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Review: The VikingSoundWave DISA Bookshelf Loudspeaker

We first encountered the young Danish loudspeaker brand VikingSoundWave and their first public offering, the DISA bookshelf loudspeaker, at the Norddeutsche Hifi-Tage 2020. As noted in the show report, we were duly impressed with the impressively solid bass and extreme clarity produced by the 5800€/pair DISA speakers in the company of the PRE-75 / The Rose amplifier separates from Danish Audio Design. It was the first public appearance of the DISAs, and a very successful one as VikingSoundWave was recognized for best small speaker sound of the show.

Needless to say, our curiosity was easily reanimated when Kim Storgaard, head of marketing, VikingSoundWave, contacted us in the fall to discuss a potential product review. We jumped the opportunity to do the review and also invited Kim to visit us for a chat about VikingSoundWave in general.

DISA Black/Red. Photo: VikingSoundWave

So, on an otherwise bland October Tuesday Kim brought us a pair of Black/Red DISA speakers, and we sat down for an interesting and pleasant talk. VikingSoundWave, he told us, has been in business for three years. The company is owned by Marianne Aaby, Kim’s wife, who also acts as Managing Director. Besides sales and marketing Kim is also deeply involved in the design and development of the speakers in collaboration with audio design veteran Jens Posselt - the former owner of Posselt Audio and well known for the successful Posselt Albatross model. Kim is a trained car painter and puts that skill to good use by personally painting all the produced speakers. He has also cultivated a deep interest in loudspeaker construction for as long as he can remember. The construction of crossover filters particularly occupies him, and he has been teaching the subject for 25 years.

DISA White. Photo: VikingSoundWave
DISA Black/Gold. Photo: VikingSoundWave
DISA Red. Photo: VikingSoundWave

When founding the company, Marianne and Kim wanted to create products that are uniquely Danish and refined but also raw and wild in their expression. These ideas brought the Danish viking heritage to mind and gave rise to the VikingSoundWave name. They have also acted as a guiding hand in the design of the concrete speakers. All DISA models are leather bound and have high gloss wooden panels with an engraved dragon on the sides. Some models keep it a bit low-key, using smooth leather and a neutral dragon. Other models go all in, using a dragon-scaled leather simili, and a much more lively color for the dragon. In all cases, the workmanship is exceptional and Kim told us with pride that both cabinets and crossovers are produced entirely in-house.

The DISA Speakers

The DISA is a relatively small ported two-way bookshelf speaker of approximately 21cm x 35cm x 33cm (WxHxD) and weighs about 11kg. The front baffle is mounted at a slant in order to obtain phase coherence between the (thus retracted) treble and the bass / midrange driver. This asymmetrical shape also helps to reduce internal standing waves. To further dampen cabinet vibrations the cabinet walls are constructed in a sandwich of MDF and highly effective floorboard dampening batts. The bass reflex port is placed on the back.

DISA front and back. Photo: VikingSoundWave

On the outside, the whole cabinet is clad in leather, or leather simili depending on model, but the sides and bottom are reinforced with high gloss lacquered wooden panels. This undoubtedly helps suppress cabinet vibrations even further and also provides a solid bottom for the speaker to rest on. Like the KEF LS-50 the bottom panel is equipped with four rubber feet that protects it when placed on a shelf or a stand. The fit and finish of visible cabinet parts appears to be impeccable, and the speaker terminals are also of very high quality.

The DISA is an expensive construction. Besides the in-house cabinet production, which is obviously costly, all parts are sourced from the top shelf. The tweeter is a 38mm ring radiator with neodymium motor, and an optimized low-noise pole piece provided by SB acoustics. The bass / midrange unit is a 5.5” SEAS driver with a woven mineral cone, a centre bullet that is shape optimized to reduce heat compression in the drive motor, and suspensions optimized to reduce cavity resonance and air flow noise induced by sound reflection. All units are pre-matched into homogenous pairs before being mounted into speakers. Still, according to Kim, the crossover is the most costly part of the DISA. It is optimized for the lowest possible resistance and uses only the best parts available from Jantzen and Miflex.

Setup

Before listening we carefully mounted the DISAs on a set of basic black STAV24 stands from B&W. These stands are relatively entry level but proved to be a both solid and handsome match for the DISAs. The mounted speakers were then carefully positioned in the listening room.

When placed too close to the back wall the DISAs produced an unnaturally boosted bass response and seemed somewhat under-saturated in the lower midrange. Considering the rear-firing reflex port, this was to be expected. However, good results were obtained as little as 40cm away from the back wall. In the final listening position this distance was retained and the speakers were placed 100cm from side walls and with 200cm between them. The distance from the speakers to the listening position was 320cm.

Listening setup front
Listening setup left

During the listening session the speakers were connected to an Accuphase E-560 integrated amplifier with AudioQuest cables. Both digital and analogue sources were used. The digital signals were converted using an Accuphase DC-91, and analogue input was provided by a Pioneer PL-L1000 turntable mounted with an Audio Technica AT-150MLx RIAA corrected by an Accuphase AD-50 phono input board.

Listening

Solo piano always says a lot about a speaker. In particular, it can say a lot about the resolution ability at the frequency extremes. When listening to a digital rendition of David Fung’s ‘Minuet’ from ‘Evening Conversations’ the DISA came across as extraordinarily communicative in the upper frequencies. Overtones and top end sparkle were beautifully rendered with the heft you would expect from a real piano. Although the track itself is quite lean in low frequency information, the presentation never seemed analytical.

Another discerning instrument for loudspeaker evaluation is the human voice. In this respect the American acapella ensemble The Persuasions is a tour de force. When replaying a digital version of ‘I Have a Dream’ from ‘Acapella Dreaming’, the DISA portrayed the ensemble with beautiful integrity. The spatial resolution was very good and each singer in the ensemble was awarded an individual physical space within the imagery. Voices were coherent and exceptionally clear. Only the last bit of body, or heft, was missing from the bass voices, which is hardly surprising considering the size of the DISA.

Another long-standing favourite for speaker evaluation is Tracy Chapman’s ‘Mountains of Things’ from the original ‘Tracy Chapman’ LP record. The DISAs effortlessly recreated Tracy’s heartfelt vocal performance within the slightly reverberant space of the recording. They also had no trouble recreating the deep bass-notes near the beginning of the track, although these clearly extend below 40Hz. At the same time it was easy to follow the rhythm of the background triangle - a testament to the dynamic capabilities of the DISA, as it is often drowned by the louder instruments of the recording.

Encouraged by the brief but convincing display of lower-bass ability the DISA were then asked to grapple with ‘Angel’ from ‘Mezzanine’ by Massive Attack. The resulting performance was gritty, dark, bass-heavy and, frankly, house-shaking - exactly as it was meant to be. The low-end reproduction clearly extended well below 40Hz and with tremendous heft as well - an impressive feat for a speaker this size.

Comparison

We had no other standmount speakers available for direct comparison while conducting this test. We did however have some floorstanding speakers at our disposal. In some respects this comparison may seem unfair, but the results tell a different story.

The Klipsch Heresy III is a wonderfully dynamic speaker. It is a rather low but wide floor-standing three-way design with a closed cabinet. It has a direct-radiating 12 inch woofer for the low frequencies, a horn-loaded titanium diaphragm midrange, and high frequency compression drivers. Subjected to David Fung’s ‘Minuet’ it almost, but not quite, rivaled the DISA’s top end sparkle. It also fared well on The Persuasions’ ‘I Have a Dream’ where it exhibited more body, more heft, on the bass voices than DISA and generally rendered natural and believable voices, although not quite as cleanly as the DISA did. The real surprise, however, was revealed by Massive Attack’s ‘Angel’, where the low frequency capabilities of the Heresy proved quite limited compared to those of the DISA and seemed to roll of above 50Hz. The Heresy proved to be about 10dB more sensitive than the DISA.

The comparison ensemble

The Monitor Audio Silver 8 is another competent three-way floor-standing speaker - heralded as a viable candidate for best all-round speaker in the sub 3000$ bracket in 2014-2015. In contrast to the Heresy, it is tall and slim and has two bass-reflex ports on the back. The low frequencies are serviced by two 6.5-inch ceramic drivers, the midrange by a single 4-inch driver, and the high frequencies by a 25mm gold-plated metal tweeter. Despite his best efforts, David Fung could not bring the Silver 8 to produce anywhere near the high-end sparkle of the DISA. Comparatively, the sound of the Silver 8 came across as warm rather than neutral. It did lend a bit more body to the individual singers of The Persuasions, but the resolution also seemed lower. Unlike the Heresies, however, there was no lack of low frequencies and Massive Attack’s ‘Angel’ did have more air and grunt in the low frequencies than exhibited by the DISA. The sensitivity of the Silver 8 fell right between that of the DISA and the Heresy.

Conclusions

We will not beat around the bush - the DISA from VikingSoundWave is an extremely accomplished bookshelf loudspeaker. It is dynamic, highly resolving, and very evenly balanced throughout the frequency spectrum. In our experience it performs well with all types of music, but it will also bluntly reveal weaknesses in upstream components - power amplifiers in particular.

At 5800 euro it is not a cheap bookshelf speaker, and matching amplification will cost a bundle too. But make no mistake, the DISA will bestow a considerable amount of musical magic upon anyone that decides to commit. In our test it compared favorably, throughout the frequency spectrum, to two much larger speakers. In regard to imaging and resolution this is often the case for bookshelf speakers, but in this case the low frequency performance and overall heft left nothing to be desired either.

VikingSoundWave has made some bold choices regarding design. The available design variants range from distinct to wild, but they do so in style and manage to establish a unique visual identity for VikingSoundWave right out of the gate.

We like the speakers very much and recommend them highly. Anyone interested in a high-end bookshelf speaker will be well served by the DISA. Those interested in larger speakers may be pleased to hear that VikingSoundWave will be bringing two floorstanding speakers to market in the near future.

Places to go

VikingSoundWave website



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