One of the questions readers often ask is how I choose what to review. My answers vary: What’s new that readers might be interested in? What products are creating buzz in the audiophile community? What looks promising in terms of sound? Over the years, I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on what products will ultimately lead to reviews -- positive or negative or somewhere in between -- that lots of folks will want to read, and that knowledge informs my decisions. A Dynaudio speaker is always a good bet for review, and the reasons are as clear as day.
Some companies can be counted on, and Dynaudio is one of them. This Danish manufacturer produces high-performing loudspeakers in a wide range of prices, and has a devoted following built up through years of success. From examining acoustical measurements, both our own and those of other magazines, I know that Dynaudio speakers are technically excellent, as they should be -- the company is one of the few speaker manufacturers to have its own anechoic chamber. They also make all their own drivers. Also, I’ve rarely heard a Dynaudio speaker, at an audio show or elsewhere, sound anything less than very good, and more often than not it sounds better than that. All of this is to say that I felt that Dynaudio’s Confidence C2 Signature ($15,000 USD per pair) would be a good candidate for a review: something that would be likely to perform well, and that readers would thus be interested in.
Confidence, C2, and Signature
The Confidence C2 was first introduced in 2002. The current, "basic" C2 was fine-tuned last summer and is now the C2 II ($13,500/pr.). The subject of this review, however, is the Confidence C2 Signature, which includes a few specially selected veneer upgrades over the C2 II’s standard finishes: high-gloss Mocca and Bordeaux. The cabinet is made of MDF, and the speaker vents to the rear via a single port of flared plastic not quite midway up its rear panel.
The driver complement of the two-way C2 Signature comprises pairs of tweeters and woofers. The tweeter is the newest version of Dynaudio’s 28mm, neodymium-magnet-driven, soft-dome Esotar2, whose fabric now has a new coating said to produce smoother response than the earlier version. The Esotar2s are housed in an aluminum subbaffle that’s mounted flush with the baffle proper, and crossed over at 2200Hz to the two 6.7" midrange-woofers, one above and one below the tweeters. These midrange-woofers have aluminum voice coils wound on Kapton formers and cones made of magnesium-silicate polymer, and are supported by die-cast aluminum frames. Of course, all of these drivers are made by Dynaudio, as has always been the case with this company’s speakers. All four drivers are mounted on an offset baffle painted flat black, and claimed to be made of multiple layers of MDF and to decouple the drivers from the main body of the cabinet. The chamfers at the edges of this baffle are intended to reduce cabinet diffraction, a design detail that helps ensure a clean wave launch from the drivers. The decoupling technique is an attempt to reduce the overall cabinet resonances that can ensue when a driver transfers its energy to the panels of the enclosure.
Great drivers can’t do much without a great crossover. Dynaudio has improved the quality of components used in the C2 Signature, which now include ceramic resistors and air-core coils. The internal wiring has been upgraded, though no details were provided as to precisely what those improvements are. The audiophile who ponies up for the Signature edition gets more than just a nicer finish: applied to the Signature models is a doubling of the warranty period, from five to ten years -- not inconsequential, given the $15,000 investment. Finally, on the rear panel just below the port, an aluminum plate bears the silk-screened signature of Dynaudio’s owner and founder, Wilfried Ehrenholz.
Among the Confidence C2 Signature’s claimed specifications are a frequency response of 28Hz-25kHz, +/- 3dB; a sensitivity of 87dB; and the ability to handle 300W of power -- it should be able to play quite loud. Its electrical impedance of 4 ohms should be factored in when choosing an amplifier. The 88-pound C2 Signature measures 61"H x 9.4"W x 17.5"D, though the speaker’s base sprawls to 16.5" wide for lateral stability. In that base are countersunk metal inserts that accept spikes for coupling the speaker to your floor, and directly above the base are a single pair of insulated, gold-plated, five-way binding posts. A few words about the cabinet: At 88 pounds, the C2 Sig is hardly chintzy, but it also wasn’t the most inert, solid-feeling design I’ve rapped my knuckles on -- you won’t mistake it for a speaker from Rockport Technologies. The C2 Sig seemed a bit hollow and thin-walled in comparison to the more massive speakers I’ve auditioned. How much does this matter, sonically? Hard to say.
Confidence C2 frequency response in Jeff Fritz's Music Vault listening room.
One important design detail of the C2 Signature is what Dynaudio calls its Dynaudio Directivity Control (DCC). You’ll notice the symmetrical driver layout; although doubling-up the drivers does, as you’d imagine, aid in power handling and absolute output-level capability, another benefit of this arrangement is that the floor and ceiling bounce created by these drivers’ outputs is reduced by as much as a claimed 75%. What this means in practical terms is that the C2 Sig’s output will interact less with the floor and ceiling, which should result in a smoother frequency response at the listening position, and thus a more neutral tonal balance. Kudos to Dynaudio for using their acoustical knowhow to make speakers designed to reproduce sound with high fidelity to the original recorded event, as opposed to a tailored house sound.
That’s the nuts’n’bolts of the Confidence C2 Signature. Time to listen.
First impressions were strong. The Dynaudio Confidence C2 Signatures did a credible job of "disappearing" in my room from the get-go. Singers were centrally located, perhaps just a touch behind the plane described by the speakers’ front baffles. Alison Krauss’s voice sounded neutral in "Gravity," from her Lonely Runs Both Ways (16/44.1 AIFF, Rounder). I found singers to be, in general, more intelligible than the norm through the C2 Sigs, whose clarity was a notch above that of most speakers I review and/or hear at shows. This was partially due to the C2’s neutrality and clear-as-day midrange, but I think it had just as much to do with what was going on in the treble and upper bass.
"North Dakota," from Lyle Lovett’s Live in Texas (16/44.1, MCA), had a strong midbass presence that, though tight and full, didn’t at all intrude on midrange clarity. This is quite a feat for a two-way speaker to pull off. There’s no question that having dedicated midrange and bass drivers gives a three-way design a tremendous advantage in this area, but the C2 Sig gave a fine showing despite being a two-way. Its full midbass did make the speaker sound a touch warm overall when a recording contained a lot of midbass energy. That warmth, however, stayed put down low, where it could be fully appreciated, instead of making its presence known where it wasn’t wanted: in the range of human voices.
The acoustic bass was reproduced with good articulation. Kristy’s version of the 1944 standard "It Could Happen to You," from her My Romance (16/44.1 AIFF, Alma), never mushed together or got sloppy. The bass line that dominates this track was always articulate, and energized my room enough to sound credible in terms of size. In this song, Kristy’s voice pops out of the mix in a very prominent way. The C2 Signatures reproduced this aspect of the recording just right. Now Kristy wasn’t behind the speakers but right up front, close and life-size, which is just how I’ve heard this track sound through the better speakers I’ve had here in the Music Vault. The accompanying acoustic piano also remained clear and tonally pure.
Despite the C2 Signature’s two tweeters doing a job normally handled by a single unit, that didn’t mean that the treble stuck out of the mix at all. In fact, the sonic coherence displayed by the C2 Sig was another of its definite strengths -- I don’t think anyone will find the sound of these speakers disjointed or muddled. Nor did they ever sound bright or harsh, unless the recording itself leaned heavily in that direction. Therein lay an area in which taste will come into play. Although I never found the C2 Sig lacking in extension in any obvious way, its fabric-dome Esotar2s didn’t do air and ambience the way the best beryllium tweeters do. To be fair, some listeners feel that the latter can provide too much of a good thing, and find those ultra-hard-domed tweeters too detailed. (As long as they’re implemented correctly, I’ve found them to sound just right.) But based on its performance I can’t deny the fact that the Dynaudio Esotar2 is one of the finest tweeters in the business, and the pair of them in each C2 Sig sounded meaty and tonally dense -- stringed instruments sounded especially good. OK, soap box: It amazes me that some companies are, after many years, just coming back around to soft-dome tweeters, as if they’re a new discovery. Dynaudio’s Esotar has been in production for some two decades and just keeps getting better.
"Low," from Jonas Hellborg’s The Silent Life (16/44.1 AIFF, Day Eight Music), is one of the best tests for low-bass depth, power, and articulation. If a speaker can get this track right, I generally find that it can do justice to most any bass-laden music. The entire track is one long solo on electric bass guitar. The Dynaudio played lower than you’d think possible for a two-way speaker with only a pair of 6.7" drivers that must also reproduce the midrange. I found that the C2 Sigs could energize my room with an amount of bass power substantial enough that I doubt many listeners would feel they needed to augment it with a subwoofer. Still, the C2 Sigs couldn’t quite deliver "Norbu," from Bruno Coulais’s music for the film Himalaya (16/44.1 AIFF, Virgin), with the power and authority of the largest floorstanders I’ve had in the Music Vault. No surprise there. In my room, the C2 Sigs sounded powerful down to the low-30Hz area -- plenty low enough for most people and most music.
Sonus Faber vs. Dynaudio
In April of this year I reviewed the Sonus Faber Amati Futura loudspeaker ($36,000/pair), which costs well more than twice the price of the Dynaudio Confidence C2 Signature. I compare them here because, of all the speakers that have visited the Music Vault this year, these most closely resemble each other in terms of sound. The Sonus Faber is more luxuriously built and more seductively styled. It’s also a four-driver, three-way design. The Amati Futura sounds slightly bigger than the C2 Signature, with bass that goes just a smidge deeper. The soundstage thrown by the Sonus Fabers is a bit more wall-meltingly expansive, which conveys slightly more of the original acoustic environment captured in live recordings. That extra $21,000 definitely buys you more.
However -- and this is a big however -- the Confidence C2 Signature more than held its own in a number of areas. First, the C2 Sig was just as neutral and clear in the midrange as the Sonus Fabers. If you listen to tons of vocal music, I don’t know that you’ll hear that much of a difference between the two models. The Dynaudio could reproduce the textures in male voices just as well as the Amatis. In terms of midbass punch, there was no doubt that the Danish speaker was easily a match for the Italian. In fact, this is one area where the C2 Sig, with some music, pulled ahead of the Amati. The Dynaudio’s propulsive midbass fit Bon Jovi and Rage Against the Machine better than what I remember from my evaluation of the Sonus Faber.
But the Confidence C2 Signature really shone in the highs. I can say with, um, confidence that the C2 Sig seemed to have more energy in the highs than the Amati Futura, but not at the cost of harshness, grain, or long-term listening fatigue. Whereas the Sonus Faber leans toward the softer side of the ledger, the Dynaudio was more neutral up top, which gave it a more exciting sound, especially with rock.
This comparison makes the Confidence C2 Signature seem somewhat of a bargain in comparison with the Sonus Faber Amati Futura. It is.
Dynaudio’s Confidence C2 Signature occupies an interesting place in the high-end marketplace. It’s not inexpensive at $15,000/pair, though it can be considered a bargain in the context of such expensive speakers as the Sonus Faber Amati Futura. However, some competitors out there, such as PSB and Paradigm, make speakers at lower prices that seem to offer even more value for the dollar. In that sense, the C2 Sig is a hard speaker to pigeonhole.
But as I said at the outset, it is a Dynaudio, and that means something. The Danish firm has long been a pioneer in the loudspeaker industry -- the Esotar tweeter alone, in all its iterations, has seen to that -- and its followers are legion. My listening experience of it in the Music Vault revealed not one thing that would tarnish that reputation. I expect that the Confidence C2 Signature will please many, and none more than the audiophile who has dreamed of owning a special-edition speaker from a legendary company. The Confidence C2 Signature is a fine example of exactly that.
. . . Jeff Fritz
- Amplifiers -- Anthem Statement M1 (monoblocks)
- Preamplifier -- Ayre Acoustics KX-R
- Sources -- Apple MacBook running OS X Snow Leopard, iTunes, Amarra 2.4.1; dCS Debussy DAC
- Cables -- AudioQuest WEL Signature speaker cables and interconnects, Nordost Valhalla speaker cables and interconnects
Dynaudio Confidence C2 Signature Loudspeakers
Price: $15,000 USD per pair.
Warranty: Ten years parts and labor.
Phone: +45 86-52-34-11
Fax: +45 86-52-31-16
Dynaudio North America
1140 Tower Lane
Bensenville, IL 60106
Phone: (630) 238-4200
Fax: (630) 238-0112