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Review: Dussun DS99 Integrated Amp

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by Josh Ray on February 15 '08

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DUSSUN DS99 REVIEW
By Josh Ray

US Dussun Site
Chinese Dussun Site

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CONCLUSION FIRST: A $600 Atomic Bomb
The Dussun DS99 is to premium amps as the Subaru WRX is to sports cars. It may look like an every day sedan, complete with four doors, cloth seats and oversized cup holders, but lordy lord, the beast hauls ass.

Likewise, the Dussun DS99, with its silver mug and typical 17” wide stance, doesn’t visually stand apart from the budget integrated crowd. But when powered up and rocking the tunes, The Dussun is a world-class performer. At $600 with amazing build quality, it’s no wonder the DS99 has obtained legendary status in hi-fi circles. Simply, The Dussun DS99 is sure bet when when putting together a sub-$1000 Refined-type system.

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SONIC CIRCLE SOUND: Prototypically Refined
The Dussun DS99 is part of the Refined group of equipment, which means it offers a sound tailored for the bulk of American audiophiles hi-fi fans. The DS99's sound is nice and pleasant through the midrange with slightly sparking highs and serious power and handling down below. For people who like the Refined sound, the amp swings slightly towards the Precise group, rather than softening and mellowing the image as if going towards the Smooth group.

Compared to Precise-type amps with really sharp, forward and aggressive sonics, the DS99 is much more toned down and relaxed. Where Precise gear will make lovers of Refined equipment cover their ears, the DS99 is very smooth through the entire frequency range. It’s definitely an every day amp, though it doesn’t take on many of the “easy-listening” qualities Precise lovers dislike about Refined gear. It’s an all-around performer if there ever was one.

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SYSTEM SYNERGY: A Class Act
I have no doubt the DS99 was designed with B&W, Energy, Infinity, Monitor and other popular sub-$1000 speakers in mind. The Dussun offers a nice compliment of sonics the majority of beginning hi-fi fans will really find attractive. Match the DS99 with some of the higher-priced speakers at the big box retailers and you have yourself a killer little system.

For the beginners reading this, know the Dussun’s 100 watts slays the 100 watts out of generic Sony or other receivers. The control it exhibits over the bass is something you’ll instantly recognize and love. The level of “blacks” and background sludge is also greatly reduced over other products in this price range. Dussun clearly focused on just bang-for-the-buck sound over accessories. The differences are not, as people new to hi-fi believe, subtle.

TECH TALK
The first thing to know is that Dussun DS99 has no remote. Ghetto? Consider this: The coin that would have been spent on a remote control and volume motor mechanism was instead spent on the massive power transformer and high-quality parts. While a remote would have been nice, to get this quality of sound at this price, something had to give. I’d rather have the top notch sound than the extra remote features, but it’s your call. Also, as an integrated amp, the D99 doesn’t have an FM radio, joker EQ or any other boom box features you’ll find on similar priced receivers in your local Best Buy.

As for build quality, every part of the DS99 is class-defining. The chassis has tank-like thickness and construction and, at 25lbs, weighs as much as more expensive name-brand 7.1 receivers. The volume knob has a great feel and the buttons are really solid and as good as anything else out there. Dussun has been making integrated amps in this price range for ten years and their experience and build quality shows.

It also goes without saying the DS99 offers 100 watts into 8 ohms, not 4 ohms (the DS99 puts out 150w into 4 ohms). If you’re shopping amps on the low end (or any end, for that matter), be aware that some manufactures will pump up their numbers by listing the 4 ohm rating. Actually, there’s a bizarre trend among high end amp manufactures using ICEpower and Hypex to list the 4 ohm rating as the main number – come on people, it’s not a 1000 watts amp, it’s a 500 watt amp into 8 ohms. Let’s keep everything uniform before an arms race breaks out and manufacturers start listing the 2 ohms rating as the normal power output.

In terms of connections, the DS99 is all RCA – no XLR – and offers five inputs and recording output. There’s also a headphone jack on the front that I didn’t get a chance to put through the paces.

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BUYING ADVICE: What Are You Waiting For?
The DS99 should be high on your short list for $600 integrateds. The lack of a remote is an issue but I’m a believer that good sound always trumps features.

For over double the price, the Dussun V6 at $1300 is the next integrated amp up the Dussun food chain. Featuring 150 watts and a world of features and unique tech, the Dussun V6 has, like the DS99, earned a classic reputation. The V8 at $1800 ups the V6’s power to 250 watts. The V6 and V8 are 68 and 90 pounds, respectively. Yes, that is probably the best lb/$ ratio in the biz. Not that hi-fi is sirloin, but it is an interesting build quality factoid.

ARMCHAIR DESIGNER: Heaphone Jacks Are Useless
Because every real man loves dishing knowledge from his armchair (be it politics, sports or hi-fi), this is what I would have done differently with the DS99 if I were the Dussun designer. Simply, dump the headphone jack for a cheapie remote. Really, does anyone use cans with their amps? I never have simply because there’s no reason why I wouldn’t just listen to the Dussun’s glowing sonics through big speakers. I do all my headphone listening either at the coffee shop or in the bedroom and I suspect that 99% of other hi-fi fans do as well.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Dussun is a new-school, high-end hi-fi Chinese brand that prides itself on staying away from the games some Chinese companies play. Namely, you won’t see Dussun go OOB in a few months and pop up under another name with a smiley panda logo and questionable build quality. Dussun has a reputation as a stellar global brand and rightfully so.

As far as people power, Dussun’s main in the states is one Ping Gong. I met Ping at a Stereophile show a few years ago and the first thing I remember is the “Ping” golf shirt he was wearing. Ping Gong jokingly told me he was in litigation with Ping golf clubs for illegal use of his name. Nothing warms my heart more than lawsuit humor. Ping is a great guy and a pleasure to work with.

Comments

I beg to differ regarding the headphone jack, that's a far more important feature than a useless remote that you can never find when you need it anyway. Assuming that amp section is good, of course. I switch between speakers and headphones at 10PM on my primary listening station to avoid disturbing the neighbors (I live in a city apartment).
for me, no remote, no buy. Period.
I am a fan of the Dussun integrated amps. I myself have the Dussun v6i and find it to have way more power than I need running Dynaudio Contour 1.3 MKII loudspeakers. Literally the Dussun is the least expensive component I have in my system at $1,300 (My DAC alone was $2,400) but it is not about money at all. The sound is by far unbeatable for what it is and the quality of the units and their attention to internal detail and workmanship is nothing less than world class.
Sorry Josh on the headphone jack issue. Not sure how you qualify to speak for the listening habits of "99%" of "high-fi fans" and why you want to diss those who do listen with headphones. For various reasons (space contraints, neighbors, etc. . .), headphone listening is an integral part of enjoying music for a lot of us audiophiles (and I don't mean with cheap earbuds and an ipod). A really good headphone system can be pretty thrilling. You should check out the thriving audiophile community at head-fi.org.
Hey John. I'm a big fan of headphones. Actually, I'm listening to headphones right now. I'm not dissing headphones, I'm dissing headphone jacks on integrated amps. I would guess only 1 out of 100 jacks on amps ever see use. Actually, I bet it's more like 1 out of 1000. For the head-fi crowd, the majority use dedicated headphone amps, not the jack on their amp in the living room -- after all, it just sounds better.
for us 1 out of 100 or 1 out of 1000 listeners who use the head phone jack, does it provide poor/decent/very good, etc amplification? this amp, at its price-point, looks to be a good deal for those who have limited means to shell out for the higher priced equipment and/or a separate head amp. so--- what's the scoop on the headphone jack: decent quality, or what. readers ( at least 1 out of 100) would benefit from a sentence or two or three on this topic, rather than an arch dismissal.
Maybe out in foreclosureland headphone jacks are passé. In the city, we use them out of necessity. The convergence of digital files and hi-fi means smart companies should also be thinking about quality on-board DACs in their integrated amps. Already, portable headamp/DACs pack the circuitry into cigarette box sized cases -- shouldn't be hard to find room in a case the size of the DS99.