Review: Focal Micro Be vs. Dynaudio C1 mk1 Monitor

Category: Speakers

About two months ago I had a pair of Dynaudio C1 in my system for about a week and I have compared them extensively with my Focal Micro Utopia Be speakers. Even though both these great monitors have been retired now, I feel is not a bad idea to compare them and open a thread on this topic. Many might still be interested in these exceptional speakers, especially since their prices have gone down considerably.

My system consists of an Accuphase combo (the E-550 class A integrated - 30 watts into 8 ohms and doubling down to 2 ohms) and the DP-500 CD player, a pair of Focal Micro Utopia Be with Focal stands and a REL Stentor 3 subwoofer. My room is quite large (L x W x H: 7.5 x 4.3 x 2.7 meters, i.e. 24.6 x 14.7 x 8.9 feet) with the speakers firing along the short wall and situated a bit more than a meter from the back wall. The room is not treated but the speakers are placed out into the room quite far from any walls. Except for the back wall and the ceiling which are empty, the rest of the walls are covered with books/cd shelf and/or curtains to minimize reflections (see my virtual system for some "vague" pics).

I listen to all types of good music from jazz and classical to rock/pop and metal. But my current favorite (for the last two years or so) is Loreena McKennith. I usually listen music at around 70-75 dB during the day and 60 - 65 dB during the night (measurements made with a digital radio shack dB meters - the A weighted setting) and in general I get very good stereo image (pinpoint accuracy on the right recordings). Thus, it should be clear that I like speakers that can play any type of music and sound good when played at rather low volumes.

The CDs I use most of the time to evaluate components (thus also for this comparison) are:

1) Loreena McKennitt - Nights from Alhambra (track 8 on disc one)
2) Tord Gustavsen - Being there (tracks 1 and 4)
3) Ludovico Einaudi - La Scala Concert 03/03/03 (track 3 on disc one)
4) Dali CD - volume 2 (tracks 2, 5, 6, 7 and 13)
5) Marantz - High-End Audiophile Test DEMO SACD 12th edition (tracks 4 and 9)
6) Norah Jones - Come away with me (mostly track 10 to make sure I am right between the speakers and probably also parts of the tracks 1, 3, 5 and 7)
7) Diana Krall - Live in Paris (track 11)
8) AC/DC - High way to hell (track 1)
9) Dream Theater - Awake (tracks 1, 6, 7, and 11)

Since I am very familiar with my MicroBes which I have for 2.5 years or so, I have moved them to make place for the C1 and spent quite some time to place the C1 properly. Once in placed I have listen to the C1 for 3-4 days. I have listened the C1s with and without the REL subwoofer (which of course was optimized for the C1). Then, in the last 2-3 days I have compared the two speakers directly, i.e. alternative listen sessions that lasted between 5 and 30 minutes.

I will start the comparison by saying that I have liked the C1s very very much. I still like my MicroBes, but the C1s left quite an impression on me. The spectral balance of these two speakers is very different and two things are immediately apparent. With the C1s it is the low department that stands out immediately. It is really incredible how much bass these speakers can put out. With the MicroBes on the other hand it is the high frequencies that stand out, i.e. they have very clean and clear high that never sound harsh or fatigue. Now, this is not to say that one speakers has poor highs while the other one has poor bass. No definitively not. The Dynaudio Esotar2 tweeter is just as revealing and fast as the Be tweeter but it does not put out as much energy in the room as the beryllium tweeter. The situation is similar also in the bass department, the MicroBes have very good bass just not as much as the C1. I am sure both companies could have easily boosted up the highs or the bass on their designs, but they choose not to do so because they had different goals in mind.

With the MicroBes it is all about speed and transparency, they are like a magnifying glass revealing all the details in the music. They do this without being fatigue or thin. The C1s one the other hand, are not about details but about natural timber. As mentioned, they are just as fast and detailed as the MicroBes but they have a more relaxed presentation and have a much more fuller midrange. With the C1s the accent is on the music, if you want to hear the details you can hear them (you just need to concentrate a bit - just like with live music) but what is important is the music as a whole.

The C1 also imaged better than the MicroBe and, to me, also sounded more natural on most instruments and voices. The only exception was the pianos which IMO where better rendered by the Focals. The Focals, on the other hand, were more involving at low volumes (60 - 65 dBs) and could be integrated with a subwoofer easier and with better results (at both low and mid sound levels). The C1 definitively need a subwoofer when played at low level (60 - 65 dBs) while when played at 70-80 dBs can still benefit from a subwoofer. However, because of their very healthy bass output, they are rather difficult to integrate with a subwoofer. This was actually the reason why in the end I have decided not to buy the C1. When comparing these two speakers I knew that in two months I will be moving into a new home where I will have a much smaller room for my system (4.7 x 3.5 x 2.4 meters) and I was afraid the C1's bass output will overwhelm this smaller room. If only the dealer would have given me the plugs for the bass ports ...

I will conclude by saying that they are both special speakers, however, as much as I loved my MicroBes the C1s really left an impression on me (that other great monitors .e.g. Diablo Utopia and Wilson Duette, did not). Depending on ones priorities in sound I can see different people preferring one speaker over the other. However, ideally it would be to have a speaker that is a combination of these two (or of Diablo and C1), i.e. have all the details readily noticeable and also the seductive and full midrange of C1. Unfortunately, Dynaudio offers not bookshelf speaker in the Evidence line.

Finally, I will say a few words about the evolutions of the two speakers I have compared, i.e. Focal Utopia Diablo and Confidence C1 mk2, in the hope that other that have listen these new models might share their experiences. I have listen the Diablos and to me they were very much along the same lines as the MicroBes, i.e. very transparent and fast (even more so than the MicroBes). Their midrange was somewhat fuller than that of MicroBes but nowhere near as seductive as the one of C1. Therefore, given their high price I do not think I am interested in the Diablos. (I will be better off getting a pair of C1 mk1 and also keeping the MicroBes as it will cost me halve the retail prices of the Diablos.) On the other hand, I've read that the new C1 mk2 and signature models play music better than the old C1s at low volumes, have tighter bass, and are also clearer (maybe they are the Evidence bookshelf I wished earlier). I did not listen them yet, however, if that is indeed the case, than it is very likely that in the near future I will buy a pair of these babies (either the mk2ss or the signatures).

I am looking forward to your opinions.

Best regards,

Associated gear
Click to view my Virtual System

Similar products
Diablo Utopia Be, Avantgarde Uno, Quad 2805
I just upgraded from the C1 to the C1 signatures. They are clearer than the originals and better at lower volumes. I don't have a spl meter so I can't compare db levels. The only difference (besides price) between the MKII's and Signatures is the finish and warranty. I have a Rel B3 but never had any real problem integrating it except for the phasing. I have also discovered the amp will make or break the bass. For example I was using a Bryston B100sst and also a 3Bsst and yes I wanted/needed the sub. With a Naim XS I don't. With my Octave depending which tubes I have in will make a big difference whether or not I want the sub on.

That being said I have never heard the Focal lineup
Nice review.

Your general comparison of the Focal versus Dynaudio sound is consistent with what I have heard over the years with various models from both!
yes informative review so far.C1 one has nice punch with the weight,a bit polite,but nice and can play limited variety of music,the best at playing easy music.As you stated relaxed presentation
It would be interesting to hear yor thoughts on the Wilson Duette in comparison to the Micro and the C-1.

Xti16, thanks for your comments they are consistent to what I have read also on other forums. So, am I understanding correctly that the mk2 and Signature models are clearer but without losing the reach and natural midrange of the original C1s?

Mapman, I am glad you corroborate my description.

Extravaganza, what do you mean when you say that the C1s "can play limited variety of music"?

Mr_Bill, unfortunately I did not have the chance to directly compare the Wilson Duettes with neither the MicroBes nor the C1s. I have heard the Duettes quite a few times (not in my system but either in dealers rooms or at shows) and every time they sounded very good. It seems to me that the Duettes probably can go louder than the C1 and/or the MicroBes. But, to my ears, they never sounded as natural as the C1 or as transparent as the Focals.

Anyone else care to share his/her experience regarding the differences between the Dynaudio C1 mk2/signature and original models?

Ok, last week I went to a dealer who had both the C1 mk1 and mk2 models in stock and I have compared them directly using my Accuphase combo (Accuphase E-550 and DP-500). Indeed, the new ones sound clearer than the old ones. However, this most probably is because the level of tweeter has been risen up in the new models compare to the old ones. Consequently, the highs of the mk2s have more energy which is probably also the reason the new ones sound better at lower volumes, viz. at low volumes the mk1s had considerably less detail/resolution as the tweeter was too quiet.

Although the mk2s sounded a bit better than the mk1s, I was not much impress with this audition. The magic I have experience at home with the C1 mk1 did not happen in the store. In the end, the thing that impressed me the most was my E-550 integrated who drove without a sweat not only the C1s but also the C2 mk2 speakers and easily outclassed a Mcintosh MA6600 when driving the C2s.

All I can say now is that after the audition a few hours later while listening to my MicroBes at home I wonder why would I even consider to spent 6-7k euros for new speakers when my current ones sound so good. Nonetheless, we will see soon how the C1 mk2 vs. my MicroBes duel will end up as I made an appointment with the dealer for November to bring the C1 mk2 speakers in my home.
Extravaganza, what do you mean when you say that the C1s "can play limited variety of music"?

for example rock music.C1 tends to smooth the sound,sometimes it looks like slowing down a bit in vocals.I was not used to hear music in that way.Direct comparison to harbeth shl5 and dynaudio s1.4.May be i need time to get accustomed .
The magic I have experience at home with the C1 mk1 did not happen in the store

I think I know what you have in mind-big dynamic punchy sound with wide big soundstage .So how do you compare c2mk2 to c1 ,is C2 a lot better than c1?
Yea, I'd like to hear more about the differences between the C1 and the new C1 mkII as well.

I have the Harbeth SHL5's and the C1's. The Harbeths are the best at disappearing, leaving only the music. If you close your eyes, you cannot find the speakers. So real and live sounding, so able to dig out the organic details. They get busy sending out cabinet resonances (by design) which seem to fill out the sound stage and surround you dishing out the details with much air and finesse and . . . all without ANY fatigue. Sometimes I just can't get off the couch and I'm sure any Harbeth owners know what I'm talking about.

Dynaudio C1's produce more dynamics and that "live" punch, holographic imagry and the sensation that you're right there in the event. They go louder and their base dispurses very evenly, creating a deep soundstage, almost wrapping around you. Very airy, very detailed, very clean and "right" sounding . . . also not fatiguing, IF you have the right gear behind them.

So the new C1 mkII's are "clearer" sounding? Nice. Clearer can mean more realistic, detailed, etc. Anyone want to elaborate on this?

Hi guys, sorry for the late reply.

Extravaganza, regarding your question C2 vs. C1 (mk2 models), I definitively did not find the C2s to be better than the C1s. The C2s put out more energy in the low department (something I did not find the C1s to lack at all) but it seemed to me that the C2s do not go significantly lower than the C1s, i.e. a subwoofer is still required. On the other hand, with the C2s it was much more difficult to find the acoustic sweet spot. That is, seating exactly between the two speakers was not enough by a long shut. My ears really needed to be at the right height (which was a very narrow interval) in order to get the right soundstage and stereo image. The C1 are much much less fussy in this respect. Though, the C2 seemed a bit more open than the C1 once my ears where in the narrow sweet spot.

Given my listening habits (relatively low listening levels) and the size of my room the C2 is not a good buy for me. At lower levels not only they do not play better than the C1 but also require a subwoofer. On the other hand, for large rooms and louder listening levels one is probably better off buying the C4s which is better.

Sonicray, regarding my statements that the C1 mk2 model sounds more clearer than the old model, I will try to elaborate a bit but there is really not much more I can say. (I too was not very satisfied when reading similar statements on other forums.) To some extent all Confidence speakers (mk1 and mk2) have recessed highs, but the mk2 models put out a bit more energy in the highs, i.e. the level of the tweeter was risen up a bit. Because of this (or at least this is my feeling) the new models sound clearer and also sound better when played at lower volumes (one can distinguish details more easily).

Finally, I want to write a few words about a recent experience I had with the C4 mk2 model. About two weeks ago I went to a Dynaudio C4 Signature show organized by the dutch Dynaudio importer. Each session (there were 3 sessions I believe) was opened by the Dynaudio CEO and owner Wilfried Ehrenholz who gave a talk of approximately 30 minutes (mostly about the history of Dynaudio). He seemed quite decent but in the end his talk, while sometime interesting, was mostly bragging about how Dynaudio makes the best speakers in the world. He did not sound at all like a sale person but ... it is my opinion that engineers and researcher should stick to their job and let other do the advertisement. Regarding the sound, the C4s were hooked to Chord electronics and sounded quite good given the show conditions (relatively bad room with around 20 people in it). As with the other Confidence models the high are very smooth but a bit recessed while the bass may be too much at times.
Does anyone know if the Esotar II tweeters in the new Confidence mkII line are any different in design than in the original Confidence line? Or are they just brought up in volume as Nvp is suggesting? These are such fine tweeters, perhaps the increased volume is just the thing to improve the overall sound.

BTW, I've finally been able to hear what my C1's can do (or have I?) when I added Gabriel Gold Reflection IC's and Rapture speaker cables. I never knew the C1's could put out that much very real base and create such a righteous soundstage. Its really dramatic. Since this experience, I've become a true believer in proper cables.
An update:

This week, i.e. one year and a month since i wrote the original review, I
bought a pair of Dynaudio C1 mk1 speakers with the Dynaudio Stand 4
stands. It was really unexpected. The seller was living 10-15 minutes driving
from my home, and since the price was fair, I though it might be worth while
to check out the speakers. Unfortunately, for my wallet of course :), the
speakers were in as new condition and the seller also had all the documents
and boxes (including the box of the stands!). Given the romance I had with
the C1 mk1 last year I could not resist and bought the speakers on the spot.

I have install the speakers last night and they sound beautifully. The situation
is consistent with the experience I had with the C1s last year when I wrote
the review. The C1s image much better than the Focal Utopia Micro Be, and
unlike the MicroBes are very room-friendly in this respect. I just put them in
the position were my MicroBes were, toe them in a bit and puff they
disappeared. Voices are dead center and instruments are very well localized
with realistic (physical) dimensions, viz. a violin is smaller than a guitar, a
double bass has roughly the size of a man.

The only down size is the amount of bass they produce, which at times
overpowers my room. As usually, the addition of my REL Stentor 3 subwoofer
improves significantly the definition and presence of the bass notes and, at
the same time, tightens things up. Before making the final adjustments for
the REL, though, I will try to optimize more carefully their position in the room
to tame down their low end. If, however, changing the speaker position will
affect the stereo image (which is currently very very good) I will just use the
foam plugs to control better the low end of the speaker.

Kind regards,
Wow, you mean you didn't go with the Vapor's after all the compliments! LOL
Jp1208, please leave Vapor out of this thread. I've taken your side in the "Vapor Cirrus White Loudspeakers" thread, do not make me doubt that decision.
Hi NVP, thanks for the comparison. One question, do you still use Accuphase E-550 to drive the C1's? Given its 30 watts class A output, I'm wondering if it is enough at moderate to loud level. I believe C1's are 4 Ohm and 86 db sensitivity.

I currently have Electra 1008 Be and Pass XA30.5 amp (same as E-550, doubling-down 30 watts class A). I'm thinking of trying out C1's or C1 Sig's.

Hi Kzhtoo, the E-550 has more than enough power to drive the C1s. However, the power specification of the E-550 are very deceiving. The integrated can drive without problems speakers like B&W 802D and Wilson Sophia. Also, I am not the only one experiencing good results with "small" integrated amplifiers driving the C1s. Xti16 too, is using an Octave tube integrated (I believe 70 watts into 8 ohms) with great results. Though, we are among the very few who recommend quality vs. quantity watts for the C1s.

I have no experience with Pass Labs in general, but I've read only good things about the company. Thus, my guess is that you will have no problem driving the C1s with your amp. A word of caution though, the C1s put out a tremendous amount of bass. If your room is not very large they my overwhelm it with bass. The combination of very healthy bass and a bass port situated on the back of the speaker proved fatal for my new room (4.7 x 3.6 x 2.4 meters). Eventually, I have give up on them. I am back with my beloved MicroBes.
I will try to optimize more carefully their position in the room
to tame down their low end. If, however, changing the speaker position will
affect the stereo image (which is currently very very good) I will just use the
foam plugs to control better the low end of the speaker.

I think there are many factors which affect tightness of the bass notes ,starting with amplifier and ending with the source.In my case krell kav500i produces tight bass and bryston bda-1 differenciate bass notes as you mentioned " physical dimensions".In fact when I bought bryston dac,since then I enjoy C1 more then ever and like it better then harbeth shl5.Before that I was contemplating and having and itch to sell all dynaudio stuff too:)
Anyway thanks for sharing your impressions abaut c2mk2.
Hi Paul,
Just pulled the trigger on c1mk2. Should be arriving this week. Hopefully my Pass XA30.5 is able to drive them reasonably well. My room is about 18x25x10, maybe similar to your old room before you moved.

My objective is to eventually get rid of my sub (it's a quality sub but I do not like bookshelves pairing with sub as much as I thought I would). I did spend quite amount of time integrating but in the end it is not for me. I may try smaller faster dual sub (JL f110) down the road again but for now I'm looking for a monitor as close sounding as a floorstander like c1mk2. My dealer said c1mk2 has more bass than thiel 2.4, not sure how much it is true as I never heard them side by side. My audition of c1mk2 was in the dealers' 15x22ish room and they did sound like a floorstander with tremendous bass. This is with speakers a good 4-5 feet from the back wall. And I doubt the demo pair I listened to haven't even broken in yet.
I currently have an interesting mix of speakers - C1 Sig, Focal Utopia BE and Harbeth SHL5. Amps are Cary SLI-80, Arcam AVR-600 and Exposure 2010S2 respectively.

It all sounds good but one set of speakers has to go! Too many speakers!!

I am really wrestling between the Dyn and the Focal. The Focal has the most amazing tweeter as Paul said above. The Dyn has holographic imaging and an expansive soundstage. The SHL5 is staying put.
Hi Michael, all I can say is that I am glad it is not me in your situation.

In the following I will assume that the dimensions of you room are 11 x 12
feet (you have written in the "Focal Utopia Micro BE setup help"). IMO there are
two important factors two consider:

1) Room size. I would say the room is a bit too small for the C1 sig. Even if
they do not put that much bass now, they will after they are broken in.

2) Price difference. If we talk about 1700 (MicroBes) vs. 7000 (C1s), then given
the room size I would go with the MicroBes and a sub. If however, we talk
about 2000 (MicroBe) vs. 4000 (C1s) and the C1s do not overpower your
room, then I would probably go with the C1s.

Thus, depending on the situation I would go either way.

I really have to hear some Harbeth speakers! I heard they pair beautifully with

Keep us posted!
Hello Paul, I posted my comparison in another thread. I did not want to hijack your's even though the subjects were very similar.