Hardware Reviews

Dynaudio Special Forty

special 40 main

Getting the best out of loudspeakers is as much about finding an amplifier that works as anything else. It’s a nuisance that you can’t match amps and speakers by looking at the specs, all they really tell you is approximately how much power is needed, but the crux of a really good combination has little to do with that. I re-learned this lesson when I first installed this standmount, a medium size two-way built to celebrate Dynaudio’s 40th anniversary last year. This looks like a typical Dynaudio but costs a little more than most models with a six and a half inch mid/bass driver, and it comes in a rather nicer box with a high gloss birch finish in grey or red lacquer. 

Its sensitivity is given as 86dB which is lower than average especially when you take the six Ohm load into account, so it should be partnered with a reasonably powerful amplifier. But putting it onto the end of my ATC P2, a 150 Watt power amp with vice like grip, resulted in a bass heavy balance that while it had plenty of physical presence and power didn’t really have enough get up and go. Even with a half metre gap between speaker and rear wall the bass was overpowering, which is not normally a problem in my room. The Special Forty does have a large reflex port in the back but so do other speakers such as the Q-Acoustics Concept 500 that works so well with this amp in this room.


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Something needed to be tried, so I hooked up a Naim Uniti Nova integrated amp and streamer that I will get round to writing about soon, this proved a much better match all round, its 80 Watt amp has just the right balance of power and agility to bring out the best in the Dynaudio. Voice on a Captain Beefheart track stood out really well and drums were strong and er, drum tastic for want of a better term, but then the drummer in the Magic Band was called Drumbo (John French). The speaker delivering an intensely delicious sound with a piquancy that’s rare, there’s still plenty of bass if you put on a modern recording that’s rich in the stuff but it doesn’t threaten to overwhelm the mid and treble. Which is a good thing because that’s where all the detail comes from. 

The Special Forty isn’t the fastest two-way on the block, possibly because of the impressive bass extension, but it can conjure up a full scale image with any recording that has acoustic space on it. I found this to be the case with John Martyn’s ‘Head and Heart’ (BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert) where the thrap of his guitar strings had lots of power while his voice was full of warmth. Putting on something zippier in the form of Lee Morgan’s ‘Sidewinder’ there is no shortage of pace and a chunky double bass to balance out the sizzle of the ride cymbal that accompanies the fabulous horn playing, the trumpet standing out in the room and sounding very solid and real. Then the sax comes in and creates an equally visceral presence, especially if you play at the sort of levels that help suspend the disbelief. Blue Note surely knew how to capture music back in the sixties.




I do like bass so decided to see how well the Special Forty would cope with the deep but timely low end on Leftfield’s ‘Inspection (Check One)’, this turned out to be a very good idea and resulted in some excessively coherent and entertaining sounds emerging from what seem like rather small cabinets for the depth of bass produced. In fact it proved impossible to sit still while it was playing, always a sign of a good system in my book. Going over to more sophisticated material with Bach’s Goldberg Variationsplayed by Angela Hewitt I was struck by the subtlety of the playing. Her style is usually a little too restrained for my tastes but here it was possible to appreciate why she is held in such high regard, I doubt that there are many who play with more delicacy.




Having had so much success with the Naim I thought I’d see if a lower powered (and far more affordable) amp would work by hooking up the Rega Brio. This was not such a happy partnership, the little integrated doesn’t have enough power or finesse to work with this fairly current hungry and revealing loudspeaker. My next choice proved rather better, the Leema Tucana II has a lot more muscle on tap, but not in the same style as the ATC, and this worked at least as well as the Naim, probably a little better. It brought out the true extent of the Special Forty’s transparency by delivering new layers in each piece of music and projecting a full scale room enveloping sound with certain pieces of music. Radiohead’s ‘Decks Dark’ being one of them, this had power and depth to die for and made me want to carry on listening to the whole of A Moon Shaped Pool.I continued to find nuances and character in everything played, flitting from Herbie Hancock’s ‘Maiden Voyage’ to Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Spanish Castle Magic’ and hearing a huge gulf in playing and production styles in the process.


special forty front rear


The Special Forty is clearly a very capable speaker when partnered with the right source and amplification, largely because its constituent parts are highly refined examples of Dynaudio’s engineering skills. These include the Esotar Forty tweeter, a variation of the Esotar2 which was their best high frequency driver prior to this year’s Esotar3 seen in the new Confidence range. The Esotar Forty follows an approach seen in a number of high end drivers today where attention is given to the rearward radiation of the driver, here a pressure conduit (hole) allows more space behind the dome and damps the air movement to allow cleaner high frequencies. The mid/bass or woofer has a one-piece cone and dustcap made of magnesium silicate polymer that sits in a chassis designed for maximum ease of airflow again. Unusually it has a magnet system that sits inside the voice coil for optimum flux where it matters, and Dynaudio use a combination of neodymium and ferrite magnets to achieve controlled power. It’s a very well thought out design that’s for sure something that’s clearly reflected in the performance and naturally the price, this may look like a simple two-way albeit a very nicely finished one, but in reality it’s an extremely sophisticated and revealing loudspeaker. 


Type: 2-way, reflex loaded, standmount loudspeaker
Sensitivity: 86dB (2.83V/1m)
Impedance nominal: 6 Ohms
Frequency range: 41Hz – 23kHz
Box principle: Bass reflex rear ported
Crossover: 2-way
Mid/bass driver: 170mm MSP cone
Tweeter: 28mm soft dome
Dimensions (W x H x D): 198 x 360 x 307mm
Weight: 8.1kg
Finishes: Grey Birch/Black, Red Birch/Black

Price when tested:
Manufacturer Details:




standmount loudspeaker


Jason Kennedy

Distributor Details:

Dynaudio UK
T +44 (0)1638 742 427

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