I recommend that anybody who is in the market for new speakers should audition the DALI OPTICON 6’s. They have a great musical quality that passes the warmth, drive, and energy of a live performance free of undue distortion or coloration. They might wind up being your final choice because of all their endearing qualities.
DALI OPTICON 6 Floor-Standing Loudspeakers
- Natural sound
- Very low distortion bench tests
- Smooth frequency response
- Incredible treble extension
- Polite but satisfying bass response
- Excellent finish options
I have wanted to review a pair of DALI speakers for a long time and this is the first chance I’ve had to do just that. I’ve heard DALI speakers at numerous trade shows and admired the way they perform. They also impress with their substantial build quality and great looks.
The DALI OPTICON 6’ under evaluation here includes much of DALI’s incredible technologies. The most prominent of these is the hybrid tweeter assembly that features a soft dome tweeter working in tandem with a ribbon super tweeter. The claimed treble extension of this tweeter is up to 32 kHz!
DALI also included a pair of their famous woofers with the wood pulp cones and magnet structures that feature Soft Magnetic Compound in the pole piece. The dual woofers measure 6-1/2” each and are in a rear-ported cabinet. The claimed bass extension is 49 Hz. These compact towers run as a 2-1/2 and 1/2-way acoustic alignment. They are gorgeous and feature a clean, articulate sound quality.
4-Driver, 2-1/2 + 1/2-Way Floorstanding Speakers
49 Hz – 32 kHz
1 ~ 1.1” (28 mm) Soft Dome + 1 ~ 0.67” x 1.75” (17 mm x 45 mm) Ribbon
2 ~ 6½” (165 mm)
Crossover Frequencies (Hz):
800, 2,200, and 14,000
Sensitivity (2.83V @ 1 m):
Recommended Amplifier Power:
25 – 200 watts
41.7 lbs. (18.9 kg) each
40.0” x 7.8” x 13.2” (1001 mm x 195 mm x 330 mm)
Black Ash, Soft Silk Matte White, or Walnut
DALI, loudspeaker, floor standing, ribbon tweeter, Loudspeaker Review 2019
I think the most prominent design feature of the DALI OPTICON 6’s has got to be their unique tweeter assembly. The hybrid tweeter assembly is a long-standing DALI tradition and it involves a rather large soft dome mounted immediately below a ribbon super-tweeter. In the OPTICON 6’s, the two drivers are mounted about as closely as possible in a rigid aluminum baffle. This arrangement would be expected to promote a point-source behavior.
The ferrofluid-cooled dome tweeter kicks in at 2,200 Hz and does not have a low pass filter meaning it provides response all the way to the top of its inherent frequency range. Meanwhile, the ribbon super-tweeter crosses in at 10 kHz by way of a low-order filter and provides its full contribution starting at 14 kHz then goes up from there, in tandem with the soft dome tweeter.
According to DALI, the Hybrid Tweeter Module features an extremely smooth and wide horizontal dispersion – one of their sound design hallmarks. Even the detailing of the tweeter’s faceplate is designed for optimal horizontal dispersion. This assembly is also claimed to have high power handling.
So all that tweeter talk is really cool but guess what? DALI also designs their own unique mid-woofer drivers for the OPTICON’s. The cones are made from a mix of paper and wood fiber pulp that provides low surface resonance and gives the cones their distinctive color. (In other words, the cones are rigid and look cool!)
The woofers feature rubber surrounds and cast aluminum baskets. They have dual-layer voice coils and ferrite magnets.
DALI has also pioneered the use of Soft Magnetic Compound (SMC) material that is used to form the drivers’ pole pieces. SMC is a coated magnetic granule that can be shaped into virtually any form. SMC has other desirable qualities which make it a nearly ideal material for a pole piece. Most notably it reduces both eddy currents and hysteresis effects.
The two mid/woofers in the OPTICON 6’s are 6-1/2”.
DALI claims all these drivers are wide bandwidth and as a result, a simple crossover network is employed to take advantage of their extended frequency response. This speaker is basically a 2-1/2 way design (800 Hz and 2,200 Hz crossovers). But since the tweeters have overlapping responses as well, one could view this as a 2-1/2 and 1/2-way design. That’s a new one on me. I don’t think I would personally design a speaker like this myself. But, you know what, DALI really pulled it off and I was quite smitten by their performance. More on that later.
All off this cutting-edge technology is housed in an equally accomplished cabinet. The cabinet is constructed of medium-density fiberboard (MDF). The baffle is actually 1” (25 mm) thick which is thicker than most competing designs. The way the driver baskets, baffle cutouts, and mounting hardware are employed, allows maximum airflow behind the mid/woofers.
The remainder of the cabinet is internally reinforced with solid braces throughout to strengthen the cabinet from within. This contributes to the stiffness and practically eliminates resonance within the cabinet. DALI says they take great care designing the layout and application of internal bracing in order to avoid unnecessarily reducing the internal volume of the cabinet.
The high-grade vinyl is carefully selected among the finest available. Extensive testing is carried out to make sure that the surface and joints of the cabinet will stand the test of time. Available colors are gloss white, gloss black, or walnut.
The front grille is attached to the front baffle via elegantly hidden inserts integrated into the tweeter and woofer mounting rings. This secures the grilles to the speaker eliminating unwanted resonances or rattles and leaves the baffle clean without unnecessary visual marks. This I liked very, very much!
At 41.7 pounds each, these speakers have a nice heft to them without being ridiculously hard to unbox and move around. The weight provides a nice balance for a domestic product – not too heavy and not too light.
At first, I thought the boxes were well thought out in that they opened from one side and not on end. This made it easy to open the box and extract the speaker. The problem was that the cushioning was a pair of styrofoam end caps that were too brittle and broke apart while I was boxing up the speakers for their return trip. If the cushioning isn’t set up to go in the box first and then on top of the speaker (in this case, shoring the sides, not the ends) then the foam needs to be an open-cell foam that has some tensile strength. I hope DALI rethinks its packaging.
Like most tower speakers today, these come with small, metal outriggers for the feet. They were easy to attach but they didn’t lock in quite as well as I’d hoped. So I tightened them down as best I could. Also typical for higher-end speakers, the speakers came with short floor spikes as well as a set of vibration-absorbing feet for hard surfaces.
Once I got the spikes installed, I moved the speakers into the typical spots in my listening room. The speakers have dual rear ports and so they will work best with some space behind the cabinets and in my case, they were placed about 30” from the front wall.
DALI claims that their speakers are optimized for no toe-in. I was pleased to read this because I normally don’t toe in speakers very much to begin with and I think setting them straight ahead looks better to our non-audiophile guests. But I will say that no toe-in at first looked like the speakers were actually toed out! I wound up measuring from the front wall to make sure I had it right.
These speakers have some of the most robust mounting posts I have encountered. They are very stout. Of course, these speakers are bi-amp or bi-wire ready after removing the supplied jumpers.
Now that I had the OPTICON 6’s in and ready to roll, I started listening to them but they needed some break-in. DALI suggests a long break-in period so I waited until I had clocked about 100 hours on them before beginning my detailed analysis.
I put the empty boxes in the garage by the door. I mention this because when things change in your environment they can be a little unsettling at first. What I mean by this is that the DALI boxes caught the corner of my eye each time I would go into the garage: just the corner of my eye. My subconscious brain didn’t see what was actually printed on the box, “DALI OPTICON 6”. Nope, not that. What I saw when I opened the door and walked past was instead “DECEPTICON”. This misunderstanding was actually a perfect allegory for what I was experiencing.
What I mean is that the OPTICON’s have such an obvious tweeter assembly and it was kind of large, that you might expect they would be bright or forward-sounding. They were not, especially after they were broken-in. These speakers were very well balanced with natural ease to their presentation. They were deceptive in the way of the DECEPTICON’s!
I was finding the OPTICON 6’s to have a deft ability to parse complex musical waveforms. So I thought it would make sense to audition music with a whole lot of stuff going on in the mix and that would be the CD of the “Putumayo World Music Zydeco Sampler”. This is music by committee, a big committee with lots of drums percussion, accordions, singing, stomping, and the like. These speakers really get the low treble right and that is what brought this Creole music to life.
Vocal reproduction was also spot-on and I particularly enjoyed Rosie Ledet on “You’re No Good for Me”. Her vocals were transparent and true to life over the OPTICON 6’s. Meanwhile, the bass was full and extended and in near-perfect balance with all the other registers.
Since my speakers are set wide, there can be a slight hole in the middle with my set up. I wanted to toe in the speakers but I did not. This issue cleared up when you sat closer to the sweet spot and, once there, the soundstage simultaneously filled in and opened up. It really popped on Track 5 from Nathan & The Zydeco Cha Chas, “I’m in Love” with a wide, deep, and tall wall of sound.
The next work I would like highlight is the ethereal Hector Zazou & Swara “In the House of Mirrors”. This CD was released soon after Hector Zazou passed. This was the last project he worked on before his untimely death at age 60. Recorded in Mumbai, this album features musicians from India and Uzbekistan.
This album features hypnotic pieces, soundscapes, and instrumentation that turned out to be the perfect match for the Opticon 6’s. It’s almost as if the wood pulp driver cones accentuated the woody quality of these bowed and stringed instruments. It was a perfect synergy.
The whole ensemble allowed me to kick back, get lost in the music, and become very contemplative. These speakers gave me the opportunity to hear and fully understand what Mr. Zazou was shooting for. I felt like I was sitting in the studio listening to a live performance!
For a taste of a more contemporary musical style, I tried a high-resolution digital stream of Beck “Sea Change” on Qobuz. This was streamed at 24 bit, 88.2 kHz via USB to an AudioResearch DAC 9.
It was a very synergistic pairing of music with speaker with apparently very low distortion where the rubber meets the road.
For example, “End of the Day” was a finely woven tapestry sonic goodness. The OPTICON’s got everything right from the standpoint of dynamics, on both a large and a small scale. Another strong suit I heard was the silence between the notes.
Beck’s music is anything but bass-shy and I enjoyed the full, round bass at first. Later on in the album, this music found the low bass extension limit of the OPTICON 6’s but the bass was still quite satisfying. This would be my most salient critique of the OPTICON 6’s – their bass response was very polite. I wanted more bass in my room which is quite large by the way. So I would definitely be happy owning a pair of OPTICON’s but for my set up, I’d opt for the larger towers, the OPTICON 8’s to get that extra half-octave of bass extension.
DALI also offers OPTICON’s designed for a center channel and on-walls or bookshelf speakers that can be used for surrounds. That’s why I moved the OPTICON 6’s into my home theater space and gave them a go there. In some ways, they shone brighter in a theater setting than in a two-channel system. I think that may be because they yielded their low bass to the dual subs in the theater and played to their strengths from there. I was also very impressed with how well they blended with my large GoldenEar center speaker.
The two plots immediately below are the pink noise tests I ran with the mic 1 meter from the upper midrange driver. What you see is a very smooth response envelope above 300 Hz. This is the region less affected by room nodes. The plots show a near-ideal response, particularly in the off-axis test which emulates the not-toed-in set up recommended by DALI.
Note also the high-frequency extension is indeed well over 20 kHz. This is less than the claimed 32 kHz extension but is much more high treble than a lot of speakers. You would be surprised how many speakers roll-off below 15 kHz despite the manufacturers’ claims.
Bass extension is modest with the roll-off occurring around 50 Hz, corresponding with DALI’s specification.
The next two plots are the basic THD tests I run with the mic tip 1’ (30 cm) from the driver under test. I ran the 1 kHz tests at 90 dB and 100 dB. Even at the higher SPL, the THD would be completely inaudible at 0.39%. This is a very excellent result for a dynamic driver.
Moving up the audio band, I ran 90 dB and 100 dB THD tests at 5 kHz. This was from the dome tweeter. Again, even at 100 dB, the distortion readout was another inaudible result at 0.42%. I am sure a lot of people may not think this is a big deal though I will say that the test tones are so loud when running these 100 dB tests that I need to wear hearing protection. It is much louder, especially in the treble, than you can listen without damaging your hearing.
How about a little 10 kHz test also at 100 dB? Well looky here, the distortion is even lower: 0.17%. Wow!
Moving down the scale, the 100 dB test at 500 Hz yields THD of 0.35%.
The lowest bass test I ran was just above the low bass roll-off. The THD at 100 dB at 50 Hz. Was 0.96%. This means that the DALI OPTICON 6’s are one of the few speakers I’ve tested that have inaudible distortion levels throughout their native response envelope. This is a sign of top engineering and production methods. Very well done.
The quite complex DALI OPTICON 6 Floor-Standing Loudspeakers deliver great sound and great looks by every measure.
- Smooth and non-fatiguing sound
- Natural and true-to-source reproduction
- Hangs neatly in a home cinema setting
- Amazing treble extension
- Adept at unpacking complex musical arrangements
- Very low distortion
- Heavy-duty binding posts
- Spikes that lock into cabinet better
- Improved packaging
- Grittier bass
If you are in the market for new speakers then you really should give the DALI OPTICON 6’s a thorough evaluation. They hit all the right notes with the way they look, how they are built, and how they sound.
Their excellent audio performance can be heard and it was confirmed through a stellar set of bench test results. The speakers delivered excellent measured performance at extreme volume levels too.
The OPTICON’s come in several high-quality finish options that can blend with any décor. The family sound of the OPTICON’s is available in stand mount, surface mount, dialog channel, and towers which also allows you to target the best fit for your space. Go give them a listen. You will be glad you did!
For more information on the DALI OPTICON 6 floor-standing speaker, go to https://www.dali-speakers.com/loudspeakers/opticon/