DARED is the registered trademark of Shenzhen Danyigao Audio Equipment Limited which was founded on mainland China in 1995. The name DARED is derived partially from the Chinese phrase, "Dan yigao" which means "High-end tube amplifier and artistry". In English DARED is an acronym which stands for Daring, Artistic, Reliable, Elegant and Definitive. The company specializes in tube equipment products and therefore has hired many highly trained professionals with vacuum tube backgrounds to work for them. All amplifiers are tested with their state of the art equipment and "run in" for hours by actual audio engineers before being shipped out to their respective worldwide distributors.
Looking at pictures of their product line I must say they are all very beautiful and that there is quite an assortment of products. While they mainly make amplifiers, both power or integrated, they also create preamplifiers and phono stages as well. All in all I counted a production of twenty-four pieces of audio gear, three each from both the "Flagship" and "Imperial" series with five from the "Mini-Series" and thirteen more from the "New Classic Series". Today’s review of the DARED DV-6C is from this "New Classic Series" line. Before I even received the DV-6C I must admit to being impressed with its price to value ratio as it sells for only six hundred fifty dollars. However after unpacking it and holding it in my own hands I was equally impressed with the quality of workmanship and beauty of its design at this price range. The owner’s manual is very simple to understand and comes with the normal warnings that you should always read before attempting to operate or setup the DV-6C. Of particular note is to leave on the cover for the three tubes as they get very hot to the touch and are particularly dangerous around babies and small children or even animals who could be tempted to touch them. This warning is of course normal with any tube equipment and with the translucent tube cover on I never had a problem with it getting too hot.
Functions And Features
Even though it is marked 5.1 it is still a six channel amplifier that can be connected with a passive subwoofer. Do take note that when you first turn on the DARED, via the switch on the right side, that it will gradually revert back to the last setting on the master volume knob of the previous listening session so it is a good idea to lower the volume before turning off the system. It takes ten seconds for the amplifier to enter its full operative mode and the AUX/5.1 indicator light on the front panel to light up. Green is for AUX and where you would hook up for two-channel setup on the rear of the unit, while 5.1 is for multi-loudspeaker playback. On the same right side of the unit is a voltage switch to set for proper usage depending on the voltage in your house. Next to this is the fuse holder in case the need arises and you need to change a fuse. Looking now to the rear of the unit you will find an IEC power outlet to connect the supplied power cord, a speaker output terminal for up to six loudspeaker cables and the signal input section to connect your audio source to the DV-6C. I do wish though that there was more room on the back for the loudspeaker cable hookup as it did get quite crowded. Also it would be nice to see a terminal which accommodates not just bare wire but also banana and spade loudspeaker terminations as well. It was explained to me that this spring type loudspeaker cable terminal was used because of the limited available space on the back of the amplifier.
At only six hundred fifty dollars I would not mind seeing the price raised a bit to accommodate a large amplifier with ample room for audiophile type binding posts that would allow high-end speaker cable use. The signal input section marked AUX is for two channel hookups like a CD player and one marked CEN (for the center channel loudspeaker), SW (subwoofer), two for SR (for both left and right rear surround sound loudspeakers) and two more marked FR (for both left and right front surround sound loudspeakers). On the remote control, which is small and rather thin (both traits I find appealing), is a mute button and controls for volume as well as a power on/off control. There are also buttons to control the volume settings for the various loudspeakers which allows you to remain seated in your listening chair as you do so. All in all a simple yet very functional remote control that fits easily in ones front shirt pocket or out of the way on the table. Please do understand though that there are no video hookups on this DARED as it is an audio only piece. No problem really as I like connecting my video sources directly anyway. I am a believer in the straight line approach when possible so that there is less chance of distortion and noise to enter the system.
From the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire [WB 59388] I noticed immediately that the sound coming from all five loudspeakers to be quite clear. You could sense the softness that these three tubes brought to my system while still retaining the solid-state power that this 65-watt hybrid amplifier proudly displayed whenever it was called upon to do so. There was one scene when a rather larger tower clock at the school struck midnight causing a very large bell to toll. This bell rung with just the proper amount of decay as one ring of the bell’s sound overlapped into the next. It sounded like it brought a slightly greater depth to the audio portion of the movie than my solid-state Marantz receiver did. Scenes with "magical" flames and scenes of fireplaces, took on an added layer of realism as the sound from these flames had a soft natural texture to them. I felt more drawn into the movie as if I was actually in the room hearing the flames flicker but a few feet in front of me. Then of course there was the sound of magical spells as they were being cast which give an added aspect to the illusion of wonder and amazement to some scenes. Again I believe that the hybrid sound of solid-state and tubes tended to allow for what I believe was a more magical experience. The DV-6C gave the movie a soft yet three-dimensional appearance which enhanced the overall feeling of the soundtrack.
Turning now to the movie, Gladiator [Dreamworks Home Entertainment 86386] I just had to play the famous opening battle scene, "Hell unleashed". Here the DV-6C added a nice dimension of subtleties to the movie such as the sound of arrows shooting through the air with a gentle yet detailed feel as they pierced through enemy lines. As fire balls were catapulted again each had a nice soft swishing sound to them as the flames were sent high into the morning sky until they crashed down onto the terrified troops below. There was, during this battle, a scene with a dog running and breathing hard where its panting appeared quite realistic as were the sound of its paws upon the soft forest floor as he charges into battle. Later in the film, during scenes from the "The Battle of Carthage" whenever swords were unsheathed or blood splattered, as a person was struck by a weapon, I sensed that some solid-state edginess to these sound had been somewhat softened. Again I believe this was partially due to the introduction of the three tubes to my system through the preamplifier section of the DARED. The breathing of horses and the galloping sound their hoofs made as they struck the hard ground beneath them seemed to have an added three-dimensional tone to it. Of particular mention were scenes involving a background violin musical score as tubes tend to soften the sound of violins while giving a more involving texture to their sound.
A little less detailed yet without a hard edge to them, the violins sounded quite natural. During a scene from "Maximus the merciful" the roar from the tigers had a nice lifelike timbre to its tone. Another reason it is good to inject a tube hybrid amplifier into a home theater system is that dialog sounds so much better with tubes added. Tube collectors have often noted the seductive midrange that tubes can introduce into a system.
It was during the many narrative moments from the movie, Seabiscuit [Universal 23288], that the DV-6C seemed to shine most prominently. Small subtle sounds can make all the difference in scenes when you listen carefully. I particularly liked the sound the DV-6C gave to the clank the ring bit made as it was being put on one of the horses before a race with Seabiscuit. The sound of rain gently falling the night before one of the big races also benefited from this slightly softer approach. During the race at Santa Anita there was a very beautiful musical score with a full orchestra accompaniment as the sound of horns and percussions took on a very relaxed sense of grandeur adding much to the enjoyment of watching the race.
Lastly I must mention the video Star Wars The Phantom Menace, [Lucasfilm Ltd and TM discs 1 and disc 2]. There is, as always, the opening logos scene where the THX sound is displayed and believe me the DV-6C did it justice. The power of the bass, with the Martin Login subwoofer, and the clarity of the sound stemming from the DV-6C was reproduced in a grand manor at strikingly high volumes. This was a truly impressive moment for the DV-6C. It shook up my room with the power of the armada when they descended on a planet to look for the Jedi knights or when spaceships increased speed as the sound of their thrusters opened to full power. During the famous race scene at the end I often felt as if I were a part of the movie. Sounds were coming from all five of my loudspeakers enhancing the illusion of being brought deep within the race. Overall I liked the combination of the power of a solid-state amplifier coupled with the taming effects of a tubed front-end. The details within each movie are where the tubes were particularly helpful as well as with dialog. Do not however overlook the DV-6C's solid-state side as it also could stand alone with its own good merits.
DARED DV-6C Within My Stereo System
With the Jackson Browne song, "The Road", from the CD Running On Empty [Asylum 6E 113-2] I found the DV-6C to throw before me a rather large soundstage with pretty decent depth to it. Bass was fairly strong and vocals quite clear but the best part was David Lindley on fiddle. The fiddle had a nice truth to its tonal quality was well as a proper sense of attack to the transients. As for noise, this is one quiet amplifier and I mean not just for a tubed unit but even rated as a solid-state device as well. Moving along now to Joan Baez's song "Amazing Grace" on the CD Classics Volume 8 [A&M Records CD 2506] I thought to test the amplifiers layering abilities. Here with her rendition of the song Joan Baez gets the audience to sing along with her. She does this for not just part a small of the song, as is quite customary with performers, but rather for the entire length of it. The song lasted for four minutes and thirty two seconds which gave me a change to fully appreciate the DV-6C's ability to properly layer the soundstage. I could hear not only the separation of Joan Baez from the audience but the rows within that audience as well. Again the soundstage from left to right was also good.
Feeling the need to test the DV-6C in a more complex musical environment I next played the Santana CD Abraxas [Columbia/Legacy CK 65490], which was the 30th anniversary expanded edition 24-bit digitally mastered version. The DARED DV-6C appeared to have no problem with a full soundstage of drums, congas, keyboard, bass and lead guitar as well as two vocal accompaniments from the song "Oye Como Va". This song is hard to just sit down and listen to as it makes one want to get up and dance which I could have easily done hearing it through the DARED. For a six hundred and fifty dollar integrated amplifier it handled everything quite well. Before leaving the DV-6C I thought to insert my more revealing Legacy Focus 20/20 loudspeakers into the equation, which when new listed in the mid six thousand dollar range for the basic finish (mine is rosewood and retailed for a little over seven thousand dollars). Here re-listening to "Oye Como Va" I noticed more clarity in the higher frequencies and detail coming from the keyboard as well as better texture from the voices of Carlos Santana and Gregg Rolie. Going back also to Jackson Browne's "The Road", as previously mentioned, I heard better truth of timber from the fiddle of David Lindley. These differences I noticed had to do with the change of loudspeakers showing that the DV-6C could be placed in a more high-end environment and still not be embarrassed. Please do not get me wrong this little inexpensive amplifier could not compete with the equipment in my review rig but it also was not out of place there as well. Yes it did not sound as open, especially at higher volumes, detail was not all there and no bass notes did not growl at me like when I reviewed the Bryston 7B SST squared C-Series mono block amplifiers which retailed for $7990 a pair. I am hoping you will not expect it to be on par with true high end gear when purchasing this amplifier. What I am saying though is that it surprised me with how far it went with what it does and that I could be very pleased using it as a two channel amplifier in a moderately priced system. Give it about forty minutes to warm up those tubes then give it a listen and see for yourself, I know I was sure glad I did.
No, it does not have an HDMI or optical input and video processing must be done elsewhere such as hooking up the DVD player directly to the TV or projector. But for what it did and what you pay for this is one product worth every penny of what they charge. Lest we forget I would also like to again mention that it worked wonderfully as a two-channel integrated amplifier which was worth its full selling price even if you never used its multi-channel capabilities for home theater. As for its warranty most others offer only ninety-days on their vacuum tubes where the DARED includes the tubes in their twelve month limited warranty. I defiantly liked that.
Overall for what you are paying you get a product that seems should be selling for a great deal more than its asking price without sacrificing sound quality or craftsmanship. Do not confuse this with amplifiers of lesser quality that are mass produced and selling at popular consumer stores. This is a high quality amplifier using good design philosophy and quality parts. If you want to bring a touch of tube like sense to your home theater sound, give the DV-6C a listen. Looking at the ratings below you will notice that on "value for the money" I gave it a 4.0 out of a possible 5.0 and another 4.0 on "self noise" as this was a very quiet amplifier. Overall this is a great first product for the company’s first leap into multi-channel playback and I am very glad to have given it a listen.
The Listening Environment
Screen: Permanently wall mounted Carada Criterion Series 16 x 9, 118-inch diagonal screen with their 3.5 inch wide velvet trim frame that is 1.5 inches deep with the Brilliant White projector screen material
Audio/Video Receiver: Marantz SR880 MK II
Samsung HD-841 Universal player for Video playback and SACD/DVD AUDIO and Redbook Cd
DVD playback system and Gaming: Sony Playstation 3 Blue Ray Disc player with PS Audio LAB II power cord
Loudspeaker audio cables: Monster Cable flat series cables for the two front Polk loudspeakers as well as the two rear loudspeakers and a Canare 4S11 cable for the center channel loudspeaker. All the cables have bare-ends.
HDMI Cable: Mediabridge Ultra -High Speed 120Hz Version 1.3 Category 2, Blu-ray fifteen foot HDMI cable
Fiber Optical Toslink Cable: Eforcity six foot digital audio optic interface cable
Power Conditioner: Monster HTPS 7000 Power Center
Front Loudspeakers: Polk Audio SDA-SRS floor standing loudspeakers (thirteen drivers per side)
Center and both rear loudspeakers: Optimus Pro LX-10 loudspeakers by Radio Shack
Subwoofer: Martin Logan Dynamo 200-watt powered subwoofer with ten inch aluminum element woofer that can be used either in the front or down-firing configuration (I use it down-firing)
My ratings: Please take into consideration that the equipment under review is being measured in my room, with my equipment and heard through my ears. As always you should be the final judge as to what works for you in your environment and measured against what traits you value most. The following was how I rated the equipment based on a rating system that does not take in to consideration the cost of the product, until the very last question, "Value For The Money". Before that all products are rated against others in its category, regardless of financial considerations.
United States Distributor