Review: Driade Premium Model 3 – A Very Pleasant Introduction

Review:Driade Premium Model 3 has a very interesting price-performance ratio with sleek design,good build quality and appearance

Driade Premium Model 3: Driade, the phoenix-risen loudspeaker manufacturer from Dutch soil, is back again and breathes more life force than ever before. Founder Arnold Heres has acquired different insights and more specialist knowledge in the auditory field over the years and has translated this, including the latest and most modern loudspeaker techniques, into a beautiful new loudspeaker line. We visited Driade and received Heres’ latest creation for review; the beautifully shaped Driade model 3 three-way bass reflex speaker.

We have closely followed the  developments around the ‘new’ Driade and have been able to enjoy the highly musical new two-way loudspeakers by Heres several times. In addition to a few fleeting stock market impressions, we have not yet been allowed to listen intensively to the now reviewed three-way model. During this renewed acquaintance Arnold Heres talks about the designs and materials used in both the earlier and the last generation of Driade loudspeakers.

Driade Premium Model 3

The brand name Driade will sound familiar to many music lovers. Even if you have never heard a Driade speaker with your own ears, you have certainly heard of it. This is not surprising, given that in the late 80s and early 90s Driade was one of the absolute top brands in the loudspeaker field. Almost every hi-fi specialist store had a selection of Driade models available and without exaggeration, this originally Dutch manufacturer literally sold wagon loads of loudspeakers within the Benelux, but also far beyond.

Driade Premium Model 3

In the early 1990s, the Driade brand name, including several high-end gems from Dutch soil, was taken over by the Dutch Penta / Penhold, which from that moment on focused on the production of Driade. Heres leaves Penhold in the mid-1990s and slowly the curtain falls for the once so successful Driade. Heres then decides to focus primarily on industrial design, design (Sphinx Myth amplifier line and StraDa digital amplifiers) and loudspeaker development (Arrow and Audio Physic) and after 2008 Heres will take an advance on his retirement in warmer places. This seems to have put an end to this rich and especially beloved Dutch speaker brand.

New millennium

In mid-2016, however, Heres decided to pick up his old hobby again, to have the brand name and design rights of Driade registered again and to devote himself once again to the development of a new generation of Driade hi-fi loudspeakers. Heres strengthens the ties with the German Eton and develops in collaboration with Eton completely new drivers based on the proven original concept from the 80s and 90s. Heres shows us both the old and the new drivers from Eton. Although these do not seem to differ very much at first glance, these are completely new units.

Without getting too technical, we can report that the Hexacone cone material and the silk domes of the tweeters are broadly the same as the original versions. However, the closed dust cover of the woofer has been replaced by a new open phase plug, the chassis is made more rigid and the magnet is many times more powerful. Furthermore, the moving parts such as spider, voice coil and the rubber rolled edge have been completely renewed. In fact, these are completely new units that have been developed in collaboration with Arnold Heres.

Finally, the crossover filters for the two and three-way models have also been completely redeveloped. These filters are functionally mounted on an 18 mm MDF-Carbon board and the components are hardwired to each other. Heres uses non-magnetic ceramic resistors, polycarbonate capacitors and the large coils in the filter are placed in such a way that the stray fields cannot influence each other. Besides the construction of the filter, the quality components used in the EU make an audible difference. After this we take a look at the development room, we listen to the Driade Model 2 speakers and we cannot stop talking.

Recognizable in many areas

The new all-hand-crafted Driade models retain, with minimal design refinement, the original iconic hexagonal design that has been created entirely mathematically and contributes greatly to the tonal characteristics of these speaker systems. Moreover, due to this design, the speakers (still) look contemporary and optically very attractive. We have to admit that the design of this new generation really appeals to us. In addition to the slightly tapered top of the cabinet and the seamlessly finished corners, the walnut veneer finished with transparent satin lacquer has a beautiful rich appearance. We have received the optional faceplates (400 euros) and unlike the legacy models, these faceplates are finished with the same geometry,

In addition to the unique and recognizable design, Driade loudspeakers have a unique and especially recognizable sound signature. As with Driade’s original legacy models, the sound is characterized by the complete lack of a ‘popular sauce’. We listen to a variety of music genres, and we are particularly impressed with these Model 3’s superbly defined and layered music reproduction. However, when we switch to classical or jazz where acoustic instruments and vocals are central, we are immediately delighted with the direct, fast and above all open signature of these speakers.

We are no stranger to Heres’ early creations and are also in a unique position to compare these brand new Model 3s with a set of high-end Driade 102MK2 speakers from 1991. This model from Driade is one of the best sounding Driade according to Heres models ever made. This set has been in the family for many decades, was purchased new at the time and has not undergone any modifications in all these years – except for a new (very expensive) Eton tweeter. With this we can take away the appearance that we only base ourselves on the marketing arguments of the manufacturer. Arguments that are entirely consistent with our own experiences

Driade Premium Model 3

Loyal clientele

One of the issues Heres faces on an almost daily basis is the loyal nature of Driade owners. Not surprisingly. The sound signature of these legacy models is not comparable to the (popularly tuned) competition of that time. In addition, there are not many speakers to date that come close to the sound quality of the earlier top models, let alone surpass it. Since the new start of Driade, there are many music lovers who ask Heres whether Driade would not want to restore these beloved legacy models or provide them with the latest generation of Eton drivers.

An understandable question from a user point of view, but we honestly don’t know if this is an interesting option from an investment perspective. Besides the fact that such total restorations are time-consuming and, above all, very expensive, we wonder whether such an operation will actually bring the so fervently desired increase in sound quality. We would rather trade in your old beloved Driade speakers for a set of contemporary models. Combine these new acquisitions with a set of high performance Driade Flow speaker cables and rediscover your favorite music albums. And again. And again…

First impression of Driade Premium Model 3

The run-in period of a set of quality loudspeakers usually takes many hours to ensure that all moving parts such as rubber roll edge and spider move smoothly. This is not our favorite time to write a review. Fortunately, the speakers we received have been played in for many hours, but we still notice that the units still need a few extra hours to really get loose. During the time that we have had the speakers for review, we have heard the sound and imaging properties a little better. We hear a slight refinement in the midrange reproduction, the top-end continues to run over time and after a good number of hours of playing we notice that the ‘bottom falls out of the low’, after which the sub-layer frequencies are reproduced with even more ease.

Already during the first short listening sessions we notice a difference in sound balance between the new two-way models that we have listened to in the listening room at Driade and this most recent three-way model. Heres has managed to find an excellent balance between the reproduction of low, midrange and high with this Model 3. The lows are powerful and deep, the mid bass has a tight punch and the high reproduction is wonderfully detailed. By adding an Eton midrange driver, this Model 3 delivers midrange definition with surgical precision.

Driade Premium Model 3

This Model 3 delivers a magnificent sound quality, especially with voices, strings and strings. Where we can characterize the Model 2 with an accessible, musical and more casual sound balance, the Model 3 delivers a more neutral and more precise music reproduction where all properties are on a considerable step higher.

Listening sessions

We have reviewed the Driade Premium Model 3 in combination with various hi-fi components in a different price segment. In our listening sessions, we naturally use our reference set that includes a Bryston BP26 preamplifier, 7B3 monoblocks and the BCD3 CD player. Then we listen to the Model 3s with a Leema Pulse integrated amplifier with a Vintage Denon DCD-960 CD player modified by Johan Ketelaar and finally with a wonderful Naim Unitilite all-in-one unit. We naturally use the Driade Flow 405 speaker cables, which Heres also used internally in the Premium models.

During our reviews we only used random normally produced music albums from our extensive CD collection. Because these Driade Premium Model 3 speakers show everything in the music, this speaker is less suitable for poorly recorded music albums. These Driades don’t give anything as a gift and they just show too many imperfections with such albums. When we hear the differences between an original pressing and a remaster, the differences are sometimes shocking. The British violence of the Iron Maiden remaster collection that collapsed under the loudness wars is therefore out of the question. On the other hand, we have lost our hearts to the singer-songwriter genre, live recordings, jazz, blues, folk and our underrated classical music albums. If we switch to the systematically ignored unplugged collection, we don’t even know what we are experiencing. We continue to discover subtle nuances, whisper-soft voices and even music lines from a hidden Hammond in the background.

The reproduction in the high end is silky smooth and in combination with the perfectly complementary midrange, brass in the percussion sounds lively, but never sharp or loud. We notice that brassware is wonderfully warm and especially sings on for a long time. The layer is dry, tight and uncolored. The lack of case coloring makes it a lot more neutral. Despite this neutral character, it runs deep and even taps frequencies below 30 Hertz with ease. The attack, plucking and grating of non-electrified guitar strings is clearly audible with this Model 3. String instruments such as violin and cello are allowed to step to the fore. Strokes of the snare drum and toms in the percussion perfectly reproduce the impact of the attack on the head, including the specific reverberation in the shells. A woodblock sounds authentic and the decay time seems to take a fraction longer than with many contemporary hi-fi loudspeakers. This brings the sound somewhat in the neighborhood of the legacy models, but we notice that the new generation delivers better display performance across the board with a significant increase in openness.

Driade Premium Model 3

Sound quality of Driade Premium Model 3

With us, these speakers deliver the best imaging properties when we do not screw them in too much. Usually we start with a relatively far screwed-in set of speakers and gradually move to the speakers until the vocals ‘stand’ in the room. Now we place the speakers from the listening position in the same perspective and repeat this process a few more times. The sound image that these Model 3s create after a good installation is impressive. The ‘stage’ is wide and on some albums has a considerable sound depth. Depending on the set and the recorded album, the stage builds up from a meter in front of the baffles and moves about a meter and a half backwards. The reproduction is wonderfully detached from the speakers and all musical elements claim a clear place on this imaginary stage. The transparency is high so that each element can be easily identified. We experience a wonderfully wide sweet spot. Wherever we take a seat in space, we experience a wonderfully spatial music reproduction everywhere.

After listening extensively and filling in all the points on the scoring lists, we switch from the Bryston to the Pulse of Leema Acoustic and to the Naim Unitilite. With the Leema we experience a wonderfully detailed and spatial representation, but we lack some body. This amplifier lacks the ‘oempf’ that these speakers like. The compact and budget-friendly all-in-one Naim, on the other hand, delivers minimal push in the low end and the midrange also has a fraction more warmth than the Leema. Despite the fact that the music reproduction with the Naim shows a nail thickness less sound depth and transparency, it matches very nicely with these Driade Model 3’s. In any case, the imaging properties are good enough to make us happy.

Final verdict

In summary, we can report that we got to know this new three-way top model from Driade in a very pleasant way. This Model 3 is tuned less popular than brands such as Bowers and Wilkins, Focal or DALI, but Driade has distinguished itself as a manufacturer since the first generation of Driades. For this reason, Driade was and will still be highly regarded by critical hi-poipurists. The absence of booming, boomy and fatiguing bass is really a relief. We therefore expect that many female music lovers in particular will fall head over heels for these slim and beautifully shaped Driades. The price is certainly not too bad at 6,600 euros excluding the optional fronts. This Model 3 has a very interesting price-performance ratio. With this the Model 3 fits in the same line-up as the 805D3 from Bowers & Wilkins,

Driade Premium Model 3

Perhaps you have never had the opportunity to listen to speakers from this iconic Dutch company. After reading our experiences, you may think back to your old Driade loudspeakers with melancholy, or you may want to exchange your current Driades after three decades of loyal service for a set that will last for another three decades. Then make an appointment with one of the Driade dealers in the Benelux. Or at Driade itself. In the latter case, make sure to free up a part of the day, because once you have a nice conversation with Heres … If you prefer an open and less bombastic music reproduction, then we dare to predict with certainty that it will make you silent.

PLUS POINTS of Driade Premium Model 3

  • Imaging
  • Openness
  • Build quality
  • Appearance

MINUSES of Driade Premium Model 3

  • The inevitable goodbye to your faithful old Driade’s