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Reviewer: Wayne Zufall
Digital Source: Canary Audio CD-100 Mark II
Preamp: Canary CA-903SE
Power Amplifier: Canary Reference One, Canary CA-160
Speakers: B&W Matrix 800, Montana XPS [on review]
Cables: Analysis Plus Big Silver Oval ICs and speaker wire
Power Cords: Guerilla Audio
Sundry Accessories: Factory spikes on the B&Ws and Isolator pads under all components, including the speakers
Power Conditioning: Separate left and right channel dedicated lines with 20-amp breakers and six hospital grade plugs per side with Analysis Plus Power Oval 10 wires
Room Size: 40' wide by 38' long and 9' high
Component Retail Price: $3,000 retail [$1,600 current introductory price]
Large audio crates and boxes have been arriving at my house routinely of late, causing the smiles on the delivery men to become less frequent than they used to be. The arrival of the two 90-pound boxes containing two Dussun V8i integrated amplifiers did nothing to help the man-in-brown's attitude, even when I helped him carry them up the steps. The Dussuns were well-packed and needed to be as the boxes showed signs of a few hits here and there. But not to worry, they are double-boxed and surrounded by a thick foam cradle that got them safely through the shipping wars.
The Dussun integrated is large. It measures 17" wide by 21" deep and nearly 9" tall and weighs a little over 82 pounds. The aluminum unit only comes in silver, with anodized sides and a brushed finish on the top and bottom. The metal remote is fairly well made, easy to use and provides control over the volume and switching between five inputs. It's also functional at distances well over 20 feet and works great off axis. Dussun manufactures in Shanghai and offers a three-year parts and labor warranty.
Gold-plated RCA jacks make up the five input connections with no provisions for XLR or digital inputs. The speaker terminals are large and accommodate spades or bananas. The posts are color coded, can be easily tightened to firmly grip and hold the largest of spades you may want to utilize. The internal preamp and power amplifier sections are externally joined by U-shaped links, which when removed provide independent access to either utility.
The unit comes with a detachable power cord and 2" wide rubber isolation feet that look as though they were borrowed from a Star Wars freighter. The overall fit of the unit is good but the stamped bottom plate fits a little loosely, requiring some manipulation to get back on. The interior layout of the components and wiring is clean and well organized. Soldering and circuit boards look like they have been assembled with care.
The front of the Dussun has a large motorized volume control knob, which automatically returns to zero when the power is turned on. Once the unit stabilizes, both the volume knob and the remote become functional. Selection from among any of the five inputs S1 through S5 can be accessed via both the remote and the five fascia buttons directly above the volume control. The exterior appearance is pleasing and this component takes up a considerable amount of space.
Dussun V8I specifications:
The specifications for the preamplifier section are as follows - input impedance of 47K ohms, voltage gain of 9.5dB +/-0.5dB, frequency response of 5Hz - 20KHz +/- 0.5dB, S/N ratio of 100dB (A-weighted), maximum output level of 12Vrms (THD 0. 1%) and THD + noise of 0.03% (10Hz- 20KHz, 1.5V).
The specifications for the amplifier are: input impedance of 100K ohms, voltage gain ofs 29.5dB +/- 0.5dB (1 kHz), power output of 250 and 500 watts into 8 and 4 ohms respectively, frequency response of 5Hz - 20KHz +/- 1dB, THD noise of 0.2% (20-20KHz 250W 8 ohm), damping factorofs 200 and S/N ratio ofs 116dB (A-weighted).
According to Dussun, its "Hyper Class A" circuit is a green Class A solution whose adaptive bias circuit monitors load behavior to guarantee Class A operation without wasteful power consumption and heat production. The inner layout is true dual mono with independent dedicated protection circuits that auto-diagnose probable overload and malfunction and act accordingly; and two ultra-low-noise toroidal transformers and over 60,000uF of filter capacitance per channel
I received a pair of Dussuns because US importer Ping Gong suggested to vertically bi-amp my B&W Matrix 800s (that's what he does on his B&Ws). From the get-go, the amps were stone quiet. After a little time to warm up, I pulled out my first test CD, which is always Keb Mo's Slow Down [ED OKeh/500 Music BK69376], to listen to "Muddy Water" and "I Was Wrong". My initial impressions were of a very bright treble and a bass that had a strong but bloated and uncontrolled presence. Because these were new units, break-in was mandatory. I hooked up the Dussuns to a pair of Montana XPS on review and together they sat in the corner working each other into shape. As compared to the speakers that clocked 500 hours before coming into their own, the Dussuns were feather weights in the break-in department, requiring only 150 to 175 hours before settling in.
Once they hit 200 hours, they joined the B&Ws. Vertical bi-amping and biwiring meant that one channel of each stereo amplifier was relegated to driving a single speaker's dual 12-inch woofers while the other channel drove the midrange and tweeter. The first cable sets I used were Analysis Plus Big Silver Oval for the interconnects and speaker wires. Referencing Keb Mo's Slow Down, I listened to the same two tracks as before and found some positive improvement. With a combined vertically biamped 500 watts into 8 ohms into the 93dB B&Ws, the Dussuns had plenty of punch. How all this power translated into the music I was about to find out.
The Dussuns have bass presence in huge volumes. You can nearly feel the air coming at you on Keb Mo's "I Was Wrong" - but it is not tightly controlled bass. While the bass was no longer bloated, it was a little slow and not as detailed as I would have liked. Switching over to my definitive bass tester, I pulled out Great Toccatas by Marie-Claire Alain [Erato, 4509-94812-2] and listened to Theodore Dubois' "Toccata for organ in G major". During several passages where the bass extends deeply into the lower registers, the Dussuns were clearly rolling off and only hinted at the lowest-most notes. These same passages on my Canary References One 300B push/pull monos come through boldly and with great detail and nuance right down to the deepest notes which were largely MIA on the Dussuns.
|Clearly trounced by my much more expensive reference tube amplifiers through the bass, it wasn't all bad news for the Dussuns. They have a very palpable midrange that is well defined, articulate and neutral and to a great extent gets the all-important vocals right. I cued up Keb Mo's "I Was Wrong" again to see how the Dussuns did with the very detailed background percussion and the very upfront drums and was pleased overall. Keb Mo's voice is often a little raspy and the Dussuns were able to capture most of the fabric, save for a little resonance that seemed to be missing. The Dussuns throw a large cohesive soundstage that provides the first several layers of depth in the music, stopping just short of fully illuminating the subtle percussive brush strokes, wood blocks or even subtle organ passages in the very back.
Guitar passages were appropriately warm and transparent, missing only the small nuances of the click of the pick coming off a string. Rim shots came across with fast attack and were accurately placed within the soundstage. The Dussuns seemed to excel at control in the midbass and midrange of the music. While their upper-end brightness did not favor female vocalists, it did a great job with male vocalists, especially my favorite John Gary, who a has rich and wonderful timbre that the Dussuns portrayed perfectly.
As was the bass, the treble too was a little out of balance with the vocal range. The Dussuns have a bright and forward presentation particularly obvious on violins, cymbals, female voices and the upper register of the piano. Listening to several of my usual test CDs confirmed this character. I decided to move the speakers around to see if I could mitigate the effect. Varying their position relative to the front wall, changing toe-in or changing the distance between speakers had no effect on the presentation whatsoever. I decided to change the wires and cables from all silver to all copper and this was a move in the right direction. The previous edgy and bright character smoothed out and became more palatable. I then removed the copper speaker wires from the bass modules, remembering that the Analysis Plus silver wires had improved the bass control and slam on the B&W/Canary combination. Installing the silver on the woofers added a small improvement to their speed and slam and a solid 5% improvement to overall bass control.
|My next idea was to try the Dussuns as separate preamps and amplifiers to see if I could identify the source of these irregularities. I hooked the preamp sections to a pair of tube Canary CA-160 monoblocks and gave Keb another spin. I was rewarded with clean and articulate treble without brightness or edge. The Dussun preamps were really cutting loose with the amplifier change. They were transparent and the soundstage was revealing previously missing layers of percussion. The cymbals were now better defined and the wood blocks that previously seemed broken or flat and barely audible were now sharp and very audible. Playing a few more CDs -- Roy Orbison's The Very Best of Roy Orbison, LeAnn Rimes' Greatest Hits and John Gary's The Nearness of You -- quickly showed that the Dussun preamps were doing a good job of presenting the music. It was time to test the power amp sections.|
Replacing the Dussun preamp sections by splicing in my Canary CA-903 tube preamp proved instructive. I went back to my Keb Mo reference and then to Tony Bennett's The Ultimate Tony Bennett, listening to "I Wanna Be Around" and "When Joanna Loved Me". Well, the bass and great midrange were still there but so was the bright treble presentation though it was ameliorated somewhat, likely due to the tube front end.
Moving in another direction to try to resolve this dilemma, I pulled out an old pair of B&W DM 220 monitors that used to belong to my father. I hooked them up knowing of their laid-back tweeters. This combination worked out in that the brightness was diminished but the offset was a loss in detail, clarity and transparency of the music as a whole.
Next I removed one of the Dussuns and ran the remaining amp tri-wired, using copper wiring and the B&W 800s to see if anything would improve. The result was not surprising. With a little less power driving the four 12" woofers, bass punch and presence dropped off slightly but the bright upper end remained.
My last attempt at synergistic system matching involved the mating of the Dussuns to their previous workout speakers, the Montana XPS. This test, not unexpectedly, produced the opposite result - even more brightness and perhaps excessive detail. Even with the copper wiring, the XPS and Dussun amp section proved a wholly non-synergistic match. Going back to the Dussun's preamp with the tubed power amps worked much better, further demonstrating that the Dussun's preamp section outclasses its power amp. For fun, I hooked the Reference One push/pull 300B tube amps into the Dussun preamps, using silver wire for interconnects and speakers. The treble presentation was now crystal clear, precise and wonderfully transparent. This quickly moved the system performance level up a notch or two, showing just how capable the Dussun preamp can be.
Based on normal retail pricing, functions and specifications, the Opera Audio Calaf integrated amplifier I reviewed a few months back is a natural competitor. Retail prices are within $200 of one another; $3200 for the Calaf, $3,000 for the Dussun. Their power levels and general specifications are similar; 200wpc for the Calaf, 250wpc for the Dussun. In addition to RCA inputs, the Calaf adds XLRs and an optional-cost phono section.
Considering performance, the Calaf's well defined and articulate treble presentation, coherent, warm and transparent midrange and well controlled bass make it the better amplifier. The Dussun counters with an in-your-face bass presence, a smooth, vibrant and palatable midrange, a bright treble and an introductory price of $1,600.
|The final question seems to be where precisely that leaves the Dussun. The review particulars seem to indicate that it is fitted with a very good preamp but a less than suave amp section. It's clearly a lot of electronics for $1600 but ultimately, one hopes that Dussun will take up the implicit challenge to make a few adjustments to the amplifier section and turn it into the great piece this so easily could be.|