Review: New dARTS Brand Delivers Total Audio System Package
Newly spun out from sister brand Phase Technology, dARTS provides dealers with a choice of customizable system options, including active amplification and unique equalization amenities.
Robert Archer · June 14, 2017
It seems that there are many companies willing to shout over everyone to plug the good, great or even mediocre products they offer. It’s a shame that these companies have drowned out soft-spoken but audiophile attention-worthy companies like Jacksonville, Fla.-based dARTS. Newly spun out from its sister brand Phase Technology, MSE Audio's dARTS brand comes from a prestigious family and their designs that include the development of the soft-dome tweeter.
Today, led by Ken Hecht, dARTS is available as a standalone brand of active speaker solutions that includes a choice of freestanding, architectural and one-off custom products.
Utilizing Hecht's latest driver designs and speaker concepts, along with state-of-the-art amplification solutions and a unique-to-dARTS version of the popular equalization Audyssey program, the brand is now available to the entire custom installation industry.
After accepting an invitation from Dave Silkin and Joe Smith of Long Island-based Digital Sales Group Metro (DSG Metro), I traveled to Plainview New York to meet Hecht, Silkin, Smith and the dARTS team for a personal demonstration of DSG Metro’s new showroom demo system.
First, a few details. While MSRPs vary depending on configuration, the approximate MSRP on the DSG Metro system is $48,000.
- Available in a choice of system configurations
- Freestanding (FS) feature gloss-black cabinets, and include floorstanding and bookshelf options
- Custom built (CB) are specially made for specific installations
- In-Wall (IW) mount flush into walls and ceilings
- Systems include outboard amplification and unique to dARTS Audyssey EQ
dARTS offers a choice of gloss-black finished in-room models, as well as architectural in-wall and in-ceiling solutions, and completely custom speakers to meet unique installation requirements.
Outlining DSG Metro’s showroom system, Silkin and Smith configured a 7.2.4-object based system that includes an Acurus ACT 4 surround sound processor, a Panamax power conditioner, a Severtson 4K Thin Bezel TF169175 175-inch screen and an Epson Pro Cinema 6040 4K projector.
As for the specifics of the dARTS system, Silkin and Smith employ dARTS Theater DP4000IA v2 amplifier controllers, 660 in-wall system, DIW660LCR, DIW660SURR surrounds, DCB115s subwoofers, and DC660R in-ceiling speakers.
Hecht says the heart of the system is its amplifiers and processing. Utilizing 250 watts per channel of amplification every driver has its own amplifier. The drivers are coupled to digital signals to eliminate analog conversion and the imprecision of analog, and every driver is tuned to .5dB of reference response.
Harnessing all this power and processing is a unique, PC-based version of Audyssey equalization.
"Our version of Audyssey is unique, it’s specifically designed for our responses and our speakers,” explains Hecht. “That’s how you make every seat in the room sound the same. We’re taking the room out of the equation.”
Performance & Conclusions
In a moment of unplanned fortune I was able to hear the system before it was calibrated. Not realizing I was hearing the “before” system I was privately impressed with its clarity and power.
After calibration, which can take an hour or two depending on how deep integrators want to go, the system really sprung to life.
After listening to Hecht's staff running through a Dolby Atmos demonstration disc I was impressed with the envelopment and immersiveness of the system. Turning the system over to me, and knowing that Silkin and Smith are music-first guys — Dave is a professional level bass player that happens to work in the electronics market — so I decided to play the Jeff Beck Blu-ray disc “Performing This Week: Live at Ronnie Scott’s” and Steve Morse’s “Final Cut” CD.
These recordings feature A-list bass players Tal Wilkenfeld and Billy Sheehan respectively, along with drummers Vinnie Colaiuta and Mike Portnoy respectively.
Showing just how immersive the system was, we listened to “People Get Ready” from Beck in stereo before realizing we needed to select the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack.
Listening to the 2.0 and multichannel versions of the song really showcased how immersive the system could be. The system sounded big and powerful in 2.0, and the level of envelopment increased exponentially once we switched over to the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack. One key thing I listen to with that song is the kick drum. On a poorly designed system, the kick drum sounds bloated and sloppy. On the dARTS system, Colaiuta’s kick drum was prominent, but not sloppy.
On songs such as “Cause We Ended As Lovers” Wilkenfeld’s bass solo was well defined with detail such as the little single-fret slide vibrato technique well showcased. This song also showcased the micro detail the system was capable of producing. Jeff Beck is the guitar player’s guitar player, and dARTS highlighted the nuance of his playing with micro dynamics galore — including the way he “slaps” his signature model Fender Stratocaster’s whammy bar with the meaty part of his hand to add various vibrato accented notes to the phrases he plays.
Shifting gears to Dave Grohl’s “Sound City” Blu-ray disc and the drum room segment, I thought the system reproduced the impact of the scene with volume and weight.
On the Morse CD, the system displayed the space and air with nice separation between Portnoy’s heavy handed drumming and Sheehan’s deep and spungy bass tone with ease. Morse’s guitar sat in the center of the room dripping with reverb and delay like the guitar virtuoso was sitting in the room with his amp blazing away. Underneath the guitar Sheehan's bass sat spread across the soundstage with Portnoy's drums mic'ed to highlight his Berklee-trained chops.
A fun point for those that play music loud — the system had no problem with Morse, Sheehan and Portnoy’s cover of “LaVilla Strangiato.” I measured the song’s opening SPLs at 67dB, and as the engineer pushes the faders up on that track the volume tracked up to 78dB before reaching peaks approaching 100dB. Hecht pointed out at that point the system had barely tapped into its available power and headroom.
Movie dialog also sounded convincing. One clip that impressed me was the “Mad Max” Dolby Atmos demo. The dialog on this clip sounded fuller than I ever heard it before, and I heard a short reverb on the dialog that I’ve never heard before. It's good to discover things on content you thought you knew.
The dynamics of the cars thrashing through the sand also showcased the dART system's dynamics and its ability to reproduce fine detail that dynamics provide as an audible element.
As you can tell, I was completely knocked out by the system. Critics will say the system is expensive, and it’s hard to disagree that it’s not an investment. My counter to that argument however, would be that to get a system of similar performance, someone would have to spend a lot more money.
The dARTS system delivers a professional-grade level of sound fidelity, volume and engineering that is hard to argue with. Thankfully for New York and Long Island-based dealers, Silkin, Smith and the DSG Metro staff are making the system available for integrators to use for client demonstrations.
I highly recommend to dealers whether you’re in the New York City/Long Island region and capable of visiting Dave and Joe, or anywhere else for that matter to try the dARTS system out. DSG Metro is launching a program to allow dealers to reserve the demo room to facilitate these experiences for dealers and their clients to hear the same things I heard. Ultimately, like me, once you hear the system it will win you over too.
Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at [email protected]
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