Dali Epicon 2 bookshelf speakers review
We wouldn't want to be the person at Dali in charge of re-calling review stock. It must yield a fair number of snarling "Fine, take them then" calls and a decent number of "Prise them out of my cold, dead hands" type emails.
From a review perspective, it all started quite nicely. Dali came over, or at least a nice man did, and explained how Dali is a bit different from other speakers, and how it's ethos is distinct and unique. It was a nice chat, and at the end he left a pair of speakers and stands, and explained that at some point, he'd be taking them back.
No problem, we thought. No problem at all, this house is already full of stuff and we really, really don't need another set of speakers. Mrs Pocket-lint is already breathing fire about all the amps knocking about, and seeming not to be amplifying all that much of anything at all.
So giving them back wasn't going to be a problem...
We don't want to give them back
Except it is a problem, because our ears have fallen in love. And Is there a more glowing endorsement of a product than our very real reluctance to hand it back now our loan period has finished? Perhaps the best way to prove how we feel might be to go to the bank and withdraw the £3,800 it takes to buy a set of these and plonk it on Dali's showroom counter. Honestly, if we had that kind of money, we would happily cough for a set of these.
To us, the styling of speakers has to be secondary to how they perform. Dali agrees, but also told us that while the internal design is most important, it's still possible to make speakers that look stunning.
We have to agree, the Epicons are just lovely to look at. They have a piano black finish - you can also get them in Walnut and a Ruby Macassar - that shines and gleams. It's a bit sensitive to fingerprints and dust, but they clean really easily with a nice clean microfibre cloth and look their best again. We asked how tough they are to permanent scratches, and were advised to keep our child away from them with sharp objects.
Speaker grilles are provided, and attach to the front of the speakers with magnets that lock them into place. The speakers look amazing with their grilles on, but take them off and it's a whole new ball game. For people with kids, keep the cones covered; everyone else, show them exposed for maximum joy every time you walk into the room.
To get the best bass response, Dali suggests you get some speaker stands. You might already have some, or you might want to buy its specially designed ones for £500. Yes, that's right, £500. We think that's a bit much, although the stands are beautifully designed and fit the Epicons like a stand should fit a speaker.
Speaker bindings that mean business
You can spend a lot of money on cable, or a bit less. Unless you've got the hearing of a dog, or Superman, you're not going to hear much difference between the stuff aimed at audiophiles and decent quality speaker cable you get from any reputable retailer. But whatever you do buy, the Dali Epicons will take it all happily with their impressive speaker bindings.
Of course, they're massive connections, as you'd probably expect, but they're also brilliant. They open with ease, but they're also designed to clamp your cable with the sort of ferocity you'd usually expect from a rabid dog with a taste for humans. That's a good thing, because no matter what speaker cable you buy, if it falls out, or isn't connecting with the posts properly, you might as well use wet string.
So, the important bit is how they sound. From the words and order of those words you've already read you can probably deduce that we love these speakers. Their sound is, somehow, exactly what we've been looking for.
We tried them with two systems, one quite cheap and one a lot more expensive. The results from both were utterly wonderful.
What's most impressive is how the Epicon 2s handle the whole range of sound. The majority of our listening was done via a Naim UnitiLite, which is designed to pass the cleanest sound from the amp out to the speakers. When we did, there was masses of bass, cracking mid-range and the high-end was tight and controlled. Pushing the volume a bit gives you great results too, although we found that the bass was slightly less evident at high volumes than at low.
We liked them a great deal at low volume too, where we could still hear all the detail you'd get at higher volumes. For us, this is crucial because a very modest part of our listening is done at high volumes, with the majority being done at much lower levels. After all, you only get one crack at hearing things, and loud music is one good way to put an end to all that.
It also bears mentioning that we listened to an enormous range of music on the Epicons. From things which were all vocal, to pop and electronic music - trance and commercial dance mostly - along with some high bitrate audio we've got lying around. Unlike most speakers we've heard, there was really nothing we could give the Dali Epicons that they didn't handle with skill and beauty. Individual musical instruments, like pianos or guitars have such reality it's as close as you can get to sitting in front of the artist while they tickle the ivory or strum the strings.
The last word has to be that since we've had these plugged in, we have not stopped listening to things on them. Every waking moment has been full of music, and that's why we're really going to miss them when they've gone.
To some, it might not come as a surprise that speakers which cost nearly £4k are "very good indeed". But with hi-fi, it's never clear if you're buying something worthwhile, or something that's just designed to appeal to people with a lot of money.
And here's the deal. Speakers cost more because most people will buy one or two pairs in their whole life. Buy these Epicons now, and there's a pretty reasonable chance they'll still be serving you well when you're retired and have to have everything turned up to 11 to hear it. So what seems expensive now will more than likely see several different hi-fi components being connected to them over their life. These may very well be the cheapest thing you invest in for your hi-fi over the whole of your life.
The sound is delicious too. As we said, we're not used to speakers that have such a comprehensive range of frequencies in one box. And usually, if we're honest, audiophile speakers can be a bit negligent in the bass department. That's not the case here, there's plenty of everything and a great balance.