DALI OPTICON 2 standmount loudspeakers
+ Well-balanced sound that hits the right notes without highlighting any major shortcomings. Excellent soundstaging and imaging.
– Not much, but could do with more distinct treble.
THERE’S an audiophile school of thought that says the source component (such as CD players or turntables) should be the first consideration when putting together a hi-fi system.
While there’s wisdom in that approach, I prefer to pick the speakers first. My point of view is that speakers are the final link in the hi-fi chain – and with only air between them and the listener, are the only components that interact directly with them.
The point of all this? Well, if you had to pick a speaker as a starting point for a slightly-above-entry-level system, the Dali Opticon 2 would be a fantastic candidate.
It also has the benefit of being a bookshelf design and measures 351 x 195 x 297mm (h/w/d) with a 7.8kg weight, which makes for easy placement. A two-way speaker, the Opticon 2 sports a 28mm soft-dome tweeter and a 16.5cm woofer. This enables it to cover frequencies from 59Hz to 27kHz with a sensitivity of 87dB/w/m.
There are three finish options available – Black Ash, Light Walnut and White Matt Satin. A vinyl wrap with the appropriate colour covers five surfaces of the cabinet, but not the front baffle which has a high-gloss finish on it. Aesthetically, they are visually pleasing, with silver and white highlights tastefully applied to accentuate its design features – particularly the reddish-brown colour of its wood-fibre cone.
Dali recommends that the speakers be driven with amplifiers from 30-150 watts. However, it is lower-powered units you should be careful with – these have the potential to clip if driven too loudly (which is ultimately what will damage speakers anyway) – so don’t worry if your amp’s specs are higher than the recommended.
The Opticon 2’s binding posts are robust and have a good feel to them, which enables good purchase so they can be tightened sufficiently. A pair of hefty stands were used to bring the tweeters to ear level, and placement in the room was as per the usual where other speakers work well, with no surprises arising.
Note, however, that the Opticon 2 is a rear-ported design, so ensure there is sufficient space between the pair and the wall directly behind them. Some experimentation will be required with positioning to ensure rear-wall bass reinforcement does just that and not cause flabbiness or bloom.
Excellent stereo imaging is almost a given with smaller-sized two-way speakers. The Opticon 2s were no exception and in fact outdid my expectations in this regard. Not only did they provide precise imaging of vocals and instruments, but they also managed to convey an excellence sense of depth and width. With some “spatial” recordings, the pair threw an impressively cavernous soundstage, with vocal images coming from a deep, pinpoint position from within the sonic.
If you’re lucky and managed to get the tonality right as well, you’ll be rewarded with a rich and lush sound that you can listen to for hours without fatigue setting in. It isn’t a “warm-sounding” speaker per se – it is for most part neutral, with just a slight leaning towards warmth.
With certain speakers, there is a tendency to pull out music with a particular sound signature or genre – such as classical, rock or acoustic instruments, for example – but with the Opticon 2, I found myself listening to all manner of music for the simple reason that I wanted to enjoy them. And that’s a big plus in my book.
Vocals and acoustic instruments sound really good, but this is a pair that can rock out when called upon. I’m amazed how much bass they can eke out of a small cabinet these days, and the Opticon 2 had plenty of low-end heft. It won’t reach truly subterranean levels – there were a few times descending bass lines simply petered out – but any bass within its reach had good slam and impact.
While it may not be a fair comparison, the resident Magnepan 1.6QR speakers had deeper, faster and more tuneful bass, but the Opticon 2 had the edge in outright slam – this was particularly evident when playing a few Megan Trainor and Sia tracks on the system (note: as requested by my my eight-year-old son). (Sure… – Ed.)
My only criticism of the Opticon 2 – and I’m nitpicking here based on the otherwise all-round excellence – would be its treble delivery. It’s not a question of detail as there’s still loads of it, but I would have preferred a little more presence up top. For most part, it’s not obvious when the entire band or orchestra is playing, but when cymbals are struck or higher up the scale on electric guitars for example, a little more verve would have been welcomed.
THE LAST WORD
The Opticon 2 is a very well-rounded speaker that simply sounds good and may even push past your expectations. It has a pleasant, balanced sound makes music sound “right” rather than try to impress with some extra boom and tizz.
If you’re in the market for an upgrade to a starter system, the Dali Opticon 2 definitely deserves an extended listen.
Sources: Rega P5 turntable, Toshiba L40 notebook on Windows 10 running JRiver Media Center, Audio Image phono stage / DAC: Chord Hugo, Chord Mojo, M2Tech Young with Palmer power supply, Exogal Comet / Amplification: Euphonic Research ATT600 preamp, Odyssey Audio Stratos Stereo Extreme power amplifier / Speakers: Magnepan MG1.6QR / Cabling: DH Labs SilverSonic USB cable, Clear Day Double Shotgun silver speaker cables, assortment of pure silver interconnects.
Price: £650 per pair
Malaysian price: RM5,590 per pair
Malaysian distributor: A&L Audio Station (+603-2141 3884) / Find your distributor.
Did you test these with the cloth covers on or off and what’s your opinion on how the grille affects the sound on these?