IntroductionThis time when Sagar from Pro Audio Home / Pristine Note contacted me and said that had another product for review, I guessed it was maybe another IEM that they had come up with. Having experienced the overall good quality of their previous line-up of the O16 and C12, I was naturally interested.
When the package arrived inside bubble wrap, it looked like everything but an IEM box. And it was big and heavy. The carton said “HiVi” and “Swans” in English. Rest was all in Chinese script. that, coupled with all the Chinese script on the carton, almost made me believe this was some Chinese brand.
My first thought was they had wrongly delivered this. But that didn’t keep me from taking a peek inside the carton. Even if this turned out to be a wrong delivery, I would persuade them to let me try the speakers out before returning them.
Anyway, I shot off a mail to the guys at Pristine Audio asking if there had been a genuine mistake and went on to explore the contents of the carton.
Inside, tucked among the usual thermocole packing, I found the actual intended product, Signature Acoustics’ newest addition to their IEM line-up, the Be-09 IEM. So this was not a mistake and I had already sent a mail for the same. Ah well. We’ll get to that when it comes. Back to the speakers.
Packaging / Build Quality
Taking out the speakers, the first thing to be noted is how heavy they are compared to the usual market offering in this kind of “packaging”. This is usually a positive sign since it is more likely to have a better-built cabinet or drivers with larger magnets. The next thing to be noted is the finishing quality of the speakers and the wires. Let’s go into a bit more detail in here.
First up, the speakers:
• The main or the master speaker is the heavier of the two [3.5Kg active / 2.3Kg passive]. It houses the power supply, tone/volume control and the amplification modules.
• The speakers are bi-amp'ed. This means that there are two 2-channel amps inside, with one 2-channel amp driving the high freq band, and the second driving the low freq band. The crossover is at 1.8kHz.
• The cabinets are solid built and have a great finish.
• The cabinets have rosewood veneer along with a black piano lacquered front panel with flared baffle.
• Mid-range: 4" for mid-range and bass. Tweeter: 20mm dome type.
• Each speaker sits solidly on 4 thick [~3mm] foam grommets.
• The speakers are rectangular ported at the back.
• The volume and tone controls are seated inside a metal socket on the right side of the active speaker box. The knobs are machined and polished metal. The volume control pot is well dampened and has a very pleasant feel to the touch. The treble and bass control are centered for a 0 dB gain and have +3dB/-3dB gain when rotated to the extreme right/left respectively.
• The grill is polyester based, and looks very suave. It has the Swans logo on the bottom.
• The power on switch on the back plate is hard and tacky. It has a blue LED to indicate power-on state.
Second up, the wires:
• 3.5mm to RCA mini Audio signal cable: The cable itself is of a thick, soft variety. The RCA and the 3.5mm jacks are of OK build and are nickel plated.
• Connection cable: This is a 4-pin CB connector for connecting the active and passive speakers. It has four pin-outs, two for each high frequency and two for low frequency.
• AC power cable: Chinese branded, but of okayish quality. The outlet plug is Type A, so make sure you have a type converter handy.
Overall, the speakers are well built for the price point.
The first thing to notice when switching the speakers on/off, is that there is a very loud pop. This indicates that the turn on/off transients have not been taken care of. This is a very serious flaw that can damage the cones over time. Turning the volume down has no effect on the popping.
These speakers are marketed as near-field monitor concepts extended to desktop multimedia. Near-field monitors are a term used to specify that the speakers are best listened to while sitting at a close proximity, which in case of a desktop speakers, is an ideal application. To get the best possible sound, the listener and the speakers need to be in an equilateral triangular position, with the speakers toed in to face the listener’s ears.
Moving on to the actual acoustics:
The speakers are absolutely a gem at reproducing mids and highs. They are so very clean, airy and smooth to listen to.
The highs are crisp, precise and very transparent. There is never a time where I felt there was a lack or an excess of treble. That being said, I did feel that the D1010mkII is a just a bit on the brighter sound. But that’s alright, I like my sound just a bit on the brighter sound.
The mids sound equally well balanced. But where the Swans really shine are in the human voice reproduction department. Swans has done a tremendous job in getting this right. Voices sound very, very neutral and extremely natural. There is no hint of that extra brightness which is there in the highs. I have quite a few tracks that are voice focussed, with a minimal of instruments and these tracks are a treat to listen to on the D1010mkII.
The bass is where the D1010mkII could use some improvement. The bass did settle a bit from the time I unpacked it, but I felt it was still a bit muddy. Not that it is lacking in anyway or not punchy, the bass is plenty and punchy enough for a bookshelf speaker. But it is still a bit muddy after 100+ hours of playback and there are points where it does not resolve so well.
Don’t get me wrong though. The bass that is not so good through the Swans D1010mkII, is still a lot better than any other bookshelf speaker or multimedia systems at this price point.
The soundstage is okay enough and better than most budget bookshelves. However, for multi-layered recordings or, recordings with more number of instruments the speaker struggles to resolve the instruments. The D1010mkII held its own through some very heavy metal tracks. But on most Dream Theatre tracks it failed to resolve the layers clearly.
I played a mix of FLAC, MP3 and YouTube during the reviewing period. What I found was that the speakers are forgiving to the quality of the source. So, even if you have run of the mill 128kbps MP3 tracks, you will feel as good listening to them through the speakers as listening to a FLAC. But then there is the obvious loss in details when you move to MP3 and that difference is quite clear.
Another aspect of the design is the volume control. Until using this speaker, the experience I have had with the more common multimedia speakers were that you needed to crank up the volume to reveal details in the sound. I have always found that absurd. One does not need loudness to listen to the details.
On the Swans, the volume control is truly a volume control. No matter how low or high you go, the details are always there. It’s just volume that changes. Lovely. There is no clipping either. Even though I did not hit the far end of the volume control, I went high enough and the speakers did not break a sweat.
Last but not the least, the Swans D1010mkII performs well with cinema too. I ran it through my Blu-ray collection. The results were indeed praiseworthy.
I am the kind of guy who likes to switch off his electronics when they are not in use. But the Swans D1010mkII makes me afraid to switch them off. I was always afraid that the loud popping would result in a damaged cone sometime or another.
When a company designs a product, they have to have a lookout to strike a balance between the production costs and selling price in order to reap profits. In the process they have to make some compromises. If one can look past the considerable popping issue, the Swans D1010mkII is a great piece of equipment.
If you love listening to music on your PC, and yet on a budget, these speakers should definitely be on your shortlist.
These are currently selling at around INR 6.8k on various online stores.
ProAudioHome: Swans D1010MKII Active Monitor System
Flipkart: Buy Swans D1010MKII Wired Home Audio Speaker Online from Flipkart.com
eBay: Swans D1010MKII Active Monitor System | eBay
I have been using the Swans for quite a while now and I must say, the sound has grown on me. I am at a point where I involuntarily switch on the speakers all the time. Movie/YouTube/Music sessions feel incomplete without the sound.
Especially movies. The clarity and accuracy is excellent and takes the whole experience to a whole different level.
Also, I had been talking to Gautam about the switch on/off transient noise issue and he informed me that it was an one off issue. Such an issue was not present on other speakers and customers who had already bought the speakers had no such complaints.
I followed up with the Pristine Note guys on the popping issue yet again.
They said that Swans has confirmed this as a non-issue and is a result of the capacitors discharging. Swans has also said that this will not harm the speakers in any way.
I will still say that this is just bad design.