To be fair, the Oberon 5 was nothing if not a game performer, but this was where the practical side and the performance side butted heads a bit. It’s just a tough to ask a pair of five-inch drivers to replicate the scale, the power, the resonance, and the sustain of a symphony orchestra at full tilt. But as I said, the O5 sure was game.
The high frequencies were smooth, although a bit dry and perhaps a tad shaded. In my view the softer extension represented a savvy approach by the Dali team, and one that I consider defensible in a price segment where premium tweeters and elite crossover parts are earmarked for pricier models. This choice is an important one for me. If I’m listening to soprano Renée Fleming, violinist Itzhak Perlman, or trumpet player Lew Soloff, I’d much rather hear a slightly rolled-off top-end that’s smooth and soothing than an overheated, aggressive, and edgy one. In a not-unrelated vein, transient attack was very good. The bow on the violin string, the tick of a guitar pick, the rattle off a snare drum shared a natural sound fully consistent with a live performance.
Singers were reproduced with a pleasing flesh-on-the-bone physicality, and accompanied with lively presence, clean transitions between lower and upper vocal registers, and respectable imaging. Holly Cole’s “Heart of Saturday Night” and Shelby Lynne’s “Just A Little Lovin’” were smoothly and naturally rendered, and comfortably situated in the pocket of the mix, but not to the point that might be considered recessed or lacking in energy. Male vocalists followed suit—Harry Connick, Jr.’s rendition of “Drifting,” a tune that is orchestrated with a halo of strings, evinced a delicacy and low-level intimacy that spoke to the Dali’s transparency. Sensitive listeners, who are fans of bass-baritones (Bryn Terfel, Thomas Quasthoff, or even Tom Waits) will note a reduction of the complete resonant body of the performer and the weight projected from chest and diaphragm. It is, however, a relatively minor deduction and in my experience doesn’t detract from the altogether positive listening experience of the Oberon 5.
Low-frequency response flirted with the 40Hz range, as advertised, and was surprisingly weighty with solid midbass dynamic punch and better than expected pitch definition. Oberon 5 won’t quite venture into the bottom octave or yield the expansive resonance and decay structure of the real thing, but there was enough oomph in the midbass to imply some of that grandeur. Thus, on bass player extraordinaire Renaud Garcia-Fons’ album The Marcevol Concert, I got the basic sense of the full performance envelope of the tight, tuneful bass without feeling short-changed.
If rock/pop level output is an essential (and why not?), the O5 is prepared to party with the best of them. In spite of its demure looks, it will generate some real dance floor slam and head-banging pressure levels. It is possible to excite the port so that on a catchy dance track like Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” lower-frequency grip loosens and electric bass lines or kick drum or tom-tom figures begin to trail the beat somewhat. However, at more or less reasonable levels the O5 maintains its composure and cleanly delineates every cue, from the pump and drive of a 50Hz synth beat to a bass drum’s impact to the rolling cascade of a row of timpani.
I probably don’t need to add that there will be no confusing the O5 for a Wilson WAMM? Okay, that’s $1100 bucks versus $700k plus, but I can recall that only a few short years ago, a speaker like the Oberon 5 would be utterly handcuffed, lacking in midrange dynamic energy and a little bloodless. What was interesting to me was hearing how times and technology have changed—how this short, slender-baffle design produced such dynamic and deeply affecting musicality. Thus, as I listened to Vaughan-Williams’ The Wasps Overture and Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare,” the Oberon launched air into the room with enough output and extension and dynamic thrust to surprise. Quite an achievement I’d say.
Dali loudspeakers have never failed to impress and excite me regardless of configuration or price point. I recall the grandeur of the imposing MegaLine flagship that I heard at REG’s home years ago, or more down-to-earth models like the Rubicon series equipped with its impressive hybrid ribbon/soft-dome tweeter module. It could be, however, that Dali’s most remarkable feat has been stretching the sonic limits in the small floorstander category. In the Oberon 5, I found an economical yet formidable speaker that makes few concessions and permits you to walk the fine line of everyday practicality while still allowing your audiophile heart to lead the way.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Two-way, bass-reflex loudspeaker
Drivers: 29mm/1.14" dome tweeter, two 5.25" mid/bass
Frequency response: 39Hz–26kHz
Nominal impedance: 6 ohms
Dimensions 6.4" x 32.7" x 11.2"
Weight: 23.8 lbs.
THE LENBROOK GROUP (U.S. Distribution)
633 Granite Court
Canada, L1W 3K1