DALI OBERON 5 Floorstanding Loudspeaker Review
AUD $1,599 RRP
Formed in 1983 by Peter Lyngdorf, Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries is a popular Scandinavian brand that has in the past decade stretched its wings to become a global player in the speaker market. Headquartered in Nørager, Denmark, DALI now has a product to suit practically every customer – the latest of which is the $1,599 Oberon 5 floorstander. The range also includes two compact bookshelf models, a slim on-wall and centre channel loudspeaker, and two floorstanding models – of which this is the smaller.
DALI Factory, Denmark
This is a classic bass-reflex design with a rear-facing port, although the cabinet is smaller than some price rivals, standing 830mm tall, 162mm wide and 283mm deep – and weighing 10.8kg apiece. To many, its compactness will be a boon because it’s useable in small rooms where normally you’d be looking at a standmounter. Its narrow front baffle means it fits into almost any environment without dominating it, and the styling should bring about a high wife acceptance factor. The Oberon 5 comes in a choice of attractive finishes including Walnut Grain – as reviewed – plus Black Grained, White Satin and Light Oak.
As you would expect at this price, the Oberon 5 is a two-way, here with twin 135mm wood fibre-based mid/bass units and a 29mm soft dome tweeter. It has a claimed sensitivity of 88dB and is said to work from 39Hz to 26kHz when measured at +/- 3dB points. The crossover point is 2.4kHz and the bass port is tuned to 43Hz, the company says. With decent sensitivity and a claimed nominal impedance of 6 ohms, it shouldn’t be hard to drive for most amplifiers; DALI recommends 30W to 150W.
The Oberon is DALI’s first entry-level loudspeaker range to incorporate the company’s patented SMC magnet technology; it was previously only used in pricier ranges. The use of an ‘Advanced Soft Magnetic Compound’ magnet is said to eliminate flux modulations in the magnet gap, hysteresis and eddy currents, which in turn is claimed to reduce distortion in the drive unit’s motor system – with particular sonic benefits for the midband. The mid/bass driver uses a four-layer voice coil made of an aluminium core and thin-walled outer copper tube that’s both light and strong. The cone is made of DALI’s trademark blend of fine grain paper pulp reinforced with wood fibres – this is both light and stiff, with natural self-damping properties.
At 29mm in diameter, the Oberon 5’s tweeter is unusually large for a speaker of this size and price. The company says it was specified because it is more efficient and requires less excursion for any given sound pressure level – thus keeping down distortion from the voice coil. It sports ferro-fluid cooling and has a membrane constructed from an ultra-lightweight weave fabric.
These three drivers are fitted flush to the front baffle of the CNC-machined MDF cabinet. Construction is very rigid for a big budget box, with solid cross bracing strategically placed inside for strengthening and reinforcement. This makes things as inert as possible at the price. A removable grille adorns the front panel, and there’s a single pair of binding posts at the rear. It is decently and tidily finished, but at this price you only get vinyl wrap, not real wood.
DALI recommends that the speaker be placed from 15cm and 80cm from the boundary wall, and for the grill to be left in place. As you would expect, the closer to the wall, the more bass reinforcement you get; in my larger listening room around 50cm sounded best, and in my smaller one it was 30cm. Interestingly the user manual recommends no toe-in, and instead for them to be positioned parallel to the wall. As they have been designed with a very wide dispersion pattern and smooth off-axis response, the recommendation is valid and I didn’t find any problem listening to them in this way. The cartons also came with spikes and rubber bumpers for placing under the speakers which are helpful to decouple the speakers from the floor.
The company says that this speaker takes up to one hundred hours to fully run-in, but straight out of the box, I was quite surprised by how big and fun the Oberon 5 sounded. One week in, and those first impressions were confirmed – despite the diminutive dimensions, it’s an engrossing performer with more body than you might expect for the size of the loudspeaker that it is. Its deep, well-extended bass gives a warm character that’s particularly pleasant to listen to – and pretty much defines the essence of this speaker. It has a capacious, spacious, unconstrained and expressive nature that made Neil Young’s Double E great fun. The growling lead guitar, for example, sounded appropriately fulsome and defined, no doubt due to the slightly forward bass and dynamic ease. The accompanying bass guitar work was pleasantly rich and full – and drove the song along.
Indeed, like many more expensive DALIs I have heard, the Oberon 5 proved a lot of fun to listen to. Beyond its obvious scale and warmth, the next thing that strikes a first-time listener is its rhythmic alacrity. It proved particularly good at conveying the pace of the music. Snare drums, for example, had nice attack and snap – even when they weren’t being hit hard such as on George Benson’s Brezin’. The timing of the entire rhythm section playing together is conveyed accurately and convincingly. Cymbal work came over with a satisfying sizzle and sparkle, pushing the song along with verve and energy – so much so that I found it was impossible to listen to without tapping my foot as I felt the emotion of the performance.
Soundstaging proved another highlight for the Oberon 5. With Concerto in A Minor for Violin and Orchestra by Ruggiero Ricci, the recorded acoustic was pleasingly large, with the sound pushing beyond the bounds of the loudspeakers with great height and depth; listen for the triangles outside of the actual speaker at the 3:03 mark of the track. I liked the focus of Richi’s violin in the centre of the stage. I discerned plenty of spatial detail with the imaging and soundstage staying quite uniform wherever the listener sat in the room, not just in-between the loudspeakers.
Playing La Marelle by Trio Chermirani, and you really get the sense of all the players in their own place with space and air around them on stage. The Trio are a Persian percussion group so they know how to make surfaces resonate. The hand slaps on metal all ring with authenticity and realism, beautifully demonstrating the illusion of depth perspective that a good stereo system can deliver. Taama has lots of fast-played percussive tapping, and this was handled very well by the Oberon 5, with dazzling speed. It proved able to resolve even minor details with consummate ease.
To me, the standout feature of the Oberon 5 is the way it marries this speed with dynamic expression. It’s able to handle large swings in levels whenever this is called for, which makes for a less sterile and matter-of-fact presentation than many rivals. If the song calls for slam and thump then that’s exactly what is delivered. For example, I cued up Rebel XX by Pryda and turned up the volume; the little DALI served up much of the track’s scale and slam. It was always well controlled and seems totally happy to be played loudly, although the oversized tweeter does produce a slightly harder nature to the music as the volume increases. It’s also great fun when played softly, too.
The Oberon 5 may have a slightly generous bass, but its overall balance is still very good for a budget product. It could never be called a dry sound. This was confirmed by running the speaker through a range of amplifiers from tube to transistor, Class AB to Class D, low and high power. In all instances, the DALI proved unfailingly evenhanded, preferring to step out of the way as much as possible. My choice of music ranged from Mat Zo’s Electronica to the simple folk sounds of Seeker Lover Keeper, yet this compact floorstander showed no fear or favour.
DALI’s OBERON 5 is a little floorstander with a big sound. Slender and attractive, it combines decent build and some clever engineering to deliver a seriously enjoyable performance – one that is full-bodied, musical, spacious and balanced. The speaker plays any type of music well and delivers an enveloping sound that lets you play for hours without fatigue. Superb value for money, it is thoroughly deserving of StereoNET’s coveted Applause Award.
For more information, visit DALI.
Starting his first audio consultancy business in the early ’80s whilst also working professionally in the electronics industry, Mark now splits his time between professional reviewing and AV consultancy.