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Reviewer: David Kan
Financial Interests: click here
Digital Source: Marantz SA8260, Oppo BDP-83, Restek Radiant
Preamp: Elekit TU-875, Audio Zone PRE-T1, Dared MC-7P, Dared SL-2000A
Power Amp/Integrated Amp: Panasonic SA-XR25, Elekit TU-879S, Antique Sound Lab Wave-DT, Dared VP-20, Dared VP-16, JohnBlue TL-66, Winsome Labs Mouse, NuForce Ref 9 V2
Speakers: Klipsch Synergy F2/F1, Loth-X BS-1, Mark & Daniel Sapphire/Topaz, Apogee Stage, Opera Callas SP, JMlab Micron
Subwoofers: Yamaha YST-SW200, Yamaha YST-SW80, Infinity BU-1, Legacy 8” in felt cabinet
Cables: Clearaudio Silver Line interconnect, Deltec Black Slink interconnect, Luscombe LBR-35 interconnect, OCOS speaker cables by Dynaudio, Dared OFC speaker cables, Ultralink Excelsior 6N OFHC speaker cables, Aural Symphonic Digital Standard digital cable
Power Cords: Aural Symphonic Missing Link, Ensemble Powerflux, Symphonic Line
Power Line Conditioning: Tice Power Block IIIC, Belkin PureAV PF60, Monster Power HTS-3500 Mk II (modified by NuForce), Monster Power HTS-1000 Mk II
Room Size: 15’ x 13.5’ x 7’/8’ diagonal setup, carpeted concrete slab floor, suspended ceiling / 11’ x 18’ x 7’/8’ (opens to 18’ x 19’ x 7’/8’), short wall setup, carpeted concrete slab floor, suspended ceiling / 15’ x 15’ x 8’, suspended hardwood floor, suspended ceiling / 13' x 28' 8" x 9' with openings on one long wall side to hallway and staircase, short wall setup, suspended hardwood floor, suspended ceiling. All rooms have internal drywall partitions and external concrete wall finished with insulated drywall.
Review component retail: $650

Shedu, Anubis, griffins, centaurs, fauns, mermaids. Since mythological times immemorial, hybrid creatures with divine powers have roamed the face of our earth. Cross-bred supra naturals exist in audio’s history too. Hardly mythical however, hybrid amps are not only theoretically sound but also practically possible. A marriage between tube and solid-state circuits is the most common form of hybrids. Guitarists favor solid-state preamps built on tube power guitar amps, audiophiles the reverse – tube preamps partnering solid-state power amps. The promise is the warm overtone, lingering timbre and natural ambience of vacuum tubes combined with the speed, power and reliability of transistors. This type of hybrid amp comes with the added bonus of power efficiency and—sometimes but not always—affordability.

You might remember the legendary Counterpoint SA12 which married 6DJ8 tubes with Mosfets. That was in the mid 1980s and followed by the even beefier SA20, SA100 and SA220, then succeeded in the next decade by the NPS series. In the early 90s Cary had its CAD-45 four-channel hybrid amp with a 12AX7 driver stage and Toshiba outputs followed by the CAD-308SA 2-channel hybrid more than a decade later. Since its BC2 and BC2000 monoblocks, Blue Circle made continuous high-end hybrids. There was with the BC6 with 6922 input stage and bipolar outputs, then the recently retired BC24, BC28. With their current 200 Series flagships (BC202 thru 208) and SB90T stereo integrated, this Canadian company in fact never stopped advocating high-end and high-priced hybrids. In China, Cayin’s H80A is perhaps the benchmark hybrid design boasting 80wpc of class A power for only $3000. From a consumer perspective, it’s definitely convincing when tube players like Cary, Cayin and Unison Research cross over. Other players too mix up the pot from time to time. There are AMR’s AM-77 and AM-777 and Thorens’ ultra high-end Circlotron-based monos. On the preamp side, Accustic Arts’ Tube Preamp II from Germany just started stirring. But these are all high-end gourmet propositions.

For easy dining, Trends has the PA-10 preamp for $225 ($265/$299 with upgraded tubes). At $2500, Shanling’s MC-3000 isn’t exactly entry-level but considering that this buys a one-stop music center with CD player, FM tuner, iPod dock, headphone amp and 60wpc hybrid integrated with 2 x  6N3s and single-paired  bipolar Sanken transistors, it’s definitely wallet-friendly. What I hoped to see most was simply a hybrid multi-channel amp.

Say hi to hybrid 6-channel: To my delight, the Dared DV-6C takes additional steps to go beyond even a standard hybrid 6-channel entity. What more is possible you wonder? Isn’t a hybrid a hybrid? Dared’s website clearly states that three 12AX7 tubes drive the output transistors for 6 x 65 watts into 4 ohms. What more do you need to know? I wondered what more I should know and asked for schematics which were emailed in no time. At first, the three pages of control board, preamp stage and output stage looked like mythological hieroglyphs. With a little patience and Google, I managed to decipher the basic topology and prepared some pertinent questions. I was particularly excited about the choice of power amplification chips.

As this schematic shows, there are 3 x TDA8920, one for the front channels, one for the rears and one for the center/subwoofer. Instead of catching the last train to Tripathville, Dared took the Dutch Eindhoven express for Philips-sourced class D. According to online TDA8920 data sheets, the earliest A version made 2 x 50w, the replacement B version 2 x 80. Yet Dared only specs 2 x 65. I was puzzled.

The preamp stage schematic also showed how the subwoofer input does not pass through the tube preamp stage. As I dove deeper, the more I decoded the more questions arose. With the joint assistance of American importer Joe Zhou and Dared’s chief engineer and designer Steve Zhou, mythology began to unravel as they patiently satisfied my beginner’s inquisitiveness (the two Mr. Zhou are not related by the way.)

The digital stereo amplification chip is actually the latest C version. In two-channel mode, typical output is 2 x 110w and a maximum spec lists 125wpc. Dared did not push for top power however to keep THD+N low and sound quality high. Like many other D-class chips, Philips’ TDA8920C is highly efficient (90%) while output power and THD+N relate directly to the supply voltage (12.5 to 32.5V).

Dared went conservative, settled for 35/65wpc into 8/4 ohms and managed to keep down the size of the toroidal transformer and power conversion/regulator circuit for their 6-channel amp. This also eased heat management requirements. In fact, the DV-6C is probably the smallest 6-channel amp extant with a footprint of 340 x 185mm, 145mm height at its apex and a weight of 10kg. Unlike the other Dared amps that I know, the DV-6C employed a lot of surface-mount components. Apparently Dared's production line has gone hi-tech.

On the input board for the class A single-ended valve preamp stage, there are inputs for only five channels. The subwoofer leg bypasses the third tube. Dared contends that a tube input tube offers no benefit to bass frequencies. Hence the subwoofer signal enters the class D chip directly for tighter control. At the same time, the bass channel gets a broader attenuation range which equals the master volume control of +/-60dB compared to the +/-12dB trim window for all other channels.

Two other important chips can be spotted on the control board schematics. The STC89LE52 is basically a data transfer interface. It’s the central processor of the amp which carries out all input commands, logic controls and protocol executions. The chip is designed and manufactured by Chinese encryption/decryption expert Chuang Core Electronic Technology Co. Ltd., an enterprise with military affiliations which also manufactures military-grade chips and electronics. Joe further explained that Dared Tube—the Chinese name is Dan-yi-gao meaning Tube Art Preeminence— was founded by Mr. Gao Yi, a military retiree with close connections to China’s military hi-tech community. Initially, Dared and Shanling were two brand names under the same umbrella which launched roughly coincidental. They shared well-known designer Zhao Ying-Zhi who later decided to devote his full attention to Shanling. Dared had Steve Zhou ever since.

The R2S15902 is a very powerful full-function 6-channel preamp chip made by Renesas (formerly Hitachi/Mitsubishi). It is equipped with a discrete 6-channel electronic volume and gain control, 1 x 5.1 and 4 x 2.0 channel input select (one of the 2.0s is even equipped with a record out), bass/treble controls and a built-in A/D converter. To simplify things, Dared didn’t exploit all the chip’s possible functions and focused on volume control and a decoding option which simulates a  5.1 channel output from a 2-channel input based on the built-in L+R/L–R block. This is useful for virtual multi-channel playback from a stereo source. A similar function is usually found on most home theater receivers, albeit there with more hall-ambience effects. What matters most to audiophiles here are the three 12AX7 tubes that form the preamp stages for five of the channels. Input coupling capacitors in the tube front end (schematic C159 – C163) are TDK 1uF/100V units. The PM1 encoder handles channel switching.