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  • Omar

Dynaudio Special 40: Very special indeed

Updated: Nov 20, 2020

Sitting here listening to my beautiful new Danish speakers while stroking my distinguished Movember moustache. judiciously, I wondered to myself, have you guys ever asked someone what their favourite song is and they reply that they don’t really like music?

No? Yes?

Well I have. Being the polite boy that I was raised, I've always answered with the same phony sense of understanding following with a veneered smile. While I'm agreeing enigmatically on the outside, inside I am actually thinking “WHO DOESNT LIKE MUSIC?!?!”.

Music is bloody fantastic.

Sure I might be biased since I’m a huge audiophile and I have been playing the piano for about 13 years but even old boy Plato agrees with me, and who can argue with Plato?

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.”

As my 6 year old self would say, “I win!”.

Rather than getting in to a philosophical diatribe about the difference between audiophiles and casual music listeners, I’m going to go somewhat off-piste here and really simplify things.

There really isn’t that much of a difference between the two groups. Both groups of people have the same predisposition to love music, and that is what this is all about.

This whole hi-fi thing is about taking something you love and pushing as far as you possibly can to make the experience of it that much more exceptional. Where the difference between the two groups of listeners comes in, is how discerning you are but this also has an upper limit.

For example there are people who say they can absolutely tell the sonic difference between one £2,000 cableand another £2,000 cable. This - according to my research and testing - is a crock of shit. The difference is barely noticeable on an oscilloscope let alone distinguishable by the human ear. However, the introduction of high end power cables does make a significant difference!

Like I said previously, the endeavour here for me has always been to obtain the best way to experience the music that I love without hitting the ceiling of diminishing returns. So I guess that makes me a music first audiophile? (Absolute blatant John Darko rip-off ).

Now with the rising popularity of hi-fi and sonic enjoyment in general, it seems that you are no longer ridiculed for wearing big headphones or spending obscene amounts on an amplifier. Taking your sound quality seriously is now regarded as cool! Swings and roundabouts eh?

Taken with Nikon Z6 edited on Snap Seed

However, hi-fi has always been an ‘older mans hobby’. I have thought about why this may be but I’ve yet to really put my finger on it.

Perhaps it may be because of how cost prohibitive it can get? Or maybe its because us millennials value convenience and privacy, hence AirPods? These are of course educated guesses but I doubt are correct.

In any case, thank God this is changing and I noticed the change myself. After collaborating with Denon on an episode helping beginners get in to Vinyl I was shocked at how many people my age messaged, filled with wonder and determination to get their first turntable! This admittedly filled me with joy, especially for their poor ear drums that had until then been subjected to such gruesome torture!

But I digress. Even though I don’t have any grey hairs on my head I have been lucky enough to be able to own some pretty fantastic equipment from brands like Denon, Marantz, Project, Definitive Technologies, Bowers and Wilkins and Kef. All the kit I just labelled above are pretty respectable and if you’re starting from ground zero, you really can’t go wrong with any of them.

I have also had the chance to demo quite a bit of - frankly - insane gear. Think £70,000 speakers and £25,000 amplifiers.

However, that being said and done, there is one memory that I hold on to very dearly.

When I was 12 years old, my uncle had just purchased a Mercedes SL, and as you did back then, he decided to rip out the factory stereo and replace it with something more valuable than his child:a brand new Dynaudio car stereo. I remember going on drives for hours listening to him natter about how amazing the new stereo was, and boy oh boy was it amazing.

Years have since passed, but with this memory ingrained in my mind, and now a fully cognitive and liquid adult, I have joined the Dynaudio cult with the procurement of the Dynaudio Special 40 speakers.

Taken with Nikon Z6 edited on Snap Seed

Now chaps, I want to make this very clear. I mentioned earlier that this could get cost prohibitive and here’s the reason.

Spending big money on the speakers isn’t enough. Once you dish out on the speakers you need to swallow hard and reach deep in to that wallet again for the amplifier.

And then of course you gotta have those £400 speaker stands too.

Maybe a bamboo Quadraspire hifi rack? £600 please.

Ever heard the phrase a chain is only as strong as its weakest link? That has never been more relevant than in a hi-fi set up. To a seasoned audiophile (or a high earning professional) you may not even bat an eye lid at these prices, but here’s the thing throw another zero at the end of those prices and you can then understand how truly lavish and excessive things can get in the hi-fi world.

But here’s the thing. For me and the requirements for my room, I don’t need that extra extravagance. These Dynaudio speakers are the best sounding speakers I have ever heard because not only have they been paired with the perfect complimentary componentry, but they are the perfect size for my room.

I don’t mean physical size (although that does play a part) but I mean the size of the sound it generates. It is easy to overwhelm a room with sound as is just as easy to not have enough sound to fill a room. In my case, these bookshelf style speakers are the perfect size for my room which means I don't need big floor standing speakers! I would highly recommend you guys to take your room in to consideration when buying new speakers, the acoustics of your room plays a huge part in how good it’ll sound. Sometimes, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better my friends!

Taken with Nikon Z6 edited on Snap Seed

Back to our original topic: these Dynaudio Special 40 speakers that I’m completely in love with.

(Damn it I really need to stop flailing around from sub topic to sub topic… it’s even making me dizzy!)

Dynaudio created these speakers for their 40th Anniversary. Their planwas to unreservedly make these the best sounding speakers in their class which saw their designers and engineers combine decades of knowledge together. The result was the Special 40 created as a limited edition run in perhaps the most beautiful (non-danish) bright red wood veneer.

It was such a resounding success for the Danish brand they decided to make the Special 40 a mainstay in their range and have since received rave reviews. And deservedly so. They retail for around £2,500 (with the stands they are closer to £3,000) which, in the grand scale of hi-fi, isn’t really that expensive.

In fact I can take it a step further.

I have heard the Bowers and Wilkins 805 D3 which are £5000. To my ear, the Special 40’s provide me with a significantly more immersive and pleasing sound. This is quite a grand statement to make, but one that needs to be acknowledged. In my book, if the Special 40’s can out perform a pair of speakers double the price that makes these extraordinarily good value for money. As I have hammered home in the podcast, value for money doesn’t mean cheap, it means the total pleasure and usage you derive from the object in relation to it price. If you buy a £100 shirt and use it once its value is very low as opposed to a £300 shirt used 10 times.

Before talking specifically about how they sound I want to talk about something that for me is just as important as the sound: the visuals.

When it comes to hi-fi we really do listen with our eyes. Don’t believe me? Well try it yourself.

Go to the room with your “set-up” and make a good old mess. Have your speaker cables aimlessly snaking across the room with no care for cable management. Stack your amp and separates indiscriminately in the corner, and throw in two beige boxes carelessly in front of you for good measure. Now sit down to enjoy your system.

By the way, I didn’t pluck that picture from my imagination. This is a set up I have seen in a friend’s house. Granted it sounded great, but bloody hell did the visual offer a huge detraction from the overall experience.

Having everything arranged thoughtfully - your peripherals stacked sensibly in a beautiful rack, the speakers on either side perched on striking stands with discreet cable management - makes everything better.

Dynaudio have truly out done themselves with the design of the Special 40’s while still maintaining their quintessentially Danish routes. Pictures simply do not do it justice.

I went for the beautiful Ebony Wave, which is breathtakingly exquisite and almost has a fractal characteristic. I seem to get lost in the veneer whenever I stare for too long; that’s a warning they should put on the box!

This “wood” is essentially around 144 layers of compressed hard wood that has then been sliced and finished with a veneer that’s hand lacquered with numerous coats to produce a lustre that I can only compare to high end furniture or a car like a Bentley or a Rolls Royce. It is something you can truly be proud of displaying in your living room and I know I definitely am.

“What do they sound like?!” I hear you bellowing at your computer screen.

Fucking unreal.

Be serious Omar. I believe the more accurate description would be balanced - continuing to stroke my Movember moustache.

I am running these speakers off a Moon by Sim Audio Ace amplifier, Project Classic Evo Turntable, Kimber Kable 4pr cables and am also streaming my music from Tidal. Good God!

Taken with Nikon Z6 edited on Snap Seed

Have any of you guys seen Ratatouille? If you have, you know that scene where Anton Ego tries the ratatouille at the end of the movie and is instantly transported to his childhood? That was me.

Listening to these are like listening to your favourite tracks for the first time. This is due primarily to the signature Dynaudio sound. This is something I had read a lot about but didn’t really understand, especially where the term ‘holographic sound’ is mentioned time and time again.

Firstly, these speakers sound HUGE! They create an unwavering wall of sound in front of you. If you haven’t experienced a wide soundstage I warn you, this experience is quite jarring. However, they go a step further, not only do they create this immense soundstage but it managed to create a 3D soundstage (a reference to the holographic sound) where the singer may be right in front of you, the drummer in the far left and the guitarist just to the right.

Taken with Nikon Z6 edited on Snap Seed

An example I can provide is listening to Water Under Bridges (rubato version) – by Gregory Porter. I closed my eyes and was immediately shown an audio-visual of the grand piano in the far right corner, facing away from me with its lid half open. Gregory’s vocals start, and as I sit back further into my chair, he is there, dead centre but the distance between him and the piano is greater than I had ever heard before. The amount of detail being translated perplexed me but yet it wasn’t overwhelming. Typically at these volumes I would find the high sections of Porters vocals to be a tad shrill, but the warmth that these speakers are able to add to the song without making it veiled or muddy is truly a work of art.

I then listened to Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd, yes the entire album. Pink Floyd’s mastering really shone here. It was like watching a movie. I think at one point the music became so intense as the speakers pushed the music so close to me that I started to physically sweat!

These speakers really have very respectable bass response. It is there when you want it but is never artificial. Just like the mids, it is sweet, smooth, spacious and deep. Would I ever advise not go for a subwoofer? No. But if you’ve maxed out your budget this with set up then you won’t miss one. Dynaudio, have legitimately created an engineering marvel where they have managed to get a preposterous amount of rich bass out of such a small cabinet. The answer? It's probably something related to black magic or some other nefarious dark arts.

I have fallen in such deep love with these speakers that I was inspired to write this blog post, after immersing myself in them after a difficult day. That is what I want for each and every person reading this article: to surround yourself with people and possessions that inspire you in one way or another. Life is too short to do things in half measures. We have one life so let's live it to its fullest!

What’s next for me in my hi-fi journey? Well I have been very interested in the way active speaker systems work, in particular the Dynaudio Xeo/Focus series. I have also heard great things about Triangle Audio and am enamoured by the Theta! Perhaps that will be my next destination? Only curiosity will tell.

Stay curious.

Edited by Emma Cheung (@ettc88, @hachi.ettc)

37,197 views14 comments


Dec 07, 2020

What a cool speaker review. Please do the Triangle speakers next!


Nov 22, 2020

Nice post, really easy to read and im glad I started reading. A quick question, is there a set of speakers under £1000 you would recommend?


Nov 20, 2020

Great post, after listening to your podcast on a beginners hifi system I ended up going for the Denon PMA amp and turntable and haven't regretted it once!


Nov 19, 2020

During the first lockdown I was looking at getting a pair of Bowers and Wilkins speakers but never really got around to it. Love the look of these Dynaudio speakers and will be shifting my attention there. Nice one mate


Nov 19, 2020

this is what I love about The Curiosity Project, you are always exploring random things but putting a really interesting spin on it!

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