This week we reviewed the Dali Katch One soundbar, an adaptable model that can be used as both a wireless speaker and a TV speaker. Sold for €749, the Dali Katch One houses 10 drivers powered by four 50 watt amplifiers inside an elegant Danish design. Named “Best TV sound system 2019-2020” by EISA, the Dali Katch One speaker promises a powerful and realistic restitution of music and soundtracks.
Dali Katch One: the brand
Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries, better known as DALI, was founded in 1983 by Peter Lyngdorf, a true audio genius who is also behind the brand Lyngdorf Audio and is the co-founder of the Scandinavian chain store Hi-Fi Klubben. Since the very beginning of the brand, DALI’s engineers have been striving to design drivers and speakers that offer exceptional performance and natural sound at competitive prices. By achieving this goal, the brand gained a solid reputation in the hi-fi world in the mid 80s. It is during this period that the Dali 2 was released, a two-way speaker featuring a woofer with a 6” cone and a tweeter with a 1” soft polypropylene dome. The Dali 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 series closely followed the design and sound signature of the Dali 2.
In addition to the technical and musical aspect, Dali also rapidly stood out from the competition by placing a lot of importance on the design of its loudspeakers. The first models to feature a unique design were the Dali DaCapo speakers, ultra-slim floorstanders featuring an impressive 0.5” x 39” ribbon tweeter to accurately reproduce the true atmosphere of the recording location and the musicians’ position on the stage.
In 2002, Dali released the Dali Euphonia speaker range. They featured a new hybrid module that combined a soft dome tweeter and a ribbon tweeter. This association greatly reduced distortion and provided very wide dispersion. Consequently, there was no longer any need to direct the speakers towards the listening zone. The listener could enjoy an optimal restitution, throughout the entire room. This hybrid tweeter was a huge success and became a trademark of the Dali brand. It is still used on many speakers today, including the Dali Opticon 5, Dali Opticon 6, Dali Opticon 8, Dali Rubicon 5, Dali Rubicon 6, Dali Rubicon 8, Dali Callisto 6C, Dali Opticon Vokal, Dali Rubicon Vokal and Dali Rubicon LCR.
Today, Dali products are distributed in over 70 different countries. The brand designs and handcrafts its own drivers and passive filters to meet very precise specifications that are constantly evolving. The Danish manufacturer has a tradition of “versioning” its speakers, which are renewed according to the insight of its customers. Over the years, the brand has continued to grow and now offers an extensive catalog: compact speakers, Atmos speakers, center speakers, home theater speakers, floorstanding speakers, wireless speakers, in-wall and in-ceiling speakers, portable Bluetooth speakers and soundbars.
Dali Katch One: packaging and accessories
The Dali Katch One soundbar comes in a long cardboard box and is protected by thick sheets of polystyrene. It comes with a remote control and batteries, a power cable, an elegant wall mount support and two wooden feet.
Dali Katch One: presentation
As soon as it is out of the box, the Dali Katch One wireless speaker leaves no doubt as to its origin: the esthetic codes of the brand are present. Its design is heavily reminiscent of that of the iconic Dali Katch portable Bluetooth speaker. The Dali Katch One speaker features a front grill with a honeycomb structure and an ABS and polycarbonate composite cabinet. Directly inherited from the research carried out for the design of the Dali Fazon speakers, this blend reduces the thickness of the structure while effectively reducing vibrations and internal resonance. Therefore, the Dali Katch One is only 69mm thick. This is a real technical achievement that means that the speaker can be seamlessly integrated on a piece of furniture and is easy to wall-mount.
On top of the Dali Katch One soundbar is the control interface that lets you turn the speaker on, select the source, activate Bluetooth pairing and activate one of two DSP modes. These two modes allow you two adjust the width of the soundstage. We’ll go into more detail about these DSP modes later in our review. Lastly, four LED lines surround the speaker’s power button, indicating the volume level. This can be adjusted by pressing the “+” and “-” buttons at the right side of the control interface.
All of the controls present on the top of the Dali Katch One are also accessible via the included remote control. The latter is relatively compact and is pleasant to hold. Selecting the source, changing the volume, etc. is carried out very smoothly.
Regarding connectors, the Dali Katch One includes an HDMI ARC input. This means that the PCM audio signal of a TV program can be sent to the soundbar. Conveniently, the Dali Katch One’s HDMI input is CEC compatible, which means it can be controlled using the television’s remote control. When the television is turned on, so is the speaker and when the TV is turned off, the speaker goes into standby mode. Its volume can also be managed using the TV’s remote control. In addition to its HDMI ARC input, the Dali Katch One also has two digital optical inputs and an analog mini-jack input. Therefore, it is possible to connect it to many different sources, including UHD 4K Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, network audio streamers and even set top boxes. The subwoofer also includes a subwoofer output (RCA mono) to connect an external subwoofer.
Inside the cabinet, the Dali Katch One Bluetooth speaker benefits from the Danish brand’s hi-fi expertise. There are 10 drivers, including two 1” soft fabric dome tweeters for reproducing the highs. They are joined by four 3.5” mid-bass drivers that feature a fabric dome and aluminum cone. Two are situated on the front of the speaker, and the other two are rear-facing. These drivers are installed in a sealed enclosure and work alongside four 4.5” passive radiators that are also situated at the front and at the back of the Dali Katch One. This system provides powerful and dynamic bass.
Both of the Dali Katch One’s tweeters are driven by their own Class-D amplifiers rated at 50W. The four mid-bass drivers are paired with two other 50W amps. Consequently, the Katch One boasts a maximum output power of 200 watts and a maximum SPL of 101dB. By using amplifiers for each type of driver, Dali is able to carry out electronic filtering to guide the frequencies to be sent to each channel. This type of filtering is more precise than classic passive filtering and as a result, the Dali Katch One demonstrates remarkable accuracy from 46Hz to 25kHz.
Dali Katch One: aptX Bluetooth
More than just a soundbar, the Dali Katch One can also be used as a Bluetooth speaker to stream music from any smartphone, tablet, DAP or computer. Therefore, it is possible to stream music saved on the internal memory of your device or played via an online music service such as Deezer, Spotify Qobuz, Tidal and Amazon Music. The Dali Katch One’s Bluetooth controller is compatible with the aptX codec to ensure high-quality transmission with compatible sources.
Dali Katch One: DSP
The Dali Katch One soundbar features two DSP modes: Focus and Wide. These two modes may be selected via the control interface situated on the top of the speaker or directly via the remote control. The Focus mode limits the width of the soundstage to the dimensions of the speaker whilst highlighting vocals. It is particularly suited to talk shows, news programs and documentaries, for example. The Wide mode is designed to broaden the soundstage and spatialization. This second DSP mode is therefore the one that should be the most appropriate for plunging us into the heart of action scenes and concerts.
Dali Katch One: configuration
The Dali Katch One speaker is incredibly easy to set up, in particular thanks to its ingeniously designed accessories. If the speaker is placed on a shelf or a piece of furniture, you simply need to insert the wooden feet into the holes. These holes have a rubber finish to avoid transferring vibrations. A strip of damping material is also present under each foot. The Dali Katch One can also be wall-mounted. To do this, Dali provides two wall-mounting supports. Each support is mounted on the wall using a single screw. Once the supports are installed, the Dali Katch One soundbar is held in place by two elegant leather straps. These straps clip onto the wall supports, allowing the soundbar to be easily attached to and taken off the wall according to your needs.
Once the speaker is installed, you simply need to connect the different sources (TV, CD player, etc.), then plug it into the mains for it to be instantly functional. It is also very easy to pair it to a Bluetooth device. Simply press the Bluetooth button on the speaker or the remote control, then assign the Dali Katch One speaker as a receiver in the Bluetooth settings of the device from which you want to stream your music.
Dali Katch One: listening impressions
First, we tested the Dali Katch One’s musical performance in Bluetooth mode. On the very first track we listened to, we were impressed by the power of this Dali soundbar and by the sound quality. The Wide mode proved to be the most pleasant by bringing a sense of openness and space to the music. The soundstage seemed much wider, the different sound layers were expertly arranged and the overall sound was no longer limited to the proportions of the speaker. On Feist’s song One Evening, the singer’s voice was very centered. It was natural, transparent and incredibly smooth. These qualities could also be heard on Joao Gilberto’s track Para Machuchar Meu Coracao, a song bursting with minute details, which were all perfectly reproduced, even the most subtle ones. The Dali Katch One speaker was undeniably musical, even with tracks that are hard to reproduce. The multitude of saturated guitar notes on ZZ Top’s La Grange would make many systems falter, but the Katch One remained composed and managed to accurately reproduce them, without an ounce of aggressiveness. The bass was deep and powerful, so much so that we didn’t feel the need to connect a subwoofer to the Katch One for this hi-fi listening session.
The Wide mode proved to be the most pleasant by bringing a sense of openness and space to the music.
We then connected the Dali Katch One to the HDMI ARC port of an LG OLED television using an Audioquest Cinnamon HDMI cable. The source used was the Pioneer UDP-LX500 UHD 4K Blu-ray player that was connected to the TV using a Norstone Jura HDMI cable. That way, we were able to test the Dali Katch One’s performance as a soundbar. Just like during our hi-fi test, the Dali Katch One’s Wide mode was the most convincing. On the Mad Max: Fury Road Blu-ray, the different lateral sound effects during the car chase scene were expertly spatialized. The soundtrack was also very well restituted, without ever overshadowing the smallest details. The lows were powerful and deep, but sometimes lacked intensity during the violent explosions. Consequently, we added a REL Acoustics T-9i subwoofer to bring more substance to the sound. Conveniently, the Dali Katch One soundbar automatically deactivates its woofers when connected to a subwoofer.
Still connected to an LG OLED television, we decided to finish by testing the Dali Katch One soundbar’s performance with video game soundtracks. With the game Gran Turismo, the purring engines were very realistic without having to use an external subwoofer. The Katch One provided a great deal of dynamism and accurately reproduced the slightest impacts on the cars. We were right in the heart of the game.
Dali Katch One: compared to…
Bose Soundbar 700: featuring five frontal drivers framed on the left and the right by tiny drivers responsible for delivering surround effects, the Bose SoundBar 700 provides more extensive spatialization than the Dali Katch One. It also features many other advantages, including compatibility with WiFi, AirPlay 2, Deezer and Spotify. It is easier to control thanks to the integration of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. However, the Bose soundbar is much less musical. For hi-fi listening, the Dali soundbar is able to reproduce much more detail and minute nuances. The Dali Katch One is also warmer and smoother.
Dali Kubik One: while the Dali Katch One is impressive thanks to its precision, the Kubik One goes further by providing an even wider stereophonic image. The spaciousness and layering of the different sound layers could almost trick you into thinking that you are listening to a pair of traditional speakers. However, the Kubik One doesn’t include an HDMI input. It is therefore necessary to use one of the two optical inputs to connect it to the TV. Other than that, the overall sound signature is very similar to that of the Katch One. The Dali Katch One also has the upper hand regarding integration, as it has a smaller footprint and, as a result, is easier to place on a TV stand or mount on a wall.
Sonos Playbar: with nine drivers (six midrange drivers and three tweeters) each driven by their own digital amplification module, the Sonos PLAYBAR is the Dali Katch One’s true rival. Even though it isn’t quite as musical, its extensive network connectivity and multiroom option make it a much more versatile soundbar. It is compatible with many online music services and can even be paired with a Sonos SUB subwoofer and Sonos PLAY:1 speakers to create a wireless 5.1 home theater system.
Dali Katch One: conclusion
The Dali Katch One impressed us with its ability to perfectly reproduce the slightest details in music and movies. The soundstage is wide and each element is perfectly spatialized. The dialogues and voices are nicely centered and remain completely legible and clear, even when there are many other sound effects coming from all over the soundstage. The bass is deep and more than satisfactory for hi-fi listening. In a home theater setup, however, we preferred to pair it with an external subwoofer to enjoy more substance during explosive scenes. The only fly in the ointment is the height of the Katch One, as it hides the bottom of the television when placed on a TV stand. Consequently, it is necessary to install it on a lower shelf or to raise the television if you wish to use the Dali Katch One as a soundbar.
What we liked:
- The extraordinary musicality
- The output power
- The Wide mode DSP
What we would have liked:
- For it to have been compatible with Dolby and DTS formats