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Impressions of the DM947 Monoliths (Read 3891 times)
qaztar
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Impressions of the DM947 Monoliths
12/22/15 at 22:23:14
 
I replaced an old (actually, probably the oldest) set of Decware RL-3’s, driven by an Oppo 93SE and Decware Torii MK3 with stock tubes, with these speakers. I selected the DM945 speaker option with monolith base. Here are my impressions (doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of forum feedback on the DM947’s).

Day 1

Packaged pretty good. Horns double boxed. Found a plastic wrap bind up on one felt pad where DM945 sits. Felt smoothed out fine, so no problem. Wood on the DM945’s very nice – single sheet veneer all around. Placement on floor somewhat problematic: have 2-1/14” width pre-finished hardwood flooring. Speakers placed near transition from wood (front) to brick floor (back). Found slight height deviation between planks made speakers easy to ‘wobble’ laterally (bottoms of horns very flat with no accommodation for spikes and such). Paper-shimmed speakers for stability. Problem solved.

Not getting into music selection details, suffice it to say that (I think) I know six reference CDs well, and some tracks very well. A broad range of musical genres. Also know the characteristics of my RL-3’s. Also have a track that is my sound stage standard. Result: sound stage greatly improved, but only after a slight toe-in of the DM947’s (per a forum post recommendation). Certain sounds appeared transposed ‘behind me’ as well as behind the speakers. Very cool! (new experience in audio). Note: the DM947’s are not difficult to set up, but (as read in other posts as being recommended) in my case, there is nothing behind them within ten feet in my listening room. By the way – I have no room treatments, per se, except for a fabric listening couch in front of the pair, about ten feet out, and heavy fabric retractable blinds behind me (left up for now), exposing glass if not drawn down.

Overall, my first impression was a little bit underwhelming for speakers over 3x the cost of my RL-3’s (I bought them used). They reminded me sort of like an old pair of B&W DM302’s, somewhat different, but definitely with 'mas huevos'. However, after listening to many tracks, I finally realized the Torii settings had been optimized for the RL-3’s, oops. Spent some time getting the Torii set up fairly optimal for the DM947’s (ironically, everything ended up being set to ‘minimum’). Much, much better. Played initially for over 6 hours with Torii volume knob at six o’clock position. Wife not annoyed in other room, which indicates the low chest thumping bass response is not a marital issue. Big note though: bass guitar finally satisfying (missing with RL-3’s), but did discover one track in which there was a slight ‘boominess’ (not present with RL-3’s). In addition, the bass was not as tight as I like. Verified a couple times to be sure (playing with amp-speaker bass interaction). A bit of listening fatigue definitely present.

I then replaced the stock 5u4 rectifiers with a set of 1967 NOS matched RCA 5Y3GT’s. Noticeable difference with a couple key tracks I like a lot. Bass noticeably tighter. Overall, not as “musical”, but certainly an acceptable tradeoff. Boominess of that one track decreased (but not entirely eliminated – aging?). Think I like this configuration much better. Think I’ll go with it. More to follow.

Day 2 – 6

Have now put in about twenty hours listening time. Have not noticed any significant sonic changes. Everything I throw at the system just sounds good. Even bad tracks that I simply would not play before, I now find at least tolerable. If anything, some tracks are perhaps sounding better than when the speakers were just out of the box. I completely agree with Steve’s claims of ‘no mid-range shout’, however, I have noticed something is missing. It is difficult to define - seems to be a lack of high frequency follow-on to something mid-range. The mid-range sound is there, somewhat muted, but the follow-on high frequency sound is just not there. There are a couple tracks that I’ve listened to many times over the years (with Decware HDT’s, RL-3’s, and B&W 302’s / 601’s; various amps) having this sonic characteristic. Though I cannot find any design notes on the Decware site, I have seen a review indicating shredded cardboard is used to diffuse what’s going on inside the cabinet (similar to the main idea behind the B&W DM302’s - diffusion) and is, my guess, the reason for “no mid-range shout”. I do not think it is the cause of what I’m hearing though. My suspicion is there was some quality of the RL-3’s (which I know best, both with my SE84CS and Torii amps) that is missing. Perhaps I should have purchased the DM946 variant? How can one know? All Decware says is to purchase them if “your room is softer or has some treatments”. What does that mean, anyhew?

So… I read Steve’s papers on the DFR8 and phase guides. The latter indicates, subjectively, that phase plugs “helps add depth and clarity to the sound stage with less beaming.” My sound stage is great. Beaming not an issue (unless that actually includes what I call booming). More objectively, it works “By reducing the phasing issues at these higher frequencies it is possible to improve and flatten frequency response.” Perhaps this is it? I just don’t know. I do have 10 or so 3’ x 3’ quadratic diffusers tucked away in the garage, but my wife is not thrilled to have them in our home. Will try with and without my rudimentary ‘room treatment’ (e.g. fabric blinds) to try to get to the bottom of this. More later.

Day 7 - 10

Tried to contact Steve and Sarah. Also, changed the rear speaker impedance switches to four ohms (forgot which was which). Decided to see how these guys do with a wide range in music, and give them more hours. Must admit, they performed admirably. Even in light of being critical on a few tracks mentioned previously, I only have to say these loudspeakers are great! Their dynamic range is amazing. Their clarity is too. Also went back to that one ‘booming’ track after about six hours play time (no fatigue at all) – it is now barely present and only noticed once. Something is changing in sonic characteristics. Something good. Should I go with the DM946? I am now really wondering if the DM945 could be better overall, considering their performance across the music realm. Am a bit concerned that if I go with the DM946 this might not be the situation.

So, in light of all this and to avoid turning this into a tome, I finally decided to upgrade to the DM946. I then received an RMA confirmation from Sarah, repackaged the pair in the original material and shipped them back to shop.

6-weeks later

SHIPPING HELL. The carrier mishandled the DM945’s and destroyed them. I will not dwell on this. The experience was not good. So… after finally getting refunded from the carrier (with great support from Sarah and DeVon)…

I installed the DM946’s on the horns and re-started my evaluation process. Honestly, I could not detect anything previously described ‘out of the box’. Sure, the Torii had been optimized and rectifiers already changed, so it has to be their relationship with my hearing and my listening room. The phase plugs ‘just do it’. The sound stage is still huge, with fantastic imaging. No listening fatigue at all. No horn boominess detected at all. The ‘musicians’, in some tracks, appear dispersed about 6-15 feet in front of me (a comfortable safe distance for a non-musician). In other tracks, the singer is directly in front of me, 8 feet out, with sound emanating at mike level, cutting like hot lightning through cool whip. Shivers - can’t even imagine these speakers improving (could they have been pre-burned in?). I also allayed my fear of decreased music ‘playability’ over a large range of recordings. Surely, bad recordings are still bad, but they still can be tolerably played, as was with the DM945’s. I am also very impressed (and still quite surprised), with the size of the ‘sweet spot’. I don’t recall my RL-3’s having such width. As Decware claims – ‘still, no mid-range shout’. Quite true.

OK, end of review. The most difficult thing most people will experience with the monoliths is whether to purchase them with the DM945’s or DM946’s. Steve has papers on phase guides and shout that help to explain things (recommended reading, along with other manufactures comments on such). I did find the language regarding the difference between the two speakers a bit misleading though (e.g. I do not have room treatments), but that’s OK. At the cost of shipping and the up-adder for the modification, I think going the route of the DM945 and then upgrading to DM946 if necessary (albeit potential SHIPPING HELL), or just taking a 10% restock hit, as being ‘safe’. I suspect ‘down grading’ from a DM946 to DM945 is not possible, though I might be incorrect.

Anyway, I will be enjoying this system, hopefully, for many years to come (unless I go deaf or something breaks). Really great job Steve and company! I’m definitely not a fanboy of any company, but I must say that you guys (and gals) really nailed it.

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Oppo BDP-83SE, TORII mk3, DM947
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novice ear
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Re: Impressions of the DM947 Monoliths
Reply #1 - 12/23/15 at 13:08:21
 
Thanks for the inciteful and honest review.  Hopefully, this will entice other readers to see how much music is missing from low efficiency speakers, by purchasing Monoliths or some of the other Decware offerings.
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ChuckW
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Re: Impressions of the DM947 Monoliths
Reply #2 - 12/29/15 at 15:17:43
 
Thanks for the review. I recently received my DM945's and now have about 15 hours of listening time and will be writing my review after I put in more time and sample the monitors with different placement configurations. After a few conversations with Steve I opted for the DM945's only and add the base horns 'if' needed at a later date.

Have you sampled the monitors without the horn base?

Chuck
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Decware DM945, VPI Prime #427, Dynavector DV-20x2, VPI SDS, Rogue Audio Stealth (Magnum), McIntosh C220, McIntosh MVP861, Sophia Electric 91-01 300B Mono-Blocks. Various cables.
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novice ear
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Re: Impressions of the DM947 Monoliths
Reply #3 - 12/29/15 at 16:40:35
 
Chuck,

I purchased the Monoliths this summer in the 946 configuration.  Initially, I set them up on 22" Skylan stand for a couple of weeks before picking up the bass horns.  As monitors, they were fantastic, allowing me to sale a $6k monitor.  
The bass horn adds a little more realism with 30hz register (and more).  Admittedly, it's no where near twice as real with the bass horns.  However, the combined investment is still a tremendous value.  If given the choice again, there may be other ways to spend the additional outlay...

Hope this helps.
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qaztar
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Re: Impressions of the DM947 Monoliths
Reply #4 - 01/02/16 at 20:46:09
 
Chuck, Good question (and reply by novice ear) … I hadn’t listened to the DM946’s without the horns. Did so yesterday though (using a pair of 19.5” stands; 4.5” lower than the horn platform). My impression: discernibly more 'presence' with the horns. I also suspect they are partly responsible for greater 'easy listening' across a wider range of music than I was used to before the Monoliths (without having to constantly tweak this and that).
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Oppo BDP-83SE, TORII mk3, DM947
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qaztar
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Posts: 15
Re: Impressions of the DM947 Monoliths
Reply #5 - 03/19/16 at 21:01:19
 
Well, with my present system, I finally convinced a couple of my daughters generation (1981) that headphones are not equivalent to 2 channel stereo. The contention was that it is impossible to achieve a realistic 'sound stage', as an audience member, with headphones. I don't like being in the 'middle of the band' -- 10th row back is just great for me, which my current system seems to provide very nicely.  I see the next generation going through exactly what I did ... numerous systems and lots of exhausted cash.  Hey, I'm dealing with millennial neuroscience PhD's here.. They were impressed. Kudos to Decware.
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Oppo BDP-83SE, TORII mk3, DM947
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qaztar
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Re: Impressions of the DM947 Monoliths
Reply #6 - 03/05/17 at 23:47:55
 
Well, now it's been a couple years now with my system, and I'm still a happy camper (sorry Steve -- no more $ unless some tube takes a dive). But, what I really wanted to express to other prospective buyers is the issue of pets. We adopted an Australian Cattle dog (e.g. Dingo) a year ago. Inside / outside dog. I put my speakers away for nearly a month thinking I would wake up to a pile of wood. Gaining more confidence, I finally took them out, situated them just right and picked up where I left off. Damn, the dog thinks they're holy objects and I (still) really enjoy my system. As to the speakers I can say a couple new things: 1) dust is not an issue, and 2) they're Dingo proof! Happy listening.
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Oppo BDP-83SE, TORII mk3, DM947
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