Dynaudio Confidence C1 II

Blasting Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control,” (the 12-inch version), I once again forget that the Dynaudio Confidence C1 II speakers are small in stature, because these stand-mount speakers move serious air.  With a claimed LF spec of 45 Hz, they practically defy physics for a speaker this size.  The Burmester 911 mk. 3 amplifier in room two produces 350 watts per channel into four ohms and proves a perfect match for the C1s, which have a sensitivity of 85 dB/1 watt.  Powered thusly, the speakers never run out of headroom, making for an enormous soundstage in my second sound room (13 by 16 feet).

I keep the volume level high as Bowie’s “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” tests the speakers’ ability to deliver a coherent rendition of this dense mix, which combines a deep, driving synth-bass line with dissonant keyboard lines and layer upon layer of sound, while Bowie’s lead vocals remain anchored well out in front of a gigantic ball of sound.  This track is tough for $50,000 floorstanding speakers to handle at this volume, but the C1s ace yet another torture test.  Now it’s time for some Iggy Pop.

While the woofer and tweeter of the C1 look identical to the components used in the floorstanding C4, Michael Manousselis at Dynaudio makes it clear that “the Confidence models all feature the Esotar2 driver platform, but each model has its own unique drivers with optimized parameters.  While very similar overall, each speaker is indeed different.”  The C1 is the perfect speaker for the audiophile wanting extremely high performance in a compact space, but it also carries itself well in a big room:  A visit to Simaudio in Montreal earlier this year reveals the C1s playing in Sim’s main sound room (almost 22 by 30 feet) and filling it nicely, with LF output that had me looking for a subwoofer.

A True Destination Speaker

The C1s are easier to drive than their 85-dB sensitivity spec suggests.  Even the 10-watt per-channel First Watt SIT-2 power amp drives them without trouble.  This is also great news for vacuum-tube lovers.  The C1s are tube friendly, and I must admit to being in sonic heaven when coupling the C1s to the KR Audio Kronzilla dual monoblock tube amplifier.  This 50-watt SET amplifier has incredible bass heft with the delicacy of a 300B amplifier, but that extra 40 watts per channel makes for spectacular dynamic swings impossible to accomplish with a low-power SET.

This is an excellent long-term speaker to build a system around, and it only gets better as you upgrade the rest of your source components.  The C1s deliver good sound with modest amplification and cost-is-no-object components, or anything in between.  Their level of resolution makes it easy to distinguish nuances between five-figure amplifiers, but they still sound fine connected to a vintage Harman/Kardon Citation amplifier.

See-Through Sound

The top hallmarks of a two-way speaker and its associated simplicity are transparency and freedom from driver interaction.  Taking advantage of a gentle, 6dB/octave crossover slope, the C1 achieves a level of coherence reminding me of the Quad 57s sitting here for comparison.

The C1s disappear instantly, painting an enormous wall of sound that belies their size.  Cueing up Patti Smith’s “Space Monkey,” the Farfisa organ pulses in and out of the track, almost breathing in the room as if you can hear the speaker cabinet rocking back and forth about to tip over on stage.  A similar rendition of depth is achieved at the beginning of Thin Lizzy’s “Cowboy Song.”  The harmonica at the beginning of the tune sounds miles in the distance, with Lynott’s voice staying anchored as the lead vocals take center stage and the rest of the song builds.

Putting the pedal down with Genghis Tron’s album Board Up The House proves these speakers can play loud, provided you have enough clean power behind them.  Romping through a playlist heavily populated by Slayer, Mastodon and Van Halen underscores the ability of the C1 to play heavy tracks without overhang or fatigue.  This is a speaker that can keep up with whatever you throw at it.  But the low-level resolution is what makes the C1 so special—this speaker is dynamic in a way that no panel ever could be.  During the first guitar break in Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker,” you can hear the slight hum of Jimmy Page’s amplifier stack right before he goes back to maximum volume.  Twenty minutes rocking out with these and you’ll drop your Magnepans off at the nearest Goodwill on your lunch hour.

The crossover point between woofer and tweeter is 1,800 Hz, but the drivers are so well integrated that there are no anomalies in the critical vocal range.  Male and female vocals are both reproduced with ease.  Johnny Cash’s voice has the right amount of weight and grit to sound convincing, and the C1s equally represent the subtle nuances of the female voice.  Listening to the eponymous album from Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway via 24-bit/192-kHz download is an exquisite experience—the C1s keep both vocalists properly sorted.  And Ella is just heavenly.

Multiple Personalities

While the C1s will perform admirably with small amplifiers, prepare for a completely different experience if you have a large, high-current power amplifier at your disposal.  The character of these speakers changes, now having more reach and control in the last octave.  Concentrating on music with a lot of LF output, I never really felt like these speakers needed augmentation at the low end of the frequency spectrum.  The famous heartbeat that opens Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon rumbles the room with authority.

Even when delivering large-scale orchestral music, the small Dynaudios thoroughly convince, especially with the Simaudio 880M monoblocks that just arrived for review. Again, power goes a long way with these speakers.

Behind (and Beneath) the Grille

The C1s have an interesting shape.  The main enclosure—a slim design only 6 inches wide, 14 inches deep and 15 inches high—is bonded to a front panel extending beyond the enclosure boundaries.  Removing the grille reveals the 6.6-inch woofer mounted just over the 1.1-inch Esotar2 soft-dome tweeter.  Using the speakers sans grill also reveals optimum performance.  The grille does not hamper things much, but the nuanced imaging suffers slightly with the grilles on.  Besides, these speakers look much more like sculpture with the grilles removed, so why leave them on?

My review pair came with the $450-per-pair Stand4 stands, which simply bolt into the bottom of the speaker cabinets.  This removes all the guesswork that can surround selecting the appropriate stand—the provided ones minimize stand interference and provide ideal playback height.  Stylish and massive, the stands work well, though I am informed that Dynaudio will soon replace them with the new Stand6 models, which come with a slight price increase to $500 per pair.  Because of the slim form factor of the speakers, I suggest using the Dynaudio stands and leaving it at that.  They are elegant, they complement the speakers perfectly and they have sufficient mass to do their job properly.

In terms of the speakers’ aesthetic, the standard maple finish just seems more Danish to me (and suits my personal preferences), but standard finishes also includes rosewood, cherry wood and black ash.  Black or white gloss and clear gloss lacquer are also available for an additional $800 per pair.

The Signature version of these speakers, at $8,500 per pair, is slightly more expensive than the standard edition.  With the Signature speakers, upgraded finishes come standard and include two extra choices that are exclusive to the Signature model:  Bird’s-eye maple, stained in either a dark-brown Mocca or dark-red Bordeaux finish with clear-gloss lacquer.  An additional bonus to the Signature model is a 10-year warranty, where the standard version has a 5-year warranty.

The Standard and Signature models share exactly the same drivers and crossover components, so they do sound the same.

I’m Keeping ’Em!

The official listening sessions end as they began, playing heavy music louder than I should.  (i.e. Grinderman’s “Evil” at equally wicked volumes.)  The combination of the C1s and the Burmester 911 is too much fun to keep the volume or choice of music at civil levels.  As I repeatedly push these compact speakers to the edge of their performance envelope, they continue to take everything I can throw at them with ease—so I happily wrote Dynaudio a check for the Confidence C1 IIs, which will be the reference speaker in room two going forward.  Their combination of wide-frequency response, natural tonality and high resolution makes them a perfect fit for a top-quality audio system.

The Dynaudio Confidence C1 II

MSRP:  $7,700 – $8,500 (stands additional)



Analog Source AMG V-12 turntable    Clearaudio Goldfinger
Digital Source dCS Paganini stack    Sooloos Control 15    Aurender S10
Preamplifier Burmester 011
Power Amplifier Burmester 911 mk. 3
Phonostage Simaudio Moon 810LP
Cable Audioquest Sky
Power Audience AR6Tss
Accessories Furutech DeMag and DeStat    Audio Desk Systeme RCM    GIK room treatments