Review: Dali Callisto 2C (with Hub)

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Test Dali Callisto 2C

Dali is entering the wireless hi-fi market with its new Dali Callisto range. The range is composed of the compact Dali Callisto 2C, the Dali Callisto 6C floorstanding speaker and a wireless preamplifier, necessary for the speakers to function. For our test, we paired the Dali Callisto 2C with the Dali Sound Hub.

For whom are these speakers designed’

With the Callisto 2C, Dali is targeting customers looking for an all-in-one solution to enjoy digital audio files (Bluetooth), digital sources (TV, CD player) and analog sources (DAP, turntable with integrated pre-amplifier). Dali is pushing the envelope even further by offering two expansion bays, of which one should allow for the addition of a Bluesound BluOS compatible streaming module. The second expansion bay might allow for multichannel audio diffusion via an HDMI source (Blu-ray player, multimedia player), as the Dali Sound Hub does not seem limited to stereo transmission.

In addition to its extensive functionality, the Dali Callisto 2C offers other serious indicators of an enjoyable listening experience: two tweeters, one of which is a folded ribbon tweeter.

Test Dali Callisto 2C
The Dali Sound Hub preamplifier.

What are the benefits of an active speaker?

The first advantage offered by an active speaker is that it makes buying an external amp unnecessary. Also, there is no need for speaker wire, which can be rather costly considering that cable quality has a direct impact on sound quality. But apart from these functional and esthetic benefits, an amplified speaker offers major acoustic advantages when properly implemented. First of all, the amplifier has been intentionally designed by the speaker manufacturer to be a good match for the speaker?s drivers. The coherence of the system is thus optimized, and the integrated DSP allows the user to precisely adjust the speaker?s frequency response and the signal’s phase. The risk of choosing a poor amplifier/speaker pair is thus eliminated. As a result, an active speaker such as the Dali Callisto 2C sounds exactly as the manufacturer intended it to sound.

Test Dali Callisto 2C
Each Dali Callisto 2C speaker is fitted with a row of LED lights to indicate the volume level.

Dali Callisto 2C: a 3-way compact speaker

3-way compact speakers are very rare, and apart from relatively inexpensive models from JBL, they are generally high-end models. For its part, the Dali Callisto 2C is fitted with one 6.5? midbass driver, one dome tweeter and one ribbon tweeter. Each is in charge of a precise frequency range. The ribbon tweeter handles hardly audible high frequencies beginning at 14 kHz. Considerably thinner and lighter than the dome, the ribbon tweeter is more responsive. It also significantly reduces the level of distortion in the highs while preserving their phase shift. The ribbon tweeter also ensures a wide diffusion angle thanks to its accordion-like structure.

Test Dali Callisto 2C
The Dali Callisto 2C speaker?s dual tweeters.

Concretely, the ribbon tweeter restitutes the harmonic frequencies which are so important for the coherence of fundamental frequencies as well as for the overall sense of timing. The Dali Callisto 2C has a sensitivity of 47 Hz – 32 kHz, which is both reasonably low for a speaker of this size and also impressively high.

Test Dali Callisto 2C
The Dali Callisto 2C speaker?s dome tweeter.
Test Dali Callisto 2C
The Dali Callisto 2C speaker?s ribbon tweeter.

Note that the 6.5? midbass driver?s very flexible surround points to a certain amount of agility in the lows.

Dali Sound Hub

Since the Dali Callisto 2C speakers are not equipped with wired terminals, they cannot work without the Dali Sound Hub wireless preamplifier. This compact preamplifier is fitted with stereo and mono pre-out outputs (for a Dali Sub C8-D subwoofer, for example) and is thus designed to be connected to a TV (dedicated 24/96 optical input), a CD player or Blu-ray player (second 24/96 optical input), or two analog sources (RCA and mini-jack inputs). Lastly, a Bluetooth receiver lets the user stream music from a computer or smartphone. Reminder: this wireless link does not ensure lossless quality, although Dali has chosen to use the best compression technology: aptX HD, aptX, AAC and SBC.

Test Dali Callisto 2C
The Dali Sound Hub, shown here with the FiiO M7 DAP, implements Bluetooth aptX HD compression technology.
Test Dali Callisto 2C
The Dali Sound Hub?s connectors.

On a practical note, the Dali Callisto Hub powers on automatically upon detection of an incoming signal, once the user holds and presses the source selection button. All inputs, including Bluetooth, can thus power on the amplifier when an audio signal is detected.

Dali Callisto 2C: test conditions and listening impressions

Setting up the speakers is very easy. First, you?ll need to power on the Dali Sound Hub, then press each speaker?s synchronization button, one after the other. The LCD display on each speaker and on the hub will then confirm the pairing. We used a sole source for our test: the brand new FiiO M7 DAP (coming soon), equipped with a line-level output, the excellent ESS DAC and a Bluetooth receiver compatible with Bluetooth aptX HD and Bluetooth aptX compression technologies. We thus used the Hub?s line-level input and Bluetooth receiver for our listening sessions.

Test Dali Callisto 2C
The Dali Sound Hub?s LCD display indicates which speakers are connected.

The Dali Callisto 2C?s sound signature sets itself apart for its exceptional transparency, especially in the mids and highs, where its effect is harmonious and flattering. The point of diffusion seems set back from the speakers, which deepens the soundstage. The restitution is smooth, with noticeable dynamic shifts and without any hint of harshness.

Lows: a consistent sense of depth, gratifying extension in the infrabass. The energy is evenly distributed, even at low volume levels.
Mids: a slight lack of fullness in the low mids, made up for by a lot of detail in the mids and upper mids, in addition to a genuine sense of transparency.
Highs: light and precise, not very directive, with smooth and convincing timbres.

Test Dali Callisto 2C
Each Dali Callisto 2C speaker is equipped with an LCD display. The user may press a button to identify the position of the speaker in relation to the listening position.

Dali Callisto 2C compared to?

KEF LS50 Wireless: the KEF is livelier and offers more punch in the lows. Its tone controls are a plus, as is the ability to stream in lossless format via a WiFi connection. On the other hand, the Dali Callisto ensures superior precision in the highs.

Elipson Prestige Facet 6B BT: The Elipson Prestige Facet 6B BT (Bluetooth) does not offer a lossless wireless connection, and less elaborate acoustic solutions make it a less expensive option. The Dali Callisto wins for its more refined restitution.

Conclusion

A decent amount of depth, combined with a consistent flair for subtlety, simple installation and the ability to be used as part of a multichannel system, the Dali Callisto 2C and Sound Hub hi-fi system has a lot to offer. It?s a shame that the Hub doesn’t integrate a Wi-Fi streamer and that we?ll need to wait for an extension card to be made available.

What we liked:

  • The depth and breadth of the restitution
  • The refined mids/highs
  • The possibility to upgrade to a larger wireless multichannel system
  • The Bluetooth aptX HD receiver

What we would have liked:

  • Tone controls (or a control app)
  • A Serial WiFi connection

Test Dali Callisto 2C

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