This one needs no introduction, but deserves one nonetheless. The Dali Zensor 1 5.1 package is our reigning champion.
Not only has it won Awards in the £700-£1500 arena, it has also been our traditional speaker packages Product of the Year for two years in a row. It will take something spectacular to knock down these Danish warriors.
In the package are two pairs of Dali Zensor 1 standmounters, former Award-winners in their own right. Accompanying them is the Zensor Vokal centre and the E-9F subwoofer. Together they run like clockwork. What you get is arguably the most stunningly entertaining sound this money can buy.
MORE: Awards 2014 - Best speaker packages
It’s a fluid, dynamic performance that soars with excitement before easily dropping right down for a bit of hush-hush. We put on a Blu-ray of Whiplash to watch JK Simmons torment a drumming Miles Teller.
The Dalis have no problem shifting up from Teller’s tearful sniffing to Simmons’ seething barks. It’s 0-60 in less time than you can say ‘oooh’. There is plenty of pop, to the extent that ‘lively’ really doesn’t quite cut it.
It’s not all about the excitement, though. The Dalis are as articulate as they are expressive, and demonstrate great attention to detail.
Dialogue is delivered with insight and there is as much subtle texture as you like, from the rustling of sheet music to the leading edges of a full orchestra.
Combine this level of nuance with the strong, far-reaching dynamics and you have yourself a thoroughly invigorating listen. This is good, sophisticated fun.
It also helps that whole package is beautifully integrated. It’s a uniform presentation. Sound effects that travel across the room maintain a consistency of character. That includes the subwoofer, which is authoritative yet articulate. It’s fast, precise, and a seamless part of the ensemble.
MORE: Dali Zensor 1 review
As for the physical side of things, what you get matches the quality of the performance. This is an attractive and well-built package. The speakers all use the same 25mm soft-dome tweeter and 13cm wood-fibre mid/bass driver – the centre doubles up on this for extra authority and better dispersion.
A word on placement: it’s pretty easy. Dali designs its products to have wide sound dispersion, and they tend to perform best when firing straight ahead. That means you don’t need angle them towards the listening position, although as always it pays to experiment.
They work best on a solid pair of stands, positioned fairly close to a wall. Wall-mounting works too, which lends the package a degree of flexibility not enjoyed by many rivals.
We have tremendous respect for the Dali Zensor 1 5.1 package. That it’s lasted this long is impressive, but it’s doubly admirable that it’s still at the top of their game.
If you’re after a surround speaker package for under £1000, you must seek the Zensors out.