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Available in black or silver, the Dared DV-6C looks somewhat rear heavy. You can’t miss the drum-shaped transformer and red filter caps at the back which occupy more than 3/5th of the top deck real estate. The 400-watt rated transformer is a line trafo without secondaries. It simply supplies continuous AC voltage to the valves. Power filter capacitors are Nichicon 470uF/35V. The tube preamp schematic also shows the technically advanced 78M09 and 79M12positive and negative voltage regulators instead of tube or bridge rectifiers. These are coupled to bi-diodes, filter caps, inductors and other parts for AC/DC conversion to provide clean regulated power for the Philips TDA8920C power amp modules.

Joe further explained: "Those chokes with filtering caps form the basic pi filtering for the DC regulator. By combining both capacitive and inductive filtering devices, ripple voltage suppression is superior to either a pure capacitance or inductance filter."

Perhaps the easiest way to fathom the real R&D and production capabilities of any audio company is to inspect their remote controls (if they even offer one). Most firms purchase ready-made third-party modules. Dared performs all firmware programming, design and production in-house. Theirs is a credit-card remote for the DV-6C. It’s full function except for power. You must flick the mains rocker on the right cheek for that. All other functions and adjustments available from the front panel can also be performed from the listening chair. This is of critical importance for multi-channel music listening as well as for home theater applications.

Say good-bye to hyper audiophilia:
The DV-6C is a plain pikestaff that flips a finger at those mindbogglingly complex multi-channel receivers. It’s hard to imagine how it packs its complex circuitry and considerable functions into so small a chassis and keeps the aesthetics so streamlined, the interface so simple.

I’ll first take you through the many functions executable from the remote. After power is switched on, the amp initiates a 10-second soft start and gradually raises the master volume to the last setting while the central red LED flashes ten times. Then the power LED stays on either red for 5.1 or green for AUX, indicating the chosen input depending on your last selection. The four red LEDs on the far left confirm that front, center, rear and subwoofer outputs are operative and the amp is ready for multi-channel playback. The remote control now gives you a choice between 2.0, 2.1, 5.0 or 5.1 output and the respective LED lights up. You can then adjust or mute the master volume and balance the individual outputs of your multi-channel installation. Without a balance calibration display or indicator of any sort, you either use a digital sound level meter like the Radio Shack model I have or trust your ears. If you want to set every channel to the same level, simply adjust them to either full or minimal output. The associated LEDs stop flashing when maximum or minimum levels are reached.

The input select toggles between the 2-channel AUX and 5.1 input. The former confirms with a green central LED. In 2-channel mode, you may still select 2.1, 5.0 or 5.1 to put the virtual multi-channel decoder to work. Unlike bulky home theater receiver which simulate different effects (hall, stadium and church for example), this virtual surround is quite raw and basic. It appears to me that the subwoofer channel is full-range to make it advisable to lower the subwoofer volume whenever you’re in 2.1 or 5.1 virtual mode. Bass augmentation otherwise will become overpowering. On a whole, virtual surround does sound grander and more spacious but the soundstage also shifts forward towards the listener.

Using the remote power button only effects stand-by but doesn’t turn off the tube heaters. The power outputs are muted, their respective indicators turn off and the speakers will be dead silent. The central red LED flashes intermittently until the mains power is turned off with the side switch. Only then does the tube preamp stand down. This in fact is the proper procedure to power off the DV-6C. It’s somewhat like shutting down the power amp before the preamp. If you skip this step and switch off power directly, you’ll incur a loud transient through all speakers. Doing it properly only burps the subwoofer a little since that bypasses the preamp stage.

All of these functions are duplicated by the two multi-tasking front panel knobs so misplacing the remote causes no panic. The volume knob doubles as standby control with a push/hold. The selector knob on the left is triple-tiered: Push and hold to toggle between AUX and 5.1 inputs; push briefly to select channels; dial up and down for channel-specific output trim. I was extremely impressed by the design of the remote control and chassis. It’s all most user-friendly, functionally smart and very slick. Ever since Dared began to OEM for Japanese and UK brands a few years ago, production QC, aesthetics and finish also improved significantly – of which the DV-6C is a perfect example.

That said, the DV-6C is obviously a far cry from German or Swiss-style craftsmanship. Considering its Wal-Mart pricing and colorful Black & Decker retail box packaging, it’s clearly aimed at the mass market where its spring-loaded speaker terminals merely confirm its common-man appeal. I won’t complain because the space on the rear panel is limited. Plus, who would run Skylon-prized python-sized cables on a $650 amp? Yes, $650! Is Dared kidding? Joe Zhou confirmed that due to some miscalculations, they did lowball the amp by about 30% before it could be rectified. Do you still feel like complaining about clip-on terminals?

Rather than bitch about fact and circumstance, let me offer some improvisation. To enable my usual banana cables in the case of the first round of audition with the Dared OFC and the Ultralink Excelsior 6N OFHC, home-brew braided adapters proved handy and bendy to curl around the back of the amp which in my case backed right into the wall. These adapters are 2-inch 12-gauge speaker cables soldered onto binding posts and insulated with heat shrink. They also accept banana-plug OCOS adapters to facilitate OCOS connection for my subsequent auditions. With that solved, I ran this amp for multi-channel SACD music reviews over 10 long months to allow plenty of time for break-in and long-term observations.

SurROUND 1: My first resident multi-channel system is built around Klipsch Synergy floorstanders with a Marantz SA8260 SACD player as source. Driving three 95.5dB Klipsch Synergy F2s as front channels are an Elekit TU-879S integrated for the left and right and an Elekit TU-875 preamp + Antique Sound Lab Wave DT monoblocks for the bi-amped center. A pair of 93dB Synergy F1s driven by Elekit TU-875 + ASL Wave DT make up the rears. I am happy with the overall bass so the subwoofer channel is omitted. All these amps are narrow miniatures yet the DV-6C shrunk it all down further to 1/6th of their combined width. In order to assess Dared’s subwoofer output, I bought a cheap Legacy 8 road-warrior car subwoofer, put it in a felted enclosure and called it a day at less than $50.

The Klipsch Synergy Series are probably the most underrated budget home theater speakers which hold the hottest tricks to flatter tube amps with elegant demeanor and airy ambience. They never overstate their cause and discretely abstain from excess valve bloom. They pamper Tripath amps like KingRex with exquisite mellifluousness too. With that in mind, the DV-6C felt as cozy and cuddly as slipping into the love bed. I never before had heard the Philips TDA8920C in a solo performance but speculated that it had to be as refined and musical as any of the other proven class D chips. Mated with the 12AX7 drivers, the musical canvas was spatially expansive yet densely populated with well-proportioned instruments.

When I said canvas, I really meant a 360° omni soundstage which extends beyond the 5.1 speakers. The many true surround recordings by 2L of Norway make a demonstrably strong case for a good multi-channel amp. Because these recordings put the listener in the center to be surrounded by the musicians in a complete circle, you don’t want loop holes. The DV-6C forged the perfect partnership with the signature wide dispersion and involving ambience of Klipsch to make this circular canvas almost seamless. ‘Almost’ was due to being handicapped by a short-wall setup in a long room where I have to adhere to the typical front 30°/rear 110° placement as per the ITU 5.1 standard. This didn’t work that well for true surround music recordings.

Nevertheless, musical coherence still managed to round up the ensemble in the Mozart Violin Concertos by Marianne Thorsen and Trondheim Solistene [2L 38SACD] to complete the illusionary omni soundscape in my listener’s mind. The creative orchestral writing in Ståle Kleiberg’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra / Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra [2L 59SACD] was reasonably well served with its brilliant virtuoso interpretation and dramatic stage layouts. I knew that my other multi-channel system around Mark & Daniel speakers—they are more or less evenly spaced out in a square room—creates a more dramatic sonic hologram. Still, the DV-6C and Klipsch partnership excelled at musical euphony which took my mind off these matters. 
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