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Dali Oberon On-Wall C

Dali delivers a masterful solution that offers superior sound without breaking the bank.

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Magnus:

Deciding on which ecosystem to frame both your home cinema and audio ambience is no easy task these days. Not only are there more competitors than ever before, but even though some use industry standards as a starting point, they all want you to invest in an ecosystem, a common expression that only becomes more streamlined the further down the so-called "rabbithole" you crawl.

But if you look beyond the core consumer players and instead want something a little more specialised and unique, you could consider Dali, or Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries, which has been operating since 1983 and has consistently and continuously impressed many with build quality, cohesion and focus on the good sound experience.

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We have spoken to Dali several times about organising a test on this site of perhaps their most mass-market-oriented product line, namely Oberon, which is still innovative and distinctive enough that there is not really much that is actually similar. But can we present these products in a way that is both fair to the manufacturer's intended design framework and do it "our" way?

Dali Oberon On-Wall C

Well, we're combining the strengths of two writers into one article, so hopefully you can learn a little more about what Dali has to offer the average consumer. So Kim, our very own audiophile on the editorial team, why don't you explain what Oberon is all about?

Kim:

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Oberon is one of Dali's newer series, where they have tried to take elements from the more advanced models, such as wood fibre units and the use of an SMC magnet system, which is far more uniform than usual and results in less distortion. To keep the price reasonable, they don't use a hybrid ribbon tweeter system like the more expensive series, but instead stick to a textile-based tweeter, which is 4mm larger than normal, so that the sound is loud but still clean and there is a more natural overlap between the treble and midrange.

A couple of years later, active versions, Oberon C, a wireless speaker system that can be used from two channels (stereo) up to full 7.1 surround sound - completely wirelessly - came on the market. Unusually, they chose to offer an active centre speaker, something I have been looking for for a long time, and they have created their own wireless system, EQUI, which operates in 30-bit, where most others use 16 or 24-bit, which means that you have room for a lot of extra data in addition to the 24-bit audio signal itself. In addition, the system has the advantage that it supports full 7.1, is extremely fast with very low latency and they have made a dedicated wireless receiver for subwoofers - something there is not much of on the market otherwise - but for many, the wireless rear speakers are actually the biggest problem - and that's probably what sparked your interest, Magnus?

Magnus:

Well, more specifically, it happened in connection with our test of Pedestal's excellent 'Straight Rollin', where the TV is placed on a stand with wheels. Even though they sell arms for soundbars, it inspired me to look for solutions where solid sound is completely disconnected from the TV itself and where we avoid a big heavy soundbar as the centre. This led me to EQUI, which operates through the relatively inexpensive Sound Hub Compact, which transmits audio wirelessly to EQUI-supported systems and is so small that it can easily be stuck to the back of the TV and connected via HDMI ARC. The signal transfer is 24-bit, and it also means that via a single Bluetooth 5.0 connection, you can use your Oberon setup as a fairly effective home speaker frame, even when the TV is switched off. Not only that, but because it uses ARC, you can simply use your existing remote control for everything - it's a seamless setup where you can place the subwoofer in the corner, hang the Oberon On-Wall on the wall and achieve an audiocentric setup that almost disguises itself and is placed organically in the living room.

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Kim:

Now the price is quite a bit different than even the biggest soundbars, do you think it's worth the extra cost? It's also a much more complicated setup.

Magnus:

So the price of just around £500 for the Oberon On-Wall and approximately £300 for the Sound Hub Compact is similar to what you'd pay for a Sonos Arc, and while it generally has great success using software and upward-facing drivers to provide Dolby Atmos-supported 3D surround, it's not the same as sound that's truly split into a directional soundstage. But you're right, it's more involved and obviously requires you to be a little more active (like the speakers, get it?) in the setup process. But even then, I was a little surprised by the On-Wall, and in the white finish, and considering they only measure 12 centimetres in depth, the end result is worth it, don't you think?

Kim:

It's not really expensive for active speakers, and certainly not for the wireless hub. Most of these systems are typically based on the WISA standard or on the boxes from American Axiim, but they start at over £1,000, just for an entry-level surround hub, so Dali can definitely not be accused of being greedy. A fully or partially wireless "real" surround setup is something we have been looking for for many years, but for some reason it has not really come on the market, there are several products that should be launched this year, but they are just in a slightly different price range than Dali's Oberon series.

Magnus:

Exactly, it's not like everything Dali makes fits into our sphere, and I don't think I'll ever be able to understand speakers worth thousands of pounds. But the Oberon On-Wall is a whole different ball game for me, as Dali, without compromising, condenses their experience into a product that combines just as much dexterity and ease of use. Again, this setup is smaller than a Sonos Arc, and much, much smaller than more stylistic solutions like B&O's Stage. Still, you get an unobtrusive design that may be a little more involved to hang up, but is no more involved than that. And as Kim says, the sound is simply sublime - we've played all of Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth in the company of Oberon, for example, and when the grandiose symphony orchestra is accompanied by plenty of effects that reproduce sounds from battles, spells and dialogue, there's an enormous breadth that I don't think I've heard before - except perhaps in a complete Sonos system with subwoofer and satellites, a set that will set you back around £2,500 today. If you ask me, Kim, this is the top. Do you agree, or are there any points of criticism?

Dali Oberon On-Wall C

Kim:

I broadly agree. The biggest objection is probably that it is a closed system that is only compatible with other Dali products that support the same standard, but since there are so relatively few of these types of products, I don't think it can be much different. To some, it may sound like a lot of money, but you just spend an incredible amount of time pulling cables, cutting grooves in the wall or otherwise overcoming the limitations of a wired system - and even though cables will always provide a better connection, it may not be so relevant when you just want to have a blast with Homefront, Crank, The Transporter or some other brain-dead action flick with Jason Statham. In addition, you can upgrade to a larger sound hub that allows you to connect traditional front speakers analogue, which I personally would be very happy about, so that you can combine a traditional stereo system, perhaps in a slightly more fun class, with a discreet and wireless surround setup. I'm convinced that even though Dali didn't invent the concept, there will be a lot of people copying their way of doing it.

I have some doubts about the character. It is a complete system and should be reviewed as such. It's not exactly cheap, but on the other hand, it's by no means expensive considering that it's fully wireless and you get the full surround experience after all. The only thing I'm a little concerned about is the subwoofer. 9" is not much in my world, in fact, so much air has to be moved to the deepest bass that I always recommend 2x15" as a minimum, but it just doesn't work well with a discrete setup, but since the wireless part of the subwoofer is external, you can just buy something significantly more powerful (such as Dali's own E-12 F 12" sub) if you, like me, don't like your neighbours or the rest of the neighbourhood.

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