Daber Audio Monitor 3 Loudspeaker
|Daber Audio Monitor 3 Loudspeaker
|An Uncommon Debut
Tell me if this sounds familiar. A young man who desires to have a great sounding, butt-kicking stereo system, but either can’t afford the components he wants or doesn’t want the ones he can afford. He begins staying up late nights, reading books like The Loudspeaker Cookbook and spends countless hours building speakers and subwoofers that he swears will outperform anything in his local hi-fi shop. The high-end audio industry is littered with these types of people and we’ve benefitted by being introduced to some of the best sounding, innovative and affordably priced gear because of them.
Steve Brown, owner of Taylorville, Illinois-based Daber Audio, is one of these people. Brown began his career doing car audio installations and became rather adept at building car audio subwoofers. Finally, in 2005, Brown grew tired of seeing what the subwoofer market had to offer, and started building high-end subwoofers for both car and home audio systems. His Tympanist 12 home audio subwoofer is a massive 104 lb. beast that not only can play loud but produces bass down to a subterranean 14Hz(!). Brown has now focused his talents on the rest of the frequency spectrum with a new three-way monitor called aptly enough, the Monitor 3.
The Monitor 3 is an easy to drive 91dB efficient design that effortlessly covers the 35Hz to 21 KHz frequency range. It’s a modestly sized loudspeaker, measuring 9” x 22” x 14” (whd), though they weigh a rather robust 32 lbs. The cabinets are made from MDF and are fairly non-resonant, though I used Entreq Audio Energy Transformers to minimize what little vibration there may have been just in case. The sample pair that I had were elegantly finished in a nice dark cherry veneer on all sides, accept for the front baffle which was black. The speakers are also offered in maple, and a piano black finish. “Anything else a customer desires, such as a maple burl or any other type of exotic finish is offered,” said Brown. Custom colors, such as Mercedes Silver, Ferrari Red, Bugatti Blue, and anything the heart desires is also available for an upcharge.”
The driver compliment consists of a Hi-Vi RT-1C-A ribbon tweeter (the little brother to what Burmester uses in their $45K B-99 loudspeaker), 2” Dayton Aluminum midrange, and an 8” Hi-Vi Magnesium/Aluminum woofer. Internal wiring is all OFC, and on the rear of the cabinet is a port and a pair of Satin Nickel five-way binding posts. There is a Monitor 3 “Signature Edition” in the works that will use Cardas wire internally and WBT binding posts.
I placed the speakers on 24” high Tyler Acoustics speaker stands which meant the tweeters were just about ear height when I sat in my listening spot. I was struck by just how handsome the combination of the Monitor 3s and the Tyler stands looked considering their modest price. And speaking of price, did I mention that the Monitor 3 only costs $1,700 per pair? This makes them an uncommon bargain by today’s audiophile standards, that is, assuming that they do in fact sound as good as they look. Do they? Please continue to read.
Ready to Roll
First, a confession. The Monitor 3s arrived just as I was finishing up some comparative listening between the $20K Escalante Design Fremonts and $16K Dynaudio Sapphires. So bear that in mind as you continue to read. I took a little extra time in getting them setup in my listening room. Brown, who is a fellow Illinoisan, was kind enough to drive the speakers to my home and gave me a good starting point from which to begin my listening. But I found myself moving and measuring and moving again until finally… I ended up almost exactly where Brown had set them up to begin with. Obviously, he knows his design very well. That’s always a good sign.
I began my listening with one of my favorite tunes, Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man from the Ray Brown Trio’s “Live at the Loa/Summer Wind” [Concord CCD-4426]. I love this live disc because of the great audience interaction. It is important to me for a speaker to not just reproduce music but with live music, to also reproduce the atmosphere. That is something that the Monitor 3s did surprisingly well. This is a very musical and well balanced loudspeaker. Actually, given that it was designed by someone who primarily builds subwoofers, I was impressed with the fact that the bass wasn’t somehow exaggerated. Don’t get me wrong the bass is definitely healthy, just not overly done.
A tune that further tested that theory is La Temps Passe, from Michel Jonasz’s “La Fabuleuse Histoire De Mr. Swing” [EMI Music]. Jonasz is a French Pop singer whose music is heavily synthesized with loads of deep bass. As I mentioned, I had been listening to speakers who were able to flawlessly handle all of the deep bass energy that this recording produces. While the Monitor 3s were certainly not their equal, they sure didn’t embarrass themselves either. What they may have lacked in relative bass they made up for in size and scale of soundstage. Frankly, as good as these speakers sounded on their own, I would really be intrigued by what they could do coupled with Daber’s $1,500 Tympanist sub. We’re talking about a $3,200 system that could possibly be a world beater.
Okay, so we know that the Monitor 3s can do live jazz and can produce big, bass heavy sound without losing its composure. Now let’s talk about the little things, more to the point, female vocals.The great Barbara Morrison laid down one of the most romantic jazz vocals I’ve ever heard on the song Don’t Go To Strangers, from the CD, “I Know How To Do It,” [Chartmaker Records]. This is the song that I have listened to probably more than any other song that I have. So I would not be tolerant of a loudspeaker that could not render this heartfelt performance properly. The Monitor 3 didn’t let me down. There was no edginess to the upper octaves of Morrison’s voice as is usually the case with less expensive speakers. The ribbon tweeter the Monitor 3 uses does a remarkable job in this regard. Musical balance was good though the degree of midrange air and detail seemed a little softened. All-in-all, the speaker offers an exceptional level of performance considering its modest price tag.
What’s more exciting about the Daber Audio Moniotor Three though, is the fact that this is only their first loudspeaker offering, and by Brown’s own admission, they can improve on the quality of parts used to make the Monitor 3 and they can improve the fit-n-finish. A floor standing model is on the horizon as well.
Steve Brown should be very proud of what he has achieved in the Monitor 3 loudspeaker, and I hope he continues to develop it and his other designs as well. High-end audio needs more of those frustrated young men building affordable, high-quality gear for the masses. As it is, what he has brought to the marketplace an attractive, thoughtfully designed, and eminently musical sounding loudspeaker that almost anyone can afford. Highly recommended.
Daber Audio Monitor 3 Specifications
8 inch Magnesium/Aluminum woofer
2 inch Aluminum dome midrange
Satin Nickel binding posts
Hand built crossovers using hand selected parts
150 watt RMS power handing
91 db efficiency.
8 ohm nominal impedance
Rear facing port
Finished in black, cherry, and piano black
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