Swan Diva Review, finally
Well, I finally was able to get down to Sydney to do a listening test.
We got a late start so I didn’t have quite as much time as I would have liked.
I’ve not yet found a truly great audiophile quality store which pulls out all the stops to demonstrate products for customers. Maybe Len Wallis does, but they don’t carry the brands I wanted to hear ( mainly because most of what they carry is out of my price range…except the Bose, but who wants that).
We first went to Digital Cinema to hear the Wharfedale Diamond 10.7 speakers. They didn’t have them in stock (which he insisted he had told me on the phone, but I sure don’t remember that and wouldn’t have driven all that way), but it did give us the opportunity to listen to the Klipsch RF-42, B&W 603, Dali Concept 6, and KEF Q500.
We heard the Klipsch first through an AV7005 Marantz amp and listened to a variety of cd cuts, from Frank Sinatra, Fatboy Slim, Dwight Yokum, One Giant Leap, to Dr. Steel.
The Klipsch had fair highs and midrange but, no bass to speak of.
After turning on the amp and switching the computer control to the Klipsch, the salesman had left the room, so I retrieved him and had him switch to the Dali Concepts.
The drop in quality from the Klipsch was quite noticeable, again no bass and a severe drop in the midrange and treble levels. Same for the Kef and the B&W 603's were the worst of all. It was like listening to a set of bad bookshelf speakers.
We mentioned the lack of bass and the salesman said “Well, you can adjust it.” However, he didn’t offer to try to adjust it (the lack of customer care I mentioned above) and since I assumed that the amp would be set to “neutral” at a minimum (meaning no additional sound coloration), my conclusion was that none of the speakers was producing a sound I really liked.
Certainly they were not at a quality comparable to the sound of our current setup. As my wife said, “I think what we have sounds much better.”
So we headed off to Oceanic Distribution to hear the Swan Diva 6.2 system.
What a difference in every way! James, the salesman, warmly greeted us and led us to a beautiful, dedicated theatre room (the sound room at Digital Cinema was utilitarian in comparison).
My, those Swan are physically beautiful speakers and as stated by others are quite large.
I don’t know the model numbers, but the amp setup we heard was an Onkyo pre-amp and Onkyo –Integra power amp.
We put on the same cd and immediately noticed a massive difference in sound quality. In every way there was an improvement. The soundstage was much wider, the tone richer, warmer and fuller. Finally, there was some noticeable bass.
Sure, with the other speakers, you might have been able to pick out the bassline, but in no way was it “there”. You couldn’t feel it and I don’t mean in a thumping, doof, doof, sort of way. I just mean in a full, deep-presence kind of way like the Swans had.
We listened to David Bryne’s Indepence Day from his Roi Momo cd and Sting’s Fields of Gold from Ten Summoner’s Tales and in both cases my wife said “I don’t think they sounded this good live.” and then she said “I’d have to say that this is finally a sound that is an improvement over our current system.”
The highs were crisp and clear without being harsh or abrasive. I don’t think listener fatigue would be an issue with these speakers. There seemed to be good, clean and full midrange and the bass was rich and tight without being boomy. Overall we listened to it in 2 channel stereo, multichannel stereo, and surround sound. Even in 2 channel, without benefit of the subwoofer, the bass was excellent.
We put on Blu-Ray copies of Armageddon and the Incredibles and the sound on explosions and rocket engines could go from low listening levels to ear splitting with no distortion or coloration.
I did notice on a few scenes in the Incredibles that the dialogue seemed a trifle low in the mix, however I don’t know what the EQ settings on the Onkyo were and I do know that on my old Yamaha surround amp that I sometimes have to adjust the centre volume from movie to movie. Overall though the sound experience was quite fulfilling.
So, was this the life-changing, sounds of angels singing, voice of God, nothing could sound this good, experience I was hoping for. I think you all know or can imagine the type of experience I’m alluding to.
In all honesty I would have to say no, I didn’t hear the sound of the Cosmos, Gabriel’s trumpet, however you want to put it . They weren’t quite that good.
However, the Swan Diva 6.2 are very good speakers and at this price point (a 5.1 system for $3815) from what I’ve heard so far, they can’t be beat. I think anyone getting these would be satisfied.
I, of course, haven’t heard all speaker brands (who has?). I haven’t even heard what I would call really high-end speakers with one exception. About 17 years ago I went to a high-end shop in Los Angeles and heard a pair of $6000 speakers with five 3 inch woofers in them. Don’t know the brand.
This was at a time when all of us low-end people existed only in the “12 inch woofer is the minimum” mentality, so I was shocked at how good these tiny woofers sounded and I had never heard such wide soundstage before or since.
So, I have no idea what a $12,000 or $50,000 pair of speakers sounds like. I have no idea whether some exponential ratio exists where (for the most part) a $3000 speaker sounds twice as good as a $1500 and a $6000 sounds twice as good as a $3000, etc.
No one can hear everything that is available (even within a stringently set price range).
Even with a short-list of brands and models you are unlikely to find them all at one shop to compare them in the same environment and amplification. And you can’t really do much, if any, EQ set up or changes on the amp to accommodate the differences in speaker qualities ( the demonstrator should do that, but I’ve never seen it happen. Maybe at the best shops??).
Unfortunately, when you hear one or a couple of speakers in one shop and then drive across town and hear the next set hours later in a different room with different amp, it’s hard to say that you’ve had a comparable comparison.
Therefore, in the end, any of us shopping for new speakers and seeking the best in our price range really end up shopping and testing a very narrow strata of what is available and testing it very imprecisely at that. Even in my audio ignorance I realise that.
There is one ray of hope though. Since we all know that, at a certain level of quality, short of a side by side comparison, there is very little noticeable difference between products, we should be satisfied with our final choices. It won’t matter that there are brands we never heard of, or never tested, because we were ignorant of their existence in the first place…and ignorance is bliss.
I’m still hoping to hear the Wharfedale Diamond 10.7’s before that final slap down of money, but put it this way: throughout my past weeks of internet searches and forum discussions my wife has been saying “I thought you were just getting a new amp. Why are you looking at speakers, we don’t need new speakers.”
After the Swan demonstration though, while I’m thinking “They’re really good, but maybe I should try a few other brands and really think it over.” she says, “I think we should just go ahead and get them.”
Remember fellows, this is a $3800 system we are talking about here (and this is using money set aside for our backyard deck build).
Prior to hearing them she was certain we had no reason to upgrade our speakers because she felt our old ones sounded excellent. I think that says something about the Swans.
I have found another shop that has the Wharfedale 10.7’s and will give them a listen next weekend before making that final decision of the Swans.
While far from an audiophile magazine review, I hope this in some way helps anyone thinking about the Swans….and my apology to any and all who have Dali, Kef, B&W or Klipsch and think I’m out of my mind with this review of their products.
I know all of these companies make good products and quality varies within all of their individual ranges. After all, the KEF bookshelf speaker and the MUON range are worlds apart. I also know that this shop's demo procedure was sub par. But I can only report what I heard that day and as it stands none of them was up to the quality of the Swans. Go, Swans! (And I say this as a complete non-sports fan).