Dita Dream ($1800)
Despite differences in their design, with the Dream employing a single dynamic driver and Samba a multi-BA setup, Samba and Dream are close competitors from the same small country. Both aim for a reference tuning and ultimate precision, sharing a similar articulated sound and high resolution. But it’s in their stage and accordingly presentation where they differentiate themselves – quantity versus quality.
The Dream’s stage is significantly larger in both its width and depth, creating a vaster, more spacious stage. While its dimensions seem to give it an advantage, the Samba’s blacker background provides a more stable image for the projection of its notes. In addition, they have greater transparency. The combined result is a better defined contrast between the musical image and its background. In addition, Samba’s imaging is even more precise. As a result, Samba’s presentation is slightly more holographic with even better separation, despite its smaller size.
But Samba’s bass is blown away by the Dream’s sheer power. It extends significantly deeper, and has greater sub-bass quantity. It’s a darker, punchier, and generally more impactful bass. Samba’s bass has good definition, but it’s drier, and can’t match the Dream’s impact. It’s a cleaner bass, and slightly quicker. But the Dream’s bass is simply more engaging, as well as unique.
As a result of their reference-tuning, the two midranges have significantly more in common than they differ. In both cases the 5-6 KHz peak creates a laidback lower midrange and brighter upper midrange, resulting in a highly articulated sound. Similarly, their vocals are leaner, emphasizing articulation over depth. It’s a clean-sounding midrange that lends itself for separation and detail. Even so, the tone of the midrange is slightly different, primarily as a result of the Samba’s upper treble presence.
Similarly, both monitors have a brighter treble presentation that contributes to their detail retrieval, while providing a touch of sparkle. The Dream’s treble notes are slightly thicker, but the Samba wins with a more technical approach. Its treble is more articulate, and its decay quicker. In addition, its top-end extension is greater.
Noble Katana ($1850)
As with the Dream, Katana shares some similarities in its tuning; specifically, elements as its lower treble peak reveal a similar reference-oriented intention in the design. But Katana keeps it closer to the ‘musical’ side of the spectrum, with a punchier bass and more forward and nicely sized vocal presentation. Samba sounds a bit leaner by comparison, but ascends to a higher level when it comes to precision.
Katana’s stage is larger in its overall dimensions, especially its width. As a result, it creates a more spacious feel, especially since the lifted upper treble gives it a lighter touch. Again, Samba’s stage is more intimate by comparison, but its background is blacker, and its imaging more precise. As a result, its layering is more effective, resulting in greater separation of finer detail. Katana puts more distance between the more forward, prominent instruments on the stage, but is less precise in its rear layer. Accordingly, Samba’s presentation as a whole comes across as more organized, and accordingly, more detailed.
Katana’s bass has better low-end extension, with greater sub-bass emphasis. Accordingly, Katana’s bass sounds punchier, and overall more engaging. In both cases their bass isn’t the most accurate in tone, but Samba’s bass tends to sound just a bit drier, but cleaner. In addition, its definition is slightly greater, resulting in a more detailed bass. Overall the differences aren’t large in performance, with both being variations of typical BA driven bass.
In the midrange the differences grow larger. Both are fairly neutral in tone, but Katana has relatively more forward vocals, and larger in size. Even though Samba’s vocals have greater transparency, Katana’s are generally more engaging. Similarly, Katana’s instruments have slightly more body. Samba’s notes however are more resolved, resulting in greater detail throughout the midrange. In both cases, a brighter touch adds some sparkle and excitement to the upper midrange, although Samba’s is relatively closer to neutral in tone.
Similarly, in both cases the treble is slightly greater in quantity, although Katana’s is a bit brighter in tone. Katana’s treble offers a bit more sparkle due to the prominence of its 12 KHz peak, although both are quite upfront in their detail retrieval. However, Samba relies on its transparency and resolution, resulting from greater top-end extension. In addition, its treble notes have better definition, and are faster in pace.
There are a number of things I could critique on Samba. Like every other monitor in this lineup, it isn’t perfect. It isn’t particularly warm, nor does it have the most full-bodied midrange or bone-shattering bass. But that would be critiquing Samba for something it isn’t trying to be – like judging a Ferrari on its off-road capabilities.
Samba chooses a focus of precision over naturalness, the rational over emotional. But here’s the bottom line. I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. Its signature might not be the most romantic or fulfilling, its technical performance is. This wasn’t meant to sound ‘lush’, it was meant to sound precise. When I listen to Samba, I can sit back and enjoy how incredibly detailed and accurate the presentation is; like there’s no filter between you and the sound. It’s an instant reminder of how important technical performance is.
And moreover, how performance lends itself to beauty, regardless of signature. There’s a sense of purity that only transparency can provide, and extraordinary detail that results from perfect separation. Samba is a paragon of performance. The quality of its stage is on a level of its own: the stability of its background blackness, precise imaging, and high resolution. This doesn’t mean its signature isn’t engaging in its own right, for it truly is. But it was designed as a reference monitor, and Jomo has more than succeeded in that – Samba might well be the ultimate reference monitor.
+Quality stage: background blackness, imaging, separation
+Technical performance: resolution and transparency
-Not the smoothest or most natural