DALI Katch Portable Bluetooth Speaker Review
Scandinavian style and some impressive audio features - what’s the Katch?
What is the DALI Katch?The Dali Katch is a compact, portable Bluetooth loudspeaker. Its existence partly reflects the growing importance of this segment of the market. Since Bluetooth made the necessary adjustments to its audio capability to become a credible audio source, it has come to dramatically re-shape the portable audio market. It wasn’t so long ago that if you wanted to build a portable speaker, you had to effectively build a shrunken version of a full size system. It needed the means to play a physical format of some description (or simply be content to receive FM) and this shaped how it looked and behaved. Perhaps as a result of this, these products were rarely, if ever, the preserve of ‘audiophile’ brands.
Now, a portable speaker can be entirely dependent on another device to act as a source and this, in turn, makes them able to assume shapes that were largely impossible when physical media was a requirement. As a result of this, the market for such devices has expanded rapidly. This has not gone unnoticed by brands who previously would have left such matter to more mainstream companies. The thinking behind this is a combination of real world cynicism and positive thinking. Cynicism because it reflects that the number of people buying box speakers is down and you might as well make something that people will buy. Optimism because it comes coupled with the belief (that is from time to time borne out by events) that people who get their first experience of your brand in this fashion will go on to buy some of your more traditional products. The Katch is DALI setting up its offering in this area - can they deliver their ideals in a compact and easy to carry way?
Specification and designThe Katch is primarily designed to make use of Bluetooth as the main means of use. DALI (capitalised as an acronym of Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries) has fitted it with Bluetooth Version 4.0 and partnered this with Apt-X support. At the time of writing (October 2018) we have already started to see products with Apt-X HD, LDAC or even Bluetooth 5, the last of which has the first potential increase in bandwidth handling since Bluetooth 2.0, so this might seem a little old hat. In reality, the highest bandwidth material that a product of this nature is likely to encounter is something like Tidal and for this, the Bluetooth fitment of the Katch is entirely sufficient.
This is partnered with a 3.5mm line input and a USB A connection. At first, these might seem individually useful but not cumulatively. In reality, DALI has been quite switched on. The connections are arranged in such a way as to allow for the use of something like a Chromecast Audio in a completely self-contained fashion. Adding one at £30 will turn the Klatch into a convincing and cost-effective facsimile of a multiroom speaker in the Sonos/MusicCast vein and represents a fairly cost-effective way of doing so.
These inputs make use of a fairly complex arrangement of amplification and drivers. The Katch is fitted with both a pair of 21mm soft dome high frequency drivers and a pair 90mm low frequency units, which are powered by a pair of 25 watt amplifiers. As you might imagine, these can’t all fit on one ‘side’ of the Katch so instead they are arranged on either side to give a complete arc of sound. This means that the DALI is a stereo product but from a single point and with one channel notionally arranged behind the first.
This already sounds quite busy but these drivers are then further bolstered by a pair of rectangular passive radiators. These are mounted back to back and are intended to augment the low end. Cumulatively, in terms of both passive and powered output, this is a very large amount of radiating area in a small chassis. DALI has then managed to find the space to fit a 2600 mAh battery which gives the Katch a claimed battery life of 24 hours.
The additional Bluetooth functionality of the DALI isn’t huge but is potentially useful. Like a number of Bluetooth products going on sale at the moment, the Katch can be paired up with another unit to form a true stereo pair which should be both more Hi-Fi, and able to fill a rather larger space than a single unit. There are also two different EQ modes for the Katch. The first is ‘Clear’ which has been designed to give the most accurate and neutral performance possible. There is also a ‘Warm’ setting that allows you to boost the bass a little and give the Katch a hand in bigger spaces. Against this, the DALI cannot take a call when your phone is connected to it - although if your Bluetooth is correctly implemented, it should keep the call on the handset. There is also no form of Bluetooth app.
DALI is a Danish company and as Scandinavians, there is a certain weight of expectation that they will have the design side of things well in hand. The good news for them is that the Katch is a very nicely thought out thing indeed. The chassis takes the form of a flattened oval with the outer edge in metal. The most notable thing about this - particularly considering that the Katch is a ‘double sided’ unit - is how thin it is. It is less than 5cm thick and counts as a genuinely portable speaker. This is helped by the fitting of a grab handle at the end of the chassis that fits flush when not in use. It would be entirely possible to carry it around to listen to all day and, while I feel you should be happy to accept you are going to be punched if you try it, it does make some other ‘portable’ rivals look very unwieldy.
It is also a very pleasing piece of industrial design. Some aspects of the Katch are retro - the handle arrangement and the brushed metal edge especially - but it doesn’t feel old-fashioned. This is in part down to the number of finishes available. There are five in total and they give the Katch sufficiently different shading so as to work in a number of situations. The review sample is in a new black finish that benefits from not being too black. This might sound weird but by using a brown handle and the brushed edge, it gives the Katch a lightness that it would otherwise lack.
As well as being elegant, it is usefully practical too. The auxiliary connections are behind a hinged rubber flap to keep them protected and the meshing over the drivers seems to be very robust too. The controls on the top panel are totally logical, easy to use and combined with some useful and pleasant tones to tell you what the unit is up to at the time. It should be possible to get using a Katch with no recourse to the manual which is the goal of any product of this nature.
the Katch is a very nicely thought out thing indeed
How was the Katch tested?The DALI has been principally tested with an Essential PH-1 smartphone running Bubble UPnP from a Melco N1A as well as Spotify, Tidal, Deezer and Qobuz. Some additional testing has been undertaken via an iPad Air and Shanling M0. A Chromecast Audio has additionally been used to test the Katch’s claimed advantages as a source for it. Material used has included FLAC, AIFF and a selection of streaming services.
With the Katch fully charged up, pairing to the Essential phone is a simple business and once connected, it has been entirely stable. DALI doesn’t quote a range figure but it should be possible to wander around within reasonable earshot of the Katch and not suffer any dropouts. The battery life of 24 hours also feels achievable too. All this helps the Katch to be something you’ll want to take out and about with you.
The other reason, you’ll want to include it on your jaunts is that the DALI sounds improbably good. A sense of perspective is needed here. The DALI is £80 cheaper than the Klipsch R41 PM but those clever powered speakers will demonstrate abilities that the Katch won’t get anywhere near. It is £130 more expensive than the Yamaha MusicCast 20 and in many regards, it doesn’t do a huge amount more than that does. The difference is that the DALI can do what it does everywhere. And what it does is deliver more of the musical message than you might reasonably expect from a compact lozenge.
Listening to the newly released Honey by Robyn which is almost the type description of ‘Perfect Pop’ and the DALI manages to convey the urgency and drive of the music in a way that is slightly unexpected for something so small. What the Katch does extremely effectively is to capture enough of the music sufficiently well to allow you to concentrate on that and forgive the limitations. In a typical listening session, the amount of time I need to listen to the DALI for test purposes versus how long I actually have listened to it for is always in favour of voluntary listening.
Much of this stems from the simple fact that the Katch is fun to listen to. It hammers its way through the Tidal stream of Greta Van Fleet’s Age of Man and captures the shameless, almost pantoesque, seventies quality of it. The presence of the passive radiators has no effect on the speed of the performance and this means that the Katch can positively hammer along when you need it to. No less importantly, when you want to listen to something delicate, it never forces the presentation to be something it isn’t. While it is never going to challenge a twin chassis speaker arrangement, it also has something approaching a sense of stereo from it too.
If you really hammer the volume, the Katch can start to sound a little confused and forward. I think at least some of this bias is deliberate and is intended to keep it sounding cohesive at high levels outdoors. The levels it occurs at don’t really start until it’s boisterously loud indoors. The selectable profiles are a little disappointing in this case. Almost all listening has been carried out in the ‘Clear’ setting because while the ‘Warm’ setting does increase the bass response, it destroys that innate timing that the DALI is otherwise very good at. Unless you really want to use it in a vast space, I’d suggest leaving it be.
On the other hand, if you are mainly planning to use the DALI in a fixed location, I would recommend wholeheartedly that you splash £30 on a Chromecast Audio. In the context of being supplied with an £800 amplifier or £1,200 all in one, I have found limitations to the Chromecast’s analogue performance. Into the Katch, these are rather less apparent. Google’s little plastic disc imbues the DALI with a range of abilities that aren’t too different to a more conventional smart speaker. You can then undo the two connections that attach it and take the Katch out for the day. While there are portable speakers with wireless network abilities built in, thanks to the power consumption of that equipment, none of them can get near the battery life of the DALI. The result is - possibly by accident, possibly by design - more flexible than simply making the Katch capable of being Casted to all the time.
if you are mainly planning to use the DALI in a fixed location, I would recommend wholeheartedly that you splash £30 on a Chromecast Audio
- Fast and engaging sound
- Lovely industrial design
- Genuinely portable
- Quite pricey
- Pre adjusted EQ not very effective
- No microphone for calls
DALI Katch Portable Bluetooth Speaker ReviewAs I have noted, if you do not need a battery in your speaker or the need to easily carry it, you can secure products that can perform in a similar fashion to the Katch for less money or, for a little more, products that are decisively better. If you do fancy a speaker that can travel around with you though, the Katch is a truly outstanding piece of kit. DALI has ensured it’s easy to move about and has an impressively long battery life when you do so. They’ve also ensured that the Katch is consistently entertaining to listen to and something that delivers the musical message. If we think back to why manufacturers have entered this category, the Katch delivers admirably as it is extremely competitive in its own right and likely to encourage at least a few buyers to look into what else the company can do. As such, this engaging little speaker comes Highly Recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £330.00
Ease of Use9
Value for Money8
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