The Diva Swans 6.1 Loudspeakers
|The Diva Swans 6.1 Loudspeakers|
|17 December 2001|
3-way, 4-driver system, 4th-order vented alignment
Frequency response: 27Hz-20kHz
Efficiency: 88 dB
Nominal impedance: 8 ohm
Power handling: 20-200 watts
Dimensions (W × D × H): 11.75 × 15.2 × 41.25 in
(298 × 386 × 1048mm)
Weight: 71.5 lbs (32.5kg) each
Shipping weight: 92 lbs (40.9kg) each
I know something special is going on when I sit down play just a single cut or movement from a favorite recording and find myself listening to the entire CD or record. That has been happening regularly with my system of late, ever since the introduction of the Swans Diva 6.1 loudspeakers.
Diva speakers are designed and manufactured by Swans Speaker Systems, Inc., formerly Acoustic Technology International (ATI), of Canada. The name change accompanied the move to Monterey Park, CA from Canada, and they now have their speakers produced by the Hi-Vi Research Company of Mainland China. Hi-Vi is a huge manufacturing company with nearly half a million square feet of manufacturing space. It may be large, but it isn't loose. The quality is some of the best that I've seen.
AV123.com, a fairly new Internet direct marketing firm, distributes the Diva speaker line in the US. Though their name is relatively new, their principals have been in the audio business for many years. Remember Mark Schifter, originally of Audio Alchemy and more recently of Perpetual Technology fame? He is the guiding hand behind AV123.com and is known through out the high-end audio industry as a very fair and honorable person. Audio Alchemy products were always known for their excellent performance at affordable prices. The trend has been perpetuated and the bar raised with the Perpetual Technology products, as well as some of the other fine products offered at AV123.com. If my experience with the Diva 6.1 speakers and the Onix cables are any indication, AV123.com is carrying exceptional products at an exceptionally low price. The Diva 6.1's retail for $1,299, plus shipping and handling, and this their top of the line offering. I don't know how they can do it.
The Diva 6.1's are 3-way speakers. The tweeter is a 1" silk dome unit from Germany that resides in an oval shaped housing atop the speaker in an effort to defeat standing wave reflections. This egg-shaped housing is set back from the plane of the front baffle so that the tweeter is mechanically time-aligned. The midrange is a 6" Kevlar impregnated driver with a bullet dust cap for enhanced dispersion performance. Two 8" alloy coned woofers, ported to the front of the cabinets, complete the driver compliment. I always like it when the port is on the front since that means that I can move the speakers a little closer to the rear-wall when and if necessary. With a front-firing port, you don't have to worry as much about reflections from the rear wall. Swans recommends keeping these speakers about 2 feet from the rear wall. I found that about 30 inches works best in my environment.
The 6.1's are the largest floor standing speakers in the Diva line, but they are graceful and beautiful. According to the specifications they are 41.25 inches high, 11.75 inches wide and 15.2 inches deep. The cabinet sides are not flat; instead they are rounded on the sides and continue their taper towards the rear as they recede. Looking down on them from the top, I'm reminded of the shape of the boat-tailed Dusenberg, a very nice roadster from the 1930's. They are very hefty, weighing in at 71.5 lbs. each, with a packaged shipping weight of 92 lbs. I would not recommend unpacking them alone.
I mentioned earlier that these are beautiful speakers. I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder but consider this: the speakers are constructed with Rosewood a veneer that are perfectly matched. The finish is so polished that you can see your own reflection in it. The end-caps, both top and bottom, are finished in a high gloss piano black and the tweeter's enclosure looks very handsome on the top, with a patterned finish.
The 6.1's come with dual sets of binding posts, to permit biwiring or biamping, but you may choose not to. More on this specific topic later. The binding posts are large and made of solid metal. The post screws are metal also, and large enough that they can be securely tightened by hand. The center post is large, too large for most spades to fit around it, so I put one end of my spade plug through the hole and it tightened down well enough. The holes in the post are large enough to accept most gauges of wire as well. You can use banana plugs with the posts, but because of their non-standard width, don't try to use dual banana plugs.
Back to the binding posts, and the use of jumper cables. With other speakers I've used that have dual binding posts, I have always pulled off the flimsy jumpers and either used bi-wires or after-market jumpers. They just sounded better by offering more transparency, more detail and speed. The Diva's come with really heavy metal jumpers that seem to do the job very well and I have elected to keep them.
Lets talk about the feet. They are made of brass, are very solid and taper to their bottom where they are attached to a pivoting, foam bottomed, brass plate. They are very flexible and will adjust to uneven floors. You can use them on non-carpeted floors without fear for the surface. If you walk the speakers by yourself over carpeted floors, then the foam can work loose and tear. All in all, a minor complaint. They are so substantial that I have left them on and not experimented with other points or feet.
When I listen, I look for a balanced presentation, with none of the frequency ranges calling attention to itself. If there are solos, or loud passages, that's fine. However, when an instrument leaps forward in the music for no apparent reason, it can be due to either a frequency range that is too prominent or another that is too recessed. I also look for midrange clarity. Each instrument should be easily recognizable and followed during most of the performance. If they are muddied or congested, it should be from the recording and not from the speakers. I don't like the over-detailed, etched performances; natural is my goal. Next, I like a deep and wide soundstage, with the performers in their own space on the stage. Over-exaggerated and too wide is not good, of course. Lastly, I look for extension and clarity. The highs should be extended and the notes should linger before fading out. I don't want hyper-detailed highs, just something that sounds natural. Having a little air around the instruments is also important. Bass should be solid and quick, not dull thumps. I'd rather have less bass extension and a better quality to the bass recreated than really deep, muddy bass.
If I have speakers that will do these things, I can listen for hours on end with pleasure, excitement and no fatigue. The Diva 6.1's delivered, but you have to work with them a little to get all of their capability. The manual is written in a relaxed and practical manner making it easy to understand. AV123.com recommends that they be broken-in for about one hundred hours before serious listening. I found that they needed about 200 hours of break-in before they really started to come into their glory.
They struck me as very musical speakers right away. Midrange was very clear and clean. I could hear the timbre and resonance of the instruments. Strings had bite, cymbals had metallic sheen and vocals were well defined and natural. Bass extension was excellent. I had read about clear, deep bass extension for years but had yet to experience it in my room. Now, with the Diva 6.1, I could. I was able to note the timbre of bass instruments, even to the point of being able to identify the rush of air flowing through deep pipes with organ works. Treble was very nice. Not as extended as I was used to, but I could certainly live with the performance. Soundstaging was good, but not as deep or wide as I was used to. I decided to keep the Diva's anyway. Every change is a trade-off, and I was getting a deeper, faster bass and clearer midrange performance than I had before. Did I mention that I was auditioning the Diva's as a consumer?
Now we get into a fun area: speaker cables. I know that many people think that cable differences are just voodoo, but a lot of us hear real, repeatable differences. Differences that bear out under testing. I am firmly convinced that there are differences in cables, and years of experience have not changed my mind.
I was initially auditioning the Diva 6.1's using a double run of Analysis Plus Oval 9 speaker cables which have been well received, but I really wanted to experiment with the Onix Master speaker cable that AV123.com also markets. I decided to try a single 8' run of the Master speaker cable that sells for $495. Not exactly cheap, but not very expensive either when compared to some others out there. For example, my dual run of Analysis Plus speaker cable cost considerably more. Mark Schifter suggests that the Master speaker cable can compare favorably with cables costing over $1,500. Based upon my experience, I believe him.
After break in, the Onix Master cables highs extended, providing more air around the instruments. The soundstage both widened and deepened. Transients got faster and the bass had more snap. I now had everything back that I had felt I had lost when moving from my previous speakers, and more! Before the cable swap, I would have valued the Diva 6.1's at around $3000 or so. With the new cables, I can favorably compare them to speakers that I have heard costing around $5k or more. All this performance with a total outlay of under $2000, for both the speakers and cables! Amazing!
I've heard rumors that with the right amplification and Perpetual Technologies P-1A Digital Correction Engine and P-3A DAC, that the Diva 6.1 loudspeakers can sound remarkably similar to a certain very expensive loudspeaker from B&W. The lure of that kind of performance, as well as being able to upsample my entire CD collection, has me waiting with much anticipation. One of these days I hope to find out.
AV123.com offers a 30-day in-home audition period. The first pair of speakers that I received had a flaw in the finish. After communicating with them, they gave me three options; return the speakers for another pair (since the veneer is matched, you need to return both speakers) at their shipping cost, have a local woodworker fix the finish for a modest cost, or try to repair them myself. I chose the third option, didn't do a great job, and made the flaw worse. They took the speakers back at their shipping cost and sent me a new pair at no additional charge! How's that for service? I found them to be a very honorable company, and I would purchase from them again, gladly.
If you try their gear in your home and don't like it, they will refund your money but you have to foot the return shipping yourself. With a shipping weight of over 90 lbs. each, the Diva 6.1's are an expensive item to return. However, with the superb quality of construction and outstanding sound they delivered for me, I think that it's well worth the risk.
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