We had the privilege of being invited by the Danish brand Dali to visit its factory in the town of Nørager, giving our team the opportunity to take a look behind the scenes and watch the production process of the brand’s speakers. We were also able to enjoy listening sessions within Dali’s premises, during which we had the opportunity to rediscover the Dali Katch One soundbar, but also to preview the new Dali IO headphones.
Dali factory tour: a brief history
The brand Dali was founded in 1983 by Peter Lyngdorf, a big name in the world of hi-fi and the founder of Lyngdorf Audio. The name Dali is an acronym of “Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries” and the brand truly embodies these concepts thanks to many years spent developing speakers that bring together attractive designs and high-quality performance. Imprinted with an undeniable Danish identity, Dali’s speakers combine a typically Scandinavian product design with a rigorous acoustic design for a unique result. Each speaker is built with the same attention to detail and benefits from the brand’s expertise, from entry-level to high-end models.
A year after settling in Nørager in 1986, Dali presented its first high-end models with the Dali 40 and Dali 40 SE. Thanks to their reputation, Dali speakers began to be exported as early as 1990, which later led to the creation of a German branch (2001) and a UK branch (2004). Dali owes this success to the elegant design and acoustic performance of its speakers. It should be noted, however, that sales branches outside of Denmark are managed locally so as not to fall into a pattern of globalization.
A key factor that contributes to the unique sound of DALI speakers is the exclusive drivers designed and developed by the brand’s engineers and assembled in a controlled environment. We’ll come back to this shortly. Thanks to unique technologies developed to optimize the drivers, such as the use of proprietary SMC magnets, Dali is committed to providing speakers designed to reproduce music the way the artist intended.
The importance of the Danish identity and the brand’s audiophile approach are embedded in the DNA of Dali products. With many years of experience in acoustic speaker design, Dali’s catalog now includes soundbars, subwoofers, Atmos speakers, portable Bluetooth speakers, center speakers, home theater speakers, floorstanding speakers, compact speakers, wireless speakers and in-wall speakers.
Dali factory tour: drivers
It is important to note that Dali has two production sites: one in Nørager in Denmark, and the other in Ningbo, China. The Dali factory located in China is responsible for entry-level products and is under Danish management so that the products made there are subject to the same specifications and quality control as those made in the Danish factory. The components used in the assembly of Dali drivers are made in Germany according to strict specifications communicated by the brand. Why make these components in Germany? Simply because Dali prefers to rely on a specialist in this domain to ensure the use of high-quality parts. Each driver is then assembled manually using these components.
Most of the steps when assembling the drivers, as well as the baffles, are done by hand and each speaker receives the same attention to detail and care during assembly. The fact that the drivers are assembled on site means the brand has better control over the end result. By observing the way in which each component influences the entire driver, it is possible to adjust the end result precisely and therefore ensure that the driver meets the brand’s standards. It also provides more flexibility, as the drivers are all created with a particular speaker in mind. Dali doesn’t use standard drivers, only custom-made models that are assembled in the brand’s factory for each speaker. The assembly process follows a “comprehensive formula” which guarantees a high degree of consistency from one driver to another.
To ensure that production is even more efficient, six years ago Dali installed a robot that applies glue to the basket to attach the cone. The quantity of glue used is calculated during the development process so that it doesn’t affect how the driver works. In the case we observed, the quantity of glue used was set at 0.08 grams, which is very little. Using too much glue could make the cone more rigid and heavy. Too little glue could result in the cone coming away from the basket. Lastly, it is essential that the glue is applied in such a way that air does not circulate, thus avoiding vibrations and distortion caused by air leakage. This is why Dali uses a robot for this task.
Before being assembled, each driver is individually tested to ensure it meets the characteristics specified by Dali. A frequency response curve test station allows each driver to be evaluated by comparing a test signal to a reference curve. If the driver meets requirements, it is then labelled and is ready to be installed inside the cabinet of the speaker for which it was designed.
Dali factory tour: cabinets
Dali speaker cabinets are built from wood panels supplied by a subcontractor. However, the Danish company is currently working on installing a machine that will allow the panels to be made directly in the Nørager factory sometime in 2020. The panels used for the cabinets are made from multiple layers of MDF, a medium-density composite wood product used here to reduce resonance and coloration.
The MDF panels are marked at the factory then transferred to an assembly station. There, they are folded and glued before being left to set for 24 hours, ensuring the adhesive is perfectly dry. This folding assembly technique contributes to the meticulous design of Dali speakers as no screws or joints are visible once the cabinet is assembled.
Each cabinet is meticulously assembled and polished once the finish has been applied, and each driver is installed manually by Dali’s qualified workers. None of the speakers are produced on an automated assembly line and each is marked by the person who assembled it, guaranteeing that everything is truly done by hand.
Once fully assembled, the speakers are subjected to rigorous quality control tests that follow a set of criteria for each different speaker model. These criteria include resistance to humidity, extreme temperatures and excessive use. To carry out these tests, Dali uses a machine that submits the speakers to temperatures ranging from -40°C to +70°C with a humidity rate of up to 95%, as well as a UV resistance test. The purpose of these tests is to ensure that each DALI speaker can withstand the extreme conditions involved in transport without being damaged and without their performance being affected. Lastly, the speakers are subjected to a resistance test to check the durability of the drivers by placing them inside an isolated enclosure and connecting them to a 3000 watt amplifier.
Dali factory tour: technologies
During our visit of the Dali factory we had the opportunity to learn more about the brand’s approach to combining design and technology. These two key elements for Dali go hand in hand and influence each other. When designing Dali products, a balanced and optimized performance is essential. This approach inherited from industrial design consists in finding the best materials and most efficient solutions to ensure an audio experience without any noise or interference, so that only the music is left.
Dali drivers are developed on-site and the brand has been specialized in building magnetic systems for several years now. When the Epicon series was launched, Dali’s goal was to reduce sound coloration as much as possible. This is how the Advanced Soft Magnetic Compound or SMC magnet was developed. Made of compacted magnet granules to obtain a single solid element, the SMC magnet provides many advantages. It eliminates flow modulations in the magnet’s air-gap when the current generates a new “competing” flow. It also provides very high magnetic conductivity and very low electric conductivity, allowing distortion caused by mechanical loss of the magnetic system to be greatly reduced. In a traditional iron magnet system, the current in the voice coil modulates the flow inside the air-gap of the magnet. The flow modulation causes distortion and creates difficult working conditions for the voice coil. Using SMC therefore greatly reduces the distortion caused by flow variations generated by the current. This SMC technology is now used in many of Dali’s speakers, including the Dali Rubicon, Dali Opticon and Dali Oberon ranges.
The eddy current problem is found in most drivers. The movement of the voice coil generates magnetic fields localized around the magnet. Eddy currents are used in induction hobs for example, because it is a very fast and economical way to generate heat. But heat is not welcomed in a driver because it distorts the audio signal.
The very low electric conductivity of Soft Magnetic Compound magnets limits eddy currents, which reduces the thermal diffusion and resistance usually generated by these currents. As a result, distortion is greatly reduced, resulting in a clearer and more detailed restitution of the signal. Today, this patented technology can be found in the Dali Callisto, Opticon and Oberon speakers.
Since 2002 and the release of the Dali Euphonia speaker range, the Danish brand also stands out for its use of a unique hybrid module combining a soft dome tweeter and a ribbon tweeter. This pairing gets the best out of both tweeters which start working at 2.5kHz and continue well over 30kHz. Other than the wide frequency response, the key advantage of this hybrid module is that it reduces distortion while providing an extremely wide dispersion angle. Therefore, it is no longer necessary to precisely direct the speakers towards the listening area. The listener can benefit from an optimal restitution, no matter where they are in the room. For these different reasons, the hybrid tweeter is used in many speakers, including the Dali Opticon 5, Dali Opticon 6, Dali Opticon 8, Dali Rubicon 5, Dali Rubicon 6, Dali Rubicon 8, Dali Callisto 6 C, Dali Opticon Vokal, and Dali Rubicon Vokal.
Dali factory tour: listening session
We finished our visit of the Dali factory with a listening session, during which we listened to the Dali Katch One soundbar in both cinema and music mode. Incidentally, we had the opportunity to test this system in our office, so you can find out more about this elegant and compact soundbar by reading our review of the Dali Katch One.
We also had the privilege of discovering the first headphones designed by the Danish brand, the Dali IO-4 and IO-6. True to its reputation, Dali provides two models with an elegant design and a clear and detailed restitution. These closed-back over-ear headphones are Bluetooth aptX HD compatible, and also provide a wired or USB connection for non-compatible devices and for when the headphones’ battery runs out. The Dali IO-6 headphones are different from the IO-4 in that they feature an active noise cancellation system that reinforces an already satisfactory passive isolation for use in public transport or any other noisy environment. Very comfortable, these two pairs of headphones don’t exert any undesirable pressure on your head or ears and provide a smooth sound that doesn’t generate any audio fatigue during long listening sessions.
The icing on the cake was when we listened to the Dali Epicon 8 speakers. These impressive 3-way floorstanding speakers are equipped with the brand’s drivers and benefit from SMC technology. Their hybrid tweeter (ribbon + dome) ensures detailed, transparent and aerial highs. To drive these high-end speakers, Dali pulled out all the stops and paired them with a Dali Gravity amplifier. This imposing Class A amplifier, which can deliver up to 1000 watts, was only produced for a very short period and didn’t find an audience in the European market.
We would like to thank the Dali team for giving us the opportunity to visit their factory, observe how their speakers are built and discover/rediscover their products with their unique design and performance.
Here are some photos of our Dali factory tour: