stands and I feel are important to getting the most from the speakers. My room has acoustic treatments in corners behind the speakers and on the side walls. The room is 12'x18' with sloped cieling to 10'.
My electronics had been the latest Bryston 4Bsst2 and matching preamp. The solid state Bryston gear worked great with the previous Contours S1.4s which tend to be very smooth so they match well with the very revealing Bryston gear. Not such a great match with the Special 25s. More on that in a second.
Right out of the box, the Special 25s sounded very lively, but the midrange was shouty and harsh. Many recordings that I loved almost made me wince at points. Not a great start. However, many people have posted that all Dyns require lots of break in time. Even Dynaudio in their manual talk about a break in period. So I let them play for about 75 hours and then went back for more listening. Although I'm skeptical about run-in/break-in, there's no doubt that the S25s did indeed sound better after the 75 hours of play time, however, I still felt that sound was too in my face. I should say that the S25s do not sound like their Contour breathren. Yes, the traditional full Dynaudio bass is there, but the mids and highs are quite different. The S25 is a more revealing speaker. The contours are no slouches, but the S25s are on another level.
The next thing I started to look at to tame the S25s forward mids was my cables. I had been using a very revealing, lean sounding cable. I purchase some Cardas Quadlink 5c which has the reputation of being smooth and warm yet still detailed. That change actually did help some. However I still felt that my system needed a change for synergy. Next up was my Bryston preamp. I started to audition different preamps. I tried several including going "preless" with a Benchmark DAC1 HDR. I've now settled on a Conrad-Johnson PV14LS2 which is a tube based preamp. I have maintained my Bryston 4bsst2 amp whih is working great with the CJ preamp. This combination has completely tamed the midrange forwardness. I also think that adding another 100 hours of playtime has improved the sound. The bass seems more articulate and fuller at the same time. I found these speakers to be a bit hard to place in the room and I spent a lot of time experimenting with different locations. I do think this excercise was well worth it as I am now getting a gorgeous 3 dimensional image. These speakers have now surpassed what I even thought was possible 2 months ago when I first set them up. I like to be able to play my system loud when the mood strikes, but I certainly don't want my ears to feel assaulted. My system now has that great combination of warmth and detail that allows for very loud play with no ear fatigue and no overly aggressiveness to the sound. In fact, the level of clarity and detail is jaw dropping. The bass will shame many floorstanders. There is absolutely no need for a subwoofer in my medium size room. I highly recommend these speakers. I do believe they are exceptional but they made me work hard to get there. I cannot imagine a speaker in this price range sounding better.
Conrad Johnson Classic SE
Audio Research SP16L
Conrad Johnson PV14LS2