Last year I had the good fortune to attend a launch event for the Dali Rubicon Series loudspeakers thrown by Dali and its North American distributor, Dallas-based The Sound Organisation. Dali’s latest line includes five models and occupies a critical sweet spot in the maker’s roster bringing together top-tier Dali innovation with aggressive pricing. After getting a full rundown on Rubicon technology and construction from Dali CEO Lars Worre, plus some extended listening sessions at the TSO facility, I elected to review the Rubicon 6, the midsized floorstanding model that I believed would make the best fit in my listening room—neither too small to underserve the space nor too overbearing, the R6 got the nod.
The Rubicon 6 (R6) is one of three floorstanding speakers in the series; it’s a rung down from the flagship R8 that houses an additional mid/bass transducer and a larger-volume cabinet. The $5995 R6 is a bass-reflex design that features two 6.5″-inch mid/bass drivers. It’s a nominal 2.5-way design wherein one of the twin 6.5″-mid/woofers rolls off acoustically in the 800Hz range, while its counterpart is high-passed at 2600Hz. The famed Dali hybrid soft-dome/ribbon tweeter module completes the package. The dome tweeter crosses over to the ribbon super-tweeter at 14kHz, extending the treble response to 34kHz. That almost sounds like the recipe for a three-way but that would mean a low-pass filter for a theoretical midrange driver. Dali’s literature calls it a 2.5+0.5-way.
At the TSO event, my listening evaluations were spent with the R2 and the R8, the smallest and the largest of the Rubicon line respectively. It was easy to note how the consistent midband voice, expressiveness, and dynamic liveliness carried over between these two speakers in spite of their size disparity. Moreover, within a few short minutes of setting up the R6 in my own listening room, there was little doubt that the experience would be a Rubicon family affair. Sonics were full-bodied, from the darker, heavier upper bass/lower midrange, distinct spatial warmth and roundedness to the nicely scaled images—characteristics that harken back to my experience with the original Helicon years ago. In my view, the R6 is tonally pretty accurate if not deadbang neutral. There’s some upper-mid leanness and added low-end bloom and chestiness, but these do not undermine the vibrancy and musicality of the R6 personality.
The R6 doesn’t produce an overtly forward signature; rather it positioned most soloists, instrumental or vocal, a row or two back in a slight pocket of the soundstage—a trait that served orchestral layering and depth information very well indeed. In the same vein, it managed to impart low-level detail and resolution without surgically carving up the performance. The areas of soundstage dimension and imaging were good, nicely focused but balanced more along the lines of reproducing a satisfying stage and wash of ambience rather than emphasizing and isolating individual artists. Part of this impression might be due to a presence range that exhibited a tiny energy dip that shifted the color of its character from darker to lighter as the octaves ascended from the bloomy, enriched bass/midrange to the finer detail, speed, and control in the upper mids and the sibilance range. I could hear this shift during Karen Carpenter’s vocal from “Close to You” and with the slightly laid-back energy from Paul Desmond’s sax during “Take Five”. These tracks were expressive, but had I been an audience member I would have been sitting just a row or so further back than I’m accustomed to.
It’s a versatile speaker that doesn’t discriminate between musical genres. It’s just as happy reproducing the finesse of small-scale chamber music, an a capella vocal, or an intimate jazz setting, as it is a full-blown orchestra with chorus. Its near full-range low-end response is abundant with tuneful midbass output into the upper thirties. And when a chesty baritone vocalist like John Gorka sings “Let Them In” there’s a genuine physicality to his voice [AIX Records].
For such a relatively small footprint, the R6 really lets fly some explosive bass resources and dynamic energy. And it doesn’t shy away from high-octane slam as I soon discovered cueing up Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” on LP. The jackhammer beat and jumpy bass vamp had the impact of a boxer’s fists on a heavy bag. And while on the subject of dusty, old LP dance remixes, when David Bowie croons “Let’s Dance” followed by a stinging, snappy snare and the searing guitar punctuations of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the hard-driving Rubicon 6 has the output and poise to match the energy of the track yet maintain control of low-level percussion and ambient cues. In these instances, there’s only a minor sense of the R6’s ported nature, although diehard acoustic-suspension fans will probably long for the extra control and perceived speed that only a sealed cabinet conveys—for these, folks, there is no substitute.
Turning to more naturalistic recordings, like the SACD disc of cellist Pieter Wispelwey performing Bruch’s “Kol Nidrei” [Channel Classics], the R6 conveyed the cello’s pitch and fundamentals, forward soundboard resonance, and melancholy vibrato as a single, fully connected presence throughout its range, but most persuasively in the elusive mid-upper bass range—a region on the cello as low as 65Hz where the weight and darker resonances are so often overlooked by speakers that droop (sometimes purposefully) in these octaves in order to punch up artificial detail. A key strength of the R6 is this bass foundation. It’s more than just pitch; it’s the weight and gravity beneath the ominous rumble of the organ pedal points during the John Rutter: Requiem [Reference Recordings]. The R6 has the ability to produce this fully freighted listening experience even at lower listening levels, too—perhaps a credit to the responsiveness of the lightweight driver materials.
Its micro-dynamic envelope was equally expressive. Much credit is owed to the hybrid dome/ribbon tweeter, as there was plenty of treble detail and air as I enjoyed the warm, fluid vocals of Alison Krauss during “Slumber My Darling” and the artful mingling of Edgar Meyer’s acoustic bass with Yo-Yo Ma’s cello and Mark O’Connor’s fiddle during Appalachian Journey. It’s a series of performances that strikes me like a collection of birds playfully spiraling around each other. However what really puts the “high” in this hybrid is its ability (and agility) to sensitively render transient speed, produce a broad, rather than needling, window of dispersion and join these to a wide spectrum of lifelike harmonics—from the forceful to the fragile.
Having lived with the R6 at home for a few weeks, and considering the time already spent with the R2 and R8 at the Dallas event, I’ve now heard the key players in the Dali Rubicon line. It’s a well-bred collection of superb sonic consistency and overall balance, basic but graceful styling, and while not faultless (what is?) Rubicon leaves very little to carp about. Most appealing of all is its uncanny musicality across every sonic parameter. In today’s lexicon “crossing the Rubicon” has come to mean an irreversible decision. By that measure, I’d say Dali’s latest is aptly named. My guess is that after hearing the Rubicon 6 you’re never going to want to go back again. Delightful.
SPECS & PRICING
Type: 2.5-way/.5-way bass reflex
Frequency response: 38Hz–34kHz (+/-3dB)
Driver complement: 17 x 45mm ribbon/29mm dome hybrid tweeter, (2) 6.5″ mid/bass
Sensitivity: 88.5dB (2.83 v/1m)
Nominal impedance: 4 ohms
Dimensions: 39″ x 7.87″ x 15″
Weight: 44.5 lbs.
The Sound Organisation
159 Leslie Street
Dallas, TX 75207
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