On the road to success Dali is picking up speed. After their soundful design object Fazon F5 and the budget-priced Zensor series, the Epicon is now aiming at the most demanding ears. To this end it features a number of innovative technologies which the compact model Epicon 2 can already fall back on. Will the Danes actually score a sonic coup?

Guided by picturesque landscapes we are on our landing approach. Flying past farmsteads and small, forested swathes our plane goes down lower and lower. Silently the i-fidelity.net editors are clinging to the hope that at least the pilots will spot a runway in this nowhere land in the midst of nature. At last we are standing at the airport of Billund. We are traveling to one of the world’s largest loudspeaker manufacturing companies, located in one of Denmark’s northernmost areas, to catch up behind the scenes on the technical development of the new Dali Epicon loudspeakers.

Because in the run-up to the journey we were told that the R&D department had made quite a few technical changes and achieved a breakthrough especially with the chassis drives. If you are acquainted with the Danes who rather tend to modesty, you will know that there must be something substantial behind this announcement. In total the new series consists of four models: the centre speaker (Vokal) and the two floorstanders Epicon 6 and Epicon 8 plus the compact two-way speaker Epicon 2, the only model that goes without the hybrid tweeter which has become known as a Dali trademark.

About 4,500 EUR are called up for a pair of the Epicon 2, and Dali grants a 60-month warranty period on the zero-defect operation. Another 700 EUR are due for matching speakers stands if you opt for the original stands from Dali. By the way, the compact high-end monitor should not be used other than free standing, the degree of sonic impairment would be too high. On the other hand there is also no obligation to use the Dali stand exclusively, for with a design height of 54 centimetres it’s more or less in the lower range of what is sensible.

Consummate form

At present Dali offers the colour options black, walnut and ruby red macassar wood for the Epicons. The real wood veneers are coated up to ten (!) times with a clear lacquer which covers the surface under a layer of a full two millimetres thickness. One can see already at first sight that the enormous effort pays off. Its outward appearance is noble, luxurious and covetable. Even the connection terminal and the bass reflex port on the rear side don’t interfere with the harmonic line. Hence Dali surpasses the usual very good quality of workmanship and gets the »superb« grade for the Epicon 2.

The differently sized aluminium rings have an effect upon the drive of the SMC woofers the development of which consumed time and a great deal of money.

Beneath the veneer we find the highest level of mechanical competence. The side elements, curved under the effect of heat, consist of six accurately glued MDF layers. Dali chief designer Kim Kristiansen is demonstrating for us the difference by means of a knocking test: Normal MDF sounds almost like a tonewood, compared to the acoustically dead multiply MDF construction. The slab on the rear side of the Epicon 2 is even more than five centimetres thick, whereas the actual soundboard has nearly 35 millimetres. In view of these facts the internal braces appear to be redundant, but they render the entire body extremely stiff and resonance-free, also because there is not a single parallel wall. Ideal preconditions for the work of the chassis which are supposed to radiate their energy into the listening room and not into the cabinet.

Who is Eddy Current?

At first we assume that Dali boss Lars Worre wants us to meet a new friend when he drops the name »Eddy Current«. However, this name stands for a kind of electrical brake which shows its effect in the drive of a chassis. We are talking about the zone where the voice coil has fully dipped into the magnet. For its inductance changes relative to its position in the magnet gap. With the excursion movement the impedance will decrease towards higher frequencies, and when moving back it’s exactly the other way round. This results in an unwanted modulation within the frequency crossover.

To prevent this electrical brake in the magnet gap, the currents need to be curtailed. Dali’s solution for this is a slightly magnetic composite named »Soft Magnetic Compound« (SMC). The production of this composite material is extremely difficult, and so we are not surprised to learn that Dali has found a highly specialised partner who has nothing to do whatsoever with loudspeakers. Here the patented components of the drive are manufactured, which Dali now uses for the first time in their own chassis production.

In order to understand why Dali of all companies has made – perhaps even had to make – this development, Lars Worre’s attitude towards loudspeaker design is important. Contrary to many other manufacturers who, sometimes with extreme effort, try to gain control over the vibration behaviour of speaker cones, the Dali boss completely disapproves of that. The paper diaphragms, reinforced by wood fibres and very light-weight, are supposed to follow amplifier signals lickety-split, also with low to medium levels. Hence Dali has been working for more than three decades towards eliminating any impairment of the cone excursion. With the SMC technology another essential step into this direction has been made.

Dimension of inner values

In the Epicon 2 sits one of the new SMC chassis measuring 16.5 centimetres across. It handles the frequency range up to 3.1 klohertz, beyond a tweeter with a very large 29 millimetre dome takes care of the high frequencies up to around 30 kilohertz. Why does the Epicon 2 have no hybrid tweeter? The answer is as simple as it comes unexpected: the cabinet’s overall height of 39 centimetres was not to be exceeded. Quite awesome, those Danes!

On the occasion of their visit Dali boss Lars Worre explained the i-fidelity.net editors in detail the precise test procedures which every SMC chassis must pass.
For this purpose the woofer is fed with various signals. Its acoustical responses must lie within a very narrow tolerance range, otherwise it won’t be used in an Epicon.
Chassis ready for use after completing the test routine. For the first time Dali produces in-house chassis because, as Lars Worre explains, only that way the high quality requirements for the Epicon can be guaranteed.
The frame is extremely robust and in the centre, inside the aluminium ring, we can see the new SMC material. It is to eliminate Eddy currents which would slow down the drive.
The distance between the frame braces has been chosen so that the air which is pushed backward by the chassis can escape with as little deceleration as possible. (Illustration: Dali)
The distance between low-mid chassis and bass reflex tube has been kept as short as possible to bring the time offset down to a minimum. (Illustration: Dali)
A beautiful rear can also endear: Instead of merely being glued, the sound funnel of the bass reflex tube has been screwed into place. No sonic losses should be expected when using the terminal jumpers.

The cabinet bottom of the Epicon 2 houses the frequency crossover in a separate chamber. In addition it is also screwed tightly and vibration-proof to the underside. Instead of merely passing the crossovers over a soldering shaft, they are hand-soldered at Dali’s – according to the Danes, experience has shown that the contacts are cleaner and above all more long-term stable. The crossover gets the signal from the bi-wiring terminal on the shortest possible path. In addition to blank litz wire, which is not recommendable, it accepts cable lugs and banana plug connectors. For the latter a kind of plier function has been provided, a reversed WBT mechanism, if you will, to exert pressure on the plug and to lower the contact resistance.

Matching game partners and the correct position

But despite all the visual allures of the Epicon 2, which are quite easy to fall for, the sound quality still remains of paramount importance. As it happens quite often in the high-quality sector, getting the Dali started wasn’t a smooth affair, either. Supplied by Audionet’s DNA reference integrated amplifier, at first the music was bubbling way too much in the bass department and sticked to the loudspeaker. The operating manual, whose consultation is quite helpful in such cases, recommends a break-in period of at least one hundred hours for the Epicons. Four days of music all around the clock. In our opinion it may well be even a bit longer, because the flabby low-end cheeks disappear completely and transparency is greatly enhanced.

Another essential insight is that the Epicon 2 achieves a very high quality level already with well-priced integrated amplifiers which may come e.g. from Arcam or Naim. This happens only once in a blue moon! In terms of cabling there is also no need to go to the limits of technical feasibility, for instance with an HMS Gran Finale Jubilee. The Concertato from HMS in single bi-wiring configuration is one of several suitable connecting solutions. It’s just a great thing that the Dali does make demands on the material, but they all remain within reach.

This is also true of the the speaker position. Dali always gives clear set-up recommendations which only know one direction: parallel to the rear wall. Deviations are not only allowed, but called for. In the i-fidelity.net listening room the Epicon 2 was playing under a 10-degree inward angled set-up with the best stage imaging in the dimensions of width and depth. With the coupling spikes it’s also worthwhile to trim the two front ones a bit higher so that the loudspeaker is tilted back ever so slightly. At the end of the day it should be obvious that for the maximum sound experience with the Epicons a minimum of know-how is required.

Dali Germany manager Frank Hagemann has established a very selective dealership network for the new Epicon series to ensure price stability and optimum demonstration conditions.
»Innovation Director«: With the new Epicon speaker series Kim Kristiansen more than copes with his title. Here we see him on the occasion of the product launch of the Epicon 6 floorstander at the CES 2012 in Las Vegas.

A captivating experience named Epicon 2

I admit it frankly, we were most eagerly awaiting this listening check. For rarely does a loudspeaker hit the scene with a technology that no one else has had before. We opened the session with the classic »Private Investigations« by the Dire Straits. The deep electronic sound pad augurs well, filling the space between the speakers with full, sonorous punch. With eyes closed, one might indeed assume a full-grown floorstander In this dimension. Knopfler’s guitar sounds precise and nimble. Although heard already hundreds of times, new acoustic details are now revealed. The famous shattering glass gives a realistic impression without a trace of exaggeration.

What irritates at first is the might low-end which the Epicon 2 are hogging the listeners with, for it just doesn’t seem to match with the small cabinet size. So we try to bust the cabinet with »Let Jah Love Come (Sweet Substance Remix)« by Rhythm & Sound. No chance, the Dali remains solid – as opposed to the letterbox in the listening room which is cheerfully rattling in time with the music and must be forcibly silenced using wood pulp. The Epicon stays totally unimpressed, communicating even the lowest transients with clarity and precision. With such clarity and precision like we’ve hardly ever heard from a compact two-way speaker before.

Yet one shouldn’t fall prey to this fascination and devote oneself intensely to the field of voice reproduction for a change. For this reason Rebecca Pidgeon is invited to perform her »The Twa Corbies«. With a good deal of air both singers are intonating this song, the piece accompanied by the tiniest of articulation details and subtle breathing noises which, however, do not settle in the foreground. Appreciatively we notice that the spatial depth is also beyond average. The accompanying cello sounds utterly realistic, which otherwise happens extremely rarely when it sounds more like an electrically manipulated violin.

The final listening test with »Mozart: Ridente La Calma«, sung by Cecilia Bartoli, is brilliantly mastered by the Epicon as well. The diva is standing right across from our listening zone by the grand piano, accompanied with utmost perfection by András Schiff on the keyboard instrument. Now, the greatest possible compliment for a sound transducer is that it does not destroy musical emotions. With its slightly restrained character the Dali proves to be worthy of the high art, and its claim for the reference throne is unanimously approved by the editorial staff.

Lab Comment

The Dali Epicon 2 shows the most linear frequency curve at 30 degrees (horizontal frequency response), therefore the loudspeaker should preferably not be angled inward. When pointed to the listening spot, the Epicon 2 will slightly emphasise the highs (see room acoustics frequency response), at 30 degrees it is nicely balanced. Apart from a little resonance the waterfall diagram is clean. With a minimum impedance of 3.8 ohms at 159 Hertz the Dali is a true 4 ohm speaker, its sensitivity is just below 89 dB (2,83 V/1m/500-5.000 Hz).

 

Manufacturer:   Dali
Model:   Epicon 2
Category:   High-end compact loudspeaker

Design:  
Two-way ported
Chassis:
   1 x 16 cm SMC low/midrange speaker, 1 x 29 mm dome tweeter

Crossover frequency:
   3,100 Hz

Terminals:   Bi-wiring/Bi-amping

Finishes:   black, walnut, ruby red macassar

Dimensions (W x H x D):   22 x 39 x 38 cm
Weight:   23 kg

Price/pair:   4,598 EUR
Warranty:   5 years

Matching stands: 
  349 EUR/piece

 

 

Dali GmbH
Berliner Ring 89
64625 Bensheim

Tel:   0 62 51 / 9 44 80 77
Fax:   0 62 51 / 9 44 80 75


Internet:   www.dali-deutschland.de

Facebook:   www.facebook.com/DaliLautsprecherDeutschland?fref=ts

http://www.facebook.com/DaliLautsprecherDeutschland?fref=ts

Had we commissioned Italy’s legendary football coach Trapattoni to write this i-fidelity.net conclusion, he would certainly have begun with the words: »How can Dali dare ...«. However, this time not with a negative outcome like in the original, but an appreciative result. For here the Epicon 2 indeed knows only one direction. It shows the typical and perfectly spatial imaging qualities of a compact loudspeaker, combined with a low-end fundament that sets a new benchmark not only in its price range or speaker size class. It absolutely requires stands of suitable height, but those don’t necessarily have to come from Dali. In any case this flawless high-end speaker definitively resents being placed on a shelf or a sideboard. And the Epicon doesn’t make ultra-high demands on the electronics, thereby lowering its purchase price and catapulting the speaker even higher in its attractivity. So high that i-fidelity.net makes the Dali Epicon 2 a reference and justifiably so!   Olaf Sturm

Dali Epicon 2
Price per pair: 4,598 EUR
Warranty: 5 years
Epicon-2 stands/pair: 698 EUR
outstanding
good - very good
superb
superb

TEST

Loudspeaker:
Dali Epicon 2
Author:
Olaf Sturm
Date:
15.10.2012
Manufacturer:
Dali