|Dignity Audio DA08SE 300B Mono
|Triodes with Testosterone!
While attending T.H.E. Show 2006 in Las Vegas,
and minding my own business as usual, I was
approached by Mr. C.C. Poon of Monarchy Audio.
Brimming with enthusiasm, he told me about the
new 300B SET amps from Dignity Audio that
Monarchy Audio is now importing into the US.
Realizing that Mr. Poon does not get excited
over a product too easily, I was intrigued. He
explained that the Permalloy output
transformers that Dignity Audio employs are
costly to manufacture and are normally found
in much more expensive designs. He also
intimated that the Permalloy transformers
enabled the Dignity 300Bs to deliver almost
full rated power at the frequency extremes, a
feat that many other 300B amplifiers fail to
simple, retro-industrial look of the Dignity
amplifiers will make them fairly inconspicuous
in most systems. On the front panel of the
slim amplifier are the power on/off toggle and
a rotary volume control. The rear panel
contains the speaker binding posts,
gold-plated input RCA jack, and a female IEC
receptacle to facilitate use with the power
cord of your choice. One of the unique
features of these $800 per monoblock amps is
an impedance selector that switches the
speaker output between 4, 8, and 16 ohms.
Also, they use Permalloy output transformers
which are also made by some other
manufacturers for over $1,000/pair USD!
C.C. Poon suggests running sources directly
into the Dignity amplifiers in order to take
full advantage of the excellent, built-in 6SN7
tube preamp stage, I elected to use my
Parasound P/LD-2000 line stage preamp for two
reasons. The first was that it gave me the
power to select different sources, and the
second was that I knew from experience that
the high-current drive capability of the
P/LD-2000 would be more beneficial than any
slight loss of transparency due to its use.
Later in my evaluation, I used Monarchy
Audio’s new M24 tube DAC directly into the
Dignity Audio amplifiers with very gratifying
The speakers I used were the Silverline Audio
Preludes. These slim-line towers are very
dynamic and very detailed. Plus they have a
very natural tonal balance and offer very good
extension into the bass and treble ranges.
They are not only great sounding speakers, but
are useful tools to the ears of this reviewer.
My only question would be whether or not the
Prelude’s 91dB sensitivity spec would allow
for adequate listening volume in my room. It
I began my first listening session with “Times
Like These,” from Jack Johnson’s On and On CD
[Bubble Toes 440 075 012 2]. From the opening
guitar thwacks it was apparent that the
high-frequency speed and focus of the Dignity
amps was excellent. Indeed Johnson’s vocal was
perfectly centered between the speakers at an
exact point in space. And his singing sounded
natural, unstrained, and immediate. The guitar
itself had beautiful tone, letting the
listener hear the attack, decay, and harmonic
structure of every note and chord.
I enjoyed listening to this first cut so much
that I relaxed and let the CD play to the end.
The fast and spirited fretwork on “Taylor” was
ever so well captured. In fact, the Dignity
amps did so well with on and on, that I
decided to torture the little upstarts with
some of my bass heavy hitters.
loaded Bela Fleck’s Flight of the Cosmic
Hippo [Warner Bros. 9 26562-2] into my
transport and let ‘er rip, not quite knowing
what to expect. As it happened, the old hippo
sounded kind of slow and plodding and when the
song got to the really deep and loud bass
passage, that hippo wallowed and groaned like
it was being disemboweled.
Okay, not so good, but I knew that the
Preludes were nominally rated at 8-ohms and
that’s where the amp’s impedance selector was
set for on this initial pass. I also knew that
moving the switch to the 4-ohm position would
effectively double the damping factor. So of
course, that would be my next logical test. I
set both amps to the 4-ohm position and then
restarted the Hippo’s precarious flight (hard
to get one of those off the ground).
On the second pass, in the 4-ohm mode, the
hippo, thankfully, retained its lunch. The
bass was deep, tuneful, and surprisingly well
controlled. No longer did the hippo thrash
about in quick sand. Now, the hippo’s gait had
rhythm. Very impressive.
I knew that if the Dignity amps could maintain
their composure playing “Cosmic Hippo” then
they had little else to prove in the area of
naturally, I broke out other bass-heavy
material and continued my merciless onslaught.
I played Fionna Apple’s Extraordinary
Machine CD [Epic/Clean Slate EK 86683],
which is just loaded with smacking low bass
and the tiny Dignity amps continued to belt it
out like they meant it. Every once in a while
a song would contain an extremely low note and
the Dignity/Prelude duo would pressurize the
room as if to say, “Back at you!”
But as one might guess, with only 8 watts
output the bass of the Dignity amps had its
limitations. They did not quite have the
control of the >4000 damping factor NuForce
Reference 8 amps and they could not play
nearly as loud. Likewise, a pair of Manley
Mahi monoblocks provided greater power and
oomph in the low bass. If the Dignity amps are
used with more efficient speakers this bass
limitation would likely be less apparent, and
when kept to reasonable levels with the
Preludes it was quite satisfying. Monarchy’s
C.C. Poon recommends using speakers of at
least 93dB/W, which makes perfect sense to me.
Perhaps more important than the Dignitys’
ability to produce “ultimate” bass, was their
ability to produce natural, tonally-authentic
bass; meaning that bass instruments sounded
particularly real, and that bass notes
maintained their pitch definition and were
easy to follow.
after torturing the amps with bass-buster
recordings, I put on some nice classic jazz.
From Branford Marsalis’ Trio Jeepy
[Columbia CK 44199], I cued up Track 3, “The
Nearness of You,” and listened. The Dignity
amps immediately showed their prowess by
capturing the guttural growl of Marsalis’ bass
saxophone, center stage. Everything about the
sax sounded right, you could hear the wispy
sound of the reed and even the spittle in the
mouthpiece of the brass machine. Adding
palpable punctuation on the left was the
double bass, while on the right the brushed
cymbals sounded almost feathery, and had the
ring of authenticity. This was great sound
reproduction, by any standard.
Just to check and see if I wasn’t
hallucinating about how great the Dignity amps
reproduced Marsalis’ sax, I reinstalled my
prized NuForce Reference 8 amplifiers and
played the track again. The NuForce rendition
was good. Image size was large, and certainly
the sax was clean and dynamic sounding. Yet,
it seemed that the Dignity amps better
captured the whole body of the instrument in a
way that the NuForce amps couldn’t quite
manage. It sounded just a little more natural
and a little more “present.”
This experience started me thinking, and just
for the sake of getting another take on it I
pulled my VanAlstine-modified Dyna Stereo 70
from the closet and hooked it up. Here we are
talking about an EL-34-based, push-pull
amplifier with tube rectification.
Interestingly, what I found was that the
Dignity amps sounded more transparent and
natural on the saxophone and other mid-band
instruments. When I tried the EL-84-based
Manley Mahi amplifiers in their best-sounding,
single-ended triode mode with minimum
feedback, the difference was smaller, but
still apparent, with the Dignity amps edging
all comers for ultimate midrange purity.
At the opposite end of the frequency spectrum,
the Dignity amps were definitely fast and
natural, but they did not possess as much
high-frequency extension as either the NuForce
or the Dyna 70. This made for a slightly
darker tonal balance. Yet, the treble of the
Dignity amps was very clean, fast, and
harmonically right. Using them in conjunction
with the Silverline Preludes worked very well
because to my ears the Preludes seem to have a
small emphasis somewhere in the treble. This
trait was the least noticeable when using the
Dignity amps. In fact I doubt that most people
would be able to pick it out. Accordingly, the
Dignity amps mated very well with the
Preludes, with the condition that one would
need to maintain sensible volume levels. This
is less difficult than it might seem because
the Dignity amps continue to sound extremely
alluring even at lower volume levels.
The above comments on the treble performance
of the Dignity amps are based on using Belden
14-gauge copper power cords on the amplifiers.
I found that when I switched to the silver
NuForce Stealth power cords the treble
extension and high-frequency “air” improved
quite a bit. In fact, with the Stealth cords
the Dignity amps produced some of the most
extended and natural sounding treble that I
have ever heard from an audio system.
I believe I’ve established that the
Dignity amplifiers are very competent and
musical fulfilling amplifiers.
That said, there are a couple of issues that
may or may not bother potential buyers. The
first thing I noticed upon initially powering
the amplifiers up was that they were
mechanically noisy and I could also hear a
low-level 60Hz tone with my ear very close to
the speakers. But it was the mechanical
humming and buzzing that annoyed me the most.
Mr. Poon noted that although the Permalloy
transformers in the amps offered extremely
wide bandwidth, they were also very sensitive
to impurities on the AC line.
Mr. Poon sent me Monarchy’s new P100 AC
Electrical Source to try, but that proved to
be a double-edged sword. The P100 is similar
to the PS Audio Power Plants in that it is an
AC power regenerator. Both the line voltage
and line frequency can be varied, but the unit
was only rated at 100 watts which is the
maximum draw of the two Dignity amps.
I must say that the sound quality of the
amplifiers was fantastic through the P100. By
changing the line frequency from 60Hz to 50Hz
I was able to get the amps very quiet. Not
only that, but the sound became even sweeter
through the midrange and highs and the bass
seemed to tighten up a bit. The big downside
of this arrangement was that the current draw
of the amps kicked the P100’s internal cooling
fan into high gear, where it sounded about as
loud as my Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner. So my
feeling is that this type of device will work
well with the Dignity amps, but you’ll need a
power regenerator that can support at least a
few hundred watts output without becoming
noisy. After listening to all that fan noise,
suddenly the mechanical hum of the Dignity
amps didn’t seem so bad!
My second caveat, is that the speaker binding
posts on the Dignity amps sound good, but are
obviously inexpensive. After installing and
uninstalling my spade lugs about 5 times, a
couple of the speaker posts loosened up. This
would not be a terrible thing if one could
gain access to the tightening nuts easily, but
I found that I’d need to remove many more
chassis screws than I was comfortable in order
to reach the binding posts. I finally gave up
and left them loose. In the real world, this
condition might necessitate a trip back to
Monarchy to have the posts re-tightened. And I
personally find that inconvenience
unacceptable. I suppose that using banana
plugs instead of spades would not stress the
posts as much and they would probably stay
tighter longer. But since the posts are
difficult to access, it would be better if
Dignity Audio found a way to prevent this
potential problem from occurring at all.
The Dignity Audio 300B mono SET
amplifiers are excellent sounding units that
provide a healthy amount of articulation and
finesse along with the kind of
drop-dead-gorgeous midrange reproduction that
is the hallmark of 300B single-ended triode
Their Permalloy output transformers did indeed
allow these amplifiers to achieve greater
extension at both frequency extremes than one
would normally expect from a 300B amp.
However, my review pair had a higher level of
mechanical hum than other amps I have had in
I have expressed my concerns to Monarchy’s Mr.
Poon, and he has passed them on to the folks
at Dignity Audio. As a result, a new version
of the amplifier will be available shortly. It
will include several parts upgrades, and will
address the mechanical transformer hum.
Therefore I am planning a follow up to this
review, which should appear in the late summer
I absolutely enjoyed my listening sessions
with the Dignity amplifiers. Those looking for
very good sounding 300B amplifiers in this
price range should put the Dignity Audio
DA08SE amplifiers on their short list of
I have now received the updated version of the
Dignity DA08SE amplifiers with the redesigned
output transformers. The new Permalloy
transformers appear physically larger and more
substantial than the original transformers.
Most importantly, they are dead quiet, and
have no mechanical hum that I can discern.
Dignity has also tightened their quality
control so that things like loose binding
posts should not occur.
Happily, the extraordinary midrange and
focused, fast, and detailed treble has been
retained. In fact, the treble may be even more
extended in the updated version. The bass
appears to be quite similar. It is less
forceful and extended than that of my other
much more powerful amplifiers, but the
Dignity’s bass is very articulate and
demonstrates superb pitch definition.
These improvements remove my main complaints
for these wonderful sounding 300B SET
monoblocks. Accordingly, I can now recommend
the Dignity Audio DA08SE amplifiers without
reservation. Those who are considering a
higher-priced 300B amp purchase may do well to
audition the Dignity Audio amps—last…
- Permalloy output
transformer for highest energy coupling from
the tube to the speaker Z11 silicon steel
laminates for both the AC transformer and the
(This is the material other tube manufacturers
use for their output transformers).
- Sophisticated output impedance selector
switch (in a 4-8-16-ohm matrix
for best speaker matching).
- All single-ended operation.
- Monoblock construction for infinite channel
separation and devoted power supply per
- A combo line amp and power amp (volume
control on the front panel).
- Slim chassis for compact 5-channel
- Power supply optimized for 117V /60Hz
(Contact distributor for 240 V/50Hz units --
voltage is not changeable).
Output Power: 8 watts
Input Sensitivity: 200 mV
Input Impedance: 100k-ohms
Tube Compliment: 6SN7 input; 300B output.
Weight: 15 lbs.
Price: $800 per monoblock
380 Swift Ave., #21
S. San Francisco, CA 94080
The DA08SE is hand built in Hong Kong by
Dignity Audio, a company that specializes in
high quality output transformers. They are
exclusively distributed and serviced in the
USA and Canada by Monarchy Audio.