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Swan Diva 2.1 Review

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  • Swan Diva 2.1 Review

    I first wrote this review of my 2.1's when I got them nearly a year ago. I'm just as happy with them today and now that there is a forum for reviews here...

    Swan Diva 2.1 Review

    I love music. I love movies. I?m not quite an audiophile, or a videophile but I really enjoy listening to good music and watching good movies. Accordingly, I?ve wanted to buy great speakers for years. I spent the last six months trying to find some, including a lot of time spent reading online forums. I considered speakers in the several hundred to several thousand dollar price range. I auditioned over 20 different lines of speakers. I educated myself as to how sound is reproduced, how speakers are made and what I liked in audio reproduction (this process is very personal).

    At the end of the day, I purchased a pair of Swan Diva 2.1 speakers from (gasp ? an online only retailer ? I know what you may thinking ? but really, everything worked out great). I?ve decided to write up a review of them as a form of contribution and because I have an interest in this stuff. So, here goes:

    These little beauties are a two way design with your typical ~2K crossover. They use a conventional 6? cone (inverted) driver and 1? silk dome tweeter (that sits above the speaker in a separate housing similar to some others you may have seen). They are front ported (flared) and of average size, though quite heavy (which is a good thing to me).

    These speakers are very flat from 50K to 20K on and off axis with a little rise in SPL (sound pressure level aka volume) at the bottom end. They are manufactured out of braced MDF (like everything else except some of the most high end stuff and some companies who prefer natural hard woods (a nice little debate)).

    The drivers are manufactured by HiVi Research who make an incredible amount of drivers annually.

    As an interesting aside, that?s how I found these speakers ? I was looking for drivers to build my own speakers and ran across their site and eventually took note that I couldn?t build them for much less that I was buying them ? let alone assure the same level of quality.

    The technology in these isn?t cutting edge, but Swan does have other lines if your interested, as I was, in things like ribbons and such. As I learned however, the ?conventional? stuff can be really, really great ? maybe the best depending on what you like.

    For me, I wanted a speaker with great imaging, a holographic sound stage (that seemed to reach out to me), fast, tight, relevant bass, a super clear and smooth mid range (especially for vocals which often sounded muddled to me) and crisp but not overly forward treble ? not rolled off either. I needed something for audio and video, something for all kinds of music and something that wouldn?t break the bank.

    My reference recording for most of my speaker testing, including these, was track 7, Just Like You Imagined, on the Left CD of The Fragile by Nine Inch Nails. It?s a vocal-less electronic cut ? fairly mellow for Trent but very intense with lots of complex layering, nice piano, good dynamics and a ton of very discrete sounds. Anything that passed that test got some Liz Phair, Ani Difranco and Aimee Mann for vocals; Cyrstal Method, Dr. Dre and the Ghetto Boys for bass; a little Helmet and Slayer for metal; and the Don Ellis Orchestra for lots of reasons.

    Accordingly and with time, I?ve listened to just about every kind of music on these speakers (with the exception being country) and they have preformed equally well with all. I?ve managed to get just about everything I wanted.

    The sound I have is as follows:

    Open, extremely clear, smooth and crisp, non fatiguing and yet still convincing. I have a nice sound stage (placement was relatively easy) and I can sit in fairly wide and deep sweet spot.

    I have heard new sounds on every recording I have listened to. Recently, I listened to a bass guitar, kick drum and floor tom all being played on the same quick rhythm and in contrast to the past, I could easily distinguish and appreciate all three.

    For movies, I can finally hear what everyone is saying and still get all the nice effects. And this is with just two channel ? they offer a very nice looking center and rear surrounds if you are interested. The Princess Bride and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas were two I tried right away. DVD movies are superb. I prefer my 2 channel setup to most 5 channel systems I?ve heard. There is a scene in Black Hawk Down where a mini-gun winds up to speed a on ?Little Bird? helicopter that just blows me away.

    The bass only gets down to 50hz so if you pop in some techno you?re going to want a sub woofer and you?ll miss it for some artists drums but what is there is very good and quite serviceable.. Right out of the box, bass is present but really laid back and dry. After a good break in though (60 hours or so for me) it really came alive and thumps in its element.

    To me, the best overall feature is clarity.

    So, what?s missing?

    Well, these are bookshelves with an 88 db sensitivity. So, they fill my 17 x 14 room pretty well but they don?t crank or intimidate without adding some distortion (though not as much as you might imagine). They also don?t get down real low, but I can (and will) add a sub. The nice thing here is that I can cross it over at something decent like 60hz instead of 100 or 120 like a lot of other stuff in this price range. I heard better imaging when I was looking at speakers and I?ve heard more depth in soundstage isn?t nearly as speaker friendly as anything a dealer has setup.

    I?m currently using a 55W B&K Components amp and their PT3II premap. These match up well and really added clarity in the mid-upper range over the low end Kenwood integrated amp I was using.

    Having a pair of speaker that works well in your room despite these inadequacies is very important and therefore I made speaker placement an important part of my requirements. I passed on some great equipment because of this but certain designs and placement ?stingyness? just wasn?t practical for me.

    Just so you know, the other stuff I tested was PSB, Joseph Audio, Vandersteen, B&W, Tannoy, Magnepan, Sonus Farber, Vienna Acoustics, Sony, JBL, Infinity, Polk, DCM, Klipsch, and Dahlquist (which I used to own). There are a lot of different sound styles in there? What I will say is that these speakers lie somewhere in the middle, very clear and refined, very distortion free ? it may take some getting used to; and yet, not totally incapable of making anything but classical engaging.

    I also considered but didn?t listen to Ascend Acoustics, Theil, Triangle, Linn, Castle, Onyx, Ohm, Nohr and Axiom.

    I know a lot of people who compare Ascend, Axiom, Onyx Rocket and Swan Diva. Between these, based on my personal listening tastes and my interactions with all four companies, I was most interested in Ascend and Swan. In the end, I found my visual and audio preferences, personal design philosophy and future plans for upgrades etc. most aligned with the Swan from TheAudioInsider but I?m not trying to take anything away from the others or get into a debate about that.

    Having put the sound through the paces, here is how they look. My cases are finished in black cherry pvc though they can be had in rose wood. My pvc looks great especially in a little light ? they are right out in front of a window, so as you can see, I haven?t had to hide them away. In fact, they were on the approved list from my girlfriends perspective and that list was pretty short.

    In summary, given my budget (again, several hundred to say 1500), is this the best purchase that I personally could have made (factored mostly for sound, but including issues of quality, looks and support) ? yes. Are there ?better? speakers our there ? yes, but they cost much more money and their differences are more subtle than the differences between these speakers and what most people listen to all day long. Most importantly, do I recommend that you check out these speakers ? yes. You very well may like something else but hopefully this review and subsequent recommendation is of some help along the way. Good luck,

    Tim LaMarca

  • #2
    Hi were these the original Swan Divas or the newer ones?

    Have you listened to 6.1 ? If you have could you let me know your impressions of those. I was planning on getting a pair of 6.1.



    • #3
      these were purchased in july of 2003. i think they are the same but perhaps Jon could tell for sure.

      i have not personally heard the 6.1. i think the general consensus is that the 5.2 and 6.1 carry the sound of the 2.1 forward (improve) but of course the 6.1 differs more than the 5.2 in design. the 4.1, i think, is probably also an improvement, but i understand it has different bass characteristics from the others - which is up to personal taste.

      of course the 6.1 is also 3 way, but i haven't heard of any crossover complaints. what i can say about the 6.1 with is that the tweeter is the one driver consistency and in my setup (2.1's w/ sub10) the best overall driver.


      • #4
        oh, and if you do decide to get something, be prepared for the drivers to break in over at least 48 hours - the bass in particular will really improve in detail over this time.