DALI Rubicon 2 Bookshelf Loudspeakers Review
Paul Sechi enjoys this fine Danish-designed compact standmounting speaker…
Rubicon 2 Bookshelf Loudspeakers
USD $2,999 /pair
Surprising as it may sound, Denmark has been one of the most prolific producers of loudspeaker drive units for many decades. The small Scandinavian country also has several prominent speaker brands, one of which is Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries, or DALI, to its friends. Founded in 1983 by Peter Lyngdorf – who has subsequently become famous for other ventures – the company makes speakers for just about every occasion.
It’s the compact, standmounting Rubicon 2 that we’re looking at here – a passive 2-way design selling for $2,999 per pair, with a choice of real wood veneer or gloss lacquer finishes. There are also matching stands available – the DALI CONNECT M-601 – which sell for $499 /pair.
The Rubicon range sits behind DALI’s premier Epicon range, and shares some of its tech too. This speaker’s cabinet configuration and shape is simple; a 1-inch soft dome tweeter sits above a 6.5-inch mid-bass driver with a rear-facing port. My review pair in gloss black had a lustre that glistened in the sun. The manufacturer even includes a polishing cloth to take away the dust and fingerprints.
Around the back is a single pair of large speaker terminals that are chunky and practical, making it easy to connect or disconnect cables. A circular bass reflex port is located behind the tweeter. Small felt pads are supplied to place under the speakers. It is bigger than most current so-called ‘bookshelf speakers, measures 350x195x335mm [HxWxD], and tips the scales at 8kg per speaker. The Rubicon 2 comes with a five-year, full parts and labour warranty for peace of mind.
DALI’s distinctive looking deep red mid/bass driver caught my eye straight out of the box. It sports a wood-fibre cone, chosen to provide a light, rigid and randomly uneven membrane making the cone easy to move, with linear tracking and low colouration. Pushing and pulling the mid/bass cone is DALI’s magnet/motor system, termed Linear Drive System using a SMC (Soft Magnetic Compound). The rubber roll surround should endure Australia’s high humidity conditions and allows the cone easy movement with low energy loss. Above this sits the soft dome tweeter, which has an ultra-light membrane and powerful ferrite magnet.
The solid MDF cabinet has extensive internal bracing. Fit and finish of the cabinet, drivers, and port are first-class. DALI is in rare company since it also manufactures the Rubicon 2 drivers in-house. The front panel grills are easy to remove and fit, and help prevent little fingers from reaching the drivers. The crossover frequency is 3.1kHz, courtesy of a circuit that’s said to use the shortest possible signal paths.
The manufacturer lists a frequency response of 50Hz to 26kHz in a -3dB envelope. Quoted sensitivity is pretty average for a speaker of this size, at 87dB (measured as 2.83v/1m), although the nominal impedance of 4 ohms is on the low side. That will make the speaker just a bit harder to drive than some of its rivals, but it’s nothing particularly out of the ordinary. Any decent modern solid-state amplifier should be able to drive it.
For the purposes of this review, I used a 100W Primare integrated amplifier, Primare CD player, Bluesound Vault 2i streamer, and SolidSteel SS-6 stands. Les Davis Audio isolators and Tributaries Series 8 cables were also part of my reference system. A Perreaux 200iX amplifier was used for further comparisons.
DALI’s Rubicon 2 is an extremely capable standmounting speaker, with a large, assertive and powerful musical presentation – especially at higher listening levels. Spatially it conjures up a broad soundstage with good depth perspective, and succeeds in the time domain, with snappy musicality and a generally eager disposition.
Most striking is the big sound from this not-so-large loudspeaker. This was very apparent when playing Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood’s War Memorial, which served up a really enveloping soundstage. Lanegan’s calm vocals took centre stage as the Rubicon 2 faithfully conveyed the location of instruments in the mix. It wasn’t just the expansive recorded acoustic that impressed, however, as Garwood’s haunting woodwind was conveyed with real emotion, thanks to the clean and open midband.
This integrates very well with the rest of the frequency range. Soothing by Laura Mahling had excellent bass weight to go with its spacious soundstage. Percussion instruments sounded realistic and evenly carried, and tight and taut too. Those high harmonics from orchestral instruments showed the tweeter’s fine and delicate nature. Mahling’s distinctive voice was also tonally on the mark, never forward or nasal, and always well defined in the mix. This is a tough track to render well, but the Rubicon didn’t make a mess of it – quite the opposite, in fact.
Driver integration was top-notch, as So Close To Certainty by Ed Kuepper showed. All throughout the track, the violin sounded fast and visceral with great attack and decay, but did not come across as bright or shrill. Vocals were easy to pick out within the broad soundstage that was laid out in front of me. Indeed, the Rubicon 2 handled the complexity of the track with aplomb. DALI has obviously married the tweeter and mid/bass drive units together very well, then.
Thom LaFond’s New Wildfire is a demanding track to get right, but wasn’t a challenge for the DALI. There’s a lot of information in this recording, and it spans the entire audio band; through lesser loudspeakers things can sometimes seem slow or disjointed. The Rubicon 2 capably conveyed the underlying driving bass and drums, plus the vocals, keyboards, fiddle and guitars that were layered on top. The fiddle notes had sharp attack with impressively long delay tails, but never sounded harsh. I also enjoyed the weighty bass line that had lots of drive and was satisfyingly tuneful.
It was a Japanese drumming track called Dassera by Goco+Goroo that most impressed me. Although over nine minutes long, it was edge-of-the-seat stuff; percussion exhibited great timing, as did the soaring flute work. This speaker’s rendition of the drum strikes rather startled me – for something of its relatively small size it served up remarkable impact and bass weight. And it remained resolutely in control of the musical proceedings at all times, seeming totally unflapped by the challenge.
Indeed, this excellent standmount speaker compares very well to some of its rivals. The Rubicon 2 is physically larger than both the Fyne SP500 and ELAC BS283 Solano loudspeakers, for example, but the DALI was the easiest to position in my room. The Fyne had more detail in the mid/bass region but was tonally far more forward. ELAC’s JET 5 tweeter is more lithe, detailed and delicate than DALI’s dome unit and the latter could not replicate the former’s bass energy, but I still preferred the tonal presentation. Neither more forward or with surplus bottom end bloom, it came across as faster and more cohesive.
There is much to like about DALI’s Rubicon 2 loudspeaker. It’s a spacious and open-sounding design that never sounds strained. It captures the music’s timing and expression very well. It works capably in the bass, midband and treble, and can take serious amounts of power well. Drive unit integration is smooth, so it never comes across as shrill. This speaker has a surprisingly natural presentation that makes listening fun. Also, it looks great – although that gloss finish is so good that it shows up dust way too easily. Maybe there’s something special about Denmark’s air, because this is a great loudspeaker at the price.
Paul is a music appreciation fan of both live and produced music from diverse genres and cultures. Paul was interested in audio at school, did a thesis in acoustics and by day works as a technology strategist including smart environment standards and integration.
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