Space Truckin’

Dared Uranus. In the Planet Series, this is the top of the integrated amplifiers. With a choice of four different output valves, this amplifier can show to be a “space truck” for the really heavy loads…

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Let’s start with the valves. Supplied from factory with KT88 output tubes, initially. Important to notice that the Norwegian supplier sells this with KT120 instead; this will give more power, better control, and, in my humble opinion, better sound allover. So, as you can see from the picture above, this is an old fashioned, all valve integrated, without valve rectification, though. This means 2×50 W supplied with KT88, some extra Watt at hand with the optional KT 100, KT120 or KT150. With a few exceptions, yours truly have never been very happy with the sound from KT88 valves, so the options given on the Dared Uranus are very welcome. This review is based on the KT120 output tube installed.

The Dared Uranus amplifier is fully remote controlled by a small plastic unit, same size as the iTV control, for those being familiar with that thing. Easy to use, but the volum control is a bit jumpy, and not very precise. On the front, you’ll find volume and source control, a VU meter, plus a 3,5 mm input for smaller devices such as mobile phones. The rear shows us very good speaker terminals, 4 and 8 Ohm output for better impedance matching, 2 normal line RCA inputs, one XLR and RIAA input. On top of that we also find RCA direct input to the power amplifier, making it possible to connect external pre amplifier, when you’re ready for an upgrade. I’ll say this amplifier is as versatile as they come, and when I add that it weighs in with a hefty 30 kilo, the picture is complete. The weight tells a story of big output transformers, very important for both sound and speaker control. All in all very positive, taking into account that the price tag ends up in the area of € 2500 – 3000,-, (NOK 24 900,-) this already starts to look like a bargain!

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Dared Uranus has been connected to signals from APL DSD- DAC and Acoustic Solid Wood Black / Origin Live Illustrious arm / Benz LP04 mc p.u. via Audio Innovations series 800 step up trafo. Downstream it has been driving Doxa 8.2, Klipsch RP280F, Roksan TR5 Mk. 2 and Arendal Tower speakers. All in all, this has given us a clear picture of a versatile, good allrounder, although not totally happy with all types of music or recordings. We’ll look closer into that later. The general character is not what I’ll describe as typical valve amp sound, but it still supplies an involving way of presenting music. I suspected initially that this was a circuit with feedback, and, a  check with Dared confirmed that there’s a local feedback introduced. To me that explains why it sounds more towards controlling and precise, rather than “magic”. I often prefer non-feedback solutions, but that’s just my subjective taste, there is no doubt that the amp will control the speakers better, if there is a certain amount of feedback in the signal path.

The Uranus is not totally uncolored; there is a charming touch of the sixties in everything it does, and, I must admit I fund just that very amusing. That trait makes it perfectly suited to classical works, giving the music a certain “patina”, and lifelike presentation. To me, it sounds like a well constructed vintage product, like a Tandberg Huldra, or one of the famous Sansui-amps from way back when. Note that this is just a hint, but still audible. Further, dynamically, it’s not extreme, more on the average, I’d say. The tonal focal point is somewhere in the midrange, sometimes this leads to a hint of thickening of the vocals; among others, I believe speakers from Kudos or the Klipsch Heritage series will be good partners for the Uranus.

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On to the musical examples, let’s start with some soft jazz; Sophie Zelmani and her song “All About you”. The focal point makes the voice slightly thicker than some, but it’s still crisp and precise. A slight moderation of drum attack can be detected, also the bass is a touch on the soft side. Further along the same line, we listen to the lovely version of “As time goes by” from Brian Ferry, and this is spot on. The touch of the vintage sound, lifts this to divine status. “Smoky “and realistic, although maybe not as extremely moving as the best 300B amps. The voice is perfectly presented, clear, pleasant. While the cute little song “Bienvenue dans ma vie” with the young singer Nikki Yanofsky ambles happily along, this amp delivers rhythmic, lively and relaxed at the same time.

If speeding up a little, using “Moten swing” to find out something about dynamics and speed, we find a possible weaker point. Slightly on the relaxed side, also a touch muffled horn sound. Atmosphere and room is fine, but the overall expression tells me horns are not the favorite dish for the Saturn amp.

So let’s check choir music instead. “Misere” by Gregoria Allegri, recorded on Harmonia Mundi is again a total hit. This is just fantastic, beautiful atmosphere, total calm, presence and insight in the recording. I hav nothing to add, just lovely to listen to. One of the heavier loads you can put on any amplifier is Medwyn Goodall’s “Sweet wilderness”, long, extremely deep, electronic bass notes literally rattles the floor, demanding much energy from the amplifier. Dared Saturn copes fine; not the most brutal presentation I’ver heard, but still well within what can be expected. Here, the slight accentuation of the midrange, seems to be the phenomenon causing the somewhat vintage sound, but, as mentioned, this is absolutely a just charming side of the sound.

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I hesitated  a little before throwing heavy rock on this amp, but when I first did it, I found there was no need to be afraid. Epica, the song “Karma” comes across huge and forceful, again midrange is in focus, but just this recording sounds a little in that direction on all equipment. Very good insight in the recording, all in all a very convincing performance. We can’t fully copy this when listening to the much slimmer recording of “When the levee breaks” (Led Zeppelin, of course), but it works reasonably well, still. As a general rule, the Dared Saturn is more comfortable with warmer recordings. Here it is time to mention the possibility of doing some tube-rolling, one good thing with tubed amplifiers is just that you may tune the sound a little by using different tubes.

The Dared Uranus is also delivered with built in RIAA; a solid state circuit, but still. I am very happy to start this paragraph by telling you that this RIAA is a really nice piece of equipment. It will accept moving magnet p.u.’s only, but I’ve also tried it with step up from moving coil, with very good results. The general balance showes us that it will be perfectly suited to the British Rega / Linn-tradition, with their well timed, “PRAT” (pace, rhythm and timing) way of presenting the sound. Andreas Vollenwieder is the first out with “Caverna Magica”. Very smooth and comfortable, indeed, fantastic pin-pointing. I was taken aback, to be honest, noting that “this RIAA is seriously good!” on my papers. Very open and vivid midrange, dynamically good, harmonic presentation. The poorer recording “Communique” from Dire Straits fares well, too, very open, good to listen to. Same thing can be said about all the tested records, insightful, on time, good balance. Versatile and well suited to all kinds of music, actually.

 

All in all I find the Dared Uranus a fantastic starting point for serious valve amplification. I would like to have even more “magic” to the sound, but Dared has opted for better control instead, which might be just as smart. Then you can choose between more speakers, you’re not forced to choose horns or high impedance speakers only. In many ways the Uranus is the Audio Innovation S500 for 2016, it looks good, it plays good, it is well built, and flexible. In the price bracket we’re looking at, you won’t find many valve amplifiers being able to compete, it is that good.

Dared Uranus, integrated valve amplifier, 2 x 50 Watt (or more, depending on valve type)

Price starts at around USD 3000,- / NOK 24 900,-

Import Norway: Moet Audio