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Review: Dali Zensor 3 compact speakers

Enceintes Dali Zensor 3The Dali Zensor 3 speaker is the second compact model from the Zensor series. Is this series, sold for a competitive price, a way to get a taste of the famous Danish sound? It is precisely what we wanted to find out, so we decided to give these speakers an extensive trial.

The Dali Zensor 3 is a 2-way speaker fitted with a 7″ medium/bass driver and a soft dome tweeter. Seeing such a large driver came as a surprise to us, especially regarding the size and the price of the Dali Zensor 3. Compact speakers fitted with drivers over 6.5″ are not only rare, they are also very pricey and not extremely generous in the lower frequencies. The Klipsch RB-81 MKII is a good example of this.

Le haut-parleur de grave de la Dali Zensor 3, d'un diamètre de 18 cm

The 7″ diameter bass driver of the Dali Zensor 3

It might seem paradoxical, but a “large” medium/bass driver doesn’t automatically deliver a high level of bass. What is important is to have a consequent amount of air due to the mechanical properties of the cone, surround and spider. Of course, there are exceptions. For instance, there are extremely small subwoofers with 6.3″ drivers loaded by passive transducers. Yet, the mass of the mobile parts and the cone’s long excursion prevent them from delivering convincing medium frequencies. In other words, a 7″ driver requires an important air volume, but it’s not the case with the Dali Zensor 3.

Why such a driver?

The reason why Dali decided to use a 7″ driver placed in a small air volume is linked to the transducer’s emissive surface. The higher-low and lower-medium frequencies benefit from a larger surface and the sound stage is expressed with greater density. Another positive aspect: the driver’s excursion is shorter than a smaller model’s, which enhances the transient regime and lowers the distortion for a similar sound level.

L'accord bass reflex est réalisé avec un évent circulaire flush et accordé vers 50 Hz

The port is tuned to 50 Hz and is situated at the back of the speaker

The Dali Zensor 3 in detail

Packed in one box, the Dali Zensor 3 speakers are shipped without any accessory, except for the pre-installed acoustic fabric covers. The models we tested were the walnut finish speakers. It’s not an actual wood coating but a vinyl finish of good quality. The wood texture is well imitated and the speakers don’t look cheap. The acoustic fabric grille is fastened to the front panel by four plastic fixings.

Objectively speaking, it is better to get rid of the cover to enjoy the elegant lacquered front panel and the contrasting red bass driver.

Les borniers à vis plaqués or peuvent être complètement dévissés

The gold-plated screw terminals can be unscrewed completely

Dali Zensor 3

 

Dali Zensor 3

Dali Zensor 3

The medium/bass driver features an uncommon membrane, made from red wood fibres. Its surface is uneven and reveals lighter coloured wood fibres. The dust cover is made from a special rubber and is seamlessly attached to the membrane. The soft dome tweeter is fitted on a damping component. A nice touch has been added with the outer basket frame cut to fit with the medium/bass driver.

Dali Zensor 3

The dome tweeter is installed on a decoupling fitting and its basket fits with the bass driver

At the back of the speaker is a flush circular port and a pair of screw terminals, compatible with gold plated banana plugs.

Specifications of the Dali Zensor 3

The Dali Zensor 3 has an impedance of 3 Ohms, a sensitivity of 88 dB /W/m and a frequency response ranging from 46 Hz to 26 kHz. The passive filter sets the speaker’s cut-off frequency at 2.6kHz. The power handling is 125 W, which corresponds to a maximum sound level of 108 dB.

Test conditions

We listened to the Dali Zensor 3 in a room measuring about 30m² with natural hard wood floor and an average amount of furniture. We used two different amplifiers to test these speakers: the Denon Ceol N8 and the Yamaha A-S2000. Two very different electronic systems with distinctive qualities which made it possible for us to truly hear what the Dali Zensor 3 was capable of.  One after the other, we hooked up these amplifiers to the speakers with Viard Audio Silver HD12 and Audioquest Rocket 88 cables. As for the musical sources, we listened to CD and studio quality FLAC files stored on a NAS. These were streamed in DLNA by the Denon Ceol N8 via our local network. We also added an Arcam rPAC DAC between the Synology NAS (via its USB output) and the Yamaha A-S2000 amplifier.

Le câble Viard Audio Silver HD12, toujours exemplaire de neutralité lors de nos écoutes

The Viard Audio Silver HD12 always proves itself to have exemplary neutral characteristics when we use it for our listening sessions

Listening impressions

The Dali Zensor 3 speakers need a long breaking-in period in order to be stable and to offer the audio experience for which they were designed. At first, without being unpleasant, these speakers seem to set the treble at the front of the sound stage while the bass sits in the back. Given how rigid the surround is, it’s quite normal at first.

The tweeter is particularly lively, yet it delivers a free-flowing and smooth sound. The sound of strings is well expressed which is immediately pleasing to the ear. The energy of the tweeter is put to good use by the Audioquest Rocket 88 cable which results in an amount of information that can be a little surprising during the break-in period. This specific feature stays with the speaker once it is settled, especially when used with the Denon Ceol N8 amplifier.

Le tweeter de l'enceinte Dali Zensor 3

The tweeter in the Dali Zensor 3 speaker

The lower-medium range surprises by its articulation and display of energy. Vocals come to the fore and strings sound great. Although its articulation is great, this speaker is a little short winded. The JBL Studio 530 speakers and their 5″ drivers are much more eloquent at around 60 Hz.

After about 10 hours, the Dali Zensor 3 starts delivering more convincing bass, especially when used with Viard Audio Silver HD12 cables as their neutrality in the higher frequency range leaves room for the lower end of the sound spectrum.

Used along with the Yamaha A-S2000, the Dali Zensor 3 speakers show a completely different face as the bass grows in intensity. In other words, to set this 7″ driver in motion in such an air volume, you will need a good amount of power.

Conclusions

The Dali Zensor 3 speakers will give you a clear and articulated listening experience with a beautiful energy in the lower-medium frequency range, medium and even high frequency range. Using neutral cables such as the Viard Audio or NorStone without silver coating, seems to be the best choice. A balanced hi-fi amplifier (NAD C316BEE, Cambridge Audio 351A) or a model able to supply a lot of power (Rega Brio R, NAD C356BEE, Arcam FMJ A19) is recommended, although the Denon Ceol N8 amplifier also worked really well. These speakers will definitely be interesting for jazz and classical music enthusiasts as they will fully appreciate the very good tweeter and the fullness of the lower-medium range.

This post is also available in: French

About the author

Tristan Jacquel

Tristan est rédacteur chez Son-Vidéo.com. Passionné de musique, d'acoustique et de high-tech, il réalise notamment les tests matériels pour notre blog.

4 Comments

  • Hi Dear,
    I would really appreciate if you could give me more information:
    How did you positioned dali zensor 3 in your listening room ? (distance from back and side walls)
    My room is about 33 m2 and i connected dali zensor 3 to marantz pm6005 and i use a cheap samsung dvd player and play mp3 320 via digital input.
    I can’t get a listenable sound from my system..! please give me more detailed information.
    thanks a lot.

    • No toe in ,it will make sound brighter . Make minimum 24″ distance on all side wall. Minimum 2 meter in between. That’s all I do for mine

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