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DALI OBERON 7C Active Wireless Floorstanding Speaker Review

by June 14, 2022
DALI OBERON 7C

DALI OBERON 7C

  • Product Name: OBERON 7C and Sound Hub
  • Manufacturer: DALI
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: June 14, 2022 00:30
  • MSRP: $ 2,500/pair - OBERON 7C, $900 - Sound Hub
  • Buy Now

OBERON 7C:

  • Frequency Response: ±3\3dB from 31 Hz - 26 kHz
  • Drivers:

Tweeter: 1.14" (29mm) textile dome

Woofer: Two 7" Wood Fibre Cones
  • Design: 2-way active floor standing, ported enclosure
  • Crossover Frequency: 2,450Hz
  • Amplifier Power: 2x50 watts
  • Amplifier Type: Class-D
  • Signal Input: Wireless  24 bit / 96 kHz
  • Finish options: Black Ash, Light Oak, White, Dark Walnut
  • Weight: 34.6 lbs
  • Size (HxWxD): 40” x 7.9” x 13.4” 

Sound Hub

  • Max Digital Resolution: Full 24 bit / 96 kHz (No bit-loss attenuated)
  • Inputs:
    2 x Optical (TosLink)
    Coax (S/PDIF)
    RCA
    3.5mm Mini Jack
    2 x Plug-In Module
    Chromecast ready
    Wireless Bluetooth 4.2 (AAC, Apt-X, Apt-X HD)
  • Outputs:
    Stereo Line Level (RCA)
    SUB Out (RCA)
    24 bit / 96 kHz Wireless
    USB Charge Output (5V/1A)

Pros

  • All-in-one sound system reduces extraneous components
  • Nice, neutral response
  • Solid bass response should yield 30Hz bass in-room
  • Reasonably attractive tower speakers
  • No wires!

Cons

  • System doesn’t have the flexibility of a regular AVR setup

 

pair5DALI OBERON 7C & Sound Hub Introduction

The most famous DALI is undoubtedly Salvador, the surrealist painter (and sculptor), but the second most famous is the Danish loudspeaker manufacturer. Long ago I had wondered if there were a connection between the two, especially since DALI’s upper-end loudspeakers resembled works of art, but eventually, I learned that DALI speakers merely stood for Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries. I have always enjoyed the sound of DALI speakers when I have had the opportunity to hear them at hi-fi stores and trade shows, so I leapt at the chance when DALI asked if I were interested in reviewing some examples from their new OBERON C speaker series. In today’s review, we examine the OBERON 7C as well as DALI’s Sound Hub. Together they make up a complete audio system, and all the user has to do is supply the source, whether that be a smartphone, Blu-ray player, Roku, or anything that is compatible with the Sound Hub’s plethora of different inputs. How well does it all work? How does it sound? Is it a worthwhile alternative to the way traditional hi-fi systems are arranged? Let’s dig in to find out…

Appearance

pair grilles3 pair2

The OBERON 7C comes in four finishes: matte white, dark walnut, light oak, and black ash. I received the light oak finish, although the veneer does not extend to the front baffle, which is matte white. In the light oak, the OBERON 7C looks upbeat compared to so many speakers that are merely black boxes or, if they have a wood veneer option, it is an overly conservative one. I would say this makes the OBERON 7C a good choice for white-painted interiors as is found in so many homes. The veneers are laminates, but they are pretty convincing imitations, and it wouldn’t be noticed unless you gave the speaker a very close inspection. The grilles have a grey weave fabric that gives the grilled appearance more character than the usual black fabric grilles. While I think these speakers look a bit better without the grilles, the grilles don’t look bad on these models. The enclosure has some slight rounding on the vertical edges of the front baffle, but otherwise, the shape is just a rectangular box. The most notable feature of the exposed drivers is the plum coloration of the woofer cones. This is a visual signature of DALI speakers, which all have this cone correlation, much like Klipsch is known for their copper cones. The tweeter is a dome mounted in a sizable plate that has a dotted pattern printed on it. The enclosures stand on some curved metal plinths which complement the speakers nicely. Overall, the OBERON 7C speakers look tasteful without being boring, and they could fit in easily with a wide variety of interior decors thanks to the variety of veneers and refined industrial design.

receiver4 

There isn’t too much to say about the looks of the Sound Hub, except that it doesn’t look bad either, thanks to its minimalist design. Obviously, it won’t have as much aesthetic impact as the speakers. It’s a glossy plastic module that is mainly distinguished by a large volume knob in the unit’s center. The LED display is centered within the volume knob, which is a neat touch.

Design Analysis

The DALI OBERON C loudspeakers and Sound Hub are conceived as ways of getting a high-fidelity sound without needing a stack of complicated electronics with the corresponding spaghetti nest of connecting wires. The speakers receive the signal from the Sound Hub wirelessly, so the only cables the speakers need are AC power cables. Likewise, the Sound Hub only really needs a power cable, since it can also receive a wireless signal, although it can accommodate a variety of wired connections, both digital and analog. Together, the OBERON 7C and Sound Hub form an all-in-one sound system.

driver close up 

Let’s start our analysis of the system design by talking about the OBERON 7C loudspeakers. They are two-way, self-powered, floor-standing loudspeakers set that can only take wireless signal input produced by the DALI Sound Hub or the less expensive and smaller Sound Hub Compact. The OBERON 7C uses two 7” bass drivers and a 1” dome tweeter. Curiously, the bass drivers are powered by a 50-watt class-D amplifier and the tweeter is powered by another 50-watt class-D amp. This is unusual because one would think that the bass drivers would require a lot more power than the tweeter to produce the same SPL, so only providing 50-watts is robbing them of some headroom that the system could otherwise deliver. DALI may have opted for using a 50-watt amp for the woofers for ease of manufacturing and cost. Nonetheless, the amplification should give the system enough headroom to satisfy most buyers.

bass driver 

The OBERON 7C tweeter is a 1.1” fabric dome that uses an iron ferrite motor and ferrofluid in the voice-coil gap for greater thermal handling. The bass drivers’ cones use a composite of fine paper pulp and reinforcing wood fibers. One interesting aspect of the bass drivers occurs in the motor section with the use of SMC or Soft Magnetic Compound. SMC is used in the motor section around the gap where the voice coil rests. What SMC does is transmit the magnetic field without being electrically conductive. The advantage in that is a major reduction in eddy currents and hysteresis and thus reduction in odd-order harmonic distortion and an increase in upper-frequency sensitivity. For those who want the gory details about SMC use in drivers, DALI has this page that describes it, but the reader can also refer to the patent for a more precise description. The motor uses a reasonably sized 3 ¼” diameter magnet with a ¾” thickness and is vented through the pole piece.

The enclosure uses a ⅝” thick front baffle and has two cross braces to maximally reinforce the cabinet at key points. There are also corner braces that give the enclosure more strength. There is a generous amount of stuffing lining the cabinet walls to damp internal pressure waves. The OBERON 7C uses a rear-mounted flared port that has a 4” depth and a 2 ¾” diameter. DALI gives the user the choice to use spiked feet or rubber feet on the plinth. Spiked feet will give the speaker a better grip on carpeted surfaces, but obviously, the rubber feet would be the better choice where the speaker is set on hard-flooring.

tweeter2  rear

The grilles attach to the speakers using pegs. Unfortunately, the grille frame design has large solid pieces that surround a honeycomb pattern over the drivers. While it does a lot to actually protect the drivers, it is a suboptimal design for how the sound diffracts off of the front baffle and grille frame. While leaving the grilles off of the speaker for the best sound is almost always the best way to go for any speaker, it is even more true for this speaker.

The OBERON speakers were easy to pair up with the Sound Hub. All I had to do was press the ‘LINK’ button on the Sound Hub, then press the ‘LINK’ button on the speaker, and when they established a connection, I selected what channel it should receive on the Sound Hub. The Sound Hub’s instruction manual was a bit vague and ambiguous, but the instruction manual on the Sound Hub online product page is much more articulate, so I would advise users to refer to the website’s manual. The Sound Hub can take input from almost any source that exists except for balanced analog inputs. It can accommodate unbalanced RCA, optical TosLink, S/PDIF COAX, 3.5mm mini-jack, and wireless Bluetooth. There is an expansion slot that adds optional connectivity. One module is a BuOS module that can enable ethernet and WiFi connectivity as well as USB inputs that allow sound files to be played from a USB drive. There is another similar module that does all of the same things but also adds Apple’s AirPlay2 streaming. There is also an HDMI module available for HDMI connectivity including HDMI ARC and eARC signals. 

receiver 

 

 receiver rear

The Sound Hub has an unbalanced RCA left and right outputs as well as a subwoofer output, so it can be used as a 2.1 preamp if desired. It does mute the wireless output if it detects a connection on the RCA outputs. If HDMI connectivity is used, the Sound Hub can emit eight channels of signals; so it can handle a 7.1 system. If the user is inputting a higher channel signal than the number of speakers that are actually connected to the Sound Hub, it will downmix the output appropriately.

The Sound Hub can adjust the speakers individually for level and distance. The crossover frequency used for the sub output is 100Hz, and that seems to be the extent of the bass management. I would like to have seen more options for bass management. The subwoofer output can be sent both wirelessly and through the RCA sub out. DALI offers a wireless subwoofer signal adapter called the WSR that receives the wireless signal and converts it to an ordinary RCA output, so it can be used with any subwoofer. The Sound Hub can only transmit to one WSR, so the sound hub cannot output to multiple subwoofers itself. If the user wants to employ multiple subwoofers, they will need to use a signal splitter on the output of the WSR.

rear panelThose who want to take advantage of the surround sound capability of the Dali Sound Hub must purchase and install the optional HDMI Module (as well as the extra speakers for those channels). Once installed, the Sound Hub can handle ARC and eARC signals and decode Dolby and DTS sound formats for surround sound up to 7.1 channels. There is no support for the extra channels of Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, but the Sound Hub does support DTS HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD. Dolby signals will be post-processed by the Dolby ProLogic I or ProLogic IIx codec, depending on user selection, while DTS and PCM will be post-processed by the DTS Neo:6.Cinema Codec. The module can also be configured to upmix the sound up to a 7.1 system or simply route the signals to the intended channels with no upmixing.

Controls for the Sound Hub are pretty simple. There is a large volume dial, and three buttons above it: a stand-by button, a source selector, and a mute button. The Sound Hub comes with a remote with the same set of controls. The center of the volume dial has an LED display that shows the volume level as well as the selected source. The brightness of the LED display in the volume control can be adjusted. Setting up the Sound Hub with the OBERON speakers was not difficult, but I did have to refer to the user manual since the quick start guide’s illustrated steps were a bit too ambiguous for me to follow.

Listening Sessions

In my 24’ by 13’ (approximately) listening room, I set up the speakers with a few feet of stand-off distances between the back wall and sidewall and equal distance between speakers and listening position. I angled the speakers to face straight ahead per the user manual’s recommendation. The listening distance from the speakers was about 8 feet. No subwoofers were used.

Music Listening

the OBERON 7C speakers presentation was smooth and balanced and did not give me anything to object to in the slightest.

As usual, I started off a close listen to the speakers using something with an emphasis on a cleanly recorded vocal, and a found a terrific album in “A Southern Gothic” by Aida Victoria on Qobuz. “A Southern Gothic” is firmly planted within the blues genre. Aida’s voice is versatile and alternates between ethereal femininity, confrontational force, melancholy, as well as many other modes within its forty-minute runtime. The recording puts her voice at the forefront, but she gets backing from traditional blues instruments such as guitar, banjo, percussion, as well as some subtle electronic atmospherics. This album, recorded and presented in hi-res, puts Aida’s richly textured voice under a microscope and therefore serves as a test of how well a sound system can reproduce it.

The OBERON 7C speakers anchored Aida’s voice at a center position between the speakers. It was apparent through the speakers that the instruments were close mic’d since they all sounded ‘big’ and were spread over the width of the soundstage. This brought the performance close to the listener. Aida’s voice was given a detailed representation by the DALI speakers but without becoming bright. Bass guitar was thick enough to give the music a strong foundation, but I did not find it to be at all bloated or overbearing. The snare drums had a vibrant snap and the kick drums had a sharp jab. The 50-watt amplifiers seemed to be adequate here for spirited listening on this album. The overall reproduction of “A Southern Gothic” by the OBERON 7C speakers was smooth and balanced and did not give me anything to object to in the slightest.

A Southern Gothic  Il Trovatore

For vocals of a much more pyrotechnical nature, I listened to the classic RCA recording of Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” done in the 1970s and famous within its genre. The version I listened to was the 2010 remaster streamed in 96k/24bit on Qobuz. This performance gathered some of the greatest voices of the era for this epic opera which includes Leontyne Price, Elizabeth Bainbridge, and Placido Domingo, among others. Even though this recording is 50 years old, it still sounds sublime and wildly dynamic. The New Philharmonia symphony matches the singers in virtuoso musicianship. This demanding recording has been a staple of opera lovers for three decades now, and any sound system that can do it justice would be a good candidate for any classical music collection.  

The OBERON 7C set the listener at a middle distance from the performance as an audience position. The orchestral elements had an expansive symphonic-hall sound but the singers were given well-defined positions within the soundstage. I could hear the singer’s positions as they crossed the stage, and the OBERONs gave a nearly pictorial presentation of this performance. The singers in duets and trios were kept separate and distinct, and their locations were never unclear even as their singing would overlap. The sound of the orchestra was beautifully rendered, but the OBERON speakers were able to uncover some cues that betrayed the age of this recording. First, there was a slight analog tape hiss of the noise floor of the recording. The OBERON 7C speakers were very quiet with no signal present, although they were not dead silent, their own noise could only be heard by placing your ear close to the tweeter. In any normal listening situation, it would be inaudible. The other indication that gave the recording’s age away was the soft clipping sound at the crescendos that was characteristic of analog tape recordings of that era. The OBERON 7C speakers had more than enough dynamic range for the loudness level at which I listened to this recording. While these speakers would probably not be able to deliver the kind of dynamics that one would experience live with this kind of performance, they doubtlessly have enough power for the vast majority of buyers for speakers in this class.

Winter Impact FormalFor something with a focus on traditional instruments, I found a jazz album titled “Impact Winter Formal” (sounds more like the name of a font) by Chris Morrissey, an accomplished bassist from New York. This short four-track album does have some vocals but it is principally instrumental jazz with a few other flourishes, and the recording quality of this new release is top-notch. There is a variety of Instrumentation featured in these complex, multi-layered compositions, and they are all very nicely recorded and presented in high-res streaming. This is a brand-new release from the Edition Records label and is well worthwhile for anyone seeking a mix of old and new in contemporary jazz. 

The first thing that struck me about the OBERON 7C’s rendition of “Impact Winter Formal” was how vivid the instruments were reproduced as well as Morrissey’s voice. The level of detail granted by the speakers and recording created an uncommon—but quite welcome—realism to the sound. A contributing factor in this would have to be the even tonal balance produced by the OBERON speakers. A significant tilt one way or the other can really undo this illusion, but the OBERONs seemed to land on the side of neutrality. Again, the instruments could be heard to be mic’d at a close distance which helped to give them richly-detailed definition, although that comes at the expense of a live performance-type soundstage. The last track, “It’s Cruel That It Ends,” does play with imaging by projecting Morrissey’s voice all around the stage through studio trickery, and the OBERONs articulately conveyed that effect. By the end of the album, I was left impressed by the OBERON 7Cs sound, and I have no doubt that any jazz lover would get along great with them.

Agnum opusFor something to test the bass capabilities and dynamic range of the OBERON 7C, I selected “Agnum Opus” by Agallah The Don Bishop. Agallah has been around New York’s rap scene since the mid ’90s and has released a slew of records over the last couple of decades. “Agnum Opus” is a 2017 release that features some wicked lyrics and heavy-duty bass. This studio production is high energy from beginning to end and seldom lets up on the gain levels. This makes it a good test of stamina for any speaker, and even more so for powered speakers like the OBERON C series, since the amplifier is a potential bottleneck along with the drivers.

While I wouldn’t look to them as party speakers, the OBERON 7C speakers can get surprisingly loud. The bass is satisfyingly punchy as well, although perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising, since the area of the four 7” woofers of the OBERON 7Cs is about equal to that of a 14” cone, and that should be capable of moving a significant amount of air. I pushed the speakers hard, but after a certain point, I did back down since I thought I could be on the verge of overloading the tweeters. These speakers can get much louder than I would ever normally listen. They didn’t lack for bass, and I didn’t feel a need for subwoofers during “Agnum Opus,” although the addition of subs would likely step up the low-frequency headroom in a noticeable way. As was noted before, subwoofers can be added to the system, but the Sound Hub’s bass management is rudimentary, and, with a fixed 100Hz crossover frequency, a multi-sub system is advised in order to thwart the localization effects of such a high crossover frequency. On the plus side, such a high crossover frequency means less of the OBERON 7C’s amplification power will be spent on lower bass, thereby preserving that power for mid-bass output. The 7C bass headroom and overall dynamic range turned out to be quite a bit more than I had expected. However, for those who want to add more bass with subwoofers, DALI does not make it easy to be done properly.

Movie Watching

One film that I watched using the OBERON 7C speakers was Ridley Scott’s 2021 medieval opus “The Last Duel.” This movie was one of the casualties of COVID-19, a $100 million dollar epic that was barely noticed since few people were interested in going out to the theaters at the time of its release. Led by a high-profile cast including Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Jodie Comer, “The Last Duel” tells the tale of a knight who blames his misfortunes on a former friend who became wealthy, and the knight’s wife who suffered mistreatment from both of them. This lavish production has a first-rate sound mix as would be expected from a major Hollywood movie and is abetted by a sweeping orchestral score with emphasis on period instruments from Harry Gregson-Williams. With a sound mix featuring large-scale battle scenes, environmental sound from feudal life, antiquated speech, and Gregson-Williams epic score, I figured this movie would be a good test of the OBERON’s ability to reproduce a major historical drama.

I watched “The Last Duel” at a fairly loud level, and the OBERON 7C speakers were more than able to keep up with the demands that I placed on it. I was surprised at their low-frequency impact, and the thunderous sounds of the teams of horses galloping were given an almost subwoofer-like sound. Dialogue was always intelligible, but part of that might have been due to the fact that the actors did not even try to effect a French accent even though the movie was set in medieval France. Battle scenes were violently relayed, and the clashing of swords and armor glances had a visceral impact that sharply communicated the reality of medieval combat. Gregson-Williams lush score was beautifully reproduced by the 7Cs and was very appreciable even amidst the grim events depicted in the film. The music score for this film surely has to be one of the best of the year. Despise the harshness of the events and setting of “The Last Duel”, the cinematography and sound mix could often be quite striking, and I am glad to have viewed it with such competent speakers as the OBERON 7Cs.

The Last Duel  No Time To Die

“No Time To Die” sounded fabulous with the OBERON speakers.

One movie that I watched with the OBERON 7C speakers that I had been greatly looking forward to seeing was the latest Bond movie “No Time To Die.” There are major Hollywood movies and then there are James Bond movies. Bond movies always look and sound spectacular, and this one does just that, but it has no excuse not to with a purported 250 million dollar budget. A quarter of a billion dollars buys you the best sound mixing that can be had, and this is no exception. Any modern Bond movie is ideal for a sound system demo, and so I decided it would be great to use as an evaluation piece for the OBERON 7C speakers.

“No Time To Die” sounded fabulous with the OBERON speakers, from the first moments of action and onward. The sound of the Aston Martin and pursuing motorcycles roared with intensity, and the explosions, car crashes, and gunfire burst out of the screen giving the experience a cinematic verve. Again, I was surprised at how much low bass was coming out of a speaker that had a smallish port and 50-watt amplifier. Dialogue intelligibility was never a problem, even with the many accents from all the exotic locales that Bond globe-trots around. Billie Eilish supplies that opening credits music. It was a very traditional Bond song and not quite within Eilish’s normal ambit, but she still created one of the better Bond themes, and it sounded terrific on the OBERON 7Cs. Hanz Zimmer provided the bulk of the score for the film, and, as usual, Zimmer laid down some serious bass that the OBERON speakers were more than ready for. Not knowing much about the movie before viewing it, I was surprised by the many twists and turns the plot took, but in the end, I greatly enjoyed it and was glad to have watched it with such a competent sound system.

About the author:

James Larson is Audioholics' primary loudspeaker and subwoofer reviewer on account of his deep knowledge of loudspeaker functioning and performance and also his overall enthusiasm toward moving the state of audio science forward.

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Recent Forum Posts:

Danzilla31 posts on June 15, 2022 01:39
As far as the review goes it was a great read. Shows how awesome active designs can be over passive. Just 50 watts for each section and you get a speaker that has a neutral response with good dynamics for the price and size. Like you said Shady not being able to use these speakers without the hub is a killer for me. If it tanks your whole system is toast.

It would be cool if they could make a hub that connects to an avrs preouts and you could use these speakers wirelessly without wires with a traditional AVR or your own Dac the first company that does that with an affordable speaker line is going to hit it big I would think
Danzilla31 posts on June 15, 2022 01:33
Man I wish there was a way to have powered speakers connect wirelessly to a traditional reciever. Like have a hub connect to the back preout on the reciever for a certain speaker channel and a hub that connects to the speaker for that avr preout. Life would be so much simpler if you didn't have to run wires.
Hobbit posts on June 14, 2022 18:33
I think wireless has a bright future. One, I think has been lacking. However, I see the future being better suited to satellite speakers, like for my patio, or surround speakers than for mains. In fact, I was rather dismayed at the lack of options looking for wireless, or semi - the speakers wired together - for my patio. Options were pretty much nonexistent for a house wide system.

The issue I have with wireless mains is, are you getting a better amp/speaker combo per $ spent than with separates? Also, finding three (one for each speaker plus the hub) more outlets around your main system (HT) is as much work as running some wire from an amp. Upgrading can be more expensive. Moreover, what about if one of the amps goes out? I can survive a while if one surround goes out.
ryanosaur posts on June 14, 2022 11:43
Note: as Shady mentioned, the hub does have 2 expansion slots which will allow for multi-room or multi-channel (up to 7.1) use.
https://www.dali-speakers.com/en/products/equi/dali-sound-hub
https://www.dali-speakers.com/en/products/equi/hdmi-module
https://www.dali-speakers.com/en/products/equi/bluos-npm-2i

Edit: looks to be about $500 a pop for each expansion module. :oops:
ryanosaur posts on June 14, 2022 11:02
@shadyJ
Thank you.

I agree that as cool as these may be, the fact the hub is a requirement is a major turnoff. They shouldn’t even offer the Speakers on their own but rather have the pricing options include the hub of choice by the purchaser.
In my eyes, they may have limited the value of this system too much and made it a niche product.
While I see the potential in their choices, I see greater potential in your comments about expanding connectivity at the Speaker rather than banking on the whole sale including one of their hubs.
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