I must admit not to have had too many hours in front of the original Darius, both ‘back in the day’ and today. From memory, though, it was an extremely clean and detailed sounding loudspeaker that didn’t suffer musical fools gladly. It demanded precision installation, produced a tight sweet-spot, had a tendency toward stridency on early digital (perhaps understandable given Roksan only made turntables and loudspeakers at the time), and was all energy and mid/treble coherence at the expense of deep bass and dynamics.
The Darius S1 is a very different beast in all these things. In fact, the only thing it shares is a desire to be placed out into the room. The S1 is a far more forgiving loudspeaker in equipment, placement, and performance. It still has that intrinsic clean and detailed presentation, but coupled to that is an ease of listening that makes the new loudspeaker intrinsically good to listen to. It also has excellent bass and great dynamics for a small loudspeaker. And, perhaps thanks to that gentle back tilt, it’s also got a broader vertical listening ‘window’ than most ribbon tweeters, so you aren’t limited to a specific listening height.
It doesn’t emphasise soundstage, but this has nothing to do with veiling or foreshortening. When you listen to something with great stereo imagery (one of those wonderful old Mercury recordings from the 1950s, for example), you get a great sense of space and air, and a lot of detail. But what you often get is nothing more substantial than the imagery. The Darius gets behind the imagery and teases out the structure of the tune. You become less aware of the imagery because you are more focused on the music instead. This is not trying to hide a limitation by stealth, you really do focus more on one part than another here. And by my reckoning, it’s focused in the right direction.
They need a bit of poke to get them going. They play nice at lower levels, but give them some oomph and they really get into the groove. They don’t need insane levels of power, but they do need something more than a couple of watts to come to life. 50W or more brings the Darius S1 to life, and it’s a lively loudspeaker. Let’s immediately qualify that. Not ‘lively’ in the bright and zingy way: lively in that puts-a-smile-on-your-face way.
I played ‘Was All Talk’ by Kurt Vile on the Wakin on a Pretty Daze album [Matador]; this track showed up their inherent ‘bopping along’ quality. In fairness, you’d need a pretty dead speaker not to wake up from this album, but it sings sweetly through the Darius S1. The same applied to ‘Fair Annie’ from Martin Simpson on his two-disc special edition of Vagrant Stanzas [Topic]. Here, both the melody and the speed and finesse of Simpson’s guitar playing came through extremely well. It also highlighted a unique property of the Darius S1 that has not hitherto been common to Roksan speakers – it’s nowhere near as forward and upfront as other designs from the stable. This almost makes it sit outside the Roksan range, but might make it the ideal loudspeaker for those who think there’s a bit too much ‘Rock’ in the Roksan. Don’t read too much into that statement; this is no dull-sounding speaker that leaves rock and pop music bland and dreary, but one of sophistication and balance that doesn’t throw music forward in image or high-frequency tone.