“Fast, detailed, enthusiastic”
FOR Excellent sound; rhythmic and well timed; functionality AGAINST Needs careful positioning and partnering
“It’s a clean, thoroughly articulate performance, with voices sounding warm, natural and filled with expression”
Sometimes in hi-fi you need perseverance to get the best results. But like most things that take a little effort, the rewards you’ll reap when you do are absolutely worth it.
The Dali Zensor 5 AXS are a bit like that. A powered pair of floorstanders, it’s in their nature to be up and running with minimum fuss. In many ways they are, but take care with set-up and these speakers will shine.
Brains and power
At a glance, the speakers themselves look just like their passive siblings save for a small LED on the left (master) speaker that tells you the input selected. This master speaker holds the brains of the set-up, including the 50W-per-channel Class D amplifier, a choice of inputs and the wireless components for Bluetooth.
Connect this speaker to mains power, then to its sibling, a standard Zensor 5 (cable included), and you're off.
Since the crossover remains passive, this is a powered set-up rather than truly active, splitting the amplified signal to the 13cm wood-fibre cone woofers and 25mm soft-dome tweeter in each cabinet.
There isn’t the biggest choice of inputs – just 3.5mm aux, digital optical and aptx Bluetooth – but that’s probably enough. It means you can hook up portable devices or a laptop via the mini-jack or Bluetooth, and a CD player or even your TV via the optical.
We set them up, connect our Cyrus CDI CD player and place them in our standard speaker position, well away from the rear wall of our testing room, toed in.
They are unmistakably Dali. Fast, detailed and enthusiastic, they offer a bigger, better sound than any one-box solution at this price. But there are niggles – the bass lacks punch and definition and the treble isn’t the most refined.
Then we try them close to the back wall, with no toe-in. Immediately the previously soft bass sounds more solid. Low notes have more definition to their leading edges and there’s more confidence in the lower register overall.
There could still be a touch more kick to the lower bass notes, but it’s an improvement over our first listen, and one that helps to deliver improved solidity and richness across the rest of the frequency range.
One grumble fixed, we address the next. Though the treble is calmer with the new placement closer to the wall, we still find it a touch too lively. We switch out the included speaker cable for something of better quality – we’d recommend the Awardwinning Chord Clearway at £10/m – and the difference is undeniable. The White Stripes song that had previously sounded hard and unrelenting still sounds suitably manic, but is better expressed.
It’s a credit to the 5 AXS just how transparent they are to every single component in your system, but that's also a consideration: you’re going to want to feed them the best source you can, and consider your cabling too.
We settle back for further listening and continue to be impressed. It’s a clean, thoroughly articulate performance, with voices sounding warm, natural and filled with expression. There’s loads of detail to enjoy and, while these aren’t the biggestsounding floorstanders we’ve heard at this level, they’re very spacious and handle scale and dynamics with verve.
The fun factor
Toning down that treble hasn’t taken away any of their ability to entertain either, with a fun and lively tone and a strong sense of timing even with complex rhythms.
We take a listen over Bluetooth and notice some expected compromises – it’s a smaller sound with some loss of detail – but it’s still an enjoyable listen that holds true to the 5 AXS’ cohesive and engaging musical character.
The Dali Zensor 5 AXS are a strong reminder that you can’t always judge hi-fi by its first listen. Running in and systemmatching are both very important, while taking care with placement and accessories can make all the difference too.
We liked the Zensor 5 AXS when we first heard them, but by the end of our time with them we loved them. They’re a real success, delivering all the convenience of a one-box solution in something altogether more hi-fi.
VERDICT All of the hi-fi with fewer of the boxes, the Zensor 5 AXS are a neat and convenient solution that sound superb
The le (powered) speaker connects to its sibling via a supplied cable
That elegant base helps give the speakers a firm foundation