The DALI Oberon 3 Bookshelf Speakers and E-9F Subwoofer are a premium system that sells for an entry-level price. At just $1700, they punch well above their weight class. With contemporary European styling and great sound, they can entertain a single listener or a party with their wide sound stage. Adding the E-9 F subwoofer makes the bottom octave present in a musical way and brings a solid foundation to all your music.
DALI Oberon 3 Bookshelf Speaker and E-9 F Subwoofer
- Premium contemporary styling
- Wide sound stage
- Musical bass when paired with the E-9 F compact subwoofer
- Available in four finishes
I jumped at the opportunity to review speakers from the award-winning manufacturer DALI (Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries). Though I have read about them online, I’ve never had the chance to listen to them before, even after seeing them at some of the trade shows I’ve attended. The Oberon series is a new, entry-level speaker line from DALI and the 3’s are the largest of the two bookshelf models.
For this review, I’ve paired them with the second most compact sub they make, the E-9 F. It reminds me of a Sunfire True Subwoofer from the 80s, with its compact size and 9-inch driver (yes, it is not an 8-inch or a 10-inch, but a 9-incher).
True to their European lineage, DALI speakers are beautifully crafted on the outside and the drivers include some interesting innovations that have trickled down from their high-end speaker lines. The Oberon series offers entry-level prices and a true audiophile experience.
Oberon 3 Bookshelf Speaker
Frequency Range (+/-3dB):
Recommended Amplifier Power:
1x 1.1” soft textile dome
1x 7″ wood fiber cone
Bass Reflex Tuning Frequency:
Dimensions with base (HxWxD):
13.8 x 7.9 x 12.4 inches
DALI Oberon 3 Bookshelf Speaker Price:
E-9 F subwoofer
Frequency Range (+/-3 dB):
1x 9″ aluminum
Bass Reflex Tuning Frequency:
Max. Amplifier Power Output:
220 watts RMS
Continuous IEC Power Output:
Connection Input Mono (LFE):
Crossover Frequency, Phase Switch, Standby (Auto Power) On/Off Switch & Volume (Gain)
Max. Power Consumption:
12.1 x 11.3 x 12.2 inches
DALI E-9 F Subwoofer Price:
Dali, Subwoofer, Bookshelf Speaker, Speakers, Speaker Review 2020
The Oberon 3s came in a light wood veneer finish with a light grey tweed grille and glossy white front baffle. The veneer looks like real wood and is realistically textured. On the whole, they are some of the most handsome speakers I have seen for some time.
The DALI Oberon series is available in four finishes: Black Ash, White, Dark Walnut and Light Oak. Matched with a matte black or white front baffle. I imagine there is a style that would enhance any room they are placed in. The E9-F subwoofer comes in black wood veneer with a black gloss baffle or in a trendy gloss white. Interestingly, it does not come with a grille. If you want one, you must order it as an extra. I liked it without a grille, but you may find that not to your preference, so be forewarned.
The design of the Oberon 3 is straightforward, but some unique features aside from its contemporary design include an SMC disk on the end of the iron pole piece on the woofer magnet. The patented SMC disk minimizes the negative effects of the iron. SMC is a soft magnetic compound that greatly reduces mechanical distortion and helps lower third-order distortion. The woofer features a wood fiber cone with a blend of fine-grain paper pulp, reinforced with wood fibers, that creates a stiff, lightweight structure with minimal breakup. It has a very distinctive textured look that adds to the overall visual appeal of the speaker’s design.
The 1.1-inch soft dome tweeter is bigger than the standard 1-inch tweeter found on most speakers and is designed to provide a larger sweet spot for listening and blend better with the mid-range driver. In fact, these are the first speakers I have auditioned that sound better when not toed in or out. The recommended placement should be with the speakers pointing straight out into the listening room. I’ll speak more about this in my listening section of this review. I placed the Oberon 3s on speaker stands with the tweeters at ear height from my couch and roughly two feet from the front wall.
On the back, there is one set of speaker posts (sorry, no bi-wiring) and a vented port. The cabinet is sturdy with internal bracing for rigidity and enough stuffing to deaden internal vibration. Doing a knuckle rap on the outside produced a solid dull thud. The grilles have posts and when removing them, one needs to be careful not to torque them or they may break off. I found the grilles helped reduce some of the treble edge, so I left them on when listening to music.
The E-9 F sub has a clean compact look and when lifting it out of the box, I was mildly surprised by its weight. Underneath the sub is a single port that allows for placement up against a wall or in a corner. On the back are the usual knobs for adjusting volume, phase, crossover, and power, with the later turning the sub on automatically if an audio signal is detected. When powered on, a blue light appears in the lower front left corner. You have a choice of line-level inputs or LFE. There is no option to go wireless and there is no downloadable app to control features from a phone or tablet. Well, we can’t always get everything we want.
The cone is made from aluminum with a thick, high excursion surround and is powered by a 170-watt Class D amplifier. I placed the E-9 F along the sidewall of my 17×14 foot media room, and about eight feet from my listening spot. After 15-20 minutes of tweaking and crawling around on the floor, I felt I had it dialed in and was ready for some serious listening. Though my sample came sans grille, I really liked the look of it naked.
I listened to a broad spectrum of music and an occasional movie with the DALIs, and I can make some general observations about my experience with them. The E-9 F is potent and easily filled my moderately large media room with musical bass. It had no trouble handling pedal notes from my extensive organ collection. From Bach to Widor, it produced bass that I felt, as well as heard. It had no trouble with dynamic films like Mad Max: Fury Road either. Two of these subs would really crack your foundation. Because of its compact size, it could easily be placed under a coffee table or tucked in the back corner of the couch.
The Oberon 3s have a sound that I would describe as articulate, especially with human voices, with a mid-range that is a bit more tilted forward in sound compared to my Revel F26 towers. When toed in, the treble seemed a bit aggressive and taking the grilles off heightened the effect. I would recommend leaving the grilles on and doing as suggested by the manufacturer, set them up pointing straight out into the room. Though they sound bigger than their size suggests, they really don’t dig deep in the bass department. Having a sub helped fill in the bottom octave made them sound bolder and more authoritative.
The soundstage was big, and I can see these going into a room where you want to hear music when moving around. The stereo effect was not just at the tip of the golden triangle but stayed with me as I moved about the room. Party speakers? Absolutely, but the sound quality makes you want to stop what you are doing and give them your full attention. Their styling is sharp enough to make people take notice of them, too. With that said, here are some of my thoughts about these speakers while listening to music (much of which I streamed from Qobuz).
George Winston “Linus and Lucy”
I started off listening to solo instruments, like George Winston playing the piano music of Vince Guaraldi from Linus and Lucy. His piano is close-mic’d and has a broad deep sound that really resonates. The Oberon 3s were able to reproduce the natural sound well. They seemed to project the piano more into the room, rather than back along the front wall.
For solo piano, the effect was quite pleasing. The high-end registration of the piano was smooth without harshness. Mids were clear and deep bass notes had real heft and control. Without the sub, the realistic sound of the piano was diminished as the bass made the piano sound especially full and solid.
Diana Krall “The Girl in the Other Room”
Adding to piano, I brought in a female voice with Diana Krall’s The Girl in the Other Room. Her voice and the jazz ensemble that plays accompaniment were spot on from what I am used to hearing with my Revels. The use of no toe still managed to present a wide soundstage, but I felt the depth was not as good as it could be. This may not be an issue if the Oberon 3s are placed on an actual bookshelf though.
I could walk around the room and still hear a nice soundstage and I could see how these speakers would work well, serving music for a small room full of people. Some would call these lifestyle speakers, but that would underestimate their qualities. I liked the sound of jazz, especially their slightly forward presentation. Plucked notes on the double bass had real weight and meat on their bones. The E-9 F really nailed it for me.
J.S. Bach “The Bach Variations”
The Windham Hill Sampler of the music of J.S. Bach: The Bach Variations, throws all sorts of unconventional instruments together. As far as I am concerned, the music of Bach can sound good on any instrument, even a kazoo or banjo. Guitar, steel drums, harmonica, piano, and mandolins are used to great effect and the music is played in an acoustic, New Age relaxed style.
It’s beautifully recorded and there isn’t a dud on the playlist. The Oberon 3s sounded comfortable and all the different timbres sounded quite natural.
Tom Petty “Full Moon Fever”
I convinced myself that the Oberon 3 and E-9 F combo can play small ensemble music and voices, but can they rock? If you’re going to throw a party with music, can they kick it? Though I played plenty of rock-n-roll, I thought the late Tom Petty would demonstrate their ability to handle some deep bass and complex rhythms. Full Moon Fever is one of my favorite Petty albums (though, that depends on which album I’m playing at the moment).
When I turned up the volume, the room filled with the band and Petty’s voice was a bit more prominent in the front of the group, but he sounded clear and above the fray. Bass stayed tight and musical, never becoming boomy or one-note. The speakers stayed composed and only got a bit pinched and strained when I turned the volume way up (though not to 11!). I played Roxy Music, Beatles, Moody Blues and Yes through these guys and they really did a great job. I sometimes find a good bookshelf speaker can sound more energetic than larger tower speakers. Smaller speakers can sometimes seem to project more energy, and in this case, the sound was more upfront and forward without being too aggressive. Add to this mix their good looks and I think they would make your party come to life.
The OBERON 3 and E-9 F SUBWOOFER combo are a very potent sound system that makes beautiful music together and looks good doing it. If great sound and style are important to you, put them at the top of your list.
- Beautiful contemporary styling
- Accurate sound with a slightly forward soundstage that I grew to enjoy
- Wide soundstage and large sweet spot
- Subwoofer goes deep but remains musical
- Wireless option for sub
I liked the Oberon 3s. They offered very good sound and have a distinct style that should appeal to almost any home décor they are placed in. I appreciate the European design, which goes far beyond many American speakers that offer only black or walnut veneers. The front grilles look sharp and I felt they helped take some of the edge off the treble of certain recordings. Want more of that edge? Take the grilles off. The speakers look great either way. The E-9 F sub put out powerful bass that belied its compact size. Put them all together and you have a serious 2.1 music system that draws attention to the sound while bringing delight to the eyes.