AnalogPlanet Tours darTZeel Factory in Geneva, Switzerland

View from darTZeel founder Hérve Delétraz's home listening chair (Photo: Michael Fremer)
If you search Stereophile's website under darTZeel founder Hervé Delétraz's name you'll find his multi-part "DIY" story posted in 2000. Since his "DIY" days, Mr. Delétraz has gone on to design and manufacture a series of sonically stunning and visually distinctive high performance darTZeel audio products.

The line is not extensive, but instead each product fills a particular market segment, though all of them occupy the top echelon in terms of both performance and price. The line includes the NHB-18s preamp ("NHB" stands for "Never Heard Before") and the new NHB 468 top of the line mono block amplifiers that replace the similar looking, but somewhat different sounding 458. There's also a stereo amplifier, an integrated stereo amplifier and a streaming DAC.

Visually you will never mistake a darTZeel product for any other manufacturer's (though there are some cheap, Chinese knockoffs that sort of look "darTZeely". If you have to ask the price of darTZeel products you probably can't afford it, though Analogplanet editor Michael Fremer knows a very middle class cop who owns darTZeel. Unlike most purchasers, he save up for a while, but he kept his eye on the prize and got it!

Despite being a very serious manufacturer, Mr. Delétraz does inject some humor into his products. Turn on the preamp and it the screen announces "foreplay". Turn it off and it reads "climaxed'.

In this video you will tour the sophisticated CNC shop where casework is produced and his "cozy" testing, assembly and design facility where each product gets lavished the deserved amount of attention before being crated and shipped off to a lucky owner.

A review of the NHB 468s will appear in Stereophile by the end of 2019.

Anton D's picture

I was right there with you until 50:54...Oh, my!

How did those babies sound?

Great tour and interview.

Michael Fremer's picture
Not allowed to say until review is published
Anton D's picture

I love that he was driving Klipshcorns...I hope we get your take on the whole schmear!

He also seems like a very nice chap.

Michael Fremer's picture
Ortofan's picture

... complete album tracks posted to youtube.
What "workaround" allows them to avoid being censored?

virtualbryan's picture

I believe youtube detects copyrighted material and notifies the copyright holder who can have the material removed or opt to collect ad revenue from the views. Nice system

Michael Fremer's picture
I was hoping to avoid a copyright strike. However three were still applied including Flanders and Swan!!!!!!!! from the 1960s!!!! Now that it's happened I could go back and add the rest of the music but that would require another full edit and render and then re-posting and starting over with views etc. and I'd rather not do that...
crubio's picture

What might the size of his listening room be?


Michael Fremer's picture
I didn't measure but I'd estimate it at 18'x 25'? It sounded great! The KHs are corner horns but they are placed in "false corners" out into the room, producing excellent bottom end. The speed and detail resolution was astonishingly great. The weakness was in imaging and time domain smear. So the sound appeared to be coming from the black grills and spatial cues were blurred, but that was more than compensated for by the resolution and unraveling of low level detail. You can't have everything what any speaker (despite why sycophants say), but these give you ALOT of what they do well...
cdvinyl's picture

Thx for the effort. What an eye-opener as to the complexity to Mfg. gear at this level. I applaud designers and mfg. of this ilk even if their products are way beyond my means.

Ortofan's picture

... and given that the power transistors are from Motorola, the main filter capacitors are from Panasonic (or CDE, made on the former Panasonic production line) and the front panel display is sourced from Japan, how much of the rest of the amp's parts are actually made in Switzerland?

mtemur's picture

just the fancy aluminum case I think. I think that's normal though.

Michael Fremer's picture
The boards are probably sourced locally too. This manufacturing mix is no different than automobiles's a world economy even if some want to stupidly BUILD A WALL!
somerecordguy's picture

Now that's what I call rich... because clearly, all these fine components darTZeel is using are sourced from 3rd wold countries who are looking for freebies and handouts from the mighty 5 trillion dollar annual US budget. Also rich, is that you are saying this about a Swiss company from Switzerland, who have likely among the toughest immigration laws and border walls out there... Stick to chewing gum.

supamark's picture

is someone too ignorant of history to understand that the folks South of the US/Mexico border are coming here largely due to the actions of the United States, with a strong assist from the (no longer existing) Soviet Union over the last 70-odd years.

"How is that possible," you say?

Well, even a basic knowledge of history from 1945 to present is all that's required. Consider - Cold War proxies (and that coup in Guatamala that we pulled off at the behest of the United Fruit Co. under Eisenhower) with obedient totalitarian dictators installed and propped up by the 2 world powers in Central/South America (and SE Asia, etc) caused generations of oppresive conditions in those countries and destroyed all their democratic institutions. The proxie civil wars didn't exactly help. Now the Cold War's over (and the money spigots turned off), it's the War on Drugs piling on to the damage done during the Cold War. We're essentially responsible for holding those nations' development back and causing suffering and death to millions of people. now you want to make it even worse. wow.

Arming Islamists in 1980's Afghanistan to fight the Soviets came back to bite us on 9/11. The actions taken during the Cold War, and later the unwinnable War on Drugs is now comming home to roost in the migrant "crisis" at our southern border. Notice a pattern? Same problem Europe is having with migrants from Africa and the Middle East - their colonial policies from long ago are the root cause. Russia's problems in Chechnya? Those go back like 400 years (then Stalin poured jet fuel on the flames). History, it's actually important if you want to understand the world today.

If you think they're just trying to get handouts here, move on down there with a pile of American dollars and live like a king... until you're kidnapped and murdered by a drug gang that only exists because of the drug war.

So, yeah, those folks aren't here for handouts, they're here to work hard to give their children better lives just like any other (good) parent. I've met a few (I live in a border state), and they were all very hard working people who do crappy jobs you won't.

Rodan's picture

Another enjoyable video. However, when I stop to think about it, both the darTZeel and the CH Precision video tours spent an extraordinary amount of time on the production of the chassis compared to the actual circuitry/electronic design. It's certain that every part in a piece of gear has some sonic impact--and that obviously includes the housing. But one would hope that the greatest proportion of design effort and execution is concentrated on electrical engineering, rather than milling a new face plate design (CH Precision) or laser-etching a message on a battery compartment (darTZeel). The question is: would this equipment sound the same with more straightforward--but still appropriately effective--chassis production? Just based on the chassis production processes in this and the CH Precision video, I can't help but think that it would certainly reduce the cost of these products. Maybe only a little, but at these price points every little bit helps!

Eskisi's picture

With today’s manufacturing techniques and component costs, it would be hard to spend more than a few hundred $s on the innards of a solid state amp, or anything, for that matter.

So the only ways to make money out of it are either a) sell by the hundreds of thousands; or b) build it slightly better — no hot glue inside — and put it in a fancy cabinet and sell it for five or six figures to the few to whom money comes easy (or more likely their AV installers).

Nothing wrong with it but nothing to salivate about either.