Dali’s Flagship – The Epicon 8 Speakers

If you happen to peruse any number of reviews concerning speakers in the twenty to thirty thousand dollar price range, which is still a massive amount of money for most people, the review conclusion (some of my own reviews included) goes something like this: “The only thing speaker X gives up to the mega speakers is that last bit of extension, dynamics and low frequency extension.”

Not any more. Judging from external appearance, the Dali Epicon 8s are finished as exquisitely as anything you’ll find in the market with another zero on the price tag. The Danes are famous for beautiful cabinetry and the Epicon 8s do not disappoint, the hand rubbed Ruby Magassar high gloss lacquer finish is simply stunning. Every one of my audiophile buddies that weren’t familiar with these speakers thought they were considerably more expensive, shocked to see this level of fit and finish on a 20 thousand dollar pair of speakers. But there are plenty of gorgeous speakers that you wouldn’t pay this kind of money for. Regardless of finish you choose, the slim, 14-inch wide front baffle of the Epicon 8 should blend into any décor.

If you’ve heard any of Dali’s smaller loudspeakers, you know that this Danish manufacturer packs major performance into a compact package, and always at a much lower price than you might expect. And for good reason – they have a 250,000 square foot facility where they design and build everything from cabinet to crossover and drivers. This large scale of manufacturing and engineering prowess is what enables Dali to make a more engaging speaker than most at a specific price point.

After just reviewing the Rubicon 2, (www.tonepublications.com/review/dali-rubicon-2-speakers) and a recent visit to the Dali factory, it’s easy to see why we are so smitten with their speakers. Offering excellent value, excellent sound and understated elegance that the Danes are famous for, the 20 thousand dollar question is what can they accomplish at that price? When you’ve got 20 big ones to spend, the competition gets serious, but after spending a few months with the Epicon 8, I put them at the top of the heap and serious competition for speakers costing $40k – $50k; they’re that good. This is what economies of scale deliver.

Beauty that’s more than skin deep

The Epicon 8s do it all. They disappear in the room just as easily as the Epicon 2s we recently reviewed, yet move a lot of air when big dynamic swings demand it. Starting with Alex DeGrassi’s Southern Exposure on early Windham Hill vinyl, every bit of harmonic structure comes through effortlessly as he picks, with not only the texture of his guitar sounding true to form, but the speakers actually recreating the size of the instrument in the space between the speakers – a tough act to pull off.

If you’ve ever heard your favorite acoustic guitarist play through a pair of Magnepans or MartinLogan speakers, they sometimes can recreate a larger than life presentation. While this is always fun and exciting, (and I write this as a panel lover) those listening to a lot of acoustic faire will be upset by all instruments sounding overblown with their favorite panel speaker. Yet the Epicon 8s allow a guitar to sound like a guitar, a violin like a violin and an oboe like an oboe from not only a tonal perspective, but a spatial one as well.  If you crave realism, the Epicon 8 is for you.

With the power output meters on the Audio Research GS 150 power amplifier buried into the red zone, Focus’ legendary prog track, “Hocus Pocus” never sounded bigger and better. When called upon to really rock, the Epicon 8s do not disappoint and the dual 8” woofers that transition to a 6 1/2’” midrange in a three and a half way configuration. It takes a lot to flatten out the power delivery of the GS150, yet I was able to clip the amplifier before the speakers gave up. They had to be moved to the Pass Labs Xs300 monos to be driven to their limit. At this point, rather than clip harshly, all of the front to back depth flattens out, gently to where rotating the volume control any further clockwise has no further effect. Keep in mind that this occurs at an incredibly high volume level – our SPL meter confirmed 114 db peaks, exceeding the 112db on the Dali spec sheet.

The other area the Epicon 8s exceed their specs is in low frequency extension. While not overly scientific, they are claimed 3db down at 35hz, yet even 25hz test tones are barely diminished in comparison to the 30 and 40hz tones, at least in my test room. Playing music in the real world proves equally compelling; whether you prefer Infected Mushroom or Genesis, the Epicon 8s go deep.

Final Setup Tweeks

In fact, they had a bit too much LF energy to work in reviewer Rob Johnson’s room, so placement is somewhat critical to get the right bass character. Tipping the scales at slightly more than 100 pounds each (48kg) get a friend to help you place the Epicon 8s. Impeccable time domain performance (a major design priority at Dali) and wide dispersion means all you need to do is lock in the bottom end and your rolling; the supplied spikes prove essential to achieving the best room interface.

Replacing the flat metal jumpers with some custom jumpers from the Chord Company takes the Epicon 8s to 11. Because the midrange to extreme high frequency range is so clean, you don’t notice it until you remove them and swap the Chord jumpers in place – you’ll instantly notice the additional smoothness they now offer. Of course, if your speaker cables happen to be terminated for bi-wired operation, just as well.

A Super Pair of Tweeters

Dali makes amazing soft dome tweeters that achieve a magic balance of resolution and natural tonal balance and their implementation of the ribbon tweeter in the Epicon 8 is a perfect example of the Danes doing things a bit differently. Worre again comments, “We use the ribbon as a supertweeter, crossing over at about 15khz, so that it just adds extra ambience to the presentation. Using it this way also avoids any diaphragm breakup from crossing it over at a lower frequency.”

Truer words were never spoken. Much like the depth a system picks up when able to utilize a subwoofer going down below 20hz, the supertweeter adds an ambience that is easily experienced by covering it up. Even a few friends that I know have limited HF hearing could easily perceive the difference between supertweeter engaged and not in a darkened room, and they all described the added depth and sparkle the same way. Cymbals have more shimmer and immediacy and even audience participation has more depth, more palpability, and more realism. The character of the room in Jeff Beck’s classic live album from Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in the UK is unmistakable. All I need do is close my eyes and I’m back there. Incredible. It’s like the two tweeters blend effortlessly to become one super duper tweeter – no matter what I played; I could not determine a crossover between them.

Resolution without edge

The better the source material and associated components, the better the Epicon 8s perform. Lowering the stylus on the MoFi pressing of Joe Jackson’s Night And Day instantly reveals the delicacy portrayed by the Epicon 8s. Even starting with my PrimaLuna ProLogue integrated amplifier, producing 35 watts per channel of tube power, these speakers sound incredible.

Thanks to a sophisticated crossover network that doesn’t sap power, as some multi-way, multi-driver speakers do, the Epicon 8s offer up an 89db sensitivity rating. Even 35 or 40 watts per channel will allow them to play fairly loud. We were even able to achieve great results with a 12 watt per channel Pass Labs First Watt amplifier, so whether you are buying the Epicon 8s as an anchor to a system that will be upgraded in the future, or as a final speaker purchase after a line of component upgrades, the Epicon 8s will satisfy.

Steadily going up the ladder, swapping DACs from the excellent, sub-$1,000 Rega DAC all the way to the $100,000 plus dCS Vivaldi, the Dali speakers easily reveal the nuances each DAC brings to the mix. Analog experiences prove equally vivid, moving from my favorite budget cartridge, the Denon DL-103r to the $15,000 Clearaudio Goldfinger. These speakers are a joy to use for any level of involvement and can easily be used as a reviewers tool to judge other components, thanks to their natural tonal balance, lack of distortion and coherence.

As much as there is to like about the Dali Epicon 8 speakers, their balance of all speaker parameters, combined with a high level of resolution that never becomes harsh is their greatest strength. The Dali engineers have not compromised any single aspect of musical reproduction at the expense of overall balance, and that’s what makes these speakers so amazing. Days of long listening sessions deliver zero fatigue, no matter what the listening level, and whether blasting Thriller, or playing Frank Sinatra at conversation level, I am always fully engaged by these speakers, hearing nuances that I thought I needed a $100,000 pair of speakers to realize.

So, DO you need a $100,000 pair of speakers?

Only if you have the money to throw around and need the bragging rights, or you love to play pipe organ music at concert hall levels. For the rest of you, the Dali Epicon 8 can easily be your final loudspeaker purchase. They serve the music faithfully.

While it is often a nebulous yardstick, these speakers really groove, allowing you to enjoy whatever music you happen to love. Those having widely eclectic tastes will never be limited by what their speakers can do tonally or dynamically.

The Dali Epicon 8 Loudspeakers


www.dali-speakers.com (factory)

www.soundorg.com (US Distributor)


Analog Source            AVID Acutus Reference SP/SME V/Clearaudio Goldfinger Ref.

Digital Source                        dCS Vivaldi, Gryphon Kalliope

Phonostage                Simaudio MOON LP810

Preamplifier              ARC GSPre, Robert Koda K-10, Pass Labs Xs Pre

Power Amplifier        ARC GS150, Pass XA160.8, Pass Xs Monos

Cable                          Cardas Clear

Power                         IsoTek Super Titan

DALI Rubicon 2 Speakers

Toward the end of “Master Song,” the second track on Leonard Cohen’s breakout 1967 album, Cohen’s pursing lips sound eerily present through the 1.1-inch soft dome tweeter of DALI’s two-way Rubicon 2 speakers. This remarkable tweeter reveals all the imperfections and detailed character of this vinyl pressing. Similarly, on “The Stranger Song,” the speakers’ 6.5-inch drivers pick up several mic pops—as Cohen hits phrases like “plays for shelter” and “holy game of poker”—doing so with jarring airiness, a result of the DALI speakers portraying this rough but rich recording with loads of nuance and clarity.

It’s details like these that help immediately illustrate speaker quality. And DALI—an acronym for Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries—has gained a reputation for producing high-quality, high-fidelity speakers at relatively reasonable (even mid-fi) prices. Of course, at $2,995 per pair, the Rubicon 2s are far from budget speakers, but they do display characteristics you’d sooner expect from much larger and costlier models. For their size and price, the level of fidelity these speakers deliver is astounding.

Setup and Specs

Measuring about 14 inches tall, 7.5 inches wide, and 13 inches deep, the Rubicon 2s are appropriate for placement on a shelf or bookshelf, tabletop/desktop or on stands. For this review, I try placing the speakers at the forward corners of my 21-inch-tall Salamander Synergy hi-fi rack and on my 35-inch-tall speaker stands. I find that the stand placement gives the speakers the necessary height to cast a deep enough soundstage to reach the listening position about 9 feet from the speakers (though stands 28 to 30 inches tall would have placed the tweeters right at ear level, so I raise my listening seat to help make up the difference). The speakers are ported out the back, so they should be placed at least a foot or so from the back wall. Placing the speakers about 2 feet from the wall and about 6.5 feet apart (with only very slight toe-in) presents the most satisfying soundstage for this reviewer.

Beyond the time required to find the optimum placement, setting up the speakers is an absolute breeze. The gold-plated, plastic-encased terminals are big and sturdy and make it abundantly easy to connect the speaker wire. Bi-amping is not an option, but DALI says that amps with an output of as little as 40 watts will do the job. The Simaudio Moon 600i integrated amp I’m currently using as a reference really makes these speakers sing, but it is pumping 250 watts into the speakers’ 4-ohm impedance load. DALI’s specs say the speakers deliver a frequency range from 50 Hz to 26 kHz, with a sensitivity of 87 dB and the crossover set at 3,100 Hz.

The cabinet of the Rubicon 2s is MDF and available in one of four finishes: black or white in high-gloss lacquer, or veneers of rosso or walnut (walnut shown). At about 18 pounds each, the speakers are pretty hefty for stand/shelf models, which contributes to the sense that these are high-quality speakers with refined fit and finish.

Back to the Music

London Calling is one of my favorite all-time albums and is way more nuanced and better produced than most people realize (especially since it’s largely considered a punk album—but it’s so much more than that). As a result, it’s a great test record for speakers, many of which struggle to deliver the 180-gram vinyl version’s full depth and richness. During the title track, Topper Headon’s hi-hat hits are crisp and bright through the Rubicon 2s, which highlight Headon’s complex rhythms and fast stick work. In general, these speakers lean toward the bright side of the spectrum, though they are not lacking in warmth. Through lesser speakers with less-capable tweeters, the electric guitar on this track can sound gritty, even muddy, but the Rubicon 2s parse through the grit, revealing an almost jazzy tone to this punk riff.

The Rubison 2s deliver “Sacrafice,” the fourth track on the Roots’ 2002 album Phrenology, with more low-end bump than I’d expect from speakers this size. When the kick drum and bass guitar hit, I’m surprised to feel my chest rumble, which leads me to believe that the speakers’ 50 Hz low-end spec is not an exaggeration. It doesn’t rattle the walls of my apartment or anything, but it’s plenty of bass response and quite the feat for 6.5-inch driver cones.

Further illustrating the low-frequency capabilities of these speakers, the opening track of Wilco’s Whole Love on vinyl is an almost techno-sounding amalgamation of a strong beat with orchestral strings, electric guitar, amplified piano, and all sorts of trippy effects and tiny electronica noises bouncing around the soundstage. The little DALI speakers capture this big and complex recording with laudable deftness, casting a broad soundstage that extends well into the listening area and is ripe with detail and a well-sorted-out multitude of instruments. The snare hits as the song crescendos toward the end of the track are fast and realistic (coming from someone who is a drummer and has seen Wilco live), and as the bass builds, the drivers deliver a really solid LF response—there’s a lot of air coming from these speakers.

Acoustically Speaking

I like using John Gorka’s Gypsy Life on Blu-ray as a reference, because it lets you see the physical location of the musicians and gives you the option to listen to the 24-bit/96-kHz stereo mix. Delivering this audio-video experience is my extremely capable Oppo BDP-105 universal disc player. During the title track (my favorite on the disc), the DALI drivers convey Gorka’s baritone vocals with loads of depth and clarity. The speakers give a notably accurate portrayal of the soundstage, with the fretless electric bass, mandolin, Gorka’s vocals and acoustic guitar, and female backup vocals placed from left to right, just as they are in the recording studio. The bassist uses an EBow (a little battery-powered device that mimics a bowed instrument), which gives the bass a really cool ambient vibe that the Rubicon 2s portray with plenty of air and vibrato; the mandolin is delicate but still abundantly present; and the female vocals are wonderfully subdued as they complement Gorka’s deeper voice. The DALIs perfectly place all these elements in the mix, giving the track an extremely lifelike feel.

I will say that these speakers don’t quite push the mix as far out as I’m used to with the larger Stirling SB-88s and the floorstanding ELAC FS249s that I’ve been using as reference speakers. By comparison, the Rubicon 2s lack the more substantial physical depth and three-dimensionality of the larger speakers. But compared to the other shelf/stand speakers and monitors I’ve demoed, the DALIs do present considerable spatial presence.

A CD of a live recording of Shostakovich’s String Quarter in C minor (with Leonard Bernstein at the helm of the New York Philharmonic) sounds quite engaging through the Rubicon 2s. The frantic violin pulls dominate the left side of the soundstage, with the cello and contrabass responding at the right. The simultaneous melodies are captivating and displayed well out in front of the speakers, though perhaps not pushed all the way out to the listener or as far beyond the peripheral boundaries as larger speakers might. That being said, the Rubicon 2s do deliver extraordinary accuracy, depth, and richness for speakers of this size.

A Worthy Contender

There are plenty of options for high-quality stand/shelf speakers or monitors in the $3,000 range—from Bower Wilkins, Sonus faber, Harbeth, and numerous others—and the $2,995 DALI Rubicon 2s certainly hold their own. Their most praise-worthy characteristics are their accuracy, clarity, and broad frequency response, with an especially notable bass response for their size.

The tone of the Rubicon 2s tends to be a little bright with higher frequencies, though the mid and bass regions do come through with a subtle amount of warmth that lends the speakers really nice balance. Placed in a moderately sized room and paired with the right stands and a decent amount of power, these speakers can really sing and fill a reasonable amount of space with extremely satisfying music.

DALI Rubicon 2 Speakers


www.dali-speakers.com (manufacturer)

www.soundorg.com (U.S. distributor)

Dali Epicon 8 Speakers – Preview

A recent visit to the Dali factory in Denmark revealed a nearly 250,000 square foot facility full of highly skilled workers dedicated to every aspect of loudspeaker design and construction.  The stylish cabinets and sophisticated drive units are all built and tested in house.  And the result in their flagship speaker is stunning.  These speakers sound as wonderful as they look, perhaps better. Dali calls the Epicon 8 a “3 + half-way” system, utilizing a ribbon supertweeter for the uppermost segment of the frequency spectrum.

Unlike most other speaker manufacturers, who usually cross the ribbon tweeter over at a much lower level (usually in the 4,000 – 5,000hz range) Dali crosses their supertweeter over at a nearly inaudible 15,000 hz level, eliminating the LF breakup and brittleness often associated with ribbon tweeter based design.  The result is brilliant, with a smoothness we’ve never heard from a speaker of this nature.  Our review will be live shortly, along with a chronicle of our factory visit. – Jeff Dorgay

Dali Epicon 8 Speakers




Dali Fazon Mikro 2 Speakers and Sub 1 Subwoofer

As the starship Enterprise explodes while I’m watching Star Trek: Inception, it’s clear that these miniscule satellite speakers from Dali deliver big sound. Working in concert with the tiny Fazon Sub 1, which utilizes a 6.5-inch long-throw driver, the speakers provide an equally solid bass response, as illustrated by the cannon shots in AC/DC’s “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You).”

Finding a balance between performance and aesthetics when integrating great sound into your living room is always a challenge. Danish manufacturer Dali does a better job than most at combining a modern, understated look with exceptional performance. In the case of the Mikro 2s, the company manages to deliver such performance in a small package that easily fits anywhere.

With an enclosure built of machined aluminum—like the Fazon F5 speaker we reviewed in issue 43—the Mikro 2s feature a slightly curved shape that looks equally at home on a stand mount, on your desktop, or mounted directly to the wall. I use them in a 5.1-channel system powered by the Anthem MRX 510 multichannel receiver that has become my reference workhorse, with 125 watts per channel. Dali also makes the Fazon Mikro Vokal, which is identical to the Mikro 2 but oriented for horizontal use as a center-channel speaker. The Mikro 2s have an MSRP of $650 per pair; the Vokal is $325; and the Sub 1 is $595—which makes for a very reasonably priced multichannel setup. All the units are available in gloss white (as pictured) or gloss black.

Easily Mounted

Thanks to the integral bracket and supplied wall mount, TONE staffer Rob Johnson and I were able to mount the five Mikros in my living room with ease. To angle the rear speakers, we improvised by making wall mounts from a 4-inch long piece of PVC that we painted white, cut in half, and glued to the wall with Liquid Nails. The end result is a very subtle install.

Those wanting stands for the Mikros can purchase accessory stands from Dali, which may better suit your needs if you don’t have speaker cables running through your walls. The stands ($199 per pair) are also available in black or white.

Should you be in tighter quarters, the Mikros can also serve as a kick-ass desktop 2.1 or 5.1 system, enveloping you in sound in a way that headphones cannot. In my small (7-by-10-foot) home office, a pair of the Mikros and the sub underneath my desk delivers prodigious sound surrounding my 30-inch Apple Cinema Display.

Bottom line: These exquisitely crafted speakers work well anywhere, especially if you’re limited on space but want big sound.

Natural Sound

Dali speakers all share a natural voice, and the Mikros continue this tradition. A two-way design with a 4-inch wood-pulp woofer and 1-inch soft dome tweeter, the Mikro 2s have a somewhat low sensitivity of 84 dB, but this does not prove problematic in any situation I am able to create. The 125 watts per channel of the MRX 510 is easily able to drive these speakers to their maximum output of 104 dB, which is louder than I need in all but extreme conditions.

While Dali states that the speakers’ low-frequency response is 90 Hz, placing the Mikro 2s on the wall and fairly close to the room corners takes advantage of room gain, giving the impression of much more powerful bass response than the specs indicate. Using the same strategy with the Sub 1 and setting the crossover at about 80 Hz turns out to be perfect in my listening room. Those craving more LF output might want to consider adding a second Sub 1 in an adjacent corner, though I would resist the urge to get a lone larger subwoofer, as it may not integrate as seamlessly as the Sub 1 does.

Setting the Sub 1 up by ear takes very little time and even a rank beginner should be able to achieve excellent sub/sat integration. The ARC 1M room correction of the MRX 510 takes this to another level, and really helps the Dali speakers disappear completely in the room, both visually and sonically. The speakers are so unobtrusive that almost none of my recent guests even notice them—a major triumph in aesthetics.

Dynamic Range

Because of this natural voicing, the Mikro 2s are a perfect choice for anyone needing their home theater system to pull double duty as a family music system. Operating the receiver in simulated surround-sound mode and cranking the volume makes Cheap Trick’s version of “Day Tripper” (from Found All the Parts) sound convincingly live, with the applause folded into the mix adding to the presentation’s illusion of spaciousness.

Staying in a Beatles groove, tracking through the new copies of the Beatles’ U.S. albums, recently remastered by Greg Calbi, proves equally compelling. The Mikro 2s’ ability to disappear only heightens the ping-pong, ultra-stereo quality of these recordings.

Through these little speakers, Elvis Costello’s vocals in “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again,” (from the Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack) is positively dreamy, capturing the mid-1960s Burt Bacharach feel perfectly, with Costello’s unique vocal styling fully intact. Tegan and Sara’s “I Know, I Know, I Know” is equally enjoyable, with both vocalists able to happily coexist in the soundstage yet with each of their voices being easily discernable.

I run the gamut of rock and jazz favorites, and nothing throws the diminutive Danes a curve they can’t navigate. The only place these speakers come up a bit short is when the program material switches to heavy electronica. You won’t be able to play your favorite Skrillex or Chemical Brothers tracks at full throttle—one can only expect a 6.5-inch woofer (from any manufacturer) to go so far. But everywhere else, when keeping sound levels prudent, the Fazon Mikro 2s always satisfy.

The available bass from the Sub 1 goes down solidly to about 35 Hz and, while this is not the ultimate in extension, it is well defined. Personally, I’d rather have detail in a small subwoofer than just boom, and this is another area where Dali excels. It’s easy to follow the bass groove in Thomas Dolby’s “Hot Sauce,” which exhibits plenty of weight. The acoustic bass line in Stanley Clarke’s In the Jazz Garden is full of overtones, perfectly capturing the speed at which this legendary player moves up and down the neck of his acoustic instrument.

Beauty, Value and Performance

The Dali Mikro 2 system offers all three of these virtues in equal measure. There will always be the audiophile who wants a traditional floorstanding or stand-mounted speaker, but for those wanting their music system to less obtrusively integrate into their surroundings, I suggest the Dali Mikro 2 system. This small system’s service to musical truth makes for a convincing home-theater experience. You will not be disappointed.

Fazon Mikro 2 speakers

$650 per pair

Fazon Mikro Vokal center-channel speaker


Fazon Sub 1 subwoofer






Dali F5 Fazon Loudspeakers

High-end audio products are often subcategorized by a single factor. For instance, in the mid 70s, many speakers built in California had a “West Coast Sound” characterized by a forward treble and somewhat forceful bass. Meanwhile, speakers from the other side of the country were said to possess an “East Coast Sound” favoring midrange accuracy.

While it’s tough to pigeonhole modern speakers according to such parameters, speakers from Denmark seem to share a natural tonality and an ability to capture the essence of instrumental texture without calling attention to their presence. Dali excels at these aspects. Its new F5 Fazon loudspeaker takes prior achievements two steps further by combining timeless styling with great sound and a small footprint.

Available in gloss black, white, or red, the Dali F5 is gorgeous to behold and will look right at home in the most fashionable of homes. Best of all, at $4,495, the F5s are affordable works of art.

Details, Details

Beautiful woodwork is a Danish hallmark, and Dali has always offered great cabinets. Throwing a wrinkle into traditionalism, the curvy F5s are machined from a block of aluminum. The speaker features an absence of parallel surfaces in order to keep to a minimum any cabinet resonance.

The three-driver complement works in a 2 ½-way configuration, with the crossover points set at 800 and 3200Hz, respectively. Dali maintains that their incorporation of wood fibre mixed into the pulp cones utilized in the dual 5-inch woofers are significant contributors to the model’s natural sound; adding increased cone stiffness and a more randomized structure. It also helps with the inner damping of the cone, a claim that only a few minutes of listening confirms as true. I have a personal preference for soft-dome tweeters; I’m always willing to forgo a smidge of ultimate resolution in the service of timbre. And here, the F5 delivers with a 1-inch soft dome tweeter that, as Ice-T would’ve said before he became a “Law and Order” mainstay, keeps it real.

A pair of banana jacks flush-mounted in the silver bases and a tiny compartment that allows you to completely conceal your speaker cables round out the form-and-function factor. Acoustically transparent speaker grilles magnetically attach; your décor and offspring will decide whether they should be left on or off.

Grilles aside, you should have the F5s playing music in a few minutes. Thanks to fairly wide dispersion, they will not suffer terribly if not aligned just right. If you are in the position to fuss over speaker placement, the F5s yield a bit more bass extension if you can keep them about 18 inches from the rear wall. Since the tweeters rise only 29 inches from the floor, lower seating grants the best imaging performance.

Finally, don’t let the 87db sensitivity frighten you: These speakers are incredibly easy to drive and work equally well with tube, transistor, or Class D amplification. Anything from 25 watts per channel and above should get the job done.

The F5’s Evaporative Nature

The F5’s bass response is solid but not overbearing. At first blush, one might think the speakers slightly thin because the upper-mid bass response isn’t goosed to provide a false sense of thickness. However, when called upon to move air, the pair of 5-inch woofers is mightier than the spec sheet suggests. Sampling Peter Gabriel music, old and new—via Genesis’ Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and his more recent Scratch my Back, respectivelythe speakers dispense ample impact. Via the F5s, there’s more than enough oomph on “Back in NYC” to sound convincing and hold at bay any thoughts of a subwoofer. Moreover, textures present in the acoustic bass line of “Heroes” on Gabriel’s latest record affirms that’s what is sonically conveyed is anything but one-note bass.

The F5s often remind me of my favorite mini monitors’ midrange clarity. Yet the former take up a smaller footprint than my Harbeth P3ESRs on Sound Anchors stands. Tracking through Pat Metheny’s new What’s It All About? demonstrates how well these speakers keep pace with the guitar icon’s fretwork and harmonics without becoming lifeless and flat.

Of course, enthralling midrange and ample bass don’t alone make a fantastic speaker. Thanks to the small woofers, the F5s offer the degree of coherence required to effortlessly disappear in a room. The resolution will convince you that something very special is happening—an experience that allows you to ease back in the chair and focus on the musical event. Vide, “I’m a King Bee” from Grateful Dead’s Fillmore East: April 1971. The record boasts a wide range of texture and complexity that challenges the best speakers. Answering the bell, the F5s create a wide soundstage that mimics the Fillmore’s hall ambience.

Fatigue-free Finesse

Many speakers make impressive showings during a 10-minute demo. You know the drill: A salesperson plays some plucky guitar bits, runs through some female vocals, and even spruces it up with a touch of classical music or piano fare. It’s often all presented at high decibel levels. Still, you walk away impressed, perhaps so smitten that you reach for your wallet. But somehow, after a few extended listening sessions, those new speakers lose their luster and you’re right back to where you started.

A natural feel, which might initially make the F5s slightly less exciting, is what will keep you enthralled with them down the road. Even after full-day sessions with the F5s, they never become tiring. As much as a crammed Sooloos music server gnaws at my inner DJ and tempts me to spin singles, I find myself listening to many records all the way through with the F5s—truly the mark of a great speaker. I just want to stay in the groove, whether it’s with yet another version of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon or Girls’ Father, Son, Holy Ghost.

No, the F5s do not present the finite level of “pinpoint imaging” that some more decidedly audiophile speakers possess. However, they throw a full-bodied and three-dimensional soundfield. The wood blocks and triangle in Serge Gainsbourg’s “Douze Belles Dans la Peau” from Chant a la Une illustrate this strength. The triangle sporadically pops in all around the room, while the wood blocks are distinctly left of center and somewhat diffused, sounding just like a pair of wood blocks when I strike them in my listening room.

Dynamics are equally impressive. Although small woofers can only move a finite amount of air, these speakers’ woofers give a gold-ribbon performance when faced with heavier fare. Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and the Who present no problem. But, if your tastes tend towards the heaviest metal, I suggest adding one of Dali’s subwoofers.  AC/DC’s “Back in Black” comes across just fine, but Danzig’s “Am I Demon” requires a stronger push over the cliff. Just as important as dynamics, the F5s retain their open character at low volume levels—not always an easy trick and, perhaps, even more telling of a given speaker’s linearity.

Well? Hello, Dali.

Dali F5 Loudspeakers


www.dali-speakers.com (factory)

www.soundorg.com (US importer)


Digital Source Sooloos Control 15     dCS Paganini stack
Analog Source Avid Diva SPII/SME 3009/Ortofon SPU
Phono Preamplifier ARC PH6
Preamplifier Burmester 011
Power Amplifier Conrad Johnson MV-50C1     Channel Islands D500 Mk.II    McIntosh MC 452
Cable Cardas Clear