Phase Technology dARTS DFS-660-T Speaker System Review Page 2

As noted, the speakers are biamped, with the exceptions being the center speaker, which is triamped, and the DCB-115 SUBs, which have their own built-in 500-watt amplifiers. Even the DC-660-R in-ceiling height speakers are biamped. Bi-/triamping the dARTS speakers using the amps in the DP4000-IA offers multiple, noticeable sonic benefits. First of all, before any dARTS package leaves the factory, the company individually matches the system’s speakers and DP4000-IA to each other and adjusts the frequency response, crossover, and time alignment as necessary within the DP4000-IA’s firmware. (That’s in addition to matching the individual drivers to the factory’s reference drivers.) The result is that each speaker matches the factory’s target response curve within an incredible ± 0.5 dB.

317phaset.main20.jpgIf Looks Could Kill
The DFS-660-T towers and the matching DFS-660-C center are visually striking, with their curved enclosures and highly polished gloss-black finishes. The towers stand almost 4 feet tall (45.5 inches), with a 9-inch width and a 14.7-inch depth; true to the reference SPL output design of the dARTS 660 series, they’re obviously not meant for small rooms. (The center is a more accommodating 22 x 7.9 x 12.3 inches.) Each tower incorporates a new dARTS-specific 1.125-inch soft-dome tweeter, along with three 6.5-inch woofers that have triple-layer cones. The honeycombed center layer is made from Nomex, a material also used in fire-resistant clothing, and it’s sandwiched between two layers of glass-fiber material. This results in a cone that’s extremely light while being super-stiff—and, I suppose, it has the nice by-product of being able to survive a house fire.

The triamped DFS-660-C center has the same 1.125-inch soft-dome tweeter and two of the 6.5-inch triple-layer cone woofers. Each of the angled front baffles on the 660-SURR speakers sports a 1-inch soft-dome tweeter and a 5.25-inch triple-layer cone woofer. The quite substantial DCB-115 SUB incorporates dual 15-inch polypropylene cones, one active, one a passive radiator, and that aforementioned 500-watt rated amp in a cabinet that measures 15.25 x 19.5 x 22.4 inches. Unlike the towers and center speaker, the surrounds and sub have a textured, flat-black finish. It’s not ugly, just plain—and, truthfully, it’s not really noticeable on the surrounds since the front is covered by an angular grille.

I have one nit to pick with the cosmetics of the front speakers. The black-cloth grilles on the towers and center are certainly functional, but I think they’re a bit basic, especially considering the beautiful highgloss finish on the cabinets—not to mention what you’d expect to see in a system at this price. In no way is it a deal-breaker, though.

Where Are My Words?
Regardless of its veracity, I like the saying that the native peoples of the Arctic have 100 words for snow (or some equally astonishing number). It’s fascinating to think that something as simple as frozen water could be such an intimate part of the inhabitants’ lives that they’ve developed an almost instinctive ability to perceive so many differences that I’m sure must exist in snow. (Compare that with city dwellers to the south, who have, perhaps, four words for snow: clean, dirty, plowed, and yellow. Go farther south, and there’s only one word: WTF?) I imagine that nomadic peoples of the Sahara have their own extensive lexicon for sand. Transport a Saharan or Arctic resident from his home to the other locale, however, and the baffled newcomer would struggle to find the adjectives for the snow or sand he’d encounter.

Similarly, listening to this Phase Technology dARTS package had me struggling for words. It’s no ordinary speaker system. I can’t even call it extraordinary. Ultra-ordinary? No, still not there. There are no readily available phrases to describe the system’s uncanny ability to create an ecstatic acoustic experience in which all the physical aspects of speakers, amps, and room boundaries mysteriously dissipate into the ether, leaving only the essence of the music or the soundtrack to envelop you. I can’t decide whether the experience is terrifyingly sublime or sublimely terrifying.


Unleash the Beast!
Hands down, this is the most theatrical-scale loudspeaker system I’ve ever had the pleasure of reviewing. In fact, it’s the first system I’ve ever tested that seriously made me think my 110-inch Screen Innovations screen was too small. The feeling of comfortable containment that I’ve always had in my 12 x 24-foot home theater was suddenly gone. Watching an over-the-top action film like San Andreas or Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was, frankly, a bit of an intimidating experience. (I can’t imagine enduring the beach landing scene in Saving Private Ryan with this system.) The dynamics were, well, unleashed, as if the movie was some wild animal, and it was made all the more ferocious by the pristine clarity of the audio. Meanwhile, the two DCB-115 SUBs absolutely pounded the room, as if a heavyweight boxer was training furiously on an unfortunate punching bag. True to MultEQ’s promise, the tight bass response was not only deep, clean, and punchy as hell, but it sounded that way in every listening position.

Although similarly overwhelming and outlandish, Mad Max: Fury Road, in my opinion, makes much better use of Dolby Atmos. The dARTS speakers re-created the swirl of haunting voices around Max during the opening scene more coherently and more viscerally than I’ve ever heard before. The same can be said for the fight scene between Splinter and Shredder in the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. The swords and knives that flew through my room were so real that I worried I’d need stitches in my left ear after the movie was over. Fortunately, when I watched parts of the ceiling cave in on Raph, the chunks of rubble that seemed to fall from my own ceiling missed me. With the negative effects of the room’s acoustics tamed, and with the extremely precise tuning and close-coupled amplification of the speaker drivers factored in, the system’s performance became so neutral that it was about as close as it could get to porting the movie’s soundtrack directly into my brain stem.


The neutrality and extreme dynamic capabilities of this dARTS setup enabled it to provide the best audio aspect of the professional movie theater: larger-than-life, voluminous sound. That was accompanied by the most compelling acoustic characteristics of the home theater: intimacy, immediacy, and focus. Unbroken isn’t a typical action/adventure movie, but there are action scenes in it. The dARTS package easily handled the sounds of flak and planes in the air, as well as planes crashing. It was also awesome at re-creating the more subtle Atmos effects, especially the overflight of the bomber as the POWs are standing in the river (near the end of the movie). More impressive, however, was the clarity of some of the more delicate details, such as the ding of the elevator bell at the restaurant in Tokyo. I was able to hear the natural decaying reverb of the ding as it would have sounded in that open cafeteria (without any coloration added by my room), and it was so beautiful, it almost made me cry.

The Music Is the Milieu
The same elements that allow this system to be both highly theatrical and intensely intimate with movies make it an absolutely stunning system for music. I listened using stereo mode and also tried the Dolby Surround upconversion mode that makes use of the height channels. In plain stereo, the sound was simply phenomenal—and different. I often talk about how wide or deep a soundstage is when describing a system, but those terms don’t apply in the usual way here. In a sense, there is no soundstage—or at least, no sense of the limitations of a soundstage as I’d normally think of them. For instance, when I listened to Anne Akiko Meyers play her 1697 Stradivarius (“Molitor”) with the English Chamber Orchestra (Air: The Bach Album), it felt as if I was swimming in a sea of music—as if that was a totally natural milieu to exist within. Think of it as being akin to using in-ear monitors—except the music doesn’t sound like it’s coming from the middle of your head, and you don’t have uncomfortable plugs in your ears. I got the same enveloping experience listening to the New Age/instrumental/classical/electronic tracks on Ludovico Einaudi’s Divenire disc.

Of course, a lot depends on the recording and the type of music. Kid Rock’s cover of “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” from his eponymous album, certainly didn’t feel like a sea of serenity. In fact, it sounded more naked and raw—and more energized—than I’ve ever heard it before. In this case, the high-current musical image was self-contained rather than being constrained by the room. It seemed as if Kid Rock could’ve dropped the microphone and walked out the door any time he chose to. Ditto with the more or less frantic jazz tracks featuring Manu Katché’s wonderful drumming on his own eponymous disc. The dARTS package was wonderfully able to make the music both tight and relaxed at the same time. I also have to say that the absolutely seamless integration of the subs into the system was so good that I never, ever, had one inkling of a sense that I was listening to a set of speakers rather than simply hearing music.


As good as the system sounded in stereo, it was even further enhanced in Dolby Surround. The same benefits of the room correction continued to apply, essentially removing the sensation of walls or the confinement of sound. But Dolby Surround is so good at upconverting stereo music for multichannel— in large part because of the subtlety of the effect—that it almost made the system’s two-channelonly performance seem flat by comparison.

Ten years ago, my conclusion regarding the first-generation dARTS 525 package I reviewed was: “If you can afford it, buy it.” I need to amend that for this second-generation dARTS 660 package: “By all means, buy it if you can. But if you can’t, figure out a way to beg, borrow, or steal it.” Seriously, if you made a list of all the best sonic attributes you’d want in a speaker system, I’m sure you’d still be short on ways to give this dARTS package the accolades it deserves.

I’d like to say that, with no qualifications or caveats, this is the best speaker system I’ve ever had the good fortune to hear in a home environment. Yes, I’d like to say that, but I can’t. The problem is that this dARTS package isn’t a speaker system—it’s an experience (and one hell of an experience, at that). In fact, it’s unconditionally the best listening experience I’ve ever had in a home theater. Phase Technology already had an enviable pedigree with a history of innovation that was difficult to top. After listening to this dARTS 660 package, I think it’s clear that the company’s best days are yet to come.

Phase Technology
(855) 663-5600

javanp's picture

Guessing you haven't seen Hacksaw Ridge yet ;) shame you didn't check that out on this system.

Concerning the system itself. I like everything about the DARTS systems but man--that price. Even if my budget was $50,000 for a system I think I'd still find myself questioning if there weren't better options out there for the money--you could put together a very nice Trinnov-based system for the same amount. To have a 7.2.4 based system in the same price range seems a bit audacious.

dommyluc's picture

I always find it refreshing when a reviewer for this magazine is so blown away by the performance of a product that he acts like a kid in a candy store, and also like we all felt the first time we got our hands on a really good audio/video system.
And thank you so much for praising the Dolby Surround upconversion of two-channel music. I, like Mr. Wilkinson, have always found that Dolby Pro-Logic IIx Music Mode does an absolutely phenomenal job of spreading a stereo recording across a multi-channel speaker array. I do not have even close to a dARTS package in my 12' x 20' living room, just 6 very good-sounding BIC Adatto satellites and matching BIC center and a 100-watt sub, along with an Onkyo 110 WPC network receiver. But when I play a great recording, like "Gaucho" by Steely Dan, or "Switched-On Bach 2000" by Wnedy Carlos, or any of the hundreds of other classical CDs I have ripped to my hard drive in WAV format, and use the DPL IIx music processing, people who happen to be here cannot believe that I can get such wonderful sound out of such an inexpensive audio system, and I know that the Dolby has a lot to do with that. It's hard to think that everyone doesn't use it, even with rinky-dink systems like mine. LOL!

pw's picture

Way too expensive and the "pedigree" is just not there..
I guessing that the high price could be folded into you Home Loan..