Since its inception, Monarchy Audio has developed a strong relationship with manufacturers in Asia. Several Monarchy components are built in modern Chinese facilities, and benefit from the advances made in their latest generation of factories.1 The strong ties that Mr. Poon has developed with overseas companies gives him exposure to many different brands of equipment that are not exported to the US market. From time to time, Monarchy Audio imports a product built by an Asian manufacturer that Mr. Poon believes offers an exceptional value. Recently, Mr. Poon has been quite enthusiastic about a pair of 300B-based amplifiers that are built by Dignity Audio.
- Z11 silicon steel laminates for both the AC transformer and the filter choke
- Sophisticated output impedance selector switch (in a 4-8-16 Ohm matrix)
- All single-ended operation
- Mono block for infinite channel separation and devoted power supply per channel
- A combo Line Amp and Power Amp(Volume control on the front panel)
- Tubes: 6SN7 Input; 300B output .
- Slim chassis for compact 5-channel side-by-side stack up.
- Power supply optimized for 117V /60Hz operation (Contact distributor for 240 V/50Hz units. Voltage not changeable)
- Output Power : 8 Watts
- Input Sensitivity: 200 mV (There is no need to use any line amp) Input Impedance: 100K
- Weight: 15 lbs
- Price: $990 pair (short term special price) Manufactured in China
Dignity Audio DA-08SE review
Dignity Audio is a specialty audio company located in Hong Kong, and manufacturers a wide array of tube audio amplifiers. Actually, Hi-Tech Transformers is the parent company of Dignity Audio. Hi-Tech specializes in the production of custom ordered commercial grade transformers. Dignity Audio developed a pair of Single Ended Triode amplifier that utilize a set of high quality Perrmalloy output transformers. The DA08SE amplifiers are a slim profile monoblock that produces 8 watts per channel. This is an attractive amplifier with a conservative appearance. Dignity Audio has crafted one of those special audio products that will challenge many an audio enthusiasts opinion about the performance level that can be achieved by a moderately priced amplifier.
High quality transformers form the foundation of a good tube amplifier, and Dignity Audio has sourced some exceptional iron for these amplifiers. The DA08SE amplifiers are fitted with nickel core output transformers, which are well regarded by knowledgeable tube enthusiasts. Even the power supply transformers get special treatment, and are built from Z-11 laminate steel. The Z-11 is a high quality steel formulation, and many companies use for winding output transformers. However, other manufacturers feel that Z-11 is too costly a material for a power supply transformer, and wind their units of a lower grade steel formulation. As a general rule, modestly priced tube amplifiers do not come with high quality iron. Yet Dignity Audio has chosen to invest in good transformers, and not offer an amplifier that consists of mediocre parts housed in an eye-catching chassis.
The nickel core transformers used by Dignity Audio are responsible for 80% of the cost of parts used in the DA08SE. These transformers have two distinct advantages over their conventional steel core brethren. The primary and secondary windings of the output transformer are layered for maximum signal coupling, and result in the efficient transfer of power from the 300B output tube. The nickel core of the output transformer also results higher levels of power transfer in this stage. In regards to performance, the DA08SE amplifier will sound like it has more power than a typical 8 WPC amplifier, since it passes a higher percentage of its output to the speaker. Another advantage to these transformers is improved linearity at the frequency extremes of this amplifier. In theory the DA08SE should have better high frequency extension and tighter bass than a run of the mill SET amplifier. The output transformers 1 The Monarchy NM24 and the AC Regenerator are examples of components built in these facilities. are multiple impedance taps. There is a selector switch located on the back of the amp, which allows the user to alternate between 4/8/16 ohm settings. It is a simple task to properly configure the DA08SE to match any speaker system. 2 The output transformers used in the DA08SE are of exceptional quality, and are the primary reason this amp should be considered a true high-end component.
The transformers used by Dignity Audio consume a large portion of the funds allocated to building these amplifiers. The designers had to carefully select the remaining parts used in the DA08SE, in order to keep the overall price of this product within reason. Even though the cost of parts was an important consideration, there were still critical areas in the amp that required high quality parts be used. For instance, the DA08SE uses Solen coupling capacitors, which significantly influence the overall sonic character of this amplifier. Also, a high quality Japanese tube socket is used for the 300B output tubes. 3While the remaining parts used in the Dignity Audio amplifier are of respectable quality, the overall cost of these parts is the over riding factor in their selection. The design of the DA08SE amplifiers is a successful balancing act of a handful of superb parts, a welldesigned circuit, and the goal of a reasonable selling price.
The DA08SE amplifiers use a 300B output tube, and a 6DN7 predriver tube. Monarchy Audio packages this amplifier with high quality tubes, instead of trying to find the least expensive tube package that would meet the minimum requirements of this amp. Mr. Poon has selected the Electro-Harmonix Gold Grid 300B output tubes for this amp. For a limited time, Monarchy is able to ship the DA08SE with American made NOS 6DN7 pre-driver tubes. Mr. Poon has been able to purchase a sizable quantity of high quality predriver tubes, and will package the Dignity amps with them as long as his cache holds out. The tube package that Monarchy Audio provides with these amps is quite impressive, and allows the perspective owner of the DA08SE to hear the full potential their new amps right out of the box.
Selecting a compatible speaker for a SET amplifier is a critical step in properly configuring a system. The Audio Nirvana Super 12 speaker system is 98 db efficient, and presents a stable impedance load to the amplifier. These speakers are a natural match for the Dignity Audio amplifiers, and will allow the DA08SE to strut its stuff. A Bolder Cable Company modified Squeezebox is paired with the Audio Magic Kukama DAC for a digital front end. Since this amplifier has an input sensitivity of 200mv, I conducted the majority of my listening sessions with the DAC directly feeding these mono-blocks. 4 A Monarchy AC Regenerator feeds clean power to the amplifiers. Audio Magic Illusions 4D speaker wires, interconnects, and digital cable are used to wire up the system. Audio Magic Extreme power cords feed the DA08SE amplifiers, and the Kukama DAC.
Single Ended Triode amplifiers are highly regarded for their ability to unearth all the subtle detail and nuances that are buried in a well-recorded performance. Many audio enthusiasts who experience a SET based system for the first time, are often amazed at the unique presentation of this type of amplification. In short, SET amplifiers have a unique combination of strengths that cannot be found in other types of amplification. I expected the Dignity Audio amplifier to be a solid performer, but I have to admit that I did not think this amp was going to bowl me over. When I loaded up the first disc, I will say that I was quite surprised by the abilities of this modestly priced pair of amps. “Riding With Thunder” by the Native Flute Ensemble [Between Father Sky and Mother Earth; NARADA ND-63915] is a closely miked song that on the surface appears to be simple, but has a way of drawing the listener into the changing rhythm patterns of the instruments. The instruments for this song consist of wooden flutes, drums, and vocal chant. With the Dignity Audio amps in my system, all these instruments are reproduced with subtle shading, and superb detail. The flute line is quick and sharp, with a dissonant edge to the individual notes. The drumbeats are clear, and the decay of each strike is clearly heard through the DA08SE amps. While I cannot understand what is being said during the chanted portions of the song, it is presented with a tight focus that highlights the changes in the vocal inflections of the performers.
As I worked through my favorite tracks on this disc, I was struck by how the DA08SE amplifiers mirrored the sonic traits of my reference amps in the midrange and treble areas. In order to verify this observation, I re-installed the Electra-Print 300DRD amplifiers, and replayed several tracks from this disc. Now I was positive, in many ways these Dignity Audio amplifiers are the “sonic twin” of my $2500 Electra-Print amplifiers. The DA08SE mono-blocks image just as well, retrieve an equal amount of detail, and have the same overall tonal balance in the midrange. I can now understand Mr. Poon’s enthusiasm regarding these unassuming amplifiers.
Low powered tube amplifiers have to be paired up with an appropriate speaker system. While the nickel core output transformers used in these amps efficiently pass power, they will not allow these amps to effectively drive a low efficiency speaker system. The Audio Nirvana Super 12 drivers are an 8-ohm load, and are 98 db efficient. These speakers present an easy load to Dignity Audio amplifiers, and this combination is capable of generating the dynamic impact of a large body of instruments. “You Can Have It” by Diane Schuur and the Count Basie Orchestra [Diane Schuur and the Count Basie Orchestra; GRP Records GRD-9550] is a powerful song that showcases one of the great voices in jazz music. This is a high-energy song, and the DA08SE provides plenty of power to the Audio Nirvana speakers. The Basie Orchestra fills my listening room, and the sound does not become compressed at any time. Even during the loudest passages, Schuurs vocals remain crystal clear, and never show any signs of roughness that result from an amp being on the edge of clipping. The Dignity audio amplifiers need to be used with moderately efficient speakers in order to achieve proper performance. A 90db efficient speaker would be adequate, although a speaker that is 94db or greater would be my choice.
The area of bass performance is often considered the Achilles heel of many SET amplifiers. An 8-watt per channel amplifier just does not have enough current on tap to extract deep bass extension from an 8 or 10-inch woofer. Some SET amplifiers have robust power supplies and are capable of passing a few more watts to the speaker system. For instance, the Electra-Print 300DRD amplifiers are capable of 13 WPC, and are above average in regards to bass performance. While the DA08SE is not capable of matching my reference amps in regards to lower end performance, they do a fine job given their price and power limitations. “Atomic” is a Blondie song that is remixed by Armand Van Helden, and this track will push any amplifier to its limits. The Dignity Audio amp makes a valiant attempt to reproduce a type of bass that is found in dance club music, but really is not well suited for this type of music. The Electra-Print amplifiers do a better job in these regards, but is not the equal of a good push-pull tube amplifier. If subterranean bass response is a system requirement for you, then I suggest using a good subwoofer with this amplifier.
While the DA08SE may lack deep bass extension, it does shine in regards to the quality of bass it recreates. This amplifier has no issues reproducing an acoustic bass, or an electric bass guitar. Bass instruments are tight and quick, with the proper separation between notes. I never experienced any problems with excessive bloom in the bass region, and the lower registers never became fat or tubby. Although the Dignity Audio amplifiers still lagged behind the Electra-Print 300DRD amplifiers in terms of bass performance, they still turn in a respectable performance when their selling price is factored into the equation. 6 When I installed an Audio Pro Avantek subwoofer into the system, I was able to easily address any limitations these amplifiers had in the bass region. I could happily live with the DA08SE amplifiers, provided I kept the Audio Pro subwoofer in the system.
With the rise in popularity of Single Ended Triode amplifiers, I have noticed the selling price of many amplifiers is steadily climbing. Sure, the cost of raw materials to build transformers has risen, but there seems to be little correlation in these increased costs and the rise in price of the finished goods. The Dignity Audio DA08SE amplifiers retail for $1600 a pair, which is a fair price for a good pair of SET amplifiers. At this time Mr. Poon is offering these amps at a special price if they are ordered directly from Monarchy Audio. A pair of these amplifiers can be had for $990 plus the cost of shipping. This is quite a deal on these amplifiers, and Mr. Poon tells me that he barely breaks even at this price. If you ever have the good fortune to speak with Mr. Poon, then you will understand that he is a music lover first, and this offer is one way he can help the audio enthusiast with limited funds. Given the changes coming in the world economy, don’t expect the price of these amps to be around forever. As the Chinese economy expands, and costs of raw materials climb, it will be inevitable that Monarchy will have to increase their selling price for this amplifier.
Conclusions about DA08SE
The Dignity Audio DA08SE amplifiers are a solid choice for the audio enthusiast looking to enter the world of triode amplification. Nickel core transformers are just plain expensive, no matter where you source them from. Mr. Poon does not sell this amplifier with a bottom of the barrel tube package. A set of Electro-Harmonix 300B output tubes and NOS 6DN7 pre-driver tubes would easily be worth $200 to $250. The engineers at Dignity Audio have wrapped this up in an attractive and nicely built chassis. In regards to overall performance, the DA08SE amplifiers come within a hairs breadth of equaling the abilities of my reference amplifiers. When the selling price of both units is factored into the equation, the Dignity Audio amplifier becomes the winner in terms of “Bang for the Buck”. In the sub $1000 price category, I am not aware of any SET amplifier that can approach the performance level of these amps. If you have been looking for a cost effective way to experience the magic of SET amplification, this is the answer. Don’t wait too long, because the price of these audio gems will not always be available at this price.
Components Used For Review
- Audio Magic Kukuma DAC
- Bolder Cable Company modified Squeezebox
- Audio Nirvana Super 12 drivers with Lovecraft Designs cabinets
- Monarchy Audio AC Regenerator
- Audio Magic Illusions 4D speaker cable, Audio Magic Illusions 4D interconnects, Audio Magic Illusions 4D digital cable, Audio Magic Extreme power cords.
from aﬀordableaudio, By John Hoffman