About a year and a half ago, I got my first taste of Phase Technology’s remarkably advanced and utterly unforgettable DARTS speaker system, whose name is an acronym that stands for Digital Audio Reference Theater System. The self-powered, DSP-controlled system was something of a technical marvel, and it even offered a fuzzy logic-driven room EQ system designed to optimize response across multiple listening locations at once. Since I come from the “simpler is better” school of thought, I am sometimes skeptical of technically complicated solutions, but I had to admit that the DARTS system sounded extremely transparent and that its high-tech EQ system really worked. “A future TPV review subject,” I thought to myself.
Now let’s fast-forward to the 2006 CEDIA show, where Phase Technology announced the new DARTS 525 system, which in 5.1-channel configuration sells for between $11,000 and $12,800 (depending upon whether you want one sub or two). The system price buys you 5.1-channel’s worth of speakers plus a powerful DSP-controlled, 16-channel Class D amplifier. Sixteen channels are needed because the DARTS 525 system powers each individual speaker drive unit (or set of drive units) with its own amplifier channel. Don’t be fooled by the tiny 525 main speakers, though, because there is nothing miniature about this system’s sound.
The DARTS 525 system consists of two 2-way biamplified DFS-525LR main speakers, a 3-way triamplified DFS-525C center channel, two bipolar/dipolar biamplified DCB-SURR surround speakers, a pair of 500-watt DCB-112S powered subwoofers, and a DP-2000 DSP-controlled 16-channel Class D power amplifier that cranks out 250Wpc. We describe the distinctive technologies and set-up procedures used for the DARTS system in two sidebars, but for now let’s focus on how the system performs.