Today I will be reviewing the DALI Menuet SE speakers which are an improved version of the Menuets, a compact bass reflex loudspeaker measuring only 9.8 x 5.9 x 9 inches. What sets the SE apart from the regular line is an amazingly beautiful wild walnut veneer polished into a luxurious shine and some upgrades on the inside that allow these little beauties to sound much bigger than their diminutive size should make possible. DALI cannot alter physics, but with attention to detail and design, they have pulled off a remarkable feat of sound reproduction with the Menuet SEs.
DALI Menuet SE Speaker
- Gorgeous wild walnut veneer
- Equally gorgeous, full sound from a compact speaker
- Quality binding posts
- 1.1-inch dome tweeter and 4.5-inch woofer offer wide dispersion from bookshelves or stands
- Integrated port in back allows for close to wall placement
Earlier this year I, reviewed the DALI Oberon 3 bookshelf speakers which gave me a chance to experience the DALI design philosophy and sound quality. One unusual design feature is their recommendation to place the speakers facing straight out into your listening environment, without the usual toe-in that so many other speakers require in order to achieve optimal imaging. The Menuets also have this same design, and I must admit, it is quite effective. The SEs are a limited-edition speaker that has one of the most beautiful speaker cabinet veneers I have ever seen from any speaker manufacturer.
DALI states that there is enough walnut for a production run of 12 to 24 months. When they run out of wild walnut, the speaker line will be shut down. In my opinion, these speakers will then become coveted and more valuable over time, like rare coins or limited vintage wine. When the speakers arrived on my doorstep, the shipping package was so compact that my wife commented, “Where is the other speaker?” Yes, the Menuets are that small!
Frequency Range (+/-3 dB):
59Hz – 25kHz
Recommended Amplifier Power:
1x 1.1” Soft Textile Dome
1x 4.5″ Wood Fiber Cone
Bass Reflex Tuning Frequency:
Based on the DALI Mentor Menuet, the SEs have some upgrades on the inside and not just a spiffy looking outer skin. The crossover is improved with premium Mundorf capacitors and the circuit board material was selected for its high insulation properties to help reduce electrical interference.
The 4.5-inch woofer, which has a color that compliments the speaker cabinets, uses a mix of low-mass paper with wood fiber reinforcement and a fiberglass voice coil former. As you can see in the photos, the woofer has an interesting look and texture that is said to help reduce unwanted resonance.
The soft dome tweeter is a bit oversized, yet 30% lighter than similar 1-inch dome tweeters. The magnet is also bigger, and it provides precise control and crisp highs.
Each speaker has a slightly rounded front baffle. The grilles snap onto the front and care must be taken so they are not twisted or torqued as the posts can snap off. I listened to the Menuets with the grilles off, but only because I thought they looked too nice to be hidden. Sonically, I heard no difference with the grilles on or off.
On the back, the five-way binding posts are of top quality and consist of two adjustable clamps per post. There is also a specially designed angled port on the back that allows for flexible placement of the Menuet SEs. I found that spade connectors worked well with these speakers as the posts could really clamp down tightly on them, but banana and even bare wire (gasp!) would be held tightly as well.
The manufacturer says that the Menuets can be placed directly on a wall or out close to the wall. Because of their compact design, I can envision a killer two-channel speaker system with these and a high-end integrated amplifier and DAC in a small to medium-sized room. Not everyone has the luxury of a dedicated listening space. For my review, I placed the DALI Menuet SEs on adjustable stands, three feet out from the front wall, with music provided by the streaming service Qobuz, as played through my PS Audio DSD Direct Stream DAC. My amplifiers are the Emotiva UPA-1, 200-watt monoblocks. I also bounced from using the Menuets alone to sometimes being accompanied by an RSL Speedwoofer S10 sub. I will get more into the details of sound quality later in this review. Suffice it say, The DALI Menuet SE speakers exude quality and beauty. They make a statement and anyone who comes over to your place to hear them will be impressed by their looks and their sound.
I placed the Menuet SEs on stands that I bought for the purpose of reviewing small speakers. They’re not as classy looking as the Menuets, but they got the job done. I positioned the tweeters to be at ear level and had the baffles pointing straight out into my listening room. The stands were about seven feet apart and eight and a half feet from my listening position. My room is roughly 13x17x8.5, so there is plenty of breathing room. After about 20 hours of some heavy music rotation, I began my critical listening.
One of the things I like about small speakers is the ability to quickly and easily move them around and experiment with their placement. I also find that reputable manufacturers put a lot of thought into their design to make them punch far above their weight class. I was immediately struck by the large sound the Menuet SEs were about to kick out. With my eyes closed, I could have envisioned a small tower speaker making the sound I was hearing. Sonically, they had a sweet treble, punchy mid-range, and a fairly potent bottom end. I could easily hear cymbals, rimshots, and triangles with a fair amount of air around the sounds. The treble was natural sounding and not at all fatiguing over long listening sessions. The bass, and more importantly, the mid-bass, has a naturalness to it that favored both male and female vocalists. Jazz sounded very good on the Menuet SEs. The bass sounded much deeper and tighter than you would expect from a speaker with these dimensions.
Yes, they clearly benefited from the addition of a subwoofer, but you would not miss much deep bass if you were to use them for a party in your living room. As a primary speaker system, I would integrate a sub just to round out the foundation, but for most types of music, you’ll not miss many of the lowest frequencies. The dispersion was excellent from my seated position. Getting up and walking around the room did not collapse the sense of space the speakers projected. I can see why DALI recommends an on the wall placement because imaging is a strong suit for the Menuets. For me, I could sit anywhere on the couch and still get a decent stereo effect, even on the couch ends. So, here are some of my impressions while listening to the Menuet SEs over a few weeks.
The King’s Singers, “Good Vibrations”
This is a bit of an old crossover album from the six gentlemen that usually sing music from the Renaissance (one guy is an excellent countertenor). Singing works from Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Phil Collins, and others, they eschew using instruments and make all their music through vocal harmonization…to wonderful effect! Their voices pan out over a wide front stage, which the Menuets captured accurately. Each individual voice had a sense of placement and space.
I expected the small speakers to be congested but was pleasantly surprised by their open sound. The male voices sounded completely natural and each one had their distinctive tonal quality well represented by the Menuets. Acapella never sounded so much fun!
The Beatles, “Abbey Road”
Abbey Road was a good test to see if the male voice reproduction could be maintained while adding acoustic and electric instruments. Again, I was struck by the wide soundstage. The bass was tight, Ringo’s rimshots were realistic and the harmonies spot on. Never once did I feel the need for deeper bass… until I switched over to my sub. But really, that is not a fault of the Menuets. Only a side by side listening would remind you that the bottom octave was a bit light.
I was still impressed with their drive and bass rhythm. How can these little guys sound so dynamic and uncompressed?
Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops, “Symphonic Spectacular”
OK, so they can rock, but now I want to see if they can maintain their composure when playing large scale symphonic music. Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Symphonic Spectacular provided excellently recorded “chestnuts” with the famous uncompressed Telarc label sound. Besides the broad soundstage, instrument placement was excellent. From flute to tympani, the Menuet SEs were not shy in their presentation.
The Ride of the Valkyries (Wagner) really pressed them, but they did not falter. Never did I feel when things got intense that the DALIs became compressed or distorted. Even the thwack of the tympani had weight to it. The soundstage was wide if perhaps lacking a bit in depth. Mind you, the Menuets are about a tenth the size of my Revel F36s, but I was still impressed with the overall presentation of sound.
Qobuz, “Blue Coast Collection 2”
Lastly, I turned to Qobuz and played some excellent sound recordings in 24/196 from Blue Coast Records. This sampler has acoustic jazz, Blues, and male/female vocal artist recorded in DSD by the talented Cookie Morenco. The sound of the recording is smooth, laid back, and spacious. When played on the Menuets, you could just melt away for the next hour and not help but be impressed by how good they sound with high-resolution material.
Every detail, like the intake of breath or finger scraping along guitar strings, could be heard and the imaging places you in the front two rows of the recording venue.
The DALI Menuet SE Speakers maintain their composure when pushed to the limit better than most other same-sized models. With their premium finish and easy placement, they are a terrific value.
- Beautiful wild walnut veneer
- Big sound from a small package
- Impressive imaging with wide dispersion
- Sound great with all types of music genres
- Magnetic grilles
And so, my reviews of European speaker companies continue. As much as I like the DALI Oberons, I was really impressed with the performance of the diminutive Menuet SEs. The quality of the gorgeous walnut finish was amazing and the sound from these little speakers was much bigger than anything I thought you could get from a speaker so small. When paired with a sub, you could easily have a 2.1 system that would make many people envious. DALI has proven that size is in the eye of the beholder and if saving space is as important to you as having excellent sound, the Menuets may be exactly what you are looking for.