For those who are tight on space, the choice of speakers is pretty limited. One of our favourite options in this situation is the long-running Dali Menuet range. We originally reviewed them around a decade ago and they have remained essentially unchanged since then.
Rather than replace them, Dali has now added this SE model. It’s clear that the company didn’t want to mess with a winning recipe, so the changes are relatively subtle.
On the outside, there’s a lovely Wild Walnut real wood veneer covered in an immaculately applied high gloss finish. It’s the only option at the moment, whereas the original version of this speaker still comes in four finishes – high gloss in either black or white, light walnut and something called Rosso.
The rest of the tiny 25cm tall cabinet remains unchanged. It’s about a big as a shoebox and feels immensely solid. Overall build is excellent, and we can’t think of a similarly priced alternative that does better.
Frequency range 59Hz - 25kHz
Impedance 4 ohms
Crossover frequency 3kHz
Dimensions (hwd) 25 x 15 x 23cm
The drive unit complement is the same as before. That 11.5cm mid/bass driver uses the company’s favoured wood fibre cone material, which is claimed to give a good balance between rigidity, low weight and damping properties. This unit has been designed to cope with wide ranging dynamics so the chassis design is as open as possible to help with airflow when things are really pumping.
At 28mm in diameter, the dome tweeter is fairly typical, but is claimed to be around 30 per cent lighter than similar designs, which helps in its ability to track the input signal.
The biggest change in engineering terms is the upgraded crossover that links the two drive units. This is now built on a higher quality circuit board that reduces electrical interference. The circuit features some pretty flash Mundorf capacitors, the type more usually seen only on high-end speakers costing many thousands of pounds. A set of high-grade single-wire terminals complete the design.
These Menuet SEs are rated at 86dB/W/m and have a nominal impedance of 4 ohms, so will perform best with an amplifier with a decent amount of grunt. We think something like Cambridge’s CXA81 would be a good starting point. You’ll need a similarly capable source, otherwise these Dalis will bite with aggressive recordings or partnering equipment.
They work best close to a rear wall. In our test room we settle on around 20cm out from the wall, but it pays to experiment. Go too far and the speakers start to sound a little insubstantial and lack solidity. Also, make sure you fire the Menuets straight ahead, rather than angling towards the listening position. Dali always designs its speakers to sound better when positioned this way.
Our review samples sound a little bright and forward straight from the box, but things settle down after we run them for a few days.
The Menuet SE are impressively fast and responsive performers. We can’t think of an alternative that sounds so precise or agile. We play Dvorak’s New World Symphony and are pleased by their ability to render masses of detail and organise it in a musically convincing manner.
These Dalis are dynamic and generate a sense of scale that’s out of keeping with their modest dimensions. They image well, producing an expansive, well-focused soundstage. There’s also a pleasing lack of restraint to the presentation that makes music exciting and entertaining.
Speakers this small are never going to dig particularly deep at low frequencies, but when positioned close to a wall these Dalis do better than expected. They cover their tracks well enough that a lack of bass isn’t a big issue in smaller rooms.
If you go looking for it, the shortfall of bass muscle shows through in a lack of sonic authority and the inability to reproduce enough of the power of an orchestra to truly convince. But we can forgive that, given the Menuet’s compact stature. No one should buy speakers of this size and expect floor-shaking bass or class-leading sonic authority.
Tonally, things are nicely judged. There’s a pleasing richness to the midband that gives the sound a decent dose of solidity. The treble is a little forward, but remains refined and well integrated as long as the speakers are carefully partnered.
We switch to High Hopes by Bruce Springsteen and the Dalis shine. They have an explicit and well-projected midrange that makes the most of Springsteen’s passionate vocals. His voice comes through with a level of texture and nuance that’s hard to better at this price. These Menuets really excel with voices.
They can party too, conveying rhythms with precision and drive, and having enough in the way of punch to satisfy. Given appropriate source material, these boxes deliver a thrilling listen that brims with energy.
These Dalis are tiny speakers, and that means bigger alternatives will invariably give more when it comes to low-end muscle, sonic authority and dynamic reach. But, when it comes to detail, agility and dynamic expression, particularly in the midrange, these are as good as it gets for the price.
If you’re tight for listening space, these Dali Menuet SEs could be the speakers you’ve been waiting for.
- Sound 5
- Compatibility 4
- Build 5
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