Dynaudio Contour T2.1 Center Speaker Review

Discussion in 'Home Cinema Speakers' started by Beamer, Jul 30, 2002.

  1. Beamer

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    In search of a high-end neutral sounding centre speaker, I was loaned a Dynaudio T2.1 for the weekend by those kind folks at Audio T. This is a short review on my findings

    The T2.1 weighs in at almost 30 pounds and is a rear ported bass reflex design with three drivers. The finish and looks of the beast (22.4" x 8" x 11.8") tends to ooz quality even before it's connected.

    After swapping out my tiny by comparison B&W LCR60 S3 with the T2.1 I set about listening to some music through the Lexicon processor set for Music mode Logic 7. Immediately my ears were met with what seemed to be an amazing improvement in sound. The gritty high end of the LCR60 was gone and the bass was now incredibly smooth. The crossover for the LCR60 had been set-up earlier to 70Hz but since the T2.1 advertised a -3db frequency of 30Hz I brought the crossover down to 30Hz to match.

    Playing the same piece of music confirmed that this speaker was indeed capable of low frequencies, in fact for the first time it seemed like I might have found a centre speaker that matched with my IMF MK4 Professional monitors. The centre speaker simply became part of the wall of sound, melting into to the right and left hand channels.

    My next test was to play some tracks from a record recorded originally on vinyl by Lincoln Majorca, a band that specialised in producing high quality direct cut records, fortunately now available in CD format. This record although quite old is one of my favourites for testing overall frequency response and once again it proved it was still capable of doing the job! After listening to a couple of tracks I concluded that the sound was very smooth but their seemed to be something missing in the mid range. The LCR60 is a very forward sounding speaker but by comparison the T2.1 seemed to be having difficulty letting go of mid range sounding instruments like a triangle.

    Having checked and double-checked all the setting were flat; I decided to move on to testing the T2.1 for film sound reproduction and chose a one hour session of 24 to try and play catch up on passed episodes. Initially the sound seemed great but slowly it became obvious to me that the speaker was adding a bass component to voices that could not possibly be present in the recording and were not in fact present when played through the LCR60. In case my memory was playing tricks I decided to install a changeover switch between the LCR60 and the T2.1 and go back to the Lincoln Majorca CD. Sure enough my suspicions were confirmed when I noted that the bass reproduction on the T2.1 was considerably fuller than the LCR60 and the mid range was having trouble getting out.

    Since this test was at best only a performance guide due to the cross over frequency for each speaker being quite different, I decided to disconnect my right monitor and replace it with the T2.1 and play the CD tracks again. The result was confirmation of my worst fears, I say that because I really do need to make a major upgrade to my centre speaker. The T2.1 was still very smooth but A/B comparison with the IMF monitor confirmed that the sound from the T2.1 was very coloured. The speaker was having difficulty in separating instruments and getting the mid range sounds out of the box, some percussion instruments were even difficult to hear from a distance and the bass seemed to be at least 6db up on where is should be at the low end. Although the speaker backed on to a wall, it was placed in excess of eight inches from the wall and so should have had minimal effect.

    Needles to say I have returned the speaker to Audio T. Since a couple of the guys in the store have shelled out for the T2.1 themselves, they were quite surprised at my findings and have asked that I repeat the tests next week when hopefully I will have received my long awaited Bryston amps. Personally I’m sure the sound will change and perhaps even improve but I will be very surprised if the speaker sounds a great deal different to the two amplifiers that I used to test it.

    It goes without saying that your mileage may vary; room size and furnishing all contribute to the final sound. If you are considering a £1K+ centre speaker give it a try, I will be very interested in other peoples opinions, especially if someone can recommend a centre speaker that has a fairly neutral sound and low frequency response. I do not have a need for magnetic shielding but speaker height is restricted to 11 inches or less.
     
  2. Lowrider

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    May be you should give it a try with the Bryston, Dynaudio is well known to make difficult speakers...

    When I upgraded the front speakers to Sonus Faber EAII, the Rotel 1080, 2x200 watts, (that worked fine with the previous setup, SF Concerto), couldn´t handle them, particularly at louder levels... I bought a Bryston 4B ST, 2x250 watts, and it was like new speakers, even the wife said it was the best upgrade we made so far...
     
  3. Beamer

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    Lowrider: I will let you know hopefully very soon, I have an SST 4B and SST 9B in transit. I agree the speaker is difficult to drive, it is almost as difficult to drive as my IMF monitors!
     
  4. Lowrider

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    I have ST, but got such a good deal... and no complaints, really, but I am very curious about the new SST, did you compare them ?
     
  5. Beamer

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    To my knowledge the dealers do not have SST models yet. I may actually be the first person in Europe to receive them! I have had them on order for a couple of months or more. I cannot make a comparision but I will be happy to share my findings with you and others.
     
  6. Lowrider

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    I am also in search of a high-end neutral sounding centre speaker, not that my SF Solo intrudes in the overall quality of the system, but it is clearly inferior to the "Classic" range speakers I am using elsewhere...

    Sonus Faber is launching a center speaker in the Cremona range, with ScanSpeak Ring Radiator tweeter, I hope that it will be it...
     
  7. Beamer

    Beamer
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    Do you have any additional info on the Sonus Faber addition? or can you point me to their web site?

    What do you think the cost is going to be?
     
  8. Lowrider

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    I heard it will cost about 2.000 euros, and it is in the Cremona range, so I would assume the same tweeter, and maybe two midrange drivers, there will be new satelites as well...

    Look for Sonus Faber Cremona to know about the big brothers...
     
  9. Guest

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    Mmmm

    If you found the T2.1 to be bass heavy and coloured I am not overly surprised. IMHO it is clearly voiced for the AV market and is mighty impressive in that context-probably one of the best out there.

    If you need neutrality may I suggest the mighty Proac CC2, a single Wilson Watt or JM Labs Mini Utopia or Martin Logan Cinema.

    I have been lucky enough to have used all of these and I have to say that the Proac is a bit of a dark horse in my opinion.
     
  10. Lowrider

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    Well, I am picking 2 pairs of Bryston PowerPacs 120 for center and surround, (one spare, but they wouldn´t sell singles), 30% discount, couldn´t argue... :D
     
  11. Lowrider

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    I am amased with Bryston, again... what a difference they make, I might not have to upgrade the center speaker after all... :eek:
     
  12. Guest

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    I understand that you were using the T2.1 with a nasty integrated amp.

    With all due respect the amp was at fault and you should reserve judgement until you have reasonable electronics.

    High end speakers require quality amps and sources otherwise they will expose the electronics for what they are!!

    I still believe that the T2.1 is voiced for cinema rather than accuracy but as an HT centre it is phenominal.

    I look forward to hearing you sing the praises of the Dynaudio when you have decent electronics
     
  13. Beamer

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    Poda: Thanks for the list of recommended centre speakers; I will endeavour to locate a friendly reseller that will allow home demos for some of them. In respect to your comments on tonal balance of the T2.1 for home cinema applications, surely the objective is to reproduce the original sound stage and not to change it! The T2.1 clearly changed the sound in my listening environment by adding bass and reducing mid range. The bass enhancement was not a real problem for me but the lack of mid range was a big negative as it resulted in mid range frequencies coming out of the speaker cabinet rather than being projected out.

    Regarding your comment that the T2.1 is specifically designed for home theatre, what does that mean exactly? I can understand why a woofer might be selected specifically for the LFE channel effects but from my perspective the centre channel should always be as neutral as possible bordering on reduced bass rather than enhanced, after all it is mostly a dialogue channel. In this day and age when the home theatre also doubles up in most cases as the music listening room, speakers need to be designed to cater for both applications. The Lexicon Logic 7 music mode makes extensive use of the centre speaker; the effect of the apparent non-linear frequency response was quite significant.

    With respect to your comment on amplifiers, it is not clear to me who your comments were directed to. For the record, my tests were carried out with two amplifiers, a Yamaha A1 (integrated) and a Sansui BA1000 power amp that has the capability to drive just about any speaker, believe me if it can drive an IMF MK4 it really can drive anything. The dealer has recommended a re-trial when my Bryston amps are delivered, I will take up the offer but I am very sceptical after finding my Sansui results reflecting to a large extent those of the A1.

    Last but not least, my post is not intended in any way to bash the Dynaudio T2.1 it was simply to share my findings and invite others to share their own experience as you have done. At the very least it should be a warning to everyone that the price of a speaker does not necessarily reflect the quality of sound that will be reproduced in his or her own environment! If I could borrow a good quality sound meter, it would be very interesting to graph the response to see if they reflect my subjective findings.
     
  14. Guest

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    Hey Beamer

    I hope my post did not come across the wrong way, I just felt that by posting a review of a product, other forum members may get the wrong impression of what is a fine speaker. I don't mean to offend anyone!

    The problems that you describe are IMO the result of a mismatch with the amplification used. I have heard the T2.1 powered by both Classe and Myriad amps and the results were completely different from your experiences.

    Sitting between a pair of Confidence 5's, the T2.1 produced a well resolved midrange and airy treble whilst offering some of the tightest and most powerful bass I haver heard from a centre speaker. It is however a speaker that requires plenty of current to control it's generous bass.

    Now with regards to my comments about it being voiced for movies, please let me elaborate. Using the centre for multichannel music reproduction, low bass reponse is not IMHO overly important. The centre fill is used primarily for vocal reproduction and therefore neutrality in the midrange is vital.

    I feel that centre speakers with low bass response are only really required if you want it to reproduce the visceral sound effects common to many 5.1 movie soundtracks. Even in these instances I personally prefer to send the signal below say 80hz to the main left and right channels. Indeed Lexicon recommend crossing over at 120hz when using their bass enhance algorithm.

    The T2.1 falls into the AV category IMO, and is a fine example of such a beast. I personally feel that to get good bass reponse at a certain price point, you inevitably compromise the midrange in some way. Just my feelings.

    For what it's worth my favorite centre of all would have to be the Martin Logan Theatre. Physically HUGE, it has very little output below 75hz but wow :D

    You appear to live reasonably close to me so if I can be of any help please do let me know.
     
  15. Lowrider

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    Coda,

    I also used to think music DVDs had mainly voice thru the center channel, unfortunately they don´t, in fact drums are often reproduced there, and when you use DPLII or Logic seven, you also get a mix of instruments there...

    So, my conclusion is opposite to yours, centers for movies get away easy with good reproduction of voices, for music you need full range, at least lots of energy all the way to the crossover frequency...

    There, I think 80hz is ok with movies, for music it is too high, I use 50hz...
     
  16. Guest

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    Lowrider

    I am interested by your response and would agree that the coding on L7 and PL11 can put some serious bass into the centre as they operate on the basic principle that left and right channels being equal means- send it to the centre (sorry I'm not overly technical:blush: )

    I do however prefer to use settings available on both Lexicon and Meridian processors which allows this information to be distributed between the main L & R channels, thereby freeing up the centre to blend and give glorious midrange(If your processor/amp only allows for the bass to be sent to the sub then I would wholeheartedly agree with you!)

    Logic surely suggests that if the L & R summed bass signals give a central image, then giving them back to those channels will produce the same effect, only with less work for the centre speaker,(which is usually less than optimally placed), assuming that your main speakers are of course adequately equipped.

    Meridian's Trifield using a martin Logan Theater, set to cross over at 80Hz, has to be heard to be believed IMHO.
     
  17. Lowrider

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    I never tried Trifield or Logic seven, but they must be not too different from DPLII, even if they may sound better, or not, I am sure there are fans for all those processes...

    I would think they basically "move" to the center channel the info that is equal on right and left, the center of the stage... And that will include whatever instruments are there, many times drums... Of course you can use bass management to relief the center from those duties, but I really think 80db is too high for music, there is so much important info between 50 and 80hz, and not even the best sub can equal the speed of good speakers... This is if the fronts are not large, or they will, too, be strained...

    Then they create the surround channel based on phase differences, etc... probably is where there will be more personal choices, plus all the different controls, I know L7 is quite elaborate, but I heard users saying they never bother using them...

    Actually I didn´t use the center for DPLII, less processing and the center, as usual, is inferior to the fronts, but, today, with the Brystons, I actually enjoyed using it, one more speaker means less strain for the fronts, wich are monitors...

    I am still looking forward to test, buy, the new center from SF, as I mentioned, 3 speakers will have more dynamic range when you use monitors...
     
  18. Beamer

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    Poda: Your post was stimulating and food for thought and did not cause offence;) Seems to me that to get to the bottom of the matter I will have to wait until the Bryston amps arrive and make a re-test but I would still like to check out some of your center speaker recomendations if I can find a dealer that supports home demos. Just out of curiosity which center speaker do you currently use? and how do you get to check out all that kit?

    Regretably my setup does not allow for the size of the Martin Logan as I have an 11 inch height restriction :(

    Lowrider: IMHO DPLII V Logic 7 is not really compareable, try and get a demo and I think you will see what I mean. Some time ago I recall you tried a 7 channel configuration and preferred the original 5 channel effect, what was the decoder that you used for the test?
     
  19. Lowrider

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    I have no problem at all admiting L7 is better than DPLII, believe me, but DPLII is all I have in my TAG AV32R EX, and it didn´t work with 7 speakers as well as it works with 5.1, and I really like the way it works with my setup, even audiophile friends have been amazed...

    Having said that, I still think I will benefit from a center as good as my front speakers, the Dynaudio and the Proac look exactly like what I would need, just hope the SF will be as good...
     
  20. Guest

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    Beamer

    What centre am I using at the moment?

    Nothing!

    I have recently switched to some JM Lab speakers and I will have to be patient in waiting for a centre to come up SH.

    I still have the smaller martin Logan though, which I could use but I don't feel the need right now. the Cinema is fantasticaly neutral through the midrange and I don't think it's too tall for you. Being a dipole however, you may have problems with it only being eight inches from the rear wall.

    As I live in Bucks I could always let you try it but best wait for the brystons;)

    I have previously owned the small and large Proacs, Dynaudio Contour and have loaned from friendly dealers the other units I have mentioned.

    It's a bit of a secret but I still think that, short of the Logans, the large Proac is one of the most natural I have ever heard. check out the dimensions on the website to see if it would fit.

    All this is of course hyperthetical as I am unfamiliar with you IMF monitors and any gross timbral imbalance would nullify any of the above assertions.
     
  21. Lowrider

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    Well, the Cremona center finally arrived... "Too much" for me, huge, 3 way, flashy, expensive...

    So I went and tested the Dynaudio T2.1 and the Proac Response CC2, among others...

    No doubt here, I agree with Coda, the CC2 is very dynamic, transparent... and, most important, matches my Sonus Faber EAII timbre and attack almost perfectly, perhaps a little less body, (that was a surprise, as it is huge), but I did order it, and forgot about the Cremona... :D

    As for the T2.1, it sounds like it is next door, compared with the SFs and the Proac, bass is great, but every thing else is hidden, also it sounds like a different person is speaking, compared with the others...

    So, Beamer, how is your quest... :confused:
     
  22. Beamer

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    Lowrider: It's good to know that my initial findings are similar to yours. A sanity check is always a good thing :)

    My status is that I now have both the Bryston amplifiers in place (SST 4B & SST 9B) and am awaiting the delivery of the Proac CC2 on evaluation. I'm hoping it might be with me for the weekend.

    Following Poda's comments I have not dismissed the Dynaudio T2.1 but since you agree with me that the midrange to high end is subdued, I guess I'm sceptical about the Dynaudio perfomance. It's interesting to note that Dynaudio make the drivers for the Proac!

    I will try to test the two speakers side by side if Audio T can accomodate me with another loan of the T2.1. Poda was right about my amplifiers causing some of the bass problems. With the new amps the bass is much more controlled all round. At first I did not like the effect but after a couple of days of listening, I began to hear instuments that were almost inaudible before the amp change. The problem is that in the midst of all the changes I rewired my IMF monitors internally with some really nice OFC inteconnect wire and that made an incredible difference on its own.

    Thanks for sharing your findings.
     
  23. Lowrider

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    I have to tell you that my tests where done in a friends house, he has the same speakers, but TAG power, wich has less controlled bass and subdued highs, compared to the Brystons, but then all speakers used the same...

    Also, apparently the Dynaudio where brand new, they might improve a bit with use...

    As for beeing hard to drive, the Sonus Faber EAII are the worst I know, and the Proac are also supposed to need good amplification...

    The drivers of the Proac are made by Scanspeak, not Dynaudio...

    I have no doubt that you will also prefer the CC2, just an indication, my friend commented that it was the only center that sounded like "stereo" played in mono... and he tested many...

    Let me know your findings...
     
  24. Beamer

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    Lowrider: Just as I was reading your post I got a call asking me what timber finish I wanted, black, maple or cherry, so the beast will be with me for the weekend. Do you have any opinions on the finishes? Seems the demo unit is either sold or not available so they will supply a brand new one. If I get the finish right and the perfomance is up to expectations, I guess I just have to pay;)

    BTW: It was the Proac dealer that told me that the drivers were made by Dynaudio!

    Actually, testing centre speakers with a mono source is a good way to find out the speakers true capability. I did a similar test with the T2.1

    Did you manage to get any discount on the CC2?
     
  25. dunkyboy

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    Beamer, did you ever consider using a third IMF monitor as centre? Or does the 11" height limitation that prevents you from doing so? (I've never seen/heard of IMF, so don't know how big they are... got a link?) I recently bought myself a third ATC Active 10 to complete my front LCR soundstage and it sounds simply stunning.

    The fact that all three speakers are identical makes it almost impossible to distinguish which speaker a particular sound is coming from, which is just what you want! It was also a lot cheaper than buying the matching ATC C4 centre speaker - a single Active 10 is £635, whereas the C4 is £1200! Furthermore, since the C4's enclosure is a different volume, and has an extra mid/bass driver, the sound would not be as flawlessly matched as with the identical speaker.

    That said, have you ever heard the ATC C4 (Concept 4) Centre? At £1200 it's around your budget, and it is rather spectacular. And ATC is the king of midrange (and, for that matter, neutrality). :) Though, if you've just shelled out big bucks for Bryston amplification, I imagine the thought of an active centre is a bit unappealing just now. :p

    Cheers,

    Dunc
     
  26. Guest

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    Hey guys

    Glad to see you've discovered the joys of the CC2.

    Stewart voiced it to sound really natuaral throughout the midrange and I feel it delivers. Geat match for SF and other quality speakers. I heard a system set up with 5 of them plus two of the soon to released Proac mega-subs and was impressed.

    BTW the cherry finish looks superb IMHO:)
     
  27. Lowrider

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    Dunc,

    Of course you are right, I even had the chance of splitting a pair of used EAII we found at half price, but then I have no room to put it properly, and it is not shielded, so it has to be the CC2... :rolleyes:

    Beamer,

    I choose black, as all my equipment is black, and the center will be on top of the rack...

    I e-mailed Proac, as Stereophile says the tweeter is Seas on the 3.8, (same as CC2), and they confirmed it is Scanspeak...

    Coda,

    Thanks for the great tip... :D
     
  28. Lowrider

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    Beamer,

    Still no Proac, me neither... :rolleyes:
     
  29. Beamer

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    Lowrider

    I have received the CC2 and have been testing it. It is very neutral but I have a question over it's power handling capability. Track 5 (1 minute 14 second) of the Patriot CD causes the drive units to lose control of themselves!! I tested the CC2 wired as the right channel of the SST 4B and played the track at a good level but found the cones clipping quite badly. A good level does not mean deafening loud so I am a little concerned although the neutrality and tonal balance are excellent.

    I may try to contact Proac to discuss the problem
     
  30. Guest

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    Beamer

    A a matter of interest, are you running it as a full range speaker.

    If you are try,crossing over at 80hz. The CC2 has a wonderful midrange but I feel that no dedicated centre speaker should be used full range.

    I seem to remember that I used th CC2 as full range for a time and did not experience anything like what you describe.

    However if you insist on asking 2 five inch drive units to handle large bass transients at highish levels, the laws of physics dictate that a very large cone excursion will be required, which would most likely compromise midrange accuracy.

    If you are using it set to small, then you may well need to run it in prior to launching the fireworks!(Proacs can take months to run in properly).

    This speaker, correctly run in and set up, has no problem with power handling. I had it running in tandem with a pair of Proac 3.8s at very high levels powered by the fearsome Theta Dreadnaught and never did it sound stressed.
     

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