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Product Review - Diva Swans 4.1 Speakers and Perpetual Technologies Speaker Correction Software for the P-1A Digital Correction Engine - May, 2001



John E. Johnson, Jr.


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Specifications:

Drivers: One 1 " Silk Dome Tweeter, Two Metal-Cone 5 1/4" Mid/Woofers; 2-Way, Fourth Order, Ported

MFR: 38 Hz - 20 kHz 3 dB 

Nominal Impedance: 4 Ohms

Efficiency: 88 dB/w/m

Size: 37 " H  x 9" W x 13" D

Weight: 44 Pounds Each

Finish: Rosewood Veneer

MSRP: $699/Pair


Diva by Swans, http://www.av123.com  

Introduction

Slowly but surely, more and more hi-fi products are being sold direct to consumer on the web, i.e., no dealers. It saves manufacturers a lot of hassle, and consumers a lot of money. You won't believe what you will get with the Diva by Swans speakers, for $699/pair. These babies have an externally mounted silk dome tweeter in its own rocket-shaped enclosure that minimizes rear wave distortion, two metal cone mid/woofers, and real rosewood veneer (on all four sides, including the rear). And, they sound very, very good too, which is the most important feature.

As I mentioned, the tweeter is in its own enclosure. The photo below illustrates its shape. Notice that the enclosure tapers to a point at the rear. This minimizes rear wave coloration of the sound. This type of tweeter enclosure is popular on other, much more expensive speakers. Notice also the high gloss black top plate. Below the tweeter, on the front of the enclosure, you can see one of the metal coned mid/woofers. The cone appears to have a polymer coating on it, which I assume is for the purpose of eliminating ringing (metal cones act like bells). A 4" tapered port is below the second woofer.

On the rear of the enclosure are two sets of very large gold plated speaker binding posts, for bi-amping or bi-wiring. Their size and fine knurling make them very easy to tighten or loosen for using spades or bare wire, and of course, banana plugs (see photo above). These are the easiest-to-use binding posts I have ever seen (I have large hands and like large knobs).

Even the feet on the 4.1s are gold plated (photo below)! They screw into heavy sockets on the bottom of the enclosures, and have rubber discs on the bottom so they won't scratch wooden floors.

One of the main reasons I was so excited about getting a pair of these new speakers for review, is that Perpetual Technologies had programmed the speaker correction software for them, to be used in their P-1A Digital Correction Engine. All speakers have not only variations in output at various frequencies (frequency response), but also, they have phase shift, especially at the crossover frequencies. Phase shift means that the waveform is delayed in varying amounts (measured in degrees) from where it should have been, in time. Near crossover points, phase shift can be as much as 900. Because real sounds have a fundamental frequency and lots of harmonics, phase shift results in the fundamental and some of the harmonics not being aligned properly. The P-1A speaker correction software flattens the frequency response, and eliminates the phase shift. How Perpetual Technologies accomplishes this is, of course, proprietary, but in my review of the P-1A, I suggested one way it might be done.

The Listening

The 4.1s have a 4 Ohm nominal impedance, so a high quality amplifier is necessary. In this case, I used our Balanced Audio Technology VK-5i preamplifier and VK-75SE power amplifier. The P-1A fed a P-3A DAC via balanced XLR. The transport was an Audio Alchemy. Cables were Nordost.

Below is a photo of the P-1A and P-3A settings that I used. The P-1A is on the left. The lights indicate the XLR input (top green light) and speaker correction activated (bottom green light). The P-3A on the right shows absolute phase (top green light), input signal locked and 96 kHz sampling (second green light from the top), and XLR input (third green light from the top). I had also selected 44.1 kHz sampling and 24 bit word length on the P-1A, but those are not indicated by the lights.

The 4.1s sound excellent all by themselves, and of course, having a superb preamp and power amplifier helps too. The detail is all there, as a result of the tweeter being mounted in its own enclosure. Voices are not overly sibilant. Midrange is clear, without chestiness or nasality. Thus, voices are natural. I could hear no ringing in the metal drivers, due to the polymer coating. Bass is deep, slightly forward, but not boomy. The soundstage is wide, regardless of where I sit. The dispersion is excellent, making these speakers a good choice for family listening. They almost fell into position by themselves, so they are very easy to find a nice location in the room.

All of my favorite singers, including Natalie Cole, Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Sarah Brightman, and Andrea Bocelli were mellifluous with the 4.1s. Yo Yo Ma's cello and accompaniment were sweet and relaxed. Note that the speakers might sound a bit harsh at first, so they need heavy breaking in. Also, since the tweeter is on top with its own enclosure, the high frequencies tend to project in a way that is different from your older speakers where the tweeter is farther down on the front of the enclosure. The diffraction from the front of the enclosure area surrounding the tweeter can make the highs sound mushy (less crisp). You might find yourself having to get used to all this new audible detail.

With home theater, the 4.1s seemed to do the job nicely in most situations. I drove them with a Cinepro 3k6 SE Gold, which delivers 700 watts rms into 4 Ohm loads. I used several DVDs in the tests, but chapter 29 from "The Matrix" is perhaps the most demanding. It is where Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie Anne-Moss) shoot up the foyer of the building where Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) is being held hostage. The fact that the 4.1s did a remarkable job with this difficult audio scene says a couple of things. One is that the 4.1s can deliver the goods. Secondly, a massive power amplifier works great even with modest sized speakers.

Use of the P-1A speaker correction made a huge difference. In particular, the "you are there" phenomenon was enhanced. I tried all the P-1A settings, including bypass, resolution enhancement, speaker correction, and resolution enhancement/speaker correction together. I preferred speaker correction alone. Detail did not change, but the sound was more natural, which would be expected. It was a very obvious effect, since both the frequency response and phase shift are being corrected. Regardless of the 4.1s, it is obvious to me that speaker correction software will be an absolute must in future digital audio products. Perpetual Technologies has a big jump on everyone with the already-working P-1A. Hopefully, speaker and room correction will eventually be available for home theater arrangements (5.1 and more speakers) rather than just two-channel.

Why China?

The Diva speakers are manufactured in China. When westerners think of China, we probably picture backwater rice paddies and poor farmers. There is still a lot of that to be sure, but things are changing rapidly. China agreed to join the World Trade Organization in 1999, and it is anticipated that their share of the the global economy will more than triple in the coming years. The company that makes the Divas builds 50,000 speakers per month! That is an enormous manufacturing capability. Obviously, lots of speaker companies are going to them for quality, but modest cost products. Couple that with AV123 selling the Divas only on the Internet, and you have a very competitive speaker for home theater enthusiasts.

Conclusions

The Diva 4.1s are an unbelievable value at $699 the pair. It means that we can have an excellent set of four floor-standing home theater speakers, with rosewood veneer, gold-plated bi-wiring/bi-amping binding posts, for less than $1,400. Add a center channel speaker for, let's say, $499 (about to be released by Diva), and a subwoofer for about $799, and you are rockin' and rollin' for what you would have had to pay $5,000 before. Forget about the black vinyl enclosures that your spouse refuses to let you put in the family room. She will love the appearance of these speakers and how much money you saved! She might even let you watch more Stallone films, as long as you throw in a couple of romance movies now and then. The Diva 1.4s will sound terrific on all of them!

 

- John E. Johnson, Jr. -

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Copyright 2001 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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