Every once in a while Stuart our Editor will ask us is there any component we would like to review, opposed to what we would normally get assigned to do by him.   By chance at that moment I was browsing the internet looking for a pair of speakers I would like to have a listen to and was perusing the Dali website.  The reason for this is because I have owned Dali speakers in the past so was curious what the latest generation of models were offering and the Rubicon models happened to catch my attention, particularly the Rubicon 5 as it had the “dual tweeter” pairing similar to the Ikon 6 speakers I used to own some years ago and also a pair of Suite 2.8’s which I parted with rather reluctantly and foolishly too may I add, with the benefit of hindsight.

For those of you unfamiliar with the marque, Dali have been designing and manufacturing loudspeakers since 1983 and are located in Denmark.  Their current hi-fi speaker range spans no less than 50 models in the lineup starting with the Zensor and culminating with the Megaline and that’s not including their additional designs aimed at the AV market, so diverse applications and affordability are ably catered for from their product ranges.Rubicon-5-white-ugrill_1000x1000

CONSTRUCTION

The pair of Rubicon 5 speakers submitted for review had a high gloss white finish and measured some 890mm high x 195mm wide x 339mm deep.   Driver array is a six and a half inch bass/mid driver with a wood fibre cone, complimented by high frequency drivers consisting of a 17mm x 45mm ribbon tweeter and a 29mm soft textile dome tweeter.  The cabinet is rear reflex ported.  Connections are via a biwirable set of sturdy 4mm binding posts able to accept 4mm banana plugs, spade terminals, or bare wire.  The base of the speaker has 8mm inserts for spikes or rubber feet (supplied as standard).   Crossover frequencies are 2,900hz and 14,000hz respectively and sensitivity is rated at 86dB, while impedance is a nominal 4 Ohms.  Grilles are also supplied, with a plastic frame supporting acoustically transparent fabric, attaching via plastic pegs into additional recesses in the driver mounting plates and screws.  I found these to be rather flimsy and delicate, the slightest touch would easily unseat them, so were left off for the entire review period.  Each speaker weighs it at almost 16 kilogrammes.  Price at time of review is circa £2,399.00 per pair.

SOUND QUALITY

My last encounter with Dali’s twin tweeter arrangement was not altogether satisfying from the Ikon 6’s that I once owned.  The treble dominated the sound and as a result seemed almost detached from the bass drivers, the midrange in particular suffering from this mismatch.  However, the twin tweeter arrangement within the Rubicon 5’s are truly a world away from that.   I found a seamless blend between the tweeter pairing and were perfectly aligned to bass output, neither upsetting the balance of the overall tonal palette.  The rear reflex port meant a distance of some 30cm was ideally needed behind the cabinets in my listening room otherwise the bass acquired a tad of boom artefact, while slight toe-in towards the listener had  little or no perceptible improvement, with there not being a narrowly defined sweet spot.  Midrange in particular was crisp and clear with not a trace of colouration, female vocals being delivered with utter realism.  Bass was fulsome in every sense of the word and you would easily believe the driver was physically larger than it actually was without sighting it or knowing beforehand what the true size is.

These are not difficult speakers to drive and you don’t need a megawatt amplifier to provide room filling sound levels.  As you crank the volume up it isn’t easy to get them to lose their grip either, or for them to  start blaring at you.  I ran them with a 60 watts per channel solid state amplifier and a 30 watt single ended valve amplifier in triode mode and both drove the Rubicons more than adequately.

Listening to Fink’s “Wheels Beneath My Feet” album recorded live at various venues revealed a depth of image and soundstaging that was all enveloping, extending beyond the speaker boundaries and depth-wise not lacking by any means.  My biggest bugbear with this album is Fink’s diction which makes following the lyrics rather difficult, nay impossible at times despite the songs inviting you to sing along (I use the word “sing” here with some caution as I am a great bathtub singer but rather dreadful in reality).  The album’s true forte though is the instruments, with some stunningly well recorded drum playing and bass guitar.    When the drummer hits the Floor tom in the track “Sort Of Revolution” it should penetrate to the centre of your being with it’s power and slam and the Dali Rubicon 5’s certainly did just that, while the cymbals sounded exactly like struck cymbals should sound like, full of vibrancy and energy so you were in no doubt metal was being hit.  Track one on the album is called “Biscuits For Breakfast”, opening with some delicious  acoustic guitar and Ride Cymbal playing, recorded with great precision, joined soon afterwards by deep bass guitar, all a joy to listen to.  Track two called “Perfect Darkness” again has some great intro drumming with snare drum rim knock and kick drum.  Of particular note was how real the audience sound was, seemingly surrounded by some very enthusiastic clapping and cheering.  Interesting as well how the acoustics vary between the different venues.

Time to give the Rubicons a good workout now, with Porcupine Tree’s “Deadwing” album slotted into the CD player’s drawer.  This album is full of rawness in the recording and it easily wrong-foots many a system, but all credit to them, the Rubicon’s managed to tread that fine line between  accuracy, delicacy and smoothness, avoiding for the better part the raw edgy harshness that this album can easily output, yet not totally masking the album’s recording shortcomings.  To be truthful, this is the kind of presentation I enjoy for my personal listening; excitement and dynamics without being sonically assaulted by the drawbacks of absolute accuracy and fidelity.

I then played Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and the Rubicons really did do this album some justice.  Not in a “hi-fi” thrills a minute kind of way, more that you listened to the entire double album end-to-end in one session and you could happily repeat it straight afterwards because although detailed and revealing with some truly weighty bass impact and drive, you never once felt fatigued or overwhelmed by the sound produced by them at any time.

CONCLUSION

For what is after all a fairly compact floorstanding loudspeaker, the sound they produce certainly isn’t compact from what I heard from them during the entire review.  Bass is certainly prodigious and controlled with it too, while I also deeply admire the way Dali have successfully paired a dome tweeter with a ribbon tweeter and got them working in perfect harmony together.  As a result of good driver integration and crossover design, midrange is pretty accurate and free from perceptible colourations.  Downside for me was those flimsy and recalcitrant grilles that would have been essential had small inquisitive fingers been visiting my home.  I liked the high gloss white finish much to my surprise, because they were almost immune to fingerprints and dust and rather refreshing to look at too, having been brought up in the world of Teak/Walnut/Oak/Black Ash limit on choices, whereas my one flirtation with high gloss piano black showed up dust and  fingerprints like no other.

My other sticking point is the price tag of the Rubicon 5’s so balancing out the Value For Money scale falls within a grey area where they are neither overpriced nor undervalued, so I would leave that final assessment in your capable hands dear readers, married of course to your own perceptions of these speakers during an audition, which I suggest you do if you seek a quality compact floorstanding loudspeaker.

 

Build quality:                        8.1/10Runicon_five_Dali

Sound quality:                      8.6/10

Value for money:                  8.0/10

Overall:                                  8.2/10

Price:                                     £2,399.00 per pair

 

Recommended for:  The audiophile that wants a big sound from a small cabinet speaker, able to deliver real heft in the bass, a colourless midband and a sweet crisp treble performance.

 

Dominic Marsh

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