For years, I used to be a type of choosy audiophiles who swore they’d by no means use noise-canceling headphones for critical listening. Early ANC (lively noise-canceling) fashions created bizarre strain in your ear, had boomy bass, and killed element within the highs. It’s solely previously 12 months or two ANC headphones from the likes of Sony and Bose have gotten ok to alter my thoughts. So it shouldn’t come as a shock that I’m a little bit skeptical of any newcomer coming into the market.

That’s how I felt when Dali, the venerable Danish speaker producer, supplied to let me strive its new IO-6 headphones.

The corporate has been constructing audio system since 1983, however it’s largely centered on European markets, and it’s by no means made headphones of any kind earlier than (not to mention of the noise-canceling selection). And at $500 a pair when many nice choices begin at $300 or $400, the IO-6 had higher be very good.

My skepticism was unwarranted. Dali’s IO-6 makes a robust exhibiting as the corporate seeks to broaden into new markets. Not solely are the IO-6 certainly excellent, they is likely to be my favourite ANC headphones proper now.  Although they lack a killer characteristic, Dali’s first headphones get all of the fundamentals proper.

Design and Construct

It begins with the design. Aesthetics are subjective, however the IO-6 are handsome headphones. With their silver accents, they stand out greater than Sony’s WH-1000MX3 or Bose‘s 700, whereas caramel and black colorways function a superb complement to most of my style decisions (I may all the time go for extra colours, however these two are a superb begin).

Some options would possibly really feel a little bit extra high-end, such because the Bowers & Wilkins PX7, however the IO6 are not any slouch within the seems to be division; I even acquired a number of compliments whereas sporting them.

Seems to be apart, I used to be blissful to put on the IO-6 for hours on finish too. The round cups present a beneficiant quantity of actual property, whereas the plush reminiscence foam padding, vegan leather-based, and featherweight design stored the headphones from making use of undue strain on my noggin. Maybe the perfect praise I can provide the IO-6’s seems to be and luxury is that after 4 years collectively, these are the primary massive headphones my girlfriend appeared to really wish to maintain onto.

Dali additionally scores factors on the usability division. I abhor the pattern of creating every part touch-sensitive, so I used to be glad to see there was none of that on the IO-6 — simply good ol’ dependable buttons.

There are few issues extra insidiously annoying that your headphones not responding to your faucets and swipes on the go. That’s by no means a priority with the IO; the big silver disc on the appropriate earcup is definitely a big button that serves to regulate each quantity and playback. It really works each time, and also you don’t have to fret about your headphones not registering your instructions when sporting gloves or within the rain.

If I something, the button disc would possibly really be a little bit too straightforward to press – I generally performed music accidentally after I wore the headphones round my neck. Additionally Consider the headphones additionally haven’t any auto-pause characteristic while you take off the headphones, which is okay by me as I’ve discovered such options to create extra bother than they’re price with out fail.

Another notes earlier than we get to the precise sound:

  • The headphones have seemingly unending battery life. Dali charges them at an already spectacular 30 hours, however I’ve discovered they’ll go far longer with ANC off, which is how the headphones activate by default.
  • They leak little or no sound to the individuals round you too.
  • The IO-6 cost by way of USB-C, as all issues ought to. Each my cellphone charger and laptop computer charger have been efficient in powering the headphones
  • Bluetooth apart, you possibly can join them to your PC by way of both a headphone cable or the USB-C port along with Bluetooth. A direct USB connection really appears to supply the perfect sound high quality.
  • Sadly, the microphone seems to solely works by way of Bluetooth, despite the fact that Home windows will acknowledge the IO6 as having a microphone while you plug them in by way of USB.
  • You may invoke the Google Assistant or Siri with an extended press on the first button.
  • The IO-6 are IP53 waterproof.
  • They assist each AptX HD and AAC codecs.
  • The headphones are available in a pleasant semi-hard fabric case and embrace each USB-C and three.5mm cables, in addition to an airplane adapter.

Noise cancelation and sound impressions

All this may be for naught if the sound and noise-canceling have been no good, however the IO6 handle to supply an acoustic efficiency that I feel not solely rivals the noise-canceling competitors, however some devoted headphones as properly.

The noise-canceling itself is very efficient – up there with the 1000XM3’s. That’s spectacular for a newcomer, and is largely resulting from how good the passive isolation is; the earcups themselves create a ok seal that many customers actually most likely don’t have to activate ANC on a regular basis.

I discovered myself solely turning it on after I was in a really noisy atmosphere such because the subway. Basically, the ANC shines when it’s essential to cancel low-frequency noise, such because the hum of your AC or the rumble of an airplane, however for every part else, passive isolation suffices. On the opposite finish of the spectrum, I typically used the headphones‘ transparency mode which makes use of the microphone to amplify exterior noise, as a result of the headphones already block out a lot sound with noise canceling off.

(When you don’t want lively noise canceling, you would possibly wish to take a look at the Dali IO-4, which haven’t any noise-canceling, however price $100 much less and promise 60 hours of battery life on a cost. My assessment on these out quickly.)

No matter mode you’re in, the IO-6 sound incredible. Like, ok that I hardly ever really feel the necessity to use my devoted headphones.

The IO-6 are my favourite kind of headphones – those that don’t place an emphasis on any explicit a part of the frequency response and as a substitute attempt to ship a impartial tonality.

Opposite to some audiophile folklore, ‘impartial’ doesn’t imply missing bass; the IO-6 will present an ample kick when wanted with out bloating the remainder of the frequency vary. Some customers could favor a bit extra oomph, however the IO6 strikes a pleasant steadiness to my ears, such that there’s sufficient bass in hip

Spatial cues are introduced realistically, and although the IO-6 don’t have the widest soundstage I’ve heard on a pair of headphones, they’re higher than most noise-canceling choices and have exact imaging to go together with it. That is aided by treble that to me appears only a bit ahead; it would emphasize particulars within the highs although not sufficient to magnify sibilants or harsh recordings to my ear.

Subjectively, I fairly most well-liked their tonality to the Sony 1000XM3, which have been my earlier noise-canceling champs. The truth is, I discovered their tuning to be fairly much like certainly one of my all-time favourite headphones, the $1,500 Focal Clear, besides with a bit extra bass (a superb factor in my ebook!). Contemplating the value differential, that’s no small praise.

Measurements

The IO-6’s efficiency can be evident of their measured frequency response. I exploit a MiniDSP Ears to seize the headphone‘s response. Whereas this isn’t an industry-standard software and I wouldn’t make comparisons to measurements from different sources, the EARs might be helpful for comparative functions in opposition to headphones measured on the identical rig. This helps me quantify tonal variations relative to different headphones in the marketplace, as we are able to inform loads a couple of headphone’s sound simply from the frequency response.

Beneath, in white, is the IO-6’s frequency response, averaged from seven measurements from every earcup, with noise canceling on. In blue is the Focal Clear and in pink is the Sony WH-1000XM3. These are each headphones I take into account to be pretty impartial, however to my ear the Sonys have a bit an excessive amount of bass whereas the Focals have a bit too little.

(Whereas it may be tough to interpret headphone measurements, particularly within the highs, the graphs listed below are calibrated such {that a} flat-ish line ought to be perceived as pretty impartial by most listeners.)

We are able to see the IO-6 has a neutral-tuned response all through the bass and midrange. There’s a little bit of extra vitality within the highs, which, as talked about beforehand, would possibly make them sound a bit shiny, however to not the purpose of being harsh to my pretty delicate ears. You may see the curve follows the Focal fairly intently within the highs, resulting in a neutral-ish tonality that’s maybe a hair shiny.

You may see the IO-6 runs proper between the Sony and Focal in bass amount, matching my listening impressions and my preferences.  The IO-6 will not be the only option in case you favor a hotter sound, with no danger of ever sounding shiny, however they characterize an general impartial response with simply the correct quantity of bass and mids.

That mentioned, like most closed-back headphones, the IO-6 requires a correct seal to sound their greatest. Whereas I didn’t have a lot bother getting a superb seal due to the plush padding you possibly can see how a poor seal will trigger a steep bass drop-off within the sub-bass:

Lastly, right here is how the response adjustments relying on whether or not you might be utilizing the headphones with noise canceling on and off, in addition to when the headphones are turned off and also you join them by way of the three.5mm jack:

The responses with ANC on and off are very related, with a bit extra bass vitality when noise canceling is off – in real-world use, the sound is nearly similar. In the meantime turning the headphones off altogether and simply utilizing the three.5mm jack offers you a whole lot of extra vitality round 2KhZ, which can are likely to make the headphones sound too ahead and maybe a bit shouty. So whereas they nonetheless sound good with the inner processing disabled, you’ll wish to flip them on to get probably the most out of their sound.

I’ve little or no to complain concerning the Dali IO-6. Sure, it’s dearer than many rivals, there’s no app obtainable for customizing the sound, and the principle button is a bit too straightforward to click on. On paper, they don’t attempt to differentiate themselves with any explicit characteristic.

However the IO-6 get all the fundamentals proper. Seems to be, consolation, battery, noise-canceling, usability, and sound high quality are all among the many greatest of their class. The IO-6’s well-rounded efficiency means they’re typically the primary headphones I attain for, whether or not touring or listening at house.

Lengthy story brief: Dali caught the touchdown. Not dangerous for a primary strive.

The Dali IO-6 can be found from Amazon for $499. When you don’t want lively noise canceling and can be pleased with headphones that merely block out loads of noise passively, the IO-4 have just about similar sound high quality, double the battery life, and solely price $399.


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Printed March 26, 2020 — 21:11 UTC

Value
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499

ProductIO-6 by Dali



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