Dali Menuet Special Edition review: small, compact speakers offering a wide soundstage…

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The Dali Menuet Special Edition speaker is a small 2-way, bass-reflex compact speaker equipped with a 1” tweeter and a midbass driver with a diameter of only 4.5”. It is an improved version of the Dali Menuet speaker that received multiple awards from the specialist press. The Dali Menuet SE differs with its genuine walnut finish, its improved crossover and the midbass driver’s new voice coil.

Sold for 1400 euros a pair, will this speaker be able to effectively convey the music despite its small size?

Very compact, the Dali Menuet SE speaker features a special finish with a varnished walnut veneer.

Dali Menuet Special Edition: the brand

DALI is an acronym that stands for Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries. The company was founded in 1983 by Peter Lyngdorf, a true audiophile icon, founder of the Lyngdorf Audio brand and co-founder of the Scandinavian chain store Hi-Fi Klubben. With Dali, Peter Lyngdorf’s goal was to design speakers that offered a natural and accurate sound at competitive prices.

In addition to the technical aspect in driver design, Dali pays particular attention to the design and finish of its loudspeakers, which is immediately visible when looking at the Dali Menuet Special Edition speakers we tested here.

Today, Dali is 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. You can read a brief history of the brand and discover the entire production process of Dali’s speakers and drivers in our article covering our tour of the Dali factory located in the Danish town of Nørager.

An aerial view of the Dali factory in Nørager, Denmark.

Over the years, Dali’s catalog has grown considerably and now includes compact speakers, Atmos speakers, center speakers, cinema speakers, floorstanding speakers and in-wall speakers. To adapt to current listening habits and trends, Dali has recently begun producing portable Bluetooth speakers, soundbars, Bluetooth headphones and connected speakers.

Dali Menuet Special Edition: packaging & accessories

The Dali Menuet Special Edition speakers come in a small cardboard box (40 x 30 x 33cm) inside of which they are held in place by two blocks of polystyrene. Each speaker is protected by its own white synthetic fabric cover.

As well as the two speakers and acoustic fabric grilles, the manufacturer has included a set of adhesive anti-slip pads, a microfiber cloth to clean the speakers, a user manual, a booklet about the walnut finish and a card to register the product on the manufacturer’s website.

Dali Menuet Special Edition: presentation

The Dali Menuet Special Edition speaker is a two-way model with a bass-reflex enclosure. It has the same specs as the Dali Menuet model, but differs visually with its genuine walnut finish. This speaker’s crossover has also been entirely updated with new high-end components and the midbass driver features a new voice coil.

The Dali Menuet Special Edition compact speakers is a 2-way, bass-reflex model with a genuine walnut finish.

The Dali Menuet Special Edition is extremely compact as it is only 25cm high, 15cm wide and 23cm deep (without the grille). Its very small footprint means it can be easily placed on a shelf or speaker stand. It is even possible to wall mount the speaker without compromising your decor.

By placing the Dali menuet SE speaker beside the Jean-Marie Reynaud Magic break-in CD, you can see just how compact it is!

Genuine walnut finish

The Dali Menuet SE speakers are covered with a genuine walnut veneer.

As soon as we unboxed them, we were impressed by the finish quality of the Dali Menuet Special Edition compact speakers. The type of wood used for the veneer (real walnut) and the high gloss protective varnish won’t be to everyone’s taste, but one thing is certain, the cabinetry is magnificent and is guaranteed to create a “wow” effect. This speaker is very elegant and visually pleasing. The manufacturer explains that the veneer is chosen in a way that the finish of each pair of speakers is as similar as possible, which is something we observed with the Dali Menuet Special Edition speakers we received for this review. These speakers are meticulously assembled by hand, tested and packaged by the same Dali employee to ensure the highest quality throughout the production process. After a rigorous visual and musical quality control check, each Dali Menuet Special Edition speaker receives a brass plate bearing the initials of the DALI employee responsible for assembling it.

The Danish manufacturer has taken care to match the walnut panels used for the veneer of each Dali Menuet SE speaker.

4.5” midbass driver, bass-reflex enclosure

The Dali Menuet SE speaker’s 4.5” midbass driver features a dark red cellulose fiber cone, characteristic of the brand’s speakers.

The Dali Menuet Special Edition compact speaker’s midbass driver has a diameter of 4.5”. Its cellulose fiber cone is equipped with a curved dust cap and is mounted on a roll surround that provides a long throw. This design allows the driver to move a sufficiently large quantity of air and produce satisfactory bass levels. The midbass driver also benefits from a bass-reflex enclosure with a port that is directly integrated into the panel that holds the terminals on the back of the speaker and is tuned at 63Hz.

Very original if not unique, the Dali Menuet SE speaker’s bass-reflex port is directly integrated into the plate that holds the terminals.

The Dali Menuet Special Edition speaker can go as low as 59Hz with remarkable bass levels and acoustic pressure for a speaker of this size.

Another of this driver’s advantages is its new fiberglass voice coil that reduces mechanical loss and minimizes distortion during periods of intense use. This 4.5” driver benefits from powerful motorization and can handle up to 100 watts RMS.

1” tweeter

The Dali Menuet SE speaker has a 1” soft coated fabric dome tweeter.

The Dali Menuet Special Edition speaker’s 1” tweeter has a soft fabric dome that is equipped with a powerful neodymium magnet and is cooled by an aluminum heatsink. In order to accommodate the two drivers inside the small enclosure, the manufacturer has designed a specific mounting support. The support also brings the emission point of the two drivers closer together, thereby producing a more coherent sound.

Audiophile crossover

The filtering and transmission of frequencies is handled by a set of carefully selected audiophile components (Mundorf capacitor, large-diameter copper self inductance coil…). The crossover’s components are wired using silver-plated OFC copper DALI cables.

The Dali Menuet SE speaker’s crossover is simply composed of self inductance coils and a few audiophile components. It is directly mounted onto the plate that holds the terminals. To the right, you can see the cylinder of the port.

High-end terminals

The Dali Menuet Special Edition speaker uses the same gold-plated terminals as the speakers from the prestigious Dali Epicon range. Compatible with spade connectors and banana plugs, they can accommodate speaker cables with a diameter of up to 4mm. Very robust, these terminals also offer an excellent grip, which makes them easy to manipulate.

The Dali Menuet SE speaker’s screw terminals are of very high quality. The contacts are gold-plated.

Key specifications

Design

  • Compact 2-way speaker
  • Enclosure: bass-reflex
  • Real wood cabinetry
  • Audiophile crossover with Mundorf capacitors

Drivers

  • Tweeter: 1” soft fabric dome
  • Midbass driver: 4.5” wood fiber cone

Measurements

  • Frequency response (+/- 3dB): 59Hz to 25kHz
  • Sensitivity: 86dB
  • Nominal impedance: 4 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 105dB
  • Recommended power handling capacity: 20 to 100W
  • Crossover frequency: 3000Hz

General

  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 150 x 250 x 230mm
  • Unit weight: 4.1kg

Dali Menuet Special Edition: listening conditions

The Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D connected amplifier that powered the Dali Menuet SE speakers during our test.

For our review of the Dali Menuet Special Edition speakers, we connected them to the Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D connected amplifier using QED XT40i speaker cables mounted with banana plugs. We decoupled the speakers from the NorStone Stylum 2 stands they were placed on using NorStone Damp 50 anti-vibration pads. The installation was set up in a living room that was approximately 40m².

Once the amplifier was connected to the local network and to the internet, we were able to listen to our Qobuz and Deezer playlists via the MusicCast app, as well as several Hi-Res tracks shared over the local network.

We used a pair of QED XT40i speaker cables mounted with banana plugs to connect the speakers to the amplifier.

Dali Menuet Special Edition: listening impressions

“Preach” – Maverick Sabre (When I Wake Up – 2019)

The opening of this track is a good test to gauge a speaker’s ability to distribute sound. From the very first notes, the artist’s voice creates an echo that spreads out horizontally and, above all, vertically. Then comes the piano to the left, the guitar to the right, the backing vocals (first at the far left and then on the left and right) and the bass at the center. The Dali Menuet Special Edition speaker was perfectly capable of accurately reproducing this recording and positioning each element where it belonged.

Moreover, the artist’s voice was particularly well-reproduced, with texture and substance. The cymbals were clear and soft, the guitar notes at the end of the track were well-defined and perfectly structured. The song was restituted with great transparency and we were immediately transported.

The nuanced lows had great impact and proved to be consistently energetic and tight. The dynamic midbass driver wasn’t reserved and displayed remarkable skill, even though it didn’t go as low as a larger model would have.

“The Love That You Had” – Tracy Chapman (Matters of the Heart – 1992)

The Dali Menuet Special Edition speakers provide this track with a beautifully wide soundstage and realistic timbres. The resonance of the drumheads at the beginning of the track was admirable, despite a slight lack of depth in the lows. Manu Katché’s cymbals were lively and precise, the bass and acoustic guitar accurately positioned. The nuance and intensity of Tracy Chapman’s voice were excellently rendered. It was as if we were in the audience.

“What Kinda Music” – Tom Misch (What Kinda Music – 2020)

With this track, which is rhythmed by strong percussion and very deep synths, the Dali Menuet Special Edition speakers naturally fell a little short in the low end of the spectrum. However, the general energy of the song remained intact. The speakers were never slow and the rhythm was always perfectly controlled. The string instruments and the artist’s voice were flawlessly reproduced.

Dali Menuet Special Edition: compared to…

Davis Acoustics Courbet N°3: aesthetically speaking, these little French speakers are just as elegant as the Dali Menuet Special Editions, although they are more classic-looking and understated. Sound-wise, the Dali speakers seemed more responsive and dynamic, with a little more impact in the lows when used with an amplifier that has a solid power supply. Their sensitivity rating of only 87dB makes them slightly harder to drive than the Davis speakers (90dB). 

Monitor Audio Studio: this small British speaker is slightly taller and deeper than the Dali Menuet SE, and with reason: it is equipped with two 4” drivers above and below the tweeter. Just as demanding in terms of amplification as the Dali speakers, the Monitor Audio Studio speakers deliver a more “timid” and ultimately less exciting sound.

Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia Jubilé: these two speakers provide a sound that is both dynamic and natural, but also soft and precise. One could argue that the Folia Jubilé’s timbres are more realistic than those of the Dali Menuet SE. Overall, these two speakers stand out from the competition with their beautifully spacious soundstages, remarkable balance across the entire frequency range, and strong and responsive lows. 

Dali Menuet Special Edition: conclusion

Before we began our review of the Dali Menuet Special Edition speakers, we were worried the soundstage would feel narrow. We also expected the music to lack some substance and texture. However, these preconceptions caused by the cabinet and midbass driver’s modest size quickly disappeared when we began our listening session. 

What struck us first was the spaciousness of the soundstage. The music unfolded naturally, both horizontally and vertically, with precisely positioned levels. We were also impressed by the multitude of details the speakers were able to reproduce with refinement and transparency. The soft dome fabric tweeter is precise, energetic and nuanced, and consistently smooth. It isn’t too directional, which meant that we didn’t have to toe-in the speakers too much and that they were easy to place. The sweet spot is pretty wide, making it possible for several listeners seated on a sofa to enjoy consistent sound quality.  

The soft dome tweeter benefits from a rather wide dispersion angle that makes the Dali Menuet SE speaker easy to position.

We were also surprised by the lows. Powerfully motorized, the Dali Menuet SE’s “small” 4.5 inch driver does an excellent job. Although it doesn’t go very low (59Hz) and sometimes lacks density, the bass is very lively and responsive. It effectively defines the tempo and proves to be nuanced and precise.

We were pleasantly surprised by the Dali Menuet SE speaker’s small 4.5” midbass driver.

By adjusting the amplifier’s equalizer slightly, it is possible to gain a few decibels in the low end of the spectrum. However, any adjustments should be minor, otherwise the driver may be overloaded or even saturated when pushed too far.

The limitations of these speakers in the lows may leave some listeners wanting more. To address this issue, the Dali Menuet Special Edition speakers can be paired with a subwoofer, even if it is only a small model. In our opinion, the Rel Acoustics T-Zero is an ideal match, or a more imposing model such as the Rel Acoustics T-9i (read our review of the Rel Acoustics T-9i) could work if the crossover frequency is adjusted to around 70-80Hz. The result will be a high-quality system capable of competing with large floorstanding speakers.

What we liked 

  • The superb finish
  • The ease of placement (low directivity)
  • The spacious soundstage
  • The rich tones and level of detail
  • The surprising lows for such a small driver

What we would have liked

  • To have kept them for longer!

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Traductrice et rédactrice avec des goûts très éclectiques en matière de musique et de cinéma. Lorsque je ne suis pas au travail, vous pouvez me retrouver en train de regarder “Lost in Translation” de Sofia Coppola pour la centième fois, ou d’écouter un disque de David Bowie, Kate Bush, Joy Division ou Daft Punk sur ma platine Rega Planar 1. Étant d’origine britannique, je suis également adepte de séries à l’humour absurde comme Monty Python’s Flying Circus et The Mighty Boosh !

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