And what can one say but that DALI and Grundfos have made it work? In measured terms, the odd-order harmonic distortion, which has been widely observed to be the kind that sounds bad, is all but gone. People tend to think of distortion in speakers as arising from break-up of the driver cone, and a lot of work has been done on making cones so as to minimize distortion of this sort. DALI has addressed that here as well, with special wood-fiber driver cones, which seem to work admirably. But the distortion from the motor mechanism also counts, and here in the Epicon Series, this problem is addressed in a new way, as noted. And it does the job in listening terms as well as in distortion measurements. (The new structure is also said to minimize problems from magnetic hysteresis effects.)
The sonic effect is, as mentioned, immediately observable and extremely pleasing. Or at least one supposes that it is this one is hearing; that the speaker sounds unusually pure and liquid is definitely the case. The attribution to the new magnetic approach is less obvious, but I am prepared to take DALI’s word for it that that is the cause of the unique sound heard. And the measurements surely back DALI up.
The Sound Overall: The Frequency Extremes
So take it for granted—not that you will have any trouble noticing!—that the Epicon 6 has an unusually low level of perceived distortion, a kind of meltingly liquid sound that one does not expect to hear this side of Quads. There are, of course, other aspects of the sound to be discussed, though the perceived low distortion of the speaker already makes it of compelling interest.
Let me start with the frequency extremes. The DALI has an unusual high-frequency driver, comprising a dome tweeter that is rather larger than usual (29mm) surmounted by a ribbon tweeter to fill in the top of the top octave—and actually a long way beyond (ribbon drivers tend to go way on out there). The result is a very high level of perceived high-frequency clarity—you will hear a lot of the micro-detail so beloved of audiophiles, helped on by the ultra-low distortion all the way down, as already noted.
This speaker has resolution and clarity in spades. The idea of using two tweeters to cover different parts of the treble is not new—it goes back at least as far as the Spendor BC1. But it is surely carried out to good effect here as far as apparent clarity and resolution are concerned. Things like the high percussion in one of my go-to orchestral recordings, Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances (Mata, Dallas, ProArte) sounded remarkably like real cymbal crashes, with the requisite micro-structure that is really there in reality and on the recording, but that can turn into an undifferentiated blur with less than stellar tweeters. In these terms, the high-frequency compound unit of the Epicon 6s is in the top echelon, one of the best. If the high end is anything like synonymous with high end for you, you will be very happy here as far as the intrinsic behavior of the unit is concerned.
The tweeter unit does follow the usual DALI practice of being somewhat hot on axis with the idea being that one listens somewhat off-axis to the highs. This typically is done to fill in the power response of the top end—the on-axis tip-up fills in some reverberant-field high-frequency energy, but the off-axis listening position gets a flat direct arrival. Fair enough if you want more highs in your reverberant field.
Here, however, you do not have to move very far off axis in any direction before the response really nose dives. The flattest axis is, I estimated, around 15 degrees off the frontal position. But get as far as 30 degrees off to the side, and there is a quite pronounced roll-off. And the top highs are also sensitive to vertical position, as one expects with a vertically oriented ribbon. This is all not as such a problem—just sit where you should (which is fairly low down as it happens). But less than ideally situated listeners will hear a non-flat response in the top as direct arrival. The pattern is somewhat complex and way off-axis, at 90 degrees (where of course no one sits), there is an odd whistle in pink noise for some reason, although this is not particularly important to music listening as such in normal positions.
Associated with the exceptional performance of the high- frequency unit is a very high level of perceived resolution. DALI has always believed in the importance of being able to hear detail, or so I have gathered (I used to live in Denmark and I have known the DALI people for a long time). And one certainly hears a lot of detail here. Even on familiar recordings, one is likely to become acutely conscious of inner details that were barely observed before and not brought so much to the fore. Inner parts are heard with great clarity. And complex textures unraveled. Of course, audio reviews say this kind of stuff all the time. But here it is really true.