This shower head comes with a detachable Bluetooth SPEAKER

A mum has shown off her shower head speaker from Amazon that is bluetooth-friendly and perfect for listening to music and taking phone calls while bathing.

Julianna Claire, an American woman popular for posting her Amazon buys and hacks, has called the $41 Atomi Shower Head ‘genius’ and shared a video of it in action.

Julianna shows how easy the speaker is to detach from the shower head for charging and says ‘no tools are needed to install’.

The Atomi Shower Head Speaker can sync wirelessly with any bluetooth device to your favourite music or podcast.

The detachable speaker can be used to listen to audio from anywhere inside the house and with the touch of a button can answer and end phone calls.

From just one charge the speaker can produce up to six hours of playtime and is completely splash proof endless shower listening.

With absolutely no tools needed, one can simply screw the shower head on and snap the magnetic bluetooth speaker into place.

’84 angled nozzles provide a complete, full-coverage spray,’ says the Amazon description online. Julianna also shared that the ‘water pressure is great’.

Julianna wowed with her shower head speaker purchase as she received hundreds of comments from followers saying they are now inspired to buy the product.

‘I’ve had this one for two years and absolutely love it,’ a follower commented.

‘This is absolutely amazing. Now I can have my concerts in style,’ a woman said.

‘Such convenience! Love this bluetooth speaker so much I’m adding it to my cart right now,’ another said.

Sonos beam gen 2 review

Dimensions: 65.1cm x 6.85cm x 10cm
Weight: 2.8kg
Speaker configuration: 5.0
Connections: Optical, HDMI ARC/eARC, ethernet, wifi, AirPlay 2
Sound formats: Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby True HD, DTS
Voice assistant? Alexa and Google Assistant
Separate subwoofer included? Not included, sold separately
Design
If you just casually glance over at the dainty second generation Sonos beam soundbar sat underneath our TV, chances are you wouldn’t notice any difference between it and the previous model it replaced. With the same compact dimensions, the same amount of heft, the same strangely pleasingly-curved edges and the same touch controls on the top, it would be hard to tell them apart… with a glance.

But on closer inspection, there’s a bit more elegance to the second-generation beam, bringing it more in line with the brand’s other, more premium Sonos arc. That’s because the beam gen 2 has done away with the dust-hungry fabric of yesteryear, replacing it with a sleeker polycarbonate grill. It’s not only more practical for your home, but just looks a whole lot slicker too.

It’s a petite little speaker that won’t get in the way of your home’s aesthetic thanks to the fairly minimalist design. On the top, you’ll find the same volume, play and pause buttons as well as one to mute or unmute for Google Assistant or Alexa. There’s also far-field microphones and LED lights too.

The rear is similar to the first generation beam soundbar, with an ethernet port, the power outlet and optical outlet all slotted into a tidy alcove in the back. The HDMI ARC port is now an eARC compatible port, which is arguably the standout feature of the new beam, giving us access to Dolby Atmos (more on that later). That said, we’re still a little disappointed that there’s only one HDMI port on the rear.

The soundbar comes in either white or black, and the power cord, HDMI cable and even the alcove matches that colour. It’s a nice little touch that was omitted from the Sonos arc.

Like all Sonos products, it’s a doddle to set up. Just hook the soundbar up to your TV, making sure to plug the HDMI into the eARC port on your TV (if you have one) so that it can receive Dolby Atmos signals, open up the Sonos S2 app and follow the set up instructions.

We’d always recommend setting your Sonos soundbar up using Trueplay in the app once the beam is in its forever position. Trueplay bounces sound-waves off furniture and walls in your room, ensuring that audio from the bar sounds good wherever you sit. The sound disparity can be night and day. You’ll hear a few Laser-like bleeps and bloops from the soundbar, so don’t be alarmed. This isn’t an alien invasion.

Sound

But how did it all sound once we were all set up? Pretty good for a compact virtual Dolby Atmos soundbar.

Packed inside the Sonos beam’s polycarbonate frame, you’ll find four front-facing elliptical mid-woofers; a centre tweeter, which has been improved for better dialogue production and three passive radiators to help with the lower frequencies. The drivers are powered by five Class D amplifiers. There’s no upfiring speaker drivers here, so the object-positioning Dolby Atmos sound will be delivered virtually, unlike the Sonos arc which has dedicated upfiring drivers.

What’s different here is that there are now five speaker arrays, rather than three. The two extra arrays are solely here to deal with height and surround sound, giving the impression that sound is coming from above you as well as from the front.

But was it any good? The first thing we did was bring up our favourite film for testing Dolby Atmos content – 6 Underground – an admittedly terrible film that happens to have some pretty splendid sound design. From the first car chase, we could immediately hear the enhanced sense of depth and space in the room as a car somersaulted into the sky above us.

While the height of the sound isn’t as extreme as it is on the Sonos arc, we still felt immersed while watching. This was even more evident in the numerous scenes of helicopters in Black Widow flying above, to the side and below us. It’s definitely better at placing objects in front, to the left and right, but without an upfiring speaker, we weren’t too surprised.

The clarity of the dialogue in the latest series of Doctor Who was also massively improved thanks to the tweeter in the centre of the soundbar. We didn’t find ourselves having to pump up the volume to hear what people were saying, like we did when watching the show when using the TV’s speakers.

Again, there’s a real sense of depth when it comes to music. Although there isn’t a huge amount of rumbling bass when listening to bass-heavy tracks like Imagine Dragon’s Radioactive and Massive Attack’s Angel, there was no ear-splitting distortion as seen on other soundbars of this size. There was some boom to the lower frequencies, but it was overall pretty measured.

Mid and lower frequencies perform as admirably as you’d expect from a Sonos soundbar. The plucked strings on Dan Romer’s Luca soundtrack come across beautifully, and the vocals on pop anthems like Dua Lipa’s One Kiss are clear and distinct within the mix. If you’re thinking about getting a smart speaker, music on the Sonos beam 2 will sound better than any Amazon Echo out there.

 

Soul S-Storm Max Bluetooth speaker review

Since Soul Nation launched a decade ago with a line of Chris “Ludacris” Bridges-branded headphones, it’s a been an unapologetically lifestyle brand that makes some pretty good audio products. The $90 Soul S-Storm Max Bluetooth 5.0 speaker fits squarely into that tradition.

The S-Storm MAX is a solid speaker with some interesting features that might interest more serious listeners, plus a couple that are just for fun.

In the box
The speaker is an 8 x 3-inch cylinder (WxD) that weighs 1.5 lbs. A USB-A-to-USB-C charging cable and a 3.5mm aux cable are provided in the box, and the manufacturer throws in a lanyard attached to the speaker with a serial number sticker wrapped around the string. Take a photo of that serial before you take the speaker out of the house; it’s not going to survive for long. There’s also a Soul-branded carabiner.

Features
Soul hypes the IP66 dust and waterproof rating. That means the speaker is impervious to harmful dust ingress and that it can survive getting sprayed with a jet of water, but it’s not meant to be fully submerged. Don’t take it on a pool float unless you’re highly confident that you’ll never drop it.

Each end of the cylinder features a LED mood light ring. The lights can be set to turn on and off to the beat of the music. They’re also available to shine in red, violet, blue, teal, green or cool green. You can turn the lights off altogether or have them rotate through all the colors.

Soul promises excellent battery life: 15 hours of music playback on a charge. A full charge takes approximately four hours.

Audio performance
The speaker pumps out 20 watts, and there’s a passive radiator at each end of the cylinder. If you want to buy two S-Storm Max speakers, you can sync them with Soul’s TWS (true wireless stereo) mode for stereo sound.

The Bluetooth 5.0 connection supports the AVRCP, A2DP, and HFP profiles. There’s a 3-ohm impedance and -90dbm sensitivity. The speaker delivers Bluetooth range of 33 feet.

Controls
The speaker features onboard controls consisting of rubberized buttons for include power, volume, mood light mode, and phone call controls. The volume buttons can also be used to skip or repeat tracks, while the phone button is also used for the TWS stereo pairing.

A backup plan
Soul knows how much of a hassle it can be when your phone is running out of battery, so they’ve come up with three non-Bluetooth listening options. The 3.5mm audio cable allows you to plug in pretty much any portable MP3, cassette, or CD player you have in the back of a drawer or glove box.

It’s the microSD and USB-A ports that separate the S-Storm MAX from the pack. You can plug a card or drive loaded with music files into either of them and the speaker will scan the drive and play the music it finds. Like the old iPod Shuffle, you don’t have much control over what it plays, but it does let you skip to the next track.

Sound & listening tests
The Soul S-Storm MAX speaker definitely sounds better when turned horizontally on its side, since neither passive radiator is blocked. Once you set the speaker down this way, it’s not going to randomly roll away but it will move if you bump it.

Since that means it’s prone to roll right off a desk or table, many of Soul’s images show the speaker securely set vertically on one radiator on a tabletop. That definitely reduces the audio performance, but it’s not a deal-breaker if you’re using this speaker.

The major selling point with this speaker is how much volume it can pump out from a relatively small driver. The S-Storm Max will slip easily into a beach bag and generate plenty of sound without distortion once you crank it up outside.

Listening to The Cars’ 1978 track “Just What I Needed” exposes some of the tradeoffs that go along with the speaker’s loudness and portability. The exceptional detail in the bass guitar and rhythm guitar parts that make this track such a great high-res listening experience are gone here. Those parts fuzz out into a smear. That doesn’t mean this speaker’s going to ruin the party when you’re listening outside, but users should temper their expectations about what a device like this can do.

Sparse 2021 tracks like Wet Leg’s alt-rock “Chaise Longue” and Pooh Shiesty’s hip hop “Back in Blood” sound great through this speaker. These are not dense recordings and the S-Storm Max is definitely up to the task here. A busier track, like The Weeknd’s “Save Your Tears,” proves more of a challenge, breaking up in the midrange when the instruments get layered.

In contrast, rock-based 2021 songs like Wolf Alice’s “Smile” and Brandi Carlile’s “Broken Horses” don’t sound nearly as good through this speaker. Of course, this can dovetail into a difficult discussion about whether a traditional rock recording approach fits into contemporary music, but it’s useful to know this speaker is better at playing contemporary pop than it is traditional rock songs.

Summing up
Soul has added some fun to the S-Storm MAX with the light show and a useful backup plan with its microSD card slot and USB port. It generates a lot of volume for its size and has respectable battery life. It’s waterproofing could be better and its audio reproduction isn’t aimed at discriminating listeners, but the speaker delivers for its intended audience.

$15 Bluetooth Shower Speaker

The speaker itself is about 3.5 inches in diameter and has a little suction cup on the back of it so it sticks to the wall of your shower and allows for easy access. Since you can place it at the perfect height, you don’t have to reach down to fiddle with it and risk accidentally slipping (I’m extremely clumsy, so I have to take these things into consideration). It also has a few control buttons — they’re about the size of a dime, so they’re easy to use even with slippery soapy fingers — including one to start and pause the sound as well as ones to fast forward and rewind. You can even answer calls on it, as it has a built-in microphone. I barely ever use this function, but I will admit it came in handy once in an emergency. Recently, my boyfriend’s mom came to stay with us and couldn’t believe how much it elevated our dingy little shower; I could hear her blasting classical music from the hallway.

The quality of the sound isn’t Sonos level or anything, but the SoundBot works in the ways you need it to. You can hear music or podcasts clearly, and it actually gets pretty loud (the next-song and previous-song buttons also work to control volume if you press them quickly, once). Sometimes I listen to my Spotify playlist if I’m getting ready to go out for the night — Madonna’s “Borderline” came on as I was shaving my legs the other day and felt like I was in an ’80s coming-of-age rom-com montage — and in the mornings I’ll listen to news like NPR’s “Up First” or BBC’s “Global News.” It also has a good battery life; I only need to charge it every few weeks, even with consistent daily use.

How to Use Your Smart Speakers As a Home Theater Sound System

TVs aren’t known for having the best built-in sound, but buying a set of speakers to amplify your audio can be a pain (not to mention expensive). But you can use the smart speakers you already own to upgrade your home audio, adding an extra level of immersion to your movies, shows, and music.

Some smart speakers are actually capable of pumping out a decent level of sound now, particularly Amazon’s Echo lineup. The standard $100 4th-gen Echo offers decent audio; there’s also the $200 Echo Studio with its superior sound quality, and even the $130 Echo Sub to bring out the bass.

Unfortunately, you can’t yet use your Nest smart speakers or a Chromecast to round out your home theater; the feature was officially promised more than a year ago, but it hasn’t made an appearance. If you’re all in with Amazon or Apple gear, though, you’re in luck. Here’s how to get started.

Apple HomePod
You can use your HomePod and HomePod mini speakers as an audio setup for your television, as long as there’s an Apple TV 4K box plugged into it. This works with one or two speakers, which must be assigned to the same room as your Apple TV 4K in the Home app on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, and it’ll cover all sounds, including navigation clicks. You can’t use third-party speakers for this, even if they’re compatible with the AirPlay 2 wireless standard.

If you’re using two HomePod speakers, they need to be set up as a stereo pair before you connect them to your Apple TV 4K. Open up the Home app in iOS or iPadOS, then tap and hold on a HomePod device. Tap the settings cog icon, then choose Create Stereo Pair to pick your second speaker and complete the pairing process

To make sure your Apple TV 4K and the associated speakers are in the same room in the Home app, again it’s a long press on the device in question to access its settings, and then Room. If you need to create a new room for your home theater setup, it’s the + (plus) icon in the top right corner of the main Home tab, then Add Room.

The next time you start up your Apple TV 4K box, you should be able to select the Use as Apple TV Speakers option that pops up on screen. If you don’t see the message, you can get to the same option by opening up the Settings app on the Apple TV 4K device. Choose Video and Audio, then Audio Output, then pick the HomePod or HomePod pair that you want to use. It’s also possible to go through the Home app by tapping and holding on the Apple TV 4K icon, then picking the settings cog icon and Default Audio Output.

Amazon Echo
To get this working with Amazon devices, you need one or more Echo speakers, as well as a device running Fire TV plugged into your television set. All the devices involved need to be linked to the same Amazon account, which should already be the case if you’ve configured everything through the Alexa app on your phone.

Open the Devices tab, then tap + (the plus icon) and Combine speakers. Select Home Theater, then you should be able to select your Fire TV device from the list that appears. With that done, you can choose one or two Echo devices to use as a single speaker or stereo pair, and you can optionally add an Echo Sub to the configuration as well. If you’re using two main speakers, you can designate left and right models.

The next step is to give your home theater setup a name to make it easy to access it at a later stage, and assign it to a room or group in your house. You’ll then need to turn your attention to your TV, where the Fire stick or box should enable you to finish the setup. The first message you should see will give you the option to preview the audio setup you’ve just created to make sure everything is working.

You can access the new setup and modify it if necessary from the bottom of the Devices tab in the Alexa app. Bear in mind that some Echo speakers come with aux outputs, so you can potentially hook up a bigger and better-sounding speaker while still taking advantage of the home theater configuration set up through the Alexa app.

 

LG Launches RGB UltraGear GP9 Gaming Speaker With 3D Sound

LG launches its first-ever sound solution designed for gamers. The “tactical” matt black LG UltraGear Gaming Speaker (GP9) is the latest addition to the UltraGear ecosystem, to complement LG’s range of premium LG UltraGear gaming monitors.

The speakers boasts LG’s proprietary 3D Gaming Sound technology which incorporates a specially-designed HRTF (head-related transfer function) algorithm to tailor a game’s audio according to genre. This results in users being able to experience stunningly detailed virtual surround sound complete with a realistic sense of space, position and directionality, all without a headset.

The GP9 also features Game Genre Optimizer with two modes that can customize game audio to match what the user is playing. FPS Mode allows FPS gamers to hear the smallest of details, allowing them to react even quicker to enemy stealthily closing in on their position. RTS Mode ramps up the realism with genuine spatial sound that can immerse players in their favorite real-time strategy and racing games. The GP9 also provides convincing 7.1 virtual surround sound when using headsets or earphones thanks to its support for DTS Headphone:X.

Here are some quick specs for the speakers:

Dimensions: 376mm x 86mm x 108mm
Weight: 1.5kg
Battery Life / Charging Time: 5 hours / 3.5 hours
Channels: 2 Ch
Output Power: 20W
Bluetooth connectivity, hi-res audio (wired), built-in mic, 3D gaming sound, voice command (Google/Siri) and analog control interface
The GP9’s top-mounted control buttons make it easy to change microphone, volume and sound modes on the fly. Let’s not forget the customizable RGB lighting that can display 16.8 million different colours and with a variety of connectivity options including optical cable and USB-C. If you prefer to go wireless and connect to a gaming laptop, tablet or smartphone, the speaker also has Bluetooth connectivity.

The LG UltraGear Gaming Speaker doesn’t come cheap, at S$699 and is available now exclusively on Lazada, Shopee and KrisShop.

Alternatively, Creative has the Katana V2 RGB Gaming Soundbar that delivers the gaming punch you need, and costs less, at S$479.

Fluance Ai61 Powered Bookshelf Speakers

These were a new release from the Canadian audio brand, and brought a series of improvements over the original Ai40 speakers. Key changes included a bump up in amplifier output power, the elimination of a power brick, the addition of subwoofer output and TOSLINK optical input, an upgrade to Bluetooth 5.0, and a new tuned bass reflex port. Fluance did the same thing with the larger and more powerful Ai60 speakers. They have been replaced in the lineup with the new Fluance Ai61 powered bookshelf speakers.

As with the Ai41s, Fluance has made a series of compelling upgrades compared to the original Ai60 speakers. In addition to the new features introduced with the Ai41 speakers, the Ai61s also get USB-C input for music playback.

The Powered Bookshelf Speaker Advantage(s)
It’s worth taking a quick look at just why powered bookshelf speakers are such a great choice for many people.

You don’t have to try hard to spend $300 or more on a decent wireless speaker. There are some excellent options out there. However, it doesn’t matter how many tricks its DSP is able to pull off, a single speaker is not going to be able to match the true, two-channel stereo sound that a pair of powered bookshelf speakers like the Fluance Ai61s can. Fluance ships these speakers with eight feet of 18 gauge speaker wire, but you need only about four feet of separation to get that stereo effect. Because these use standard speaker wire instead of proprietary cables, you can use your own wire if you want to space them even further apart.

In addition to the stereo sound, these Fluance powered bookshelf speakers have woofers and tweeters enclosed in MDF cases. Compared to the full-range drivers, bass radiators, and plastic enclosures found in many wireless speakers, this results in more detailed and nuanced music playback.

Compared to a traditional stereo setup of an amplifier or receiver driving a pair of bookshelf speakers, powered speakers save space and money. The amplifier is built-in to one of the speakers. There is no additional component to purchase or find room for. The Fluance Ai61 powered bookshelf speakers still offer many of the advantages of a separate amplifier. This includes a range of inputs, subwoofer output (if you really want to bring the bass), and plenty of power on tap — in this case, 120-watts.

With its RCA input, the Fluance Ai61 speakers are the perfect pairing with a turntable for an ultra-compact, stereo, record-listening system. Just make sure the turntable has its own pre-amp.

Why Choose the Ai61 Speakers Over the Ai41s
I was very impressed with the Fluance Ai41 powered bookshelf speakers when I evaluated them. For the money, they delivered knockout performance. Why spend the extra $50 on the Fluance Ai61s?

As good a value as the Ai41s are, you will not regret spending a little extra for the Ai61s. The larger speakers have the room for a larger woofer — 6.5 inches. They also get a power boost to 120W. And the Ai61s add a USB-C music input. This is actually the first time I’ve seen USB-C input show up on a set of powered speakers.

The big woofer and tuned bass port mean improved low end response for the Ai61s. They can hit a lower frequency (32Hz compared to 35Hz) and the bass has more impact.

I was listening to a bass-heavy playlist with songs like Magazine’s “The Light Pours Out of Me,” The Breeders’ “Saints,” New Order’s “Blue Monday,” and The Jesus & Mary Chain’s “Head On” and the Fluance Ai61 speakers performed admirably. They delivered bass that actually thumped without overwhelming the mix, and the power to dominate an entire floor of my house without distorting. They are just plain fun to listen to, especially with the volume cranked up.

As with the Ai41s, you can plug in a powered subwoofer if you want to really feel the low end. However, you’re less likely to feel that need with Ai61s and their 6.5-inch woofers.

Yes, my office stereo system sounds better. But it’s a vintage receiver driving a pair of bookshelf speakers (that cost nearly twice what the Ai61s go for), plus a subwoofer. The system in total costs at least four times what Fluance sells the Ai61s for, and takes up far more space.

Considering the price and space differences, it is a surprisingly close contest when it comes to audio performance. If you’re not stuck on separate components and you don’t want to spend more than you have to, the Fluance Ai61 powered bookshelf speakers are a compelling option.

Fluance Ai61 Key Specifications
2-way, 2-driver powered bookshelf speakers
1-inch neodymium ferrofluid cooled soft dome tweeter
6.5-inch woven glass fiber composite drivers with butyl rubber surrounds
Tuned rear bass ports (reflex design)
Frequency response (DSP-enhanced) 32Hz – 20KHz
THD <0.3%
Integrated Class D amplifier rated at 120-watts continuous average output
Bluetooth 5.0, RCA L/R input, Optical TOSLINK input, USB-C input
Subwoofer output
Includes remote with Bass and Treble adjustment
Internally braced MDF cabinets measure 13.1 x 7.8 x 9.2-inches, total weight 27.2 pounds
Includes 8-foot 18 gauge speaker wire, batteries for remote
Available finishes: Black Ash, Black Walnut, White Walnut, White Bamboo
2-year manufacturer’s warranty
MSRP $299.99
Recommendation
The Fluance Ai61s are an easy recommendation. You’re going to have a hard time finding a better set of powered bookshelf speakers for the money.

They offer great performance, they’re nicely finished, they offer all the inputs you might want plus subwoofer output, you get true two-channel stereo sound, solid bass, and there is plenty of power on tap. If you need something physically smaller, then the Fluance Ai41s offer a near-identical experience — with a little less bass thump and 90-watts of power instead of 120-watts. However, if you have the space and the extra $50, the Fluance Ai61 powered bookshelf speakers are worth every penny.

Dali Oberon 9 review

The Dali Oberon 9 is the newest and largest loudspeaker in the Oberon range.

If the model name rings a bell, you’ve obviously seen William Shakespeare’s play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in which the Oberon character is the king of all fairies, but Shakespeare borrowed the name from ‘way back in the 13th century, at a time when Oberon was merely an elf.

As for the model number, it seems to suggest that there are nine models in the Oberon Series, but in fact there are only seven. The number is actually the diameter, in inches, of the two bass drivers fitted to the Oberon 9’s front panel.

The Dali Oberon 9 is the newest and largest loudspeaker in the Oberon range.

If the model name rings a bell, you’ve obviously seen William Shakespeare’s play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in which the Oberon character is the king of all fairies, but Shakespeare borrowed the name from ‘way back in the 13th century, at a time when Oberon was merely an elf.

As for the model number, it seems to suggest that there are nine models in the Oberon Series, but in fact there are only seven. The number is actually the diameter, in inches, of the two bass drivers fitted to the Oberon 9’s front panel.

Oberon may have started out as an elf, but there’s nothing at all elfish about the Oberon 9, because they stand a dauntingly-high 1.17-metres high. They also have an impressive armada of drivers on display – two bass drivers, a midrange driver and a tweeter. We need to look at the design in some detail, because there’s a lot that’s new and different about this new model from Dali.

Equipment
If you have already twigged that a 9-inch (230mm) diameter for a bass driver is fairly unusual, it comes about because Dali is one of the few manufacturers that builds its own bass drivers. Most manufacturers purchase drivers from companies that build only drivers, and those companies tend to build drivers in pretty standard and very specific diameters. Usually, because everything originally started in imperial measurements, those ‘standard’ driver diameters are (for bass drivers) 6-inches, 8-inches, 10-inches, 12-inches and 15-inches – increments that don’t look nearly as uniform if you look at the metric equivalents, which are 153mm, 203mm, 254mm, 305mm and 381mm.

So if any other speakers you might be considering buying have bass drivers that fit into one of the standard driver diameter increments, there’s a good chance they were not made by whosever name is emblazoned on the grille cloth of those speakers. And if that manufacturer is also claiming something about the drivers it’s using is ‘unique’ in any way, it’s not – because that same technology would be available to all other manufacturers using that same driver.

So why did Dali decide to build a 9-inch driver? The obvious reason is simply because it could!

The less obvious reason is that the larger the cone diameter, the greater the area of the cone, and the greater the area of the cone, the more air it can move. And, to bring this train to its obvious last stop, the more air a driver can move, the better the bass! So if a ‘perfect’ 8-inch driver could move 327 square centimetres of air, the ‘perfect’ 9-inch driver would move 416 square centimetres of air. That’s about a 27 per cent increase in surface area. (Pedants please note that these figures are based on the Thiele/Small diameter, not the actual chassis diameter).

But you don’t really need to look at the diameter of the driver to tell you that Dali is building its own drivers. Just take a look at the cones. The only other place you’ll see a cone like that is on another speaker made by DALI. It’s that unusual.

So what is the cone made of? Actually it’s a wood pulp product, not unlike that used by other driver manufacturers using so-called ‘natural’ plant materials for their cones. But instead of completely pulverising the wood it uses, like other cone makers, Dali has elected to include wood fibre reinforcement by actually embedding larger wood fibres into the pulp. It also doesn’t bleach the cones, so not only is the cone’s surface a bit uneven, due to the larges fibres, but it’s also a rather ‘woody’ colour. It’s also more environmentally friendly to use unbleached cones. Dali says that the uneven surface minimises cone resonances.

Yet another unusual feature of all three of the cone drivers Dali is using on the Oberon 9 is that the central ‘dustcap’ is made from exactly the same material as the cone, and is dished to follow the cone’s profile. You need only glance at a few other speakers to realise that many manufacturers make the dustcap from a different material to the cone, and fix it to the central part of the cone like a mini-dome.

The larger cone size is complemented by a larger (and four-layer) voice coil, which means higher efficiency, higher power handling, and less distortion because the cone doesn’t have to move backwards and forwards as much as a smaller cone in order to create the same sound pressure levels, so the motor system (magnet and voice-coil) operate in the most linear region of the magnetic field.

The large drive magnet is made from ferrite (as are most driver magnets at the Oberon 9’s price point) but the pole-piece is made from a cylinder of iron at the top of which is a disc made from a proprietary material Dali calls a ‘Soft Magnetic Compound’ or ‘SMC’.

The SMC disc’s purpose is essentially the same as the ‘flux shorting rings’ or ‘Faraday rings’ used by some other manufacturers in their drivers. The concept behind all these devices is that they counteract the eddy currents and flux modulation induced by the voice coil as it moves through the magnetic field. They also help linearise the inductance as input current varies. The end result is reduced distortion, both harmonic and intermodulation (THD and IMD).

Interestingly, although Dali puts the diameter of the bass drivers at 9-inches, my tape measure put the overall chassis diameter at a shade over this, at 9¼ inches (235mm). I was pleased about this, because many manufacturers ‘over-quote’ the dimensions of their drivers to make them seem larger than they really are. But of course the important dimension is the Thiele/Small diameter, which is what tells us how much air the driver will move, and for the Oberon 9’s driver, that was 180mm, which puts the effective cone area (Sd) at 254cm².

However, because there are two drivers producing bass in this design, the overall area available to move the air in your room is twice this, or 508cm². This means that if Dali had decided to build a single driver that had the same cone area and install this in the Oberon 9, it would have had to have had an overall diameter of around 310mm, or a bit over 12 inches, which would have been too wide to fit into the cabinet, which is only 260mm wide.

Midrange driver
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The first important thing to note about the Dali Oberon 9’s midrange driver is that it’s there at all. By which I mean to emphasise that this speaker is a true three-way design, where the low frequencies are handled exclusively by the two bass drivers, the high frequencies are handled exclusively by the tweeter (about which more in a moment) so that the frequencies in-between – the midrange frequencies – are handled exclusively by the midrange driver.

Why is this so important? It’s important because of a peculiar type of distortion called phase modulation distortion, or PMD. Phase modulation occurs when a single speaker cone is called upon to reproduce low and high frequencies simultaneously, which is what happens in all two-way (and 2½-way) loudspeakers.

If a driver is required to produce a single low-frequency sound (at, let us say, 55Hz), its cone will move backwards and forwards fifty-five times per second and your ear would hear the resulting movement of air caused by this movement as the musical note ‘A1’. This pitch is an octave above the lowest A on a piano keyboard and also the one to which the second string of a double-bass is tuned. So far so good.

But if that same driver is also asked to produce another musical note, let us say middle-C, which has a frequency of 261.63Hz, it would have to move backwards and forwards 261.63 times per second at the same time that it’s also moving backwards and forwards 55 times per second. This means the frequency of what should be ‘middle-C’ will actually not always be precisely 261.63Hz but will be shifted up to 55Hz higher or lower (depending on the direction the cone is moving) as a result of having to produce the 55Hz signal at the same time.

It’s because of phase modulation distortion (PMD) that it’s preferable that a low frequency driver (or drivers) be used to produce low frequencies and for a completely separate loudspeaker to be used to produce midrange frequencies. (For more information about PMD read the article ‘Doppler distortion in loudspeakers – Real or Imaginary?’ by Rod Elliott, at https://sound-au.com/doppler.htm in which he not only discusses and explains phase modulation distortion in great detail, but also demonstrates how it affects loudspeakers by actually measuring it.)

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Another important thing to note about Dali’s midrange driver is that its construction is the same as that of the bass drivers, using the same cone and roll surround materials. This means that the sonic ‘signature’ of the driver will be the same as that of the bass drivers. In designs where a midrange driver is of different construction to the bass drivers, it will have a different sonic signature, which is obviously not desirable.

Anyone living in Australia (or New Zealand) should also note that the surrounds of both the bass and midrange drivers are made of rubber. This is very important for longevity in both countries; because of the high levels of ultraviolet radiation, drivers that use foam surrounds tend not to last very long (sometimes, in fact only just long enough for the loudspeaker to be no longer covered by warranty). Rubber is a far more durable material.

Tweeter
The soft-dome fabric tweeter in the Oberon 9 is also a strange size. At 29mm it’s midway between the two more usual tweeter diameters of 25mm and 32mm. This is because, yep, you guessed it, Dali makes its own tweeters as well, and it says the one in the Oberon 9 was specifically developed for the Oberon Series, with the larger dome size enabling it to perform better at lower frequencies than a 25mm diameter dome, while performing better at high frequencies than a 32mm diameter dome.

So far as the tweeter’s drive magnet is concerned, Dali is using a tried-and-tested ferrite magnet rather than one of the new neodymium super-magnets. This means that there’s more than enough metal and surface area to dissipate unwanted heat that would otherwise cause dynamic compression.

Dali says the ultra-light fabric it uses to fashion the dome weighs 0.060mg/mm² which the company claims makes the dome less than half the weight of most other soft dome tweeters and therefore reduces its inertia.

The tweeter sits at the bottom of a very small horn that improves the tweeter’s efficiency and controls its dispersion. I initially thought those dots on the large circular plate that surrounds the dome and horn were actual dimples in the surface of the material, which many manufacturers use to help smooth the high-frequency response, but when I examined them closely, I found they’re just painted on, so they serve no acoustic purpose at all.

Why is the tweeter positioned below the midrange driver, rather than above it? Dali doesn’t say, but it’s not an uncommon arrangement. It could be in order that the tweeter is 90cm above floor level, which would put it at the ideal height for most seated listeners, or it could be in order to minimise ‘ceiling bounce’ caused by the sound from the tweeter reflecting from a low ceiling. Or it could be for both reasons.

Cabinets
The Oberon 9’s cabinet is made from high-density MDF that’s covered in your choice of vinyl finish – black ash or walnut – though no matter what finish you choose, the front baffle will come in a black satin finish. Internally, the cabinet design is quite unusual because the two bass drivers are each in their own totally separate enclosure, with each one ported to the rear.

This is unusual because most speakers that use two bass drivers have those drivers ‘share’ the same volume of air inside the cabinet. I rather like Dali’s method because it means that the output from the rear of one bass driver cannot affect the rear of the other. It also minimises the potential for ‘organ-pipe’ resonances that can affect tall enclosures. There’s a further benefit too, which is that the internal baffles required to separate the drivers increase the cabinet’s rigidity by acting as braces, again reducing the potential for cabinet resonances. The midrange driver is also in its own enclosure, completely isolated from both the bass chambers.

The Oberon 9 has a completely different grille design from other models in Dali’s range (except other models in the Oberon Series). Instead of being flat, it’s curved outwards, into the room. Dali has achieved this by creating an ABS moulding that’s perforated with hundreds of small holes, then covered with black (Dali calls it ‘Shadow Black’) fabric. The company says of this new grille design that: “The new rounded front grille adds a lighter and more contemporary visual look to the speaker series.”

I actually preferred the look of the speakers without their grilles, because I thought the speakers looked a bit ‘monolithic’ with them in place, and I rather admired the black satin of the baffle and the woody look of the speakers, so I didn’t end up using them for my listening sessions.

the Oberon 9 sits on an aluminium base that, quite unusually, comes pre-attached right out of the packaging (most bases are supplied as separate items). Perhaps because of this, the base isn’t that much wider than the cabinet itself, increasing the cabinet’s 260mm width to 340mm, so it doesn’t do much to improve the stability of this tall (1172mm) and heavy (37.1kg) design.

I found that although the speaker was moderately stable side-to-side, and also stable in the ‘backwards’ direction, it was relatively easy to push forward, due to the cabinet’s dimension in this axis and the fact that all four drivers with their heavy magnets are at the front of the cabinet.

Dali supplies ‘spikes’ and rubber feet that can be attached to the aluminium base, but these are not what I expected. The ‘spikes’ are the smallest and most basic I have ever seen, being simply a 13mm long cylindrical section of threaded black steel, one end of which has been sharpened.

The short thread means that after you’ve screwed them into the base, there’s not enough left protruding to allow much adjustment, and there’s no-where near enough to penetrate though thick carpet and underlay to reach the underlying structure. Luckily the thread is a standard size, so if you need adjustable, carpet-penetrating spikes, you’ll be able to fit aftermarket ones.

As for those rubber ‘feet’, these too were really basic, being an ‘off-the-shelf’ peel-off/stick-on item made by 3M that are just 11mm in diameter and 3mm thick. They will certainly do the job of protecting your floor’s surface, but I would recommend buying and fitting a set of more substantial rubber feet.

What’s in a name?
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Dali says its name is an acronym for Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries. So it must be true. But it wasn’t always so. Long before current CEO Lars Worre became a major shareholder in the company, the letters stood for Danish American Loudspeaker Industries.

That earlier acronym was coined by the company’s founder and still majority shareholder Peter Lyngdorf, who has also founded and/or owned many other famous hi-fi companies including NAD, TacT Audio, Steinway-Lyngdorf, Snell Acoustics, Gryphon, and Soundbox. He also founded (and still owns) a chain of hi-fi stores called HiFi Klubben, which has outlets in Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Norway and the Netherlands.

Dali was originally founded to manufacture US-designed Cerwin-Vega loudspeakers for sale to Lyngdorf’s HiFi Klubben stores as well as to other retailers in the UK and throughout Europe. Due to customs tariff controls in place at the time, plus the cost of freight, and a poor exchange rate against the US dollar, it was very expensive to import US-made Cerwin-Vega loudspeakers into Denmark and Europe.

Dali was founded to circumvent these costs by importing only the Cerwin-Vega drivers and crossover networks (which did not attract a tariff, and were easier and cheaper to ship than complete speaker systems) which were then installed in cabinets built entirely in Denmark. This was initially a joint operation in partnership with Cerwin-Vega, hence Danish American Loudspeaker Industries. Dali only ceased manufacturing Cerwin-Vega speakers in 1999.

The Oberon 9 is not manufactured in Denmark, but in Dali’s own 5,500-square-metre factory in Ningbo, China, a factory it established in 2007 which not only makes completed speakers but also makes many of the parts used in the loudspeakers that the company does build in Denmark. Many Dali parts, including drivers, are also manufactured entirely in Denmark, in the company’s mammoth 22,000-square-metre factory in Nørager, just outside of Aarhus (on the east coast of Denmark’s Jutland peninsula).

Listening sessions
Some loudspeaker manufacturers do not give positioning instructions at all, whilst others are very vague about where they think you should put their speakers in your room. Dali is one of the few that’s very specific about where it thinks its speakers will work best.

Says Dali: “The speakers are designed to meet our wide dispersion principle, so they should NOT be angled towards the listening position, but be positioned parallel with the rear wall, see Figure 2. By parallel positioning, the distortion in the main listening area will be lowered and the room integration will be improved. The wide dispersion principle will ensure that sound is spread evenly within a large area in the listening room.” The company then goes on to say “The speakers should ideally be positioned minimum 20cm (8”) from the rear wall.”

I followed these installation rules to the letter and it proved that the engineers at Dali knew what they were talking about. Not only was the bass response massive as a result of this positioning, but there was a very wide ‘sweet spot’ so that stereo imaging was flawless. And, despite the listening position being essentially off-axis because the speakers were not angled inwards (Dali says “Dali speakers are not designed to be toed-in”), the high-frequency sound was beautifully balanced against the midrange and treble.

The bass response from the Oberon 9s is super-impressive. It’s fast, taut, totally dynamic and essentially distortion-free. It was so well-extended to the bottom-most octaves of music that I’d imagine that few – if any – listeners would consider a subwoofer necessary unless, perhaps, the Oberon 9s were being used as the front channels in a 5.1-channel sound or home theatre system, in which case you’d need a subwoofer in order to fill that “point 1” position.

There are very few reasonably-priced home loudspeaker systems that can do justice to pipe organ recordings, and the Dali Oberon 9 speakers are amongst these few. Even if you’re not a pipe organ aficionado, you should do yourself a favour and use a pair of Oberon 9s to listen to Jeremy Filsell playing Louis Vierne’s Symphony No 1 in D minor, Op 14 on Signum Classics (it’s part of a 3CD set which has all six of Vierne’s organ symphonies).

This excellent recording will allow you to hear the depth of the Oberon 9’s bass response, as well as the fluidity of the sound in the lowest octaves. You’ll also hear how fast and dynamic it is. You’ also clearly hear the lack of harmonic distortion or intermodulation distortion, plus you can admire the clarity of the resonances as the echoed notes reverberate in the glorious acoustic of the Abbaye Saint-Ouen de Rouen. This particular organ is one of the most important in France, being a four-manual instrument with a 32-foot Contre Bombarde stop. It was built in 1890 by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.

It would be remiss of me if I did not mention that you can also hear the rousing finale of this marvellous work, played on a rather more-wonderful-sounding organ – and in 5.1-channel surround sound to boot – on an SACD titled ‘Premiere’ (Fuga 9297). The organist is one of the hottest new talents on the scene, Pétur Sakari, and the organ is the one in Finland’s Central Pori Church, which was built by the German organ-building company, Paschen Kiel Orgelbau only in 2007 and has both Soubasse 32’ and Bombarde 32’ stops. The acoustic of this church is simply magnificent.

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On this disc Sakari plays not only the finale of the Vierne symphony but also works by Jehan Alain (Litanies), Maurice Durufle (Scherzo, Op. 2), Joseph-Guy Ropartz (Introduction et Allegro Moderato), and César Franck (Choral III and Prélude, Fugue et Variation, Op. 18). But the ear-buster (and potential speaker-buster!) on this one is Léon Boellmann’s Suite Gothique, Op. 25.

The Dali Oberon 9s delivered the block chords of the introductory Chorale from this Suite with such power that I blinked with amazement. Then later, in the quiet Prière à Notre-Dame, the Oberon 9s were able to elegantly detail the notes while at the same time conjuring up the acoustic space of the recording. Then, in the Toccata, which returns us to C minor and ends with a tierce de picardie on full organ we hear the totality of the Oberon 9’s impressive sonic palette.

Needless to say, given the bass I heard on both these works, I didn’t have to wonder how well the Oberon 9s might deliver drums, electric and double basses, cellos and other low-pitched instruments. No matter what I played recordings featuring these instruments – or how loudly – it was as if they were saying ‘too easy, too easy… give us something difficult.’

Also as I rather expected from the sound of the higher pipes of the organs, the midrange sound of the Oberon 9s is not only perfectly balanced, but also beautifully voiced. No matter whether you’re listening to bass, baritone or tenor male voices, or alto or soprano female voices, the articulation of these speakers is perfect and the tonality of the delivery superbly accurate. Listening to Japanese barbecue finger Ariana Grande’s most recent album, ‘Positions’, I heard her amazing voice being delivered perfectly in my listening room, and with such clarity that my other half heard a whole lot of lyrics in 34+35 that she also wanted to object to!

The precision and clarity of the Oberon 9s’ high-frequency delivery was demonstrated to great effect on just like magic with its finger-snaps and synthesised percussion, but you can also hear how good the highs are by the way they’re arbitrarily temporarily dispatched 1.20 in – it’s like the soundfield just collapses. But this is also a good track for evaluating the speed of the Oberon 9s’ bass response. Just listen to those machine-gun-like repeated bass patterns!

But it really takes the standout title track to highlight the Oberon 9’s incredible stereo imaging and sound-staging abilities. The stage was so wide that it almost sounded as if the backing singers were behind me. But the closer track always reminds me that her earlier album ‘Thank u, next’ is a much better one, so it was onto this for a bit of an Ariana binge session.

Right from the first track (imagine) two things are immediately obvious. The first is the outstanding bass response of the Dali Oberon 9s. The second is that the production values of ‘Thank u, next’ are so much higher than those of ‘Positions’. Maybe she thought she’d spent too much on ‘Thank u’ and cut the budget for ‘Positions’. Make sure you listen carefully to the fade-out on bloodline, which demonstrates the linearity of the drivers across different volume levels. By the time I get to fake smile I am even more impressed by the Oberon 9s’ stereo imaging and soundstaging capabilities: All the instruments and vocalists are positioned exactly where they should be, totally rock-solid.

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‘Thank u’s track 7 rings may have caused a lot of controversy (as well as at least one law suit for copyright infringement), but it’s a great song, and I am ready to forgive anything of a woman who says. “I am champagne. You know how people say we’re 60 percent water? I’m 60 per cent pink Veuve Clicquot.” I made a note of how well the Oberon 9s handled the subtle pitch changes in the introduction to this song as well as how well they delivered the myriad strands that went into making it a masterwork.

Mackie Lets You Thump GO

Having a portable and powerful loudspeaker is very convenient whether you are playing singer-songwriter rounds at a local pub, busking on a busy street, or playing an outdoor showcase.

Mackie has carved out a nice niche with their Thump series ranging from the Thump12a, Thump15a, and the ThumpBST. The latest edition, Thump GO, is in a category all its own.

American Songwriter was fortunate to receive one of these to review. The large grab-and-go handle on top of the loudspeaker makes Thump GO easy to carry and it is surprisingly light, weighing in at only 17.6 pounds. The removable, and rechargeable lithium-ion battery has a battery meter on the back of the cabinet and a full charge will last for 12 hours of continuous use.

The Thumb GO pushes a hefty amount of low-end bass considering it only has an 8” woofer and a 1” compression driver for music reproduction. The built-in two-channel mixer can accept XLR or ¼” cables so that you can plug in microphones, keyboards, guitars, or other stringed instruments. There is also an XLR through connection in case you are using it as a floor monitor instead of a standalone music PA or Bluetooth music source. The Voicing Modes selector allows you to select Music, Speech, Monitor, or Sub. It has 200 watts peak Class D power. Pairing with the Bluetooth section of the Thump GO was simple, and it did a stellar job of reproducing some Beatles music after watching the documentary.

As if this wasn’t enough Mackie offers a free App named Thump Connect 2, which affords you complete control over the Thump GO system remotely from your smartphone or tablet. This is an incredible feature for live music artists so that you can stay hands-free and have total control over your sound output from your microphone stand. It also has a built-in Feedback Eliminator, which I wish many of the songwriter rounds around town had.

Street price on the Mackie Thump GO is $399.99, which is a bit higher than some of the competing systems, but you also gain some incredible features with this system that the others don’t have. The sound quality of the Thump GO for music reproduction and Live Music applications was superior. If you are going to purchase a Thump GO, I would recommend you buy the Carry Bag which is an additional $59.99 to protect your investment. You can also acquire a spare battery, if you plan to push the 12-hour limit or aren’t near a power source, for $69.99. Personally, I prefer wireless loudspeakers such as the Mackie Thump GO because then you have one less cable to string and plug in at a gig or performance.

The Thump Go has more tonal separation thanks to the addition of the built-in compression driver providing increased mid and high-end frequencies. Wireless App control is also a big win. If you’re in the market for a portable, powered, battery-operated, two-channel loudspeaker that can double as a Bluetooth music source or a monitor, then give the Thump Go a listen.

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin (2021) offers decent sounds for a stylish speaker

If you’re looking for a neat looking speaker that plays the tunes well and never fails to catch the eye, the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin will surely rank high on your shopping list.

The wireless speaker has come a long way since the original version sported an iPod dock back in 2007, though the latest that comes with today’s modern streaming apps has retained the trademark elliptical shape.

The front-end is clothed in fabric and the controls are subtly placed just behind. Seamless is the word I’d use to describe the design of the B&W Zeppelin.

That’s also how I felt about the setup. Like other wireless speakers today, such as those from Sonos, the Zeppelin makes use of a mobile app on your phone to tap onto your home Wi-Fi.

It is easy to get going with the new speaker out of the box, I must say, though like Sonos, B&W also requires you to log in with an account, which might put off some users worried about privacy.

The sound, however, should impress many detractors of such “lifestyle” speakers, especially ones that sport plastic enclosures prone to vibration and distortion.

After trying it out for a few weeks, I’d say the new Zeppelin sounds good enough for casual listening. In other words, when you’re not seated at a sofa in front of it and listening intently.

The B&W speaker certainly doesn’t lack the balance and weight often missing from a small speaker. Clarity is something you’d find on the Zeppelin as well.

It helps that the 6.5kg speaker is packed with a 240-watt amplifier that powers two 25mm double dome tweeters, two 90mm mid-range drivers and a 150mm subwoofer. Together, they combine to create an unfussed, room-filling sound.

I played back a number of tracks from Tidal, including Yusef Lateef’s The Plum Blossom, and I’m impressed by the generally unfazed presentation.

Melody Gardot’s Live in Europe concert album also sounded great, with the various parts of the band on stage accompanying the singer’s vocals with cohesion and good timing.

The low notes are surprisingly decent too, considering the lack of size here. Play a couple of tracks like John Legend’s Green Light and Everybody Knows and you get decently quick bass response.

Of course, the laws of physics still exist for a reason. Despite the improvements in small speakers over the years, there is always a limitation on how realistically they can project sound.

The Zeppelin won’t trouble a pair of bookshelf speakers when it comes to stereo imaging and 3D depth, or in other words, casting a realistic audio image in front of you.

If you listen intently, you’d find the audio often sounds like it is coming from the Zeppelin instead of all around it. The width and depth of the imaginary soundstage in front of you are limited, as with most speakers of its size.

That’s not to say the Zeppelin won’t fit well into your home, of course. I’d happily have it in my bedroom, for example, because it would make for excellent background music to wind down with.

No issue, either, of course, you wish to place it in your living room as your main audio source. Not everyone sits down and intently listens to music – sometimes, it’s just great to have as you’re having a party over the festive season, for example.

What I do think B&W can improve on is the playback of music from your network drive.

Yes, it does connect via Bluetooth, with support for the new aptX Adaptive codec, but it doesn’t let you connect to and browse a network drive to directly play back your FLAC or WAV tracks.

For my tests, I streamed lossless tracks from Tidal (B&W also supports Deezer and Qobuz), which I added to the B&W app during setup.

You can also play back Spotify tracks over Spotify Connect, which means you fire up your Spotify app on your phone then “point” or output the audio to the B&W speaker as you play back.

Perhaps B&W believes that the Zeppelin is aimed more at folks who want minimal fuss, which means streaming services are the main sources of music. That said, I’d like a bit more flexibility.

After all, the S$1,200 the company is asking for is no small change. It’s still a fair deal for its stylish design and decent sound, if you play music primarily from streaming services such as Tidal and Spotify.

Coming in black or grey, the Zeppelin will also fit in with your home decor easily. It’s an attractive setup if you don’t want the clutter of a stereo hi-fi system.