Do you know when you have that feeling something is special? Well, I’ve just jumped off my listening chair to type in this sentence because this feeling is happening to me again. I’ve not felt like
this since I heard the Jern speakers over 5 years ago at the Birmingham HiFi Show, I bought them less than a month later!
This is my first experience with DALI (Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries) as a reviewer, though I’ve had a pair of bookshelf DALI LEKTOR 1s for 15 years plus. The idea of these DALI MENUET SE is they are for near field listening or bookshelf positioning, smaller spaces really. They’re smaller than a standmounted speaker, like the PMC Twenty5 22i. They are therefore not party speakers or heavy metal speakers; these are a discerning listening choice delivering peak performance where space is at a premium.
The DALI MENUET SE is a bookshelf style loudspeaker with a 2-way design that features a 114.3mm (4.5 inches) wood fibre woofer and an oversized 28mm soft dome tweeter. DALI claims this tweeter has a low-mass dome assembly contributing to ‘speed and precision’. The claimed sensitivity of the Menuet SE is 86dB 2.83V/m with a 4 Ohms nominal impedance. Being quite small the speakers have a frequency range of 59Hz to 25kHz.
The DALI MENUET SE build on the legacy of DALI’s successful MENTOR MENUET and MENUET loudspeakers. The SE (Special Edition) element of this speaker seeks to present the best DALI can offer in respect of looks and finish, with a wild walnut veneer finish that is as good as any cabinet out there and certainly that I’ve seen. Further SE upgrades include the enhanced Mundorf capacitors in the crossover on a new board that has more insulation to minimise electrical noise between the crossover components.
The woofer also benefits from an upgrade in the DALI MENUET SE with an upgraded voice coil ‘former’ (the thin tube that the voice-coils are wrapped around) which is now made of Fibre Glass instead of aluminium to further minimise distortion.
The SE rear speaker terminals are of the highest quality and are taken from DALIs equally beautiful EPICON high-end series.
Out of the Box
These speakers, being so small and tactile are an absolute joy to receive. They are about the size of a box you would find a pair of trainers in. The boxing is made lovingly with soft wraps around each speaker. They feel so smooth, the unique veneer finish reminds me of the smoothest silk in your hands, and the soft rounded corners are sumptuous. Indeed, there is a lovely, branded cloth for that final polish as you mount the speaker on the stand (in my case) and insert the speaker cable with precision.
The finish is absolutely beautiful, this is a grilles OFF experience for sure, the drivers make you gaze at them, affectionately. The grilles, incidentally, slot on with stays so they’re not magnetic.
The dimensions [H x W x D] are 250mm x 150 x 230. They weigh in at just 4kg each.
The DALI MENUET SE are £1,499, the standard DALI MENUET are £1,099. DALI offer a wall mounting solution for these speakers, the rear downward firing bass port is in the terminal block.
I’m using an iFi Pro iDSD as a source with the mconnect App on the iPad. Keeping it simple is the key here. I’ve been mainly using the Moor Amps Pre preamplifier with the Angel 6 power amplifier, slightly over the top, but I’m clear about what this uncomplicated but clean system can deliver. I’m using Tellurium Q Ultra Black II speaker cable and XLR interconnects.
I’ve also used an Audiolab 6000A Play and a Naim Uniti Star to drive the Dali Menuet SE with some Kudos KS-1 speaker cable.
I have the speakers on stands, though they are designed for tight spaces. I have them facing straight forward, there is no need to toe them in. I’ve got them 25cm away from the rear wall for critical listening so I’m losing a bit of bass response for my own needs, they’re 2m apart and away from the side walls, I’ve brought my listening chair forward to about 2m away, the tweeter is at ear height. I’m not one to play loud music and generally prefer night-time sessions with an iPad or a turntable. These speakers fit this listening profile nicely, particularly in a smaller environment.
…the female vocal, in particular, is effortless.
Really the focus here is on the midrange and treble but the Moor Amps power amplifier digs out the low end that is there very nicely indeed, for example, the double bass in Arooj Aftab’s Last Night (Tidal Master 24 bit, 48kHz) is so natural and rhythmic. Most notable immediately is the detail from the snare vibration in the background. The room harmonics in the silent moments between notes are here too, such is the resolution on offer from the recording. It is clear there is a lovely fast responsive midrange and the female vocal, in particular, is effortless.
I’ve stumbled across Barack Obama’s ‘Summer Playlist’, does he really listen to this music? Beyonce’s Break My Soul (Tidal 24-bit, 44.1kHz) comes across with a groovy pulse indeed, there’s a proper bouncy rhythm in these loudspeakers, bordering on the aforementioned ‘party style’.
One of my very favourite revealing tracks at the moment is The Staves’ version of Ray Lamontagne’s Jolene (Tidal Master 16-bit, 44.1kHz). The familiar guitar work is precise and feels intimate, the three-part female vocal is again clear to identify in the various points in the centred soundstage of the DALI MENUET SE.
Finally, the excellence of these DALI MENUET SE loudspeakers was clearly demonstrated with that unmistakable tight snare crack from Stuart Copeland’s performance in Wrapped Around Your Fingers (Qobuz FLAC 16 bit, 44.1kHz), fantastic and so distinctive. That crisp, fast, fantastic snare snap is also most notably in Amy Winehouse’s Love is Losing Game, wonderful.
Naim Uniti Star
I imagined the Uniti Star might be a good match for these speakers, though if the Star was finding itself in a traditional 2-channel arrangement these speakers may not be an immediate choice. However, I was right, with a surprising find in the shape of Deadmau5’s Let Go (Qobuz FLAC 24 bit, 44.1kHz), which is a track I’m less than familiar with. But Wow! The SEs are punchy, go pretty low and they’re hugely dynamic and ready for the next pulse, the intro vocal grabs you then the punch from the third minute will make you nod like a chicken if you’re not careful.
Audiolab 6000A Play
…continued excellent resolution from these loudspeakers
The DALI MENUET SE with the Class AB Audiolab 6000A Play is a really nice match, apparently offering 75W into 4 Ohms there is enough here to offer interest with continued excellent resolution from these loudspeakers. The wonderful midrange and treble combination continued with Lady Gaga’s La Vie en Rose (Tidal 16 bit, 44.1kHz) makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.
With the REL S/510
Just for fun at the end of my time with the DALI MENUET SE, I have hooked up the REL S/510 subwoofer with the Moor Amps. In this case, you might be better with one or a pair of REL T5xs but I happen to have the S/510 here, it is a bit over the top in terms of spec and price matching, but it does serve to illustrate the value of a subwoofer with these.
Taking Ghost Rider’s cliched electronic track Make Us Stronger (Tidal 16 bit, 44.1kHz) the DALI MENUET SE are comfortably punchy and fast and put in a fine performance. The addition of the REL fills the volume of the room that the MENUET SEs are not able to. There is a thunderous and chest-satisfying platform as you would expect to support the crisp and clean MENUET SE speakers. What is not here is the big party volume you may like to experience from a floor stander but if you after a detailed presentation on a solid soundstage, this is it, I have to say.
With the Naim amplification, there’s plenty of grip here to get excited about…
It feels like these DALI MENUET SE are for the discerning low volume listener. Not unsurprisingly the Moor amplification, high current, low feedback, full and clean (and heavily oversized admittedly), offers the deepest insight to these speakers which are lower impedance at 4 Ohms. These speakers will prefer this type of amplifier, there is simply more grip, control, and response here. The gulf in class between the Moor amplifier and the other amplifiers is quite stark and a testament to the DALI MENUET SE that the difference is so easily noted.
With the Naim amplification, there’s plenty of grip here to get excited about, though again the Uniti Star is a slight mismatch in price terms though not functionality. It feels like the recently departed Exposure 3510 or the magnificent Rega Elicit Mk5 will make a great partnership with the SEs but again, in a compact space that these speakers are likely to be purchased for, these may not be your likely choice of amplifier.
On reflection, it is possible the highly functional Uniti Star (or an Atom maybe?) may find itself hidden on a book stand/side area and these DALI MENUET SE would clearly offer superb all-round performance in partnership.
These DALI MENUET SE offer an amazing midrange performance and where space is a premium there is punchy, vocal performance here to rival most. The speakers for me are easy driving, dynamic and energetic with a good (or great) amplifier.
Mini monitor size
High-end gloss finish
Low volume resolution
Punchy if allowed
Full details are on the company’s site.