Lifestyle speakers. The utterance of those very words are enough to make an audiophile shudder, as speakers designed to look good often do not come near sounding good. Usually, the justification of their existence is to avoid the boxy look of most speakers and have a smaller profile, which blends in better with most décor.
Dali is a Danish speaker company which is virtually unknown in the United States, yet is a well known company in Europe, being the second largest speaker maker behind B&W. They have a wide variety of speakers, from inexpensive to the audiophile-centered Euphonia line, which I had the pleasure of listening to and being impressed by at Home Entertainment Expo. I was assured by Ben Gosvig of Dali, formerly of EAD fame, that the sleek, slim profile of the Piano line hid speakers that actually sound good. Seeking an interesting challenge, I requested a full set of Piano speakers for review in my theater room at my office.
The Piano series has an aluminum finish with black grilles and uses a black granite base on its floorstanders. I chose the larger of the two floorstanders, the Noble, which has two five-inch woofer/midrange units and a one-inch soft dome tweeter. The center channel choice is the aptly named Vocal, which has two four and a half-inch woofers on either side of a one-inch soft dome tweeter. It is easily small enough to fit on a shelf or in an A/V rack. The rear speakers used the again aptly named Ambient. These are small rear speakers that have a four-inch woofer and a one-inch tweeter, designed for wall mounting with a face that angles downward. The subwoofer is the Forté, a very stylish piece in aluminum with a front firing ten-inch subwoofer and a 120 watt amp.
Binding posts for the Nobles are underneath the speakers, set up for single wiring. The center channel, unfortunately, did not have enough space around the binding posts to accept my center channel cable, so a suitable cable was made with 12 gauge wire. The rear speakers used similar in-wall wire. This was my one disappoint with the Piano speakers. As the binding posts are not really set up for the banana plugs of better cables, either bare wire or a small spade needed to be used.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
The system was driven by a Simaudio Aurora amplifier (watch for an upcoming review), and the HALO C2 and Simaudio Stargate processors. Sources included a Sony DVD/SACD player and XM satellite radio. Cables used were the AudioQuest Gibraltar and 12-gauge wire. AudioQuest Pythons were used for interconnects. A Tributaries single-ended subwoofer cable was used to connect the Forté. All speakers were set to Small in the processor, and the subwoofer was crossed over at 80 Hz.