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More delectable than Swiss chocolate is Swiss audio, or, another visit with darTZeel’s Hervé Delétraz

P1010933[1]-2 -- by Norman Williams My second visit with Hervé Delétraz was a holy crap experience. His demo room has just recently been totally redone and I must have been one of the first guests, if not the first to experience it. Being located in the concrete basement, near to the obligatory Swiss nuclear bomb shelter/wine cellar, means that we could play loud to our heart’s content to very late, totally detached from neighbours or even sleeping family members above. I knew then that I was in for a memorable treat ... and the presence of a large vinyl collection in the room just added to that expectation. Hervé is the manufacturer of darTZeel Audio SA audio components and the distributor of Evolution Acoustics speakers in a large chunk of Europe. This trip to Hervé's home followed up on a factory tour; you can read about that, here.

There were 3 systems on display with some overlaps. The systems were defined by the 3 sets of EA speakers (does MM stand for Musical Magic?), the MMMicroOne, the MMMini2 (powered sub inside the base) and the towering MM3. The latter was powered by the monoblocs/battery powered preamp and fronted by the EMT vintage turntable and the the Playback designs MPS-5. The other 2 systems shared the MPS-3 front and used the the Integrated for the small speakers and the Stereoamp/preamp (shared) for the Mini 2s. We never used the 2nd TT setup located near the smaller speakers.

The monoblocs with PB design MP5 and the EA MM3, were outrageously dynamic and live sounding.

He is fortunate to have a basement audio showroom and so we played loud till 1am last night. I left exhausted but a happy camper. I now have a new BFF, using the parlance of my 11 year old daughter. LOL. Really, really, wonderful guy.

We have to set another listening date because one of the 3 EA speaker setups (the Mini 2 circa $40K) had a faulty accuton driver and so we couldn’t demo that properly, but the MM3 ($75K) were all that and the Micro was a shock … where the hell was the Sub-woofer!?! The Chinese manufactured MicroOne, with stands, is like $4K and it is truly a bargain, competing well against speakers up to $15K! I am sure many readers would have already heard them at shows … I need say no more!

In addition to the damaged driver, the other unfortunate occurrence was the lack of time. We started at 6:30pm, then broke for dinner at a nearby Italian place at 8pm and that took 2 hours of eats and interesting conversation that went beyond audio (sacrilege, I know).

I also have another excuse (as if I needed one) to accept a follow-up invitation, as Hervé just received a prototype from his research team (the upcoming LHC-208) integrated amp with built in DAC which can play back DSD and 192khz hires directly from a NAS via Ethernet. Still only in plywood birch chassis, so this is truly a pre-production tester. Exciting!

Next time, I will also take along my DACs for him to hear in his reference system. A Gen 4 Lampizator tube Dac and a Chord Qute DSD capable Dac (with separate linear PSU and iFi Audio triple play (iUSB/Gemini cable/iLink + Ultrafi Aubisque filter). It will be interesting for him to hear his first tube DAC and to see what the fuss about the Qute when is powered with a linear PSU.

As for music, Hervé’s big system loved the dynamics on the Himalaya tracks, Chie Ayado Tennessee waltz, Yuri Honing Trio and Lhasa, all come thru those monster full range speakers with the awesomely powerful monoblocs with their instantaneous wattage output being clearly displayed? There were peaks at over 900Ws — and recall that the woofers are all self-powered, so that was only mid/tweeter power consumption. Truly shocking dynamics. I recall going to a restaurant outside Boston with two audio buddies and the wife of one of them, where there was a live band just a couple of tables over from us. The dynamics of Hervé’s reference system matched the live performance.

We listened to the obligatory audiophile cuts like Chris Jones (passed the cricket test easily), and bass stressers like that famous Mussorgsky organ cut … ho-hum … no problems on either set up. Then we went to vinyl … some Miles Davis collectible albums he had (45RPM with one cut per side!), the first Prince album after he re-acquired the name Prince, Ella and Count Basie, Bob Marley (vinyl and the Legend CD), the Beatles anthology albums (another set of unobtaniums), Yes (“Owner of a Lonely Heart” on both media — vinyl more dynamic) and a very special SuperTramp (Crime of the Century) album made of a special vinyl that is so thin it is almost transparent and extremely robust (no damage after 300 plays). It had a passage that reached 1039Watts! Also, we listened to a Marcus Miller vinyl album. All delightful, of course.

I also did a few more pop cuts like Chris Cross’ “Sailing”, Streisand’s “What Kind of fool (oh the vocal Power), Diana Krall’s “A Case of You”, Marcus Miller’s “Pluck”, Masekela’s “Stimela” (on CD … wonderful), “All of You” from the MusikMike Vinyl sampler CD (xylophone treble all over the place, but still well handled). Many more cuts I don’t care to recall were played.

OK, while it is impossible to separate the 3 elements in the main system, ie MP5, NHB-458 Monoblocs and EA MM3, I can say that even only at 5 feet apart and (I think) no bespoke speaker cabling, the imaging was spot on, the giant towers disappeared (really cool that he has a chair between them) and the auditory illusion was of the singer sitting in the Chair. Dynamics were to die for (we listened loud as is customary with demos). Resolution in spades as the system showed up any recording flaws. Nowhere to hide!

Can’t wait for round three! Hopefully in another couple of weeks before the Summer is over. I also hope to make round four at chez moi, so that Herve can come slumming with us mundane music lovers with decidedly less ambitious gear. LOL.

Addendum: I would like to make a few corrections to the original article (found here).

  1. The full name of the company is darTZeel Audio SA, which is an anagram of Herve’s surname. It has a substantial paid up capital base and from all indications is a very solid entity.
  2. The company shares premises with the “PRO Industrie Sociale Privee” which employs physically handicapped people and people with other physical impairments.
  3. darTZeel is a network company with about 40 collaborators (employees/partners/subcontractors).
  4. The monoblocs don’t have perspex at the sides, rather they use very expensive 8mm thick bronze tempered glass. The extreme expense comes from the small quantities involved in darTZeel’s tiny production runs. This glass has the dual role of being an attractive porthole and allowing the generated electromagnetic energy an easy escape from the chassis.

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7 Comments on More delectable than Swiss chocolate is Swiss audio, or, another visit with darTZeel’s Hervé Delétraz

  1. Tasteful audio equipment should be heard and not so much seen. DarTzeel makes truly ugly equipment. (Speakers and Electronics)It offends the eye and I don’t care what it sounds like. Imagine showing this expensive grap with furniture that is reposed “Sears Roebuck!”

    • Style is subjective. I think they look great in person and when you run your hand over the finish, it feels like finely polished wood! The finish is extreme!

      darTZeel does not make the speakers, Evolution Acoustics does and they are GORGEOUS in real like.

      I quite understand if they are not to your liking though.

  2. Chord Qute
    Pumped up bass , but excellent timing that gives rhythm priority. However sold mine after 6 weeks, as the boys (7,5 and 3) complained about the noise that made their ears hurt. Perhaps I should have tried a linear power supply. Sonically it’s also a little closed in on PCM compared to my reference DAC. I did like the DSD, but the prices and selection on DSD are IMHO just unreasonable.

    • Rorie, LPSU makes a huge difference.
      A review will soon come out where this Dac via a Hypes LPSU slays a megabuck reference Dac on PCM. The reviewer OWNS the mega buck Dac!

      The Qute is good on DSD but a giant lkiller on PCM.

  3. Bomb shelter acoustics– a new angle for audiophiles. Looks like a very nice way to ride out Armageddon– at least until the food runs out. Oh well. And I might stock CDs along with the vinyl, which has a tendency to melt.

  4. Not sure, but either the stereo amp or the power amp is due for a complete revision, a Mark 2 or 3 version.

  5. Thanks! Do you know if there is a new pre- and poweramp on the way, or upgrades to the current models?

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