Understatement can be an admirable quality, but in hi-fi it can spell trouble. In a dealer demo situation, kit that delivers instant gratification invariably wins. In such a scenario, the Dali Epicon 2 speakers would suffer due to their un-showy, balanced nature.
The basic engineering formula is one we’ve seen countless times: a two-way design with a rear-firing reflex port. There’s nothing distinctive in that, and the addition of curved cabinet sides and a (quite lovely) black gloss finish barely helps to set it apart from similarly priced rivals.
Dali Epicon 2: build quality
Look more closely and there’s much to be admired here. That 16.5cm mid/bass driver might look just like the wood-fibre cones Dali has used for years, but a great deal of work has gone into each element of its design. The highlight is a revised motor system, which helps to reduce distortions and aid sonic accuracy.
The tweeter arrangement is unusual for Dali in that it’s conventional. The company’s upmarket speakers, including the larger floorstanding models in the Epicon range, usually feature a distinctive twin-tweeter design featuring a soft-dome tweeter combined with a ribbon unit.
The idea behind it is that the ribbon takes over at the point where the soft dome starts to struggle at the top of its operating range. This twin-tweeter approach helps with the speakers’ high-frequency dispersion as much as it does with detail resolution.
So why not include it here? The decision for binning the ribbon was the result of wanting to keep the speakers’ neat proportions and managing costs – the inclusion of the ribbon would have taken it too close in price to the floorstanders.
Instead, Dali has reworked the Epicon’s soft dome – a relatively large unit at almost 30mm diameter – and designed it to have a large overlap with the mid/bass unit, so helping integration as well as extending further up the frequency range.
Special mention also has to go to those incredibly solid curved cabinets: they’re made from multiple thin layers of MDF that are glued and then baked into shape, and the sides are held firm by a 33mm dual-layer front baffle at one end and anchored into a 53mm thick MDF backbone at the rear. This structure creates an immensely rigid enclosure for reducing unwanted vibration, while the curves reduce the build-up of internal standing waves.
There are three finishes available, all high gloss. You can have the black of our review sample, a rather distinguished walnut and an intriguing option called Ruby Macassar.
It might come as a surprise, but most of the time speaker companies don’t pay much attention to the quality of the stands they produce. Usually, it’s enough if they look nice and match the partnering speaker visually – but it seems as if Dali has put some effort into the Epicon 2’s supports.
They’re rather pricey, at £550, but work well with the speakers – better than any of the various Custom Design, Kudos and Partington options we had to hand.
Dali Epicon 2: performance
Once properly bolted onto the supports and run-in – which takes around 100 hours – these standmounters sing. Play a piece of music like Queen of Hearts by the Unthanks and these Dalis will repay you with a wonderfully articulate and fluid midrange performance that reveals the nuances in the haunting vocals brilliantly.
There’s just the right degree of natural warmth in place, which isn’t always the case with rivals that chase resolution over musical satisfaction. These Dalis never make that mistake. Yes, they dig up masses of detail, but the presentation always chooses the path of entertainment over outright information retrieval.
This lovely midrange performance is flanked by frequency extremes that are almost as impressive. The enclosures might be relatively small, but all the work Dali has done with those mid/bass drivers and the cabinets’ construction has paid off with the kind of weighty, agile but rich bass that will satisfy in all but the largest of rooms.
We listened to bass-torture tracks such as Massive Attack’s Teardrop and Time from the Inception soundtrack, and the Epicons always delivered proportionate and well-defined lows.
Move to the higher frequencies and it comes as no surprise to find that, as with the midrange, Dali has chosen enthusiasm over smoothness. The Epicons deliver plenty of insight with a good degree of bite. With a treble presentation of good quality this isn’t usually a problem unless your partnering kit has a refinement flaw in this region.
It all ties together well too. That excellent midrange strongly suggests good integration and we love the cohesive way with which these speakers deal with the complete frequency range. Rhythmic precision and stereo imaging are handled in a pleasingly assured manner too, and when it comes to speed and agility they’re every bit as responsive as the best at this level.
The Epicon 2s are fun. They do everything we’d expect from high-end standmounters but add a large dose of entertainment too. That’s not something we can say of many rivals.