Songs Faber Olympica I vs Dynaudio Contour 20 - My Review
I'm in the market for a stand-mounted speaker to be used in a fairly small 13'x17' room. These days there are not many dealers around where you can actually compare 2 speakers with good equipment and proper setup. Fortunately, I'm not too far from Quintessence Audio in Morton Grove, IL. The owner, Mick, for many years has specialized in very good gear including Audio Research, Simaudio, Atoll, Air Tight, Berkeley Audio Design and many others.
In my price range, Mick suggested listening to the Dynaudio Contour 20, a brand new speaker updating the older 1.4 Contour model and the more expensive Sonus Faber Olympica I, which has been out for several years. I spent about 30 minutes with each of these speakers hooked-up to the same Simaudio separates (amp, preamp and Cd player - not sure of the model). Both sets of speakers were setup using laser lights and tape measures to ensure proper spacing distance to the listener and toe-in angle.
I brought in 2 CD's - Rachael Yamagata's Happenstance (Acoustic version) and Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, neither audiophile recordings, but both decently recorded.
My listening started with the Dynaudios. My first impression, maybe the truest impression of all, were that the Contour 20 was a very neutral speaker, very transparent and detailed, but a bit cool and dry in the bass. I do not really like describing the sound of loudspeakers in obsessive detail because I'm much more concerned about whether the speaker immerses me in the music and makes me feel happy, sad, energized or whatever the music is trying to convey. On the Contour 20, the backgrounds were "black," there was lots of fine musical detail rendered clearly, the frequency response was very good for a monitor-sized speaker (it really dug low on the bass drum on Yamagata's "Paper Doll"), but I was left more impressed with the sound than immersed in the music. I thought the Contour 20 checked off a lot of boxes (electrostatic-like clarity, detail, wide frequency response), but did not check-off my most important box - the ability to create a lifelike impression of the music that draws me into the performance.
Mick and his assistant then hooked-up the Olympica I speakers, using the Sonus Faber stands designed for the speaker which angle the speaker backwards slightly for better time alignment. These speakers are bi-wirable, but were hooked up using the supplied jumpers with the same Kubala-Sosna speaker cable. My first impression on seeing them was mixed; they were smaller than the Dynaudios, sporting only a 5.5" or 6" woofer, but beautifully finished with walnut panels and leather surfaces. Very nice, but I thought they might sound weak next to the Contour 20's. I need not have worried. Out of these speakers flowed beautiful sound, definitely warmer and more "present" than the Dynaudios with sound very coherent . Rachel Yamagata's awesome voice sounded "there" as if she was in the room. The acoustic guitar throughout the album was dynamic and warm, sounding like the real thing. The bass on "Paper Doll" did not dig as deep though, but was present. The bottom line - I just enjoyed listening to the SF speakers and became more involved in the songs being played.
I am not trying, in any way, to diminish the sound of the very accomplished Contour 20s. It is an excellent speaker that does outperform the Olympicas in frequency response and does play louder without breaking-up. It may be more detailed. A musician who works at Quintessence prefers the Contour 20 over the Olympica I. My opinion is just that - MY opinion and nothing more. But I do think the Sonus Faber speakers really bring music to life in a very warm and present fashion. For me, this is the most important factor. I'm really looking forward to putting these in my system and enjoying music through these beauties!