Over a lifetime of audio shows, I’ve consistently enjoyed Dynaudio speaker demonstrations. Each time, I’ve told Dynaudio North America’s Michael Manousselis that I’d love to review the speaker on display that year. But I never followed through. So, when Jim Austin suggested I review a Dynaudio speaker “because they haven’t gotten much press,” it resonated with my deep-seated guilt. A little research revealed that the last Dynaudio speaker Stereophile reviewed was the 40 Special in November 2018. The last floorstander was the Dynaudio Sapphire in 2009!
When I set about selecting a floor-standing speaker that fits my room in a price range that fits my pocketbook, I stumbled on Jason Victor Serinus’s report from Munich 2019, to which a reader responded, “Does anyone know how the Confidence 30’s are being received in the real world? Seems like very little fanfare.” I did a web search and found some high praise in Europe but no US reviews. Let’s fix that.
The Confidence 30 (C30) is the smallest floorstander in Dynaudio’s top-of-the-line Confidence series of loudspeakers, all of which share the same woofers, midrange, and tweeter drivers. The Confidence 50 adds a second midrange driver to the array; the top-of-the-line Confidence 60 sports larger woofers. There are differences in the crossover points to accommodate variations in the woofers, and the 30 is tuned with a slight bass boost, but given the similarities in drivers, they’re likely to share a certain sound.
The C30s are slim and clean in appearance, yet they do not look like most other towers, which—let’s face it—can look boring. The C30 has a unique baffle fixed to the front like a gladiator’s shield. All the drivers are mounted compliantly to this baffle, formed with “precise angles, curves, and edges” into a “Dynaudio Directivity Control” (or DDC) Lens; more on this below. One consequence of the DDC Lens, which is new with this generation of Confidence loudspeakers, is that it permits the C30 to employ just one tweeter, in contrast to the tweeter pairs in previous versions, and for simplified crossover design.
The DDC Lens’s development is partly a result of the use during the loudspeaker’s development of Dynaudio’s Jupiter System. Equipped with 31 microphones along its 180° arc, Jupiter is a huge, cranelike device that can scan around even the largest loudspeaker and measure its spatial output.1 Dynaudio says that Jupiter was important in designing the cabinet shape, optimizing the design of the bottom-vented port, and tuning the crossover because the speed of its measurements permitted deeper explorations of the behavior of C30 prototypes.
All the drivers in the Confidence series have neodymium magnet motors. The Esotar3 soft-dome tweeter is the latest in a famous line; it benefits from the improved air flow, an enlarged rear chamber, and the Hexis, a small inner dome said to control resonances and smooth frequency response. Both the midrange and woofers have diaphragms of magnesium silicate polymer (MSP), and the midrange has a new surround, called Horizon, that effectively extends the operational surface of the diaphragm and reduces its first resonant mode. All drivers are integrated into the contours of the DDC panel so that it functions as a waveguide to control their focus and dispersion. The Esotar3 tweeter is embedded at roughly ear height: 42. The Smoke High Gloss finish is both seamless and flawless.
The only external features (apart from the DDC speaker panel) are a single pair of WBT NextGen terminal posts at the very bottom rear edge—neither bi-wiring nor bi-amping is possible—and the large floor plate with four adjustable outrigger posts (or spikes). The bass-reflex port is on the bottom, venting in the gap between the cabinet and the floor plate.
Delivery and setup
Due to the double constraints of the COVID pandemic and my recent wrist fracture, I had to rely entirely on the kindness of Dynaudio (in the persons of masked men Mick Tillman and Anthony Chiarella) to unpack and set up the Confidence 30s. We considered using the available carpet spikes, but the speakers were secure enough in their stance that spikes were deemed unnecessary.
I hooked the Confidence 30s up to the Benchmark amps and sat back to gather first impressions. The first moments of sound from a new set of speakers are fraught with expectation. Knowing Dynaudio, I thought they would be smooth and undistorted—and they were. But I was surprised by how different they sounded from the speakers I was used to.
At first, I felt that the Confidence 30s seemed a little dull. I removed the grilles, but that made no significant difference. Then I moved the speakers around: back, forward, closer together, farther apart. I changed the toe-in. This took place over the course of weeks. I listened to a lot of music in the process of arriving at what seemed just right. When I decided that all was well, the speakers were farther away from me, a bit farther apart from each other, and with slightly less toe-in such that the axes crossed about a foot behind my head. I settled down to life with the Confidence 30s.
Despite that first impression before I started tweaking the setup, the Confidence 30 is not dull.
Reproduced by the C30s, the introductory piano chords at the beginning of a fascinating transcription for piano, violin, and cello (in this case played by the members of Trio Karénine) from Liszt’s Vallée d’Obermann (the sixth piece of Suisse, Book One of the Années de pèlerinage) were firm and present. Liszt himself created this piece some 30 years after the original and called it, aptly, Tristia (Mirare MIR554, CD). After the two string players join, the three are presented just behind the Confidence 30s and across the width of my room, not unnaturally separated but clearly distributed from left to right (cello, piano, violin) just as three real instruments would be at that distance. This track is from an admirable and interesting disc, La Nuit transfigurée, which also features the title piece by Schoenberg in Steuermann’s transcription for string trio, and also a discovery: Kirchner’s trio transcription of Robert Schumann’s Six Studies in Canonic Form (originally for pedal piano). I found this whole album, as presented by the Confidence 30s, to be notably personal communication.
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