Sunday, September 5, 2010

Swan D2.1SE Bookshelf Speaker Review

Speakers come in all types of shapes and sizes. When shopping for speakers, there are plenty of choices of size, finish, color, and design. Up for review is a pair of Swan bookshelf speakers, model D2.1-SE. They are a more traditional 2 way bookshelf design.

Swan is a speaker company manufactured by HiVi Electron Co. The company is based in China. I know that it is easy to think of cheap quality with products made in China. Products made in China are often cheap, and cheap prices usually do not translate to high quality. HiVi is bucking this trend with their Swan speakers.

The Swan D2.1-SE is a beautiful, extremely high quality speaker. I could tell that was the case once they arrived on my door step. Once I opened the box I could tell that great care was taken with them. They were packaged very well. The speakers themselves were protected in their own white microfiber bag, individually. Also included in the box was some high gauge speaker wire. Taking out the speakers revealed a gorgeous Rosewood veneer cabinet in a high gloss clear coat finish. I can honestly say that I was not expecting this level of quality and craftsmanship. The cabinet was breathtaking, and appeared to be a single piece construction.

The Swan D2.1SE is a medium sized ported 2-way bookshelf speaker design. The drivers used are their Q1R tweeter, and the D6.8 woofer. On the back are large gold plated very high quality binder posts. Giving it the standard knock test on the side of the cabinets shows a well built and solid cabinet. The Q1R 28mm reference tweeter has a German silk dome material, ferrofluid cooled and CCAW coil and resonator cavity with damping material to absorb noise. The D6.8 Bass-Midrange driver looks like ones used with other manufacturers, such as Dynaudio. The driver uses a shallow mineral filled polypropylene cone with butyl rubber surround. The shielded magnet system uses a Neodymium magnet with a long throw symmetrically driven motor structure that allows for high excursion. Along with a high power handling voice coli, all of this design is built into a high density aluminum die-cast frame.

The speakers have some impressive features and specs for its size as well. The Swan D2.1SE is a 2-way 4th order vented box system. Frequency response is rated at 43Hz to 20kHz, with sensitivity rated at 86dB. Power handling is rated from 10-120W, with the measurements at 8.0 x 11.9 x 15.2 inches. So far it sounds good on paper, but as you may know what appears good on paper does not always translate into great sound. So let’s put it to the test!

For my technical listening, I jumped right into the main course with Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. From the introductory clarinet trill, I was given an aural treat. The Swan D2.1SE projected a pleasantly large soundstage. You can hear with distinction the different instrumentation in the symphony. The clarinet had a lot of air to it. The brass was really clean sounding, and the percussion was really crisp in the snare drum. The tympani provided good depth. There was also a good level of dynamics. And the resolution was very good.

I then went on to the main theme of Pirates of the Caribbean. The output of a full orchestra at play was handled very well. The level of resolution was again very good. The strings were smooth sounding. And I was amazed at the low level extension from a bookshelf speaker. Not only did the Swan D2.1SE play low, they did so with a good level of authority. It wasn’t until the crescendo did they sound just a tad edgy.

I thought I would also try something more modern and turned to the soundtrack from Twilight, and listened to track one: Super Massive Black Hole. Instantly the low level extension and output was obvious, however being just a tad muddy. The imaging was great. The vocals were pleasantly smooth. The song just screams play me loud, and the Swan DE2.1SE more than willing to oblige.

I also wanted to see how they would perform against a couple other bookshelf speakers I have on hand. They consist of a pair of NHT Classic Three, and Thiel SCS4. The NHT Classic Three’s being a 3-way design is very dynamic and only slightly bested the Swan D2.1SE. The Swans however had more resolution and a projected a bigger soundstage. And while the Thiel SCS4’s provided more resolution still, the Swan D2.1SE’s did have a bigger soundstage and lower bass extension and output. Overall the Swans performed very well. So much so, that they have earned our Highly Recommended award. If you are in the market for a bookshelf speaker, they are worth taking a listen to. The MSRP is $1,368 a pair, but they are on promotion right now for $685 a pair. Now at that price, they are a steal! Forget about a pair; get a full 5.1 surround system with them. For more information, check out their website at