Product Review - Dynaudio Contour 1.3 Mk II Bookshelf Speakers - June, 2002 Arvind Kohli
The 1.3 Mk II is the second iteration of that model and a step up from the 1.1
previously reviewed. The 1.3 Mk II has a significantly larger enclosure than the 1.1,
and features their box-in-box construction that was not offered in the
original 1.3 either. I will explain the box-in-box construction in detail
further below. The 1.3 Mk II also offers a newer version of the D260 used in
the original version. The new tweeter is said to be 1.5 dB more efficient, has
lower distortion and has a damped rear chamber. The damped rear chamber is
critical for soft dome tweeters, as it prevents the backwaves of the driver from
bouncing off the insides and coming through the fabric, out of phase with the
original signal, potentially resulting in a smeared sound. The reflected sound
waves can also constructively or destructively interfere as a function of
frequency, so that a damped rear chamber can smooth out the frequency
[Editor: The size of the voice coil may benefit power handling and dynamic range,
but we don't know about increasing bass response. If it makes more bass, that
would be an efficiency issue, which isn't a function of the coil size so much
as the inductance. If it increases extension, that would be a function of the
cone mass, suspension, and box size, not the coil size. The only way to become
more current hungry is to lower the impedance, regardless of whether they
reflect that in printed specifications.]
My listening room is 16’ by 16’ by 8’. I also experimented with the distances
from the rear walls from as little as 6” to as much as 5’. Dynaudio suggests
that the supplied foam plugs are really optional at any distance greater than
1.2”. I found a distance of 3’ to 5’ to be ideal. With lesser distances (i.e.,
less than 12”) I found too much reinforcement at high volumes, although this
was not very noticeable at low volumes. Without giving away too much of the
conclusion, I must mention here that if you are looking to buy these speakers,
you will want to play them loudly (Ferraris are not purchased to follow speed
limits either.) So be prepared to accommodate a distance of 3’ to 5’ from the
The box-in-box construction is quite an amazing design. It starts with two MDF
boards glued to form a 1.25” front baffle (compared to 0.75” for the model 1.1)
to which two concentric five-sided boxes are fastened. There is a 1/8” inch gap
between the boxes, and this is filled with a gel that damps energy transmission.
The total thickness of the two boxes and the gel is 7/8”. The tweeter is in a
self-enclosed chamber that is rear-damped. The woofer is actually fastened to
the outer box. Effectively, this provides a front baffle equal to the 11.5”
depth of the cabinet. You can imagine the rigidity this provides the tweeter
and woofer, resulting in an environment suitable for pinpoint imaging.
Furthermore, the interior of the cabinet is cross-braced to add rigidity and
reduce cabinet resonance.
The trick with shallow crossovers is to keep the overlapping signals in phase
and time-coherent. This is considered to be a primary goal in the design of
all Dynaudio speakers, and a Phase Correction Circuit that runs in parallel to
the drivers (i.e., not in the signal path) ensures this is done. This circuit
is also said to greatly reduce back-EMF.
The most important listening tests in this review were the direct comparisons
to the Contour 1.1 and also the Triangle Titus XS. Listening tests were done
with the volume calibrated at 60 dB and 80 dB pink noise level as measured at
the listening position. Here is what I heard.
All three speakers handled the dynamic peaks with excellence. The Titus
sounded more lively at the lower volume setting, but the Dynaudios came out
ahead at the higher volume level. Particularly, the 1.3 Mk II delivered the
peaks with complete ease and naturalness, making the crackle in the singer’s
voice very evident and convincing.
The 1.1 needed help from a sub to fill in that last bit of extension, and then
phase matching issues crept in. The bass response on the Titus was
significantly loose and lacking extension in comparison to both Dynaudios.
But, the speed of the light paper woofer on the Titus did deliver better
transients, and especially at the lower listening level the Titus was very
enjoyable. This is a good example of the trade-offs found in different
approaches to speaker design.
Since the instruments were not recorded close-up, the double bass is not
overemphasized. Only the 1.3 MkII could do a convincing reproduction of the
instrument, making it easily identifiable even in the busiest passages. Again,
I could not only hear, but also feel the impact. The 1.1 made me strain a bit
to hear the bass, which reduced the sense of realism and ease. The Titus
seemed to put out almost as much depth as the 1.1, but without the tightness
and definition. The Titus gave the clarinet a very fat, smooth, and pleasing
sound. I wonder if this could be due to the generation of relatively more
second order harmonics.
The 1.3 Mk II again had the deepest and steadiest soundstage, and seemed to etch
out a little more detail on the mechanics of the piano and clarinet.
Additionally, the 1.3 MkII delivered an awesome soundstage that I did not expect or realize existed in some of these recordings till now. My single impression was that it is absolutely glorious at high volumes, far beyond what I have been able to express in the passages above. The only negative would be that it seemed to be a little shy at low volumes, especially when compared to the Titus or its own magic at higher levels. And in some cases the speed of the Titus added that extra bit of realism that the Dynaudios did not yield. I did not have any trouble driving the speakers to very loud levels with any of the three amplifiers (listed below). The NAD 317 did not exploit the full potential of these speakers, and my favorite match was with the Sim Audio I-5. But, I would not hesitate to use any of these amps in this setup.
- Arvind Kohli -