Trading Dynaudio Contour s5.4's for ???

I have a pair of Dynaudio Contour s5.4 that aren't working out for me. While I love the clear, liquid highs, I find the midrange (especially lower mids) very weak. Vocals are always a little too recessed for my taste and instruments like piano, sax, guitar sound too thin to my ears.

I've tried different amps (own Bryston, Simaudio Moon W5, Mark Levinson 431) and I'm guessing the speaker is just too analytical for me.

A while back I tried Revel Performa F50's and thought they were decent (although low end wasn't as articulate as I'd like) and very recently tried Dali Helicon 400/800. I'm wondering if anyone can suggest something that's close to Dynaudio's but perhaps just a tad warmer.


Two things, the Dynaudios are pretty much the warm side, you may have a room problem like Direct sound being canceling by reflective sound.

Also it would be out of character for the Dyn's to be thin in the midbass.

What is the rest of your system? and what kind of room conditions exist, size, furnishings, treaments etc.

Are you using any power stuff or exotic cables?

All would be necessary to help you diagnose the situation.
I've never heard the Dynaudio's described as warm... even at the dealer, while it didn't strike me as thin, I never found it warm.

Anyway, when I tried the Helicon 400's in the same room, they sounded completely opposite.. very warm, but almost too warm, the high end was very muted.

I have a big wide room and the speakers aren't anywhere near the corners. They're also not that far into the room (they're only 2 feet from front wall).

The room is carpeted. A plush large sectional couch (material, not leather) on rear wall.

I use a Theta Casanova as a pre-amp (it's a long story).

Speaker cable is MIT Terminator 2. Interconnects between preamp and amp aren't anything special (Bryston), but they're balanced.

For source I use a Classe CD player (as a transport only). I also feed the Theta with a PC running iTunes for casual listening (all songs using Apple's lossless encoding).

Something like this:
Silverline uses Dynaudio drivers in many of their speakers, but they sound more musical/less exacting than the Dynaudio speakers, which I also find to be too analytical. They reproduce beautifully, but to my ear they have no warmth at all.
Good luck,
Madfloyd - Before changing speakers, I would focus on the room. Good dynaudios like yours have very meaty mids but room acoustics are very crucial. What is your room like? Have lots of space around the speakers, nothing in between them? Have you dealt with sidewall reflections? Windows around? (not good) ALso - Ive found a tube preamp is a MUST with dyns. What preamp are you using? A SS preamp with your bryston would not be optimal for the dyns.
I have the 5.4's and I wouldn't decribe them as thin. I only got them from here actually, a few weeks ago, and they're a lot warmer than the Special 25's they're replacing. I also have the little Contour SR's, and they're a little warmer still (with a Velodyne DD15 sub). The treble is nicer, smoother more detailed on the 5.4. Better than the S25 even though its the same tweeter. In fact the treble is nicer on the SR's than the S25's in my room, and the SR's have the lesser tweeter.

I have no problem with the 5.4's midrange. The S25's were definitely too forward for me.

For your interest, I'm using the BelCanto eVo2i and Arcam FMJCD33.
Hey Ian,

1st off, remove the MIT cables from the system, get some cheap $1ft speaker cables because you now have direct experience with how the MIT's can mess with a good speaker system. Your DALI experience also reflects how disasterous these cables can be with quality speaker systems. That is step one.

Another easy to check item is to make sure that your L & R distances are set the same on the Casanova, having them set to different distances (even .5ft) can greatly effect the sound for two channel playback. Creating strange phenomena like you have experienced with the DALI's and Dyn's.

Address these two issues first than we can look into room issues. I have direct experience with the symptoms you describe and they were fixed by addressing the two issues above.

Once these two variables have been removed, we can look at room interaction.
The speakers are in a large, irregular room. Front wall is about 22 feet wide. Room is 18 feet deep on one side, the other side extends into a 24 foot long kitchen. On one side of the front wall is a hallway leading to another room.

Room is carpeted. Speakers are about 12 feet apart. Between them is a small stand with a 50" plasma. In the one side of the rear of the room (where it doesn't open up to the kitchen) is a sectional couch (material, not leather).

The only thing in the way of sound is a wood coffee table (I know, far from ideal).

Anyhow, I don't think sidewall reflections are coming into play since the speakers are not close to any, and while I can see deep bass being affected by room nodes, I don't think the room is really coming into play when it comes to midbass or lower midrange. Other speakers in the same position (Revel Performa F50's, Dali Helicon 400's) had plenty.

But hey, I'm open to trying anything.

I owned Dynaudio 3.3's (the predecessor to your speaker) and ran them in the same room as my Vienna Acoustics Mahlers. In comparison, the Mahlers are warmer and meatier in the mids. Both speakers are open and transparent in the mids and highs. Each Mahler has two 7" midrange drivers (the same 7" ScanSpeak carbon-fiber midrange drivers used in the Wilson Maxx II) and two ported 10" woofers -- they have prodigious midbass and must be used in a large room, away from the walls, so as not to sound boomy. They also must be used with solid-state amps featuring bipolar output transistors (like your Bryston, Sim and Levinson) and stiff power supplies in order to control the two 10" woofers in each speaker, the impedence dropping to below 3 Ohms at various points under 100 Hz. I had best luck with Rowland Model 6 monoblocks (a supurb combo). Sumiko, the U.S. distributor, has used Kimber Monacle speaker cables to demo Mahlers, and I had best luck with Kimber Select (either 3033 or 3038), the Kimber cable geometry working very well to control the woofers (reviewer Anthony Cordesman confirmed this in his review of the Mahlers for Audio, available at Sumiko's website).

The Stereophile and Audio reviews of the Mahlers available on Sumiko's website ( are both accurate in my experience and do a good job of describing the Mahler's strengths and weaknesses. In many ways, I prefer the Mahlers over the Revel Salons I use in my main system. Like the big Sonus Fabers, they have an inviting warmth that gives life and body to stringed instruments. They also have enormous slam and dynamic range, and beautiful cabinets.
Cinematic Systems: Thanks for your suggestion regarding the cables. I'll experiment with this.

Raquel: Much thanks for your post. I'll investigate the Mahlers.
Madfloyd - What preamp are you using? Before giving up on the dyns make sure you try a good tube preamp with your Bryston.
Preamp is a Theta Casanova, fed digital SPDIF from CD player (and for casual listening, computer running iTunes).

Are there any tube preamps that accept digital signals (i.e. have good DACs in them)?
One speaker that comes to mind is Sonus Faber Cremona. I am a Sonus Faber fan and own many of their products, Cremona is definitely on the warm side and too warm for my taste even, so I gave them to my parents. Amati Homage strikes a better balance to my ears, but you might find it too thin if you think Dynaudio is thin sounding.

Traditional Dynaudio is warm and full sounding, but not the newer line, so people should not assume based on their dated experience in this case. One of the older Dynaudio that combines warmth, detail, and speed all in one is Confidence 5. They don't play that loud, don't go very deep, and requires a million watt to sound right, but its a very fine sounding speaker and one of my all time favorite.
I have auditioned the Dyn's with Sim's W5 amp and could call their sound somewhat analytical but wouldn't call it thin. What strikes me as kind of strange is how you describe the sound of the Dali Helicon's in comparison to the Dyn's. I own a pair of 800's and went from SS(Sim Gear) to Tube amps to make them sound a bit warmer. I've owned a pair of Dynaudio 1.3SE's before I bought the Dali's and they sounded actually warmer than the Dali's. Did you audition the Dali speakers in your listening room? I am a little confused over your statements.
There are no tube pres that I know of that have a built-in DAC. Given the design ethos of most tube-oriented companies, building in a DAC is as likely as Yasser Arafat returning from the grave and converting to Judaism. Some may offer separate tubed DACs, but to integrate them would seem to deviate from the sonic purity they strive to achieve.

I like the idea of you trying some other cable options and perhaps a good tube pre in the mix before trading the speakers. I've heard them driven by that limited edition Musical Fidelity tube gear and they were beautifully rich and warm. I've also heard them with solid state Musical Fidelity and they sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard. My sense is that they're very dependant on the signal you're feeding them, but not a weak link.
Try Totem Mani 2's instead of the Dynaudio's. I did some back to back listening tests when shopping a while back. The totem's were amazing at bringing a three dimensional sound stage, very forward and engaging midrage (I like this). Top end was very airy. The mani's also had some amazing slam in the bass region.

Although totem uses Dynaudio woofers (with some tweaks of their own), they employ a metal dome tweater from Seas. For me, I never took a liking to the Dynaudio tweeters. The Dynaudio woofers can be outstanding when implemented properly as Totem has shown.

All together the Mani2's were on a completely different level when compared to the Dynaudio's. I agree with you in that they seemed analytical and thin. Somehow, Totem, when matched with great amplification, can bring music listening to an "emotional" experience. Completely engaging speaker.

Which Dynaudio's did you listen too?
Monitor Audio PL300's.

I seriously considered the 5.4's, looked at the Dali's as well, in fact I listened to everything I could including Totem Wind's, Harbeth M40.1's and Spendor SP100's.....ended up buying and loving the MA PL300's.

If you can get a chance for an audition I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

I wonder if the room could be adjusted a bit?Good luck,bob