The DALI Oberon 7 loudspeakers is the Danish loudspeaker manufacturer’s top of the line offering from its most recent addition of high definition loudspeakers. Howard Milstein gives them a thorough workout!
The Oberon loudspeaker range is DALI’S current, price-oriented introduction to their much-praised line of high definition loudspeakers. The Oberon series of speakers consists of no less thansix models: 2 floorstanders (the smaller 5 and 7 reviewed here), 2 stand mounts (the 1 and larger 3) and for those interested, there is also an on-wall model as well as one for multi-channel use. However, theOberon 7is the company’s preeminent design.
The Oberon 7 is a two-way, bass reflex designed floorstander despite the fact that it contains 3 drivers. This will essentially simplify its crossover; allowing the designer to use higher quality component parts throughout, thereby incurring less expense passed on to the consumer.
The tall and eminently sturdy 36 “high enclosure of a substantially narrow width uses the well-established vertical-in-line driver formation which enhances radiation and gives a wide dispersion pattern across the lateral axes–adding a nicely extended midrange response in the upper frequency range. Ultimately, this will give the Oberon’s new 29mm ultra-lightweight soft-dome tweeter a reduced workload.
This new tweeter was engineered especially for the Oberon range as the company asserts that this slightly larger high frequency unit is at least half the weight of most other dome tweeters. The larger size of its membrane allows the tweeter to generate higher sound pressure levels with much less excursion which keeps the voice coil movement to an absolute minimum.
For the mid and lower frequencies, The Oberon 7 uses 2 somewhat non-conventional 7-inch wood fiber patented technology SMC bass units; (Soft Magnetic Compound) one for the mid bass and the other as an added radiator to enhance the low frequency bass response. With the above design parameters, not only has DALI enabled the Oberon 7’s sound to integrate uniformly in almost any size room despite its moderate size, but this loudspeaker was able to play quite loud (rated at 110dbA), even acknowledging its only average sensitively (88db) as compared to some today’s high definition audiophile loudspeaker designs. I was able to get huge sound pressure levels in my medium/large listening room without a strain of difficulty or overload. (just make sure your room is properly treated!) In fact, the Oberon 7 never lost its delicacy or composure no matter how much the volume was turned up .
The speakers cited frequency response is 36Hz to 26kHz with a nominal impedance of 6 ohms; a fine load for any high-quality amplifier to handle. The Oberon 7 had no problem obliging some very lofty powered amplifiers while bringing forth some exceptionally high volume levels from amplifiers that included the the AVM CS2.2, Wyred4Sound’s mINT and thePeachtree Nova 300. (the latter pushing out close to 300 watts of pure, unrestricted power.
The Dali Oberon 7’s displayed unusually good mid-treble driver integration even at an off-axis angle in relation to the speakers. That being said, experienced listeners know that for serious, critical listening, a central listening position is mandatory to get the finest overall sound quality as well as the best stereo image localization.
The owner’s manual also states that “the speakers need not be angled towards the central listening position to perceive the “ideal” stereo imaging the loudspeaker has to offer”. However, it is an unfortunate fact that to obtain the best stereophonic definition, the listening position is fixed within certain small limits and symmetry of acoustics is vital–as with any high-quality loudspeaker system. Quite interestingly, I found that while stereo images were quite good when the loudspeakers were positioned straight forward at the listener, I preferred to slightly toe them in a bit so that their tweeters aim just barely past the my ears at the central listening locality. Contrary to a few claims I had observed on line, if the above recommendations are strictly followed, the Oberon 7’s will give you an exceptionally discreet stereo image, assuming the program material allows!
After unpacking the loudspeakers, I placed them so that the front baffles were approximately 4 feet out from the front wall. Over the years, I have found the most success with my reference loudspeakers as well as many others I have had in my listening room at this distance. It appears to exhibit the finest balance of mid-treble room integration as well as a strong, solid bass response, particularly considering that the Oberon 7 is a bass reflex design. At one point I decided to push the speakers out about 5 to 7 feet from the front wall and found the results to be not quite optimal. At this distance, the bass response was shallow and weak with a mid-bass “booming” lurching out as I listened to some of my initial program material. (my first reflection points are well damped and 2 GIK monster bass traps with range limiters are mounted on the 2-front wall /ceiling corners- ultimately insuring me of these findings).
Having moved the DALI’S back to the original distances, I then (without any more experimentation) precisely distanced the enclosures 3.5 feet from each sidewall and 4 feet from the back wall. This left me with just about an 8-foot distance between the loudspeakers. As to the supposedly “ideal” equilateral triangle set up, I have always preferred to set my primary listening position a few feet further away than the speakers are positioned apart. Near field listening is ideal for a studio engineer, but not for a music lover trying to create some type of replication of a room/’concert hall experience. As it turned out, my centrally located listening seat was about 11 feet from the Dali Oberon 7’s, this turning out to be ideal in my 14.5 by 24-foot listening room. Consequently, I have about 12 feet of free space to the back wall behind me.
Right from the start, these loudspeakers brought forth a delectably refined sound quality that will excite any audiophile whose interest is to experience a caliber of sound reproduction that will essentially, let you hear exactly how good or bad a recording was engineered and mastered.
In this case, with just about any good program material, The Oberon 7’s cabinet boundaries virtually disappeared from the sound stage with a transparency and openness not generally found in a loudspeaker at such a compelling price. The first thing one notices is its explicit tonal accuracy with regards to real instruments. As I always try to use “live” concert streams or ripped downloads of such when auditioning components, particularly loudspeakers, you can hear a sense of the venue and acoustics from which a particular musical event occurred with wonderful ambience and exact reverberation times. The speakers were delicate sounding and subtle as to the detail they extracted from many of the best analogue and digital sources employed.
As DALI describes them, the mid- treble balance was quite excellent and totally non-fatiguing, keeping you totally unaware of the smooth driver transitions throughout its frequency range. The speakers appeared to nicely integrate with my particular room boundaries and are extremely forgiving with regard to slight room anomalies. They offer very low levels of coloration, particularly through its excellent and detailed midrange along with very low distortion.
I next decided to bring out the good old “Chesky Records” sampler (Amazon) for some definitive musical excerpts as well as some testing of the loudspeakers.
I found the Oberon 7 reproduced this album track mixture of acoustical jazz and classical pieces with a distinctively fast transient response, natural tonal timbres and last but not least, some of the best stereo imaging that I have heard from a loudspeaker in this price range. One thing that a sharp ‘keen’ eared enthusiast may notice is that with some classical recordings, the soundstage presentation of the Oberon 7 appeared to maybe be a “tad” behind the lateral plane of the loudspeakers. In retrospect, I personally found this to be a supremely complimentary attribute as it gave more of a classic or true representation of a performer or orchestra sitting a slight distance behind the edge of the perceived concert stage. It also added to the finely distinguished depth perception of the Oberon 7. David Chesky’s image test also confirmed the excellent pair matching of the Oberon 7 as the stereo lateral image localization and depth response were both first-rate.
Indeed, the speaker threw out a huge, deep sound stage perspective far and beyond its enclosure while allowing image fanatics like me to be able to still hear the exact locations of featured solo players. Piano tones were provocatively reproduced in the exact locations of the original performances, or recording studio venues. To my surprise, and maybe unexpectedly, (as DALI proclaimed) I was able to move my head a foot or so to the left or right and still maintain an impressively accurate locational position of the soloist as well as the full orchestra surrounding him or her. This is by no means an easy feat to accomplish for the average loudspeaker, no less these moderately priced monitors which i found to be hugely impressive! I next inserted a PCM digital audio disc of a live recording of Mitsuko Uchida playing Beethoven’s 4th piano concerto with Maris Jansons conducting live from Carnegie Hall in New York some years back. The massively spacious and discerning string tones from the Philharmonic Orchestra were detailed, smooth, vibrantly rich and decadent sounding while Ms. Uchida’s pliable and refined piano tones displayed her hands exactly a half foot left of the conductor’s podium at center stage. The left to right lateral image of the performers was again explicitly reproduced while the orchestra sounded open and far reaching within and beyond the soundstage. Instrumental orchestral timbres were spot on and accurately reproduced from brass instruments and woodwinds to double bass and full strings.
I next streamed an old favorite album of mine,“Simply Streisand” which was elegantly remastered by Columbia (now Sony) records from 1969. Here was Streisand in her prime and these ‘classic’ tracks on this album were expertly arranged by Ray Ellis. Her voice is pure, clear and totally inspiring on the Oberon 7 with its firmly paced center image adding to Streisand’s sublimely beautiful tonal range.
With the DALI’S appropriated positioning in my listening room, the loudspeakers reproduced an authoritatively firm mid bass to lower bass response which was clear and firmly natural down to approximately 40 Hz, thereafter rolling off quite smoothly. Consequently, if you happen to be a fan of hard rock or heavy metal, you will not be disappointed in the Oberon 7’s reproduction of the lower octaves. While the bass will never be floor shaking, it will undeniably give you a true representation and complete impact of a full bass drum kit as well as the resinous string bass and cellos.
The DALI Oberon 7’s specifically designed, 29 mm ultra-light weight tweeter was able to graciously reproduce frequencies with ultra-fine and pristine delicacy on almost all good program sources from about 5Khz and upwards. However, once in a while, with certain CD’s or Flac downloads, it exhibited a touch of lower mid-treble ‘scratchiness’; particularly with regards to violins and/or massed strings that were displayed approximately in the 2-3 Khz region. In light of these loudspeakers exceptionally smooth and naturally delicate reproduction qualities throughout, I suspect that this may indeed be attributed to certain less than ideally engineered recordings which the Oberon was displaying in all its unforgiving, glory!
There is little doubt that this newest DALI loudspeaker is a stand out performer in just about every way. The fact that it is not overly sensitive to room placement as well as offering a definitively splendid, uncolored sound quality and a huge, deep and open sound stage across its whole frequency range makes it a fantastic buy in every sense of the word. Most of all, it is a purely musical and engaging loudspeaker to listen to!
As if this was not enough, what is particularly striking about the audible reproduction of the Oberon 7 is its excellent imaging qualities. Once you have found your preferred positioning, you can just put on your favorite music, settle down and leave them where they are! The speakers will also decidedly recreate a solid, naturally intense and articulate bass response.
While there may be some competition from a few other high-end loudspeaker manufactures with offerings similar to the DALI Oberon 7’s price point, there is no doubt that the Oberon 7 is a “stand out” design and should be one of, if not the first loudspeakers in this price range (or above) on your audition list!
|Frequency response ± 3dB||36 – 26,000 Hz|
|Nominal impedance||6 Ohm|
|Amplifier Requirements||30 – 180 W|
|Sensitivity (2.83V/1m)||88.5 dB|
|Maximum output (SPL)||110 dB|
|Tweeter|| 29 mm (1.14 in) soft dome|