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Decware Model DFR-65

Full Range Loudspeakers

[Decware DFR 65 full range loudspeaker]
[Italian version]

Product: Decware DFR-65
Manufacturer: Decware - USA
Cost: 295 USD (driver only)
Reviewer: Andy Norman - TNT UK
Reviewed: March, 2011


I have wanted to spend some time with a pair of full range drivers ever since investigating the Sonic Impact T-Amp a couple of years ago. Regular TNT Audio readers will know that T-Amp is a very high resolution but low output amplifier that needs sensitive speakers to be heard at its best. Although I had previously used multiple T-Amps in a tri-amp configuration with Acoustic Energy 509's (around 90db/w) I was pleased to get the chance to hear one with a purpose designed high sensitivity, full range, single driver loudspeaker to get an idea of what such a simple set up could deliver. This pair came courtesy of the large auction site, appearing to be either a prototype or home made. The drivers are set into a simple ported box sturdily made of thick ply and well finished with lacquer.br> Connection is made directly to the speaker terminals via a removable panel on the rear of the cabinet.
[Decware in cab]

Decware is the firm founded by Steve Deckert in 1996 in Illinois, USA, initially to produce single ended triode amplifiers. They have built loudspeakers since 2000, focusing on high sensitivity designs to work with their amplification. Their original Zen Triode amplifier, for example, pushes out a whacking two watts a side.
So high sensitivity is critical to the overall performance and has become a design philosophy for them.
The driver is actually a very heavily modified Fostex speaker. The main changes are improvements to the suspension system and the introduction of a new and highly unusual phase plug - a vacuum tube! At first this looks very curious, but the manufacturer claims to have spent two years looking for a better solution without success.

The key factors giving these speakers their distinctive sound are the lack of a crossover and the very light construction. By avoiding a crossover the drivers turn all of the power they receive directly into motion. This allows a very direct and accurate presentation. It also means that there are no crossover electronics affecting the signal phase, thereby distorting the auditory cues that create the soundstage. The light construction means they start and stop very quickly, giving them a lively and dynamic character which especially suits snare drums and acoustic guitars, as well as bringing out the leading edge of piano notes. Steve says "If you like inner detail and want to hear all of the textures and layers of a good recording you need fast, efficient and coherent speakers."

The Sound

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say - so what do they sound like? First of all, driven by the T-Amp (unfortunately I don't have a single ended triode to use with them...) my first impression is one of difference. These don't sound like any speaker I've heard before. The stereo image is immensely accurate and stable, giving a clear illusion of instruments and voices floating in three dimensional space. Rhythms are tight and "in the pocket." Vocals are very forward, carrying with them every last detail of breath and reverb. On my first evening auditioning the speakers, after skipping through the Chesky Ultimate Demonstration Disc (and enjoying an especially convincing presentation of Rebecca Pigeon's version of Spanish Harlem) I gorged on Norah Jones and Bonnie Raitt albums. Switching to male vocal, Van Morrison sounded very good and Lyle Lovett worked well. Backing vocals and choral works demonstrated the detail available with individual voices clearly delineated. I did notice though that bass was recessed and I missed some of the "slam" given by my normal three way speakers. The drivers, with their strange waveguides, gave a fair account of the higher frequencies - cymbals for example had reasonable presence but were a bit thin and maybe a little lacking in zing. They also seemed to suffer when fed compressed rock recordings although this may be a function of the recordings rather than the reproduction. Nevertheless, these are not the speakers for heavier rock or massive orchestral pieces but they are ideal for well recorded smaller ensembles, lighter rock and singer songwriters.

Contrary to my expectation, switching to a conventional solid state amp (in this case a Musical Fidelity A3.5) improved the texture of the instruments and gave more body to the tone. It strengthened the bass a little and helped manage complex passages more effectively. After the change I was surprised to find the system working well with REM and DelAmitri where the strength of the vocal presentation seemed, for me, to outweigh the lightness in the bass. The T-Amp had done an astoundingly good job considering its low cost and was perfectly listenable, but the MF amp ultimately creates the more convincing image. Whilst switching gear, I tried returning to my regular Lumley Monitor loudspeakers with their 8in woofers and 30 Hz bass reach, I found them bass heavy and muddy by comparison.
[Decware Waveguide]


The real strength of these speakers is in the midrange. Steve Deckert claims the drivers can offer the "best midrange you've ever heard". This may not quite be true, but could well be the case at anything less than stratospheric price levels. So, if you're looking for a sensitive full range speaker in this price range these are certainly worth a listen. They turned in an impressive performance even in a very basic cabinet. The imaging is first class and the pace and timing amongst the best I've heard.
But ultimately the performance is held back by a lack of bass presence which fails to deliver the warmth available from the recordings as well as losing the physical experience of the low frequencies. Listening to them is reminiscent of the headphone experience - all the detail is there but sometimes you just want to feel it in your stomach as well.
I'm not writing them off however. The midrange is addictive. I've not heard anything better for female vocals, guitars and anything benefitting from a clear depiction of acoustic space.
There are some improvements I am planning to the existing cabinets - introducing more resonance control and installing a tube into the front port (that is currently just a hole). If those don't address the deficiencies it's very likely that they could perform better - especially in terms of bass performance - in a transmission line or horn configuration. Decware also offer an 8" driver which would have more bass weight and potentially offer the best of both worlds. Plenty of room for more experimentation......

© Copyright 2011 Andy Norman - andy@tnt-audio.com - www.tnt-audio.com

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