“Fast, de­tailed, en­thu­si­as­tic”

FOR Ex­cel­lent sound; rhyth­mic and well timed; func­tion­al­ity AGAINST Needs care­ful po­si­tion­ing and part­ner­ing

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - First Tests -

“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 leŠ (pow­ered) speaker con­nects to its sib­ling via a sup­plied ca­ble

That el­e­gant base helps give the speak­ers a firm foun­da­tion

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