When you’re looking to fall in love, being practical is the last thing on your mind. And so it goes when shopping for a new high-end component. Let’s face it: We all want to be smitten, but then reality enters the picture to remind us that there’s only so much room and so much money. Perhaps this is especially true of loudspeakers, which gobble up space and budgets in the blink of an eye. Enter the musical and, dare I say, practical Dali Oberon 5. It’s got both sides of the equation down pat.
The Oberon 5 (O5) is the smaller of two floorstanders in Dali’s stereo/cinema Oberon series, and at $1099/pr., is considered the entry level within the sprawling range of Dali offerings. Oberon 5 is a three-driver, two-way system utilizing a 29mm soft-dome tweeter and dual 5.25" mid/bass drivers. This bass-reflex design is moderately easy to drive at 88dB sensitivity and a 6-ohm nominal impedance. Quality amps in the 50Wpc-and-up range should be able to handle the O5’s demands with relative ease.
Dali points out that key elements of its fancier Epicon series informed the design of Oberon. Chief among them was the inclusion of the firm’s unique SMC (Soft Magnetic Compound) technology, which uses a patented compound in the pole piece of its bass drivers. The result, says Dali, is an “agile, linear woofer with a significant reduction of distortion from mechanical loss.” Other top-notch features include a Dali signature technology—its wood-fiber cones that provide added rigidity and thus lower distortion in bass frequencies. Cabinets are of a robust MDF construction. Fit and finish is very, very good. Filling out the Oberon lineup are two bookshelf models, plus an on-wall and a center channel for multichannel and movie enthusiasts.
Unlike large-footprint floorstanding loudspeakers that physically dominate a room, and displace square footage with nary a care in the world, the Oberon 5 is tasked with a pair of critical missions. The first is that it fit a variety of lifestyles, and sensibly integrate into a common room. In this respect, encountering the fetching Oberon 5 for the first time I was struck by how unobtrusive it turned out to be. Visually, the Oberon 5 is about as low impact as a floorstander is going to get. With its narrow front baffle and modest 32" columnar height, my eye tended to look right past it into the room, the tiny footprint making it an ideal partner in space-challenged environments. Clearly aimed at the tastes of partners and spouses, Oberon is Dali’s first entry-level series to incorporate four premium finishes—black, dark walnut, light oak, and white, plus two fabric grille variations of black and gray.
The second and crucial element in the Oberon’s mission is, of course, performance. Regardless of speaker size there really are no excuses when it comes to sonics. And none are needed for the Oberon 5, which manages to assert itself sonically in ways both natural and authoritative. In general terms, the Oberon 5 struck a satisfyingly warmer tonal balance, offering good extension and well-focused detail. Musically it lit up the room from the first track with good timing and pace. Output was robust and even under pressure never suggested a need for coddling; in fact, most listeners will reach their limits before the O5 calls it quits. Drivers were nicely integrated with one another. Soundstaging and imaging were very good, as you’d expect from the rigid, uncolored Dali enclosures. Port artifacts were minimal, although this was somewhat dependent on output. As you might expect, the Oberon’s short overall height tends to lower the ambient ceiling in the room slightly, so listening height will be a factor.
The Oberon’s midrange possessed a wealth of timbral cues. There was no confusing the identifying characteristics of orchestral instruments—their personalities were vividly on display. Ultimately color saturation in the lower mids couldn’t quite match the depth and contrast of the real thing (that is, live, unamplified acoustic music).