DALI Epicon 6 Loudspeaker Review
Mark Gusew finds this great Dane to be an aristocrat amongst high-end floorstanders…
Epicon 6 Floorstanding Loudspeakers
AUD $17,299 RRP
Retailing for a cool $17,299 in Australia, this is one of the most prestigious loudspeakers in DALI’s vast product range. One look and you can see it’s a premium product – the cabinet is a work of art as well as being as solid and rigid as possible. An organically curved and tapered enclosure, the company has obviously put a lot into its construction. The front baffle, sides and top consist of six layers of MDF, which are heated and then formed under immense pressure into the required shapes. Wider at the front, it tapers inward toward the rear, and this shape increases the torsional strength of the cabinet and reduces cabinet resonances.
Rounded edges also prevent the creation of nasty internal standing waves, as the cabinet’s surfaces are not parallel. With a substantial amount of internal structural reinforcement, the Epicon 6 is somewhat tank-like. The good old knuckle rap test tells me that this has a highly inert cabinet, unlikely to audibly vibrate even at high volumes. Naturally, speaker drive units do their best work in a solid cabinet, free of resonances…
The whole enclosure is finished in a real wood veneer which is then lacquered ten times, with hand polishing between each application. Those ten layers build up to almost 2mm in thickness, encasing the cabinet in a lush, deep finish with a mirror-like high gloss. My sample pair, finished in Walnut, is an object of beauty, and Ruby Macassar can also be specified – which would be my pick – plus high gloss white or black. Measuring 1,062x320x459mm including stands, this is a largish but not huge floorstander, and weighs a hefty 30kg.
This loudspeaker is officially a two-and-a-half way, albeit with a twist. It sports twin 165mm lower frequency drivers, plus a hybrid tweeter module that contains the unusual pairing of a 29mm dome tweeter and 10x55mm ribbon super tweeter. Specified crossover frequencies are 700Hz, 2.55kHz and 15kHz, meaning that both bass drivers do the lowest frequencies before one of them fades out at 700Hz to let the other look after the midrange frequencies alone. Then the dome tweeter is crossed in at 2,550Hz, and the ribbon tweeter does its work above 15,000Hz.
Being a bass-reflex design, there are two bass ports at the rear of the cabinet with convex tapered ends to minimise port turbulence. Each of the ports is situated directly at the rear of each the bass drivers, as DALI contends that this alignment results in less delay, which in turn has a more accurate transient response and a better sense of timing. Each bass unit has its own equally sized chamber so it can operate independently of the other.
The bass drivers use DALI’s proprietary Soft Magnetic Compound or SMC, in the magnet motor system. Seen in many of the company’s recent models, it has two useful properties – high magnetic conductivity and low electrical conductivity, approximately 1/10,000 that of iron. This is important in reducing distortion caused by mechanical loss in the magnet system, says the company, and should result in far less colouration of the sound. The cone material is made from a combination of a paper membrane and special wood fibres with the wood fibres adding structural stiffness.
Those two tweeters also receive special treatment from DALI, with a detailed explanation of the design detailed in a white paper found on the company’s website. The dome tweeter operates up to its high-frequency limit well beyond 20kHz without being rolled off in the crossover. It uses an ultra-thin layer of magnetic fluid for cooling, which allows for greater control and power handling. The dome material itself is very lightweight and thin, with a special coating that contributes to its structural stiffness. It’s designed to handle almost all high-frequency information, with the ribbon imparting a sense of air and transparency. The latter extends beyond 30kHz.
Round the back are two pairs of chunky binding posts, with locking nuts on each post. A metallic terminal link is supplied as well as an auxiliary base plate and spike set. DALI says the minimum positioning distance from a boundary wall is 25cm, but in my room, this speaker worked best approximately 70cm out and well away from the side walls. The user manual suggests that they should be pointed straight ahead, but after some experimentation, I preferred them very slightly toed inwards.
For this test, I bi-wired my review pair of Epicon 6s to a Dan D’Agostino Progression integrated amplifier, fed by a Melco N1A music library. DALI recommends an amplifier between 50W and 300W, so the chosen amplifier worked perfectly with 200W RMS per side in reserve. The company gives a nominal impedance figure of a lower-than-average 5 ohms, and sensitivity of 88dB 2.83V/1m; the latter is decent but nothing special for this size of speaker. A wide frequency response of 35Hz to 30kHz is claimed, at -3dB points.
The Epicon 6 is a sophisticated hi-fi loudspeaker with a wide bandwidth, great dispersion and fine bass control. It also counts speed, dynamics and expressiveness in its toolkit of talents. With the best source components and amplification, you really do get an open window into recordings.
Tonally the DALI is very nicely balanced. Listening to The Temper Trap’s Sweet Disposition, I was impressed by the tight punch of the kick drum and the overall balance of the vocals and guitar, with all of the components working together to deliver a smooth and holistic sound that had colour and excitement. It showed just a touch of added energy in the bass, but I believe that many will like this.
Digging a bit deeper, it showed a consistent evenness – for example, What I’m Doing Here by Lake Street Dive sounded really impressive. The relationship between the piano, upright bass and kick drum set the foundation and drive of the track. The sound was deep, punchy and served up with enthusiasm, the speed of the bass playing a big part in the accurate delivery. There was no audible colouration from the cabinet, even at considerable volume levels. Vocals on the track soared, with the midrange and treble equally adept at remaining neutral and conveying the breath and push of air by the singer. The trumpets sounded great, and their use in the track complemented the piano and backup vocals nicely, with everything in balance.
Treble proved to be slightly ‘well lit’, but you’d never call it harsh. That ribbon tweeter helps out with overall top-end excitement and imaging. Indeed, it produces a feeling of spaciousness that extended well beyond the loudspeakers. I tried blocking the super-tweeter output with a card and heard the soundstage collapse, as well as transparency and detail leaving the building! DALI has done an excellent job on this hybrid treble module, it would seem.
I loved the way that this big floorstander rendered John Coltrane and Jonny Hartman in My One And Only Love, with the saxophone, in particular, having lifelike transparency. This speaker certainly favours good recordings and extracts everything, with all the minor detail in the background being clear to hear. Indeed, lean or flat tracks sound just as they were recorded, because this speaker doesn’t editorialise – it simply delivers what it has been fed, as the midband is never less than accurate. For example, I loved the authentic piano sound on Spanish Harlem by Willie DeVille.
Listening to Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) by Florence and the Machine, I was impressed by the speaker’s transient speed. The intricate drum and bass lines stayed tightly reined in and coherent, and never broke out into a sweat. Even Kimbra’s Settle Down stayed taut and orderly in the bass, when played louder than most people ever would. The DALI sounded far more expressive than the Revel F228Be for example, with more subtlety and speed in the bass.
Another obvious strength is soundstaging; I really enjoyed the space coming out of this big floorstander. The opening drums on Come Back To Sorrento by the Royal Crown Review rolled right to left across the soundstage at least a half-metre beyond each loudspeaker. A vibrant sounding track, the saxophone is mixed well in front of the backing, and the other instruments sit in their own little slice of space. The Epicon 6 recreated this very well, giving a convincing feeling of being there at the original recording event.
DALI’s Epicon 6 is an excellent, accurate modern loudspeaker. It does so much, so well – giving an even and smooth tonal balance with no nasties, combined with taut and tuneful bass and an open and extended treble. On the way, you get a detailed, nuanced midband that stays in control at all times. This speaker serves up serious slam, whilst showing true grace under pressure.
More than this, this floorstander comes with an excellent finish, which tops off some of the best build quality that I’ve seen at this price point. A pair of these would look fantastic in any home and become a focal point for your visitors. It’s an expensive speaker, but that doesn’t make it poor value for money – quite the reverse. As such, do hear this great all-rounder if you possibly can.
Starting his first audio consultancy business in the early ’80s whilst also working professionally in the electronics industry, Mark now splits his time between professional reviewing and AV consultancy.