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Dynaudio Confidence C4 Speaker Review

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Dynaudio C4 Floorstanding Speaker ReviewDynaudio, a Danish company that has been building high-end audiophile loudspeaker systems for over thirty years, also manufactures speakers for both the professional and automotive markets. Per Michael Manousselis, Director of Sales & Marketing of Dynaudio USA, the company began supplying its Dynaudio drivers to the OEM and DIY markets after the commercial success of one of its first complete loudspeaker system. For the past several years, Dynaudio’s top-end Evidence series has drawn multiple accolades. This is a storied and exalted group of speakers that consistently scores near the top of every speaker category imaginable. In 2009, Dynaudio released a new statement product: the Consequence Ultimate Edition, which I heard at the 2009 Rocky Mountain Audio fest and immediately coveted, so I asked about getting a Dynaudio to review. My wish was granted, and this is a review of the Dynaudio Confidence C4, which sits at the top of the “Confidence” series of speakers, a series which is right below the “Evidence” series.

At the outset, I want to thank Dynaudio in allowing me to keep the Confidence C4 for several months. This is essential when you are reviewing and comparing speakers that are clearly among the best available. You are often comparing nuances, or determining whether you like a set of speakers for one genre of music but not for others. Dynaudio exhibited more patience with me than I could ever hope for, but I suspect that they knew that I’d really like these speakers.

The Physical Parts and Specifications

Dynaudio uses some of its proven advanced driver designs in the C4, such as the highly regarded Esotar2 tweeters. The cone drivers incorporate Dynaudio’s Magnesium Silicate Polymer Cone diaphragms. The first-order crossover has a gentle 6dB roll-offs and the C4’s frequency response is a very real 27Hz to 25kHz +/–3dB, with an impedance of 4 ohms and sensitivity at 88dB SPL at 2.83V/1m. The C4’s narrow, but tall and deep, enclosure (narrower at the top and bottom) has a very attractive finish and is available in a number of real wood veneer finishes.

The C4’s specifications are impressive, too. Does the musical result sound as good as the specs look? Read on…

Placement and Power

Moving big full-range loudspeakers can test your strength and your back, but the Confidence C4s were very easy to walk into position on the plinths’ edges. Compared to my B&W 800D (275 lbs each), they were easy to move to get the best placement. Once properly situated, you can lower built-in spikes by turning four hex-head screws located in the plinths’ corners. I loved this design touch, since installing and removing spikes can be a big pain with massive speakers. In the case of the C4s, you simply screw them down from the top to elevate and level the speaker.

My experience was that you really need to spend some time to find the proper placement for these speakers. The position I use for my 800Ds, namely thirteen feet of separation with extensive toe-in, produced okay but not great sound. The C4s had a great and tight center image, but little spread to the sides. Perversely enough, I eventually determined that a closer separation of only eight to nine feet with only a minimum of toe-in actually expanded the soundstage.

I did not have much difficulty in positioning for bass performance, though I suspect that in most rooms you will need to pay much more attention to this factor. The C4’s rear ports output substantial pressure, which usually demands careful setup. I was able to place the Confidence C4s well away from the front wall at four to five feet, but this may not be possible in some rooms. Experimentation showed that 2 to 2 ½ feet was needed to get the full benefit of the bass in my room. Experience has taught me not to slough off the effort needed to get the bass right, and this is true with the Confidence C4s. If you put in the effort, you will be rewarded with outstanding bass.

If you’re considering speakers with the sensitivity shown in the specs, make sure you have enough power/current to make them sing. I had no problem with this, but then I’ve never encountered problems driving anything with my 600/1200/2400 wpc Electrocompaniet Nemo monoblocks. In fact, I’d say that the Nemo/Confidence C4 pairing was just as synergistic as with my 800D, albeit in a different way. They produced outstanding deep, fast and full-bodied bass and incredibly holistic musical presentation, all without missing any details. I did not have any other high-end amps on hand to pair with the Confidence C4s, but I am of the opinion that the Pass Labs XA amps, Parasound JC-1s and Manley Neo-Classic 500 would also be good matches.

The Individual Musical Parts

Though this was also my first impression, extended listening confirmed that the Esotar tweeters produced a top-end that is among the sweetest and satisfying that I’ve encountered. Cymbals, triangles, bells, piccolos and anything else whose frequency flirts with the upper limits of human hearing were extended, but never screechy or fatiguing. Delicate treble notes were a special joy to experience in that they had a roundness and poignancy that was addicting.

The midrange was very neutral, with voices sounding appropriately breathy, chesty, growling or pure-toned, depending on what the recording called for. When I say “neutral”, I mean that the midrange is neither warm nor lean. Rather, it reflected the performer’s abilities and/or the quality of the recording. I was able to reproduce the heartbreaking delivery of well-recorded Pavarotti solos, but the Confidence C4 would not mask a flat and emotionless vocal performance.

From the upper bass down to the bottom, the bass depth, definition, tonality, power and kick were first-rate. The speakers were not only able to resolve the individual nuances of double bass, synthesizers and electric bass at both very low and high power – they could also place them as performers on a wide soundstage. This ability to properly soundstage even very low frequencies is a rare quality. I was impressed enough by my subjective impressions of the bass extension that I pulled out some test discs and determined that in my room the Confidence C4 reproduced tones down to 33Hz without any measurable rolloff; actually, it might be down to 31Hz – I measured a slight rolloff at just above 31 and at 32, so I’m being conservative. Even notes below 33Hz did not subjectively sound like they rolled off more than 1 dB down to 29Hz, and I could still discern bass down to 25Hz. Impressive.

The Sum of the Musical Parts Creates One Incredibly Seamless Whole

Power, depth and extension aside, the dominant characteristic of the Dynaudio Confidence C4 was the seductively holistic reproduction of everything I played. Even on lifeless recordings, the Dynaudio loudspeakers communicated the whole. Individual parts were clearly discernible, but seemed to be discernible primarily to allow the listener to understand their relationship to the whole.

It may sound unrelated, but after much listening, one reason the presentation always seemed holistic may be that once properly positioned, the C4s had a very wide soundstage that nonetheless did not distract the listener. It wasn’t necessarily wider than other great speakers, but it was as wide as the best I’ve heard without calling undue attention to itself. Sometimes wide soundstages can actually detract from the presentation, making it feel as though the music is disjointed, losing focus and creating unnaturally large images of the performers. However, as my experiments with the C4’s placement showed, once I found the best position for the widest soundstage, the lateral spread did not detract from image accuracy or focus. Performers were “right-sized”. The vocalists didn’t have 3-foot wide heads and the standup bass was not 10 feet tall.

The Confidence C4’s combination of right-sized performers and precise performer placement on a wide soundstage complemented the accurate tonal presentation and proper relative performer volumes in a way that placed a real orchestra/band/combo in front of you.

Perhaps another reason I liked the Dynaudio Confidence C4’s overall sound so much was their musical perspective, which is clearly mid-concert hall. I must say that I prefer such locations when I go to a concert, and I seek out seating for those positions. In the case of the Dynaudio Confidence C4, performers could be heard well behind as well as slightly in front of the loudspeaker plane, making me feel as though I was in the 15th row in the sweet spot of Chicago Symphony Hall. Moreover, this didn’t at all detract from the experience of playing loud rock or blues. In both those cases, you felt that you were up near the stage, but still hearing instruments with separation. Blasting the music at jet-engine levels did not push the rockers (or orchestra) into my face or overwhelm me to the point that I lost details or placement. The original broad and deep, but appropriately separated, performance stage image remained rock-solid. I never experienced unreasonable fatigue playing loud rock, and I have yet to meet anyone who isn’t at least a bit fatigued after a 2-hour rock concert at ear-splitting levels; and for you dedicated classical music fans, the word “fatigue” never came to mind when playing even the most aggressive orchestral pieces.

Sometimes individual characteristics can cause you to become enamored with speakers you haven’t heard before. That’s never “true love”. A great treble or bass may grab you at the beginning, but True Love’s most important characteristic is that you’re still in love 20 years later and anything you don’t like is immaterial. That’s the kind of feeling you could develop for the Confidence C4.

Dynaudio Confidence C4 vs. B&W 800D

If at the time I was looking for a large floorstander, B&W had not yet introduced the diamond tweeter, I would have continued auditioning other speakers, and the Confidence C4 would likely have been one of my top options. As it turned out, I got a good deal on one of the earliest N800’s with the diamond tweeter, which made the 800D very competitive with the C4.

Interestingly enough, the Confidence C4 and the Nautilus 800D are more similar in sound than I expected. In fact, they were more similar than they were different. In general, I had assumed that the Confidence C4 would sound more sparse and defined, and a bit “thin” when compared to the 800D. This turned out to be true in some ways, but not in all. The really deep bass of the C4 was tauter and more defined, as well as a bit deeper than the 800D. In fact, it struck me that deep bass in most live venues would not be as taut as it is in the C4, but the tautness actually appears to help it sound properly defined in most listeners’ obviously imperfect listening rooms. This thought led me to some experiments that replaced my workout for two days. I actually started lugging the Confidence C4s and associated equipment into different rooms to see how they would interact. I know – I’m insane. As expected, each room affected the sound of the C4s differently, but the interesting thing was that, after proper positioning, the bass performance had less variance than with other speakers that I had tested in this way, with the possible exception of the Coincident Total Victory IV. This was also contrary to my expectations, which generally were that rear-firing ports were always very persnickety. I never really had that problem with the C4s.

The 800D was not as tight in the deep bass, but the midbass was more prominent, with more “overhang”. Frankly, I don’t regard this as a bad thing, and I’ve felt that there are speakers which sacrifice musical body for the holy grail of bass definition. The bass of the 800D felt more prominent because of this feature, even when the bass of the Confidence C4 was actually digging deeper. This has different effects with different musical genres. Where bass is important, the 800D seemed more skewed to the side of the spectrum that better represents rock and pop, while the Confidence C4 was a bit more skewed to the side of the spectrum that better represents orchestral music. If anything, it made me want to have multiple sets of speakers!

The Dynaudio Confidence C4 and my B&W Nautilus 800D are both very dynamic, revealing, and extended speakers. The Nautilus’ midrange seems a bit sweeter, but the C4’s upper end is slightly sweeter than that of the 800D. The B&W tends to project a closer soundstage – row 10. On the other hand, the Dynaudio Confidence C4 gives you a crystal-clear, mid-hall rendering of the music with greater transparency. In fact, when playing soloists or small combos, the C4’s transparency is not unlike that of top notch monitors.

Conclusion

There are rooms that are too small for the Dynaudio Confidence C4 speakers, but if you have space to give them at least two feet from the back wall and are patient in the setup, you will be enthralled with its wide yet well-defined soundstage, its monitor-like transparency, sweet top-end without grain, and superior, deep, controlled bass. The combination of these factors results in enviable musicality that any audiophile will appreciate.

It’s hard to imagine that this is not the top-of-the-line Dynaudio offering. Perhaps I can check out the Evidence Temptation or Master, or even the new Consequence Ultimate edition…

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