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Question Advice on Dali Oberon bookshelf vs. towers, and subs?

svarto

Novice Member
Hi all,

I would really appreciate some of your thoughts and advice on how to think about setting up a 5.1 system. You will find attached a drawing of the space where the speakers will be, it is a living room. The usage will be 50% music and 50% movies / TV series.

As they will be seen all the time, I need something that is easy on the eye, I like the Dali Oberon line a lot. This is what I was thinking:
  • Front left / right: Dali Oberon 7 OR 5
  • Center: Dali Oberon Vokal
  • Surround: Dali Oberon 1 (mounted on the wall at a 90 degree angle towards sofa with: LINK)
  • Subwoofer: SVS SB-2000 or Q-Acoustic QB12
  • AVR: Sony STR-DN1080
I would really appreciate your advice on the following as this is my first entry into a 5.1 system:
  1. Is there still a big difference between Oberon 7 and 5 when either are paired with a subwoofer? Should I even go for Oberon 3s in the front?
  2. Are the Oberon 1 enough for surround speakers, or should I go for Oberon 3?
  3. Will I cripple the surround sound speakers a lot when I wall mount them and angle them 90 degrees horizontally to point towards the sofa?
  4. Is the SVS SB-2000 a good choice and how would it compare to Q Acoustics QB12? Any other recommendations?
  5. I found the Sony STR-DN1080 recommended on whathifi, but I also hear a lot about the Denon AVRs, any recommendations here for the setup I am thinking of?
Lots of questions, sorry about that! I really appreciate any help you can give me! Thank you!!

BONUS question: Part of me just thinks if I should take the easy route and get a Sonos 5.1 (i.e. beam, One SL, sub) - but I assume the Oberon's will sound a lot better than Sonos?
 

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gibbsy

Moderator
Welcome to the Forum.

Even with floorstanding speakers it is always good to have a subwoofer in the set up. It will be there for the LFE channel, the .1 in 5.1, and will carry the low effects that are designed into the 5.1 soundtrack of films. Having a powered subwoofer will also ease the load on the amp itself as a crossover of 80hz needs to be applied to the speakers with them all set to small meaning that any frequencies below that 80hz will be handled by the sub allowing more headroom for the mids and highs.

Floorstanding or standmounts can sometimes be determined by the room and their placement within that room. I've had a look at your plan but without knowing dimensions I cannot be certain but it does seem that you have enough room for floorstanding speakers. They don't like being pushed into a corner or placed too close to a rear wall, you have to give them room to breath to perform at their best.

The Oberons are good speakers but you should really listen to them along with your chosen receiver before purchasing, it's your ears they have to satisfy not mine or anyone else's. As the surrounds being smaller then that's fine, again depending on the dimensions of your room which we don't have. The surrounds carry a lot less information than the all important front three. The calibration on receivers will balance out the sound.

As for the Sony I'm not a fan. Too many restrictions with speakers in the Atmos domain if you wish to go down that route. You are also limited to a maximum speaker set up of 5.1.2. Certainly look at receivers from Denon or Marantz as they have superior room correction on board and are extremely easy to set up, even for a first time user. The direct competitor for the Sony would be the Denon X2600 but if the X3500 is still available at a good price in your country then that is a superior receiver to both the X2600 and the Sony.
 

andym81

Active Member
I own the Dali zensor 5s floor standers and they dont like been in corners as I have the. They are quite muted so I'd go with the bookshelfs. Sb 2000 is a great sub, used to have one. Check audiovisual online they have warehouse deals on sb 2000 and 3000
 

svarto

Novice Member
Thank you for the welcome!

@gibbsy Thank you for the detailed answer! Really helpful!

My challenge is where I am living I can't demo the speakers, so will have to order and send back if I really don't like them. Since I do have space for floorstanding speakers, probably better to go for those rather than bookshelf as you said. I could make space for the 7s, but still need to think through if the 5s are enough - saves me some money.

Very helpful with the AVRs, the x3500 is still available and not that much more expensive so will go for that one. Definitely want to leave it open to add Atmos at a later time!

@andym81 thanks a lot, glad to hear the SB-2000 was good for you. I will try and get a good deal on that one!
 

Skepticimia

Novice Member
Hi Svarto,

What you are describing is basically exactly what I have.

Google "Oberon vs zensor" and you'll find my thoughts, which I still stand by, on another thread on here.

Kit wise, now this is what I've got :

Oberon 5
Oberon 1
Zensor 1
Zensor Vokal
Zensor 3
SB2000
AVR-X3500H

Amongst this, I also have tested a REL T8i and a pair of focal aria 926s.

I wasn't impressed with the Rel. The passive radiator was slapping out (audibly so) at loud testing levels with an older amp, before I got the denon, and also, compared to the svs, I couldn't notice the effect that much for the money. I nearly sacked off the sub, but the Oberon 5 bass limits, most notably in movies, eventually got me back in the game. Honestly, I took a punt with Richer Sounds phone ordering and went for the sb2000.


I'm not brand loyal, nor do I generally evangelise about any product. Having been reading, watching and doing a bit of listening around the hifi field, I'm comfortable saying that I think the hifi field is obviously gear fetish driven, rather subjective and full of variables I doubt enough people with opinions actually bother to try to control to maintain some level of objectivity.

From this POV, I wanted to buy a sub that I basically wouldn't need to replace, hence I thought I'd pay the price. Simply put, the SVS is fabulous. I haven't even done a sub crawl for a few reasons, and it is set at about 45% volume with Audyssey cutting 6db of it in a room about 5x12m. I just unreservedly recommend you try it from RS who will allow you to cancel under DS regs, essentially eliminating risk. I got mine for £830 with the guarantee over the phone. When I took back a set of demo Focal Arias to a store, they looked at my buying record and the asst mgr expressed his disappointment that I didn't buy in store, claiming they could have lowered the price further.

Having had Oberon 5s for a year now, for the price I paid, I've been very, very pleased. I would not be comfortable paying £700 for them though, knowing that last year RS dropped them to IIRC £500, so keep your eyes peeled and be patient. I got white grills separately. A word of caution, the grilles can buzz at high volumes at certain frequencies. I do find this disappointing. Also, using a frequency generator I've found that the tweeter housing on one of the speakers also resonates, but I've yet to try tightening it. Bass performance /movie LFE is a noticeable limit on mine. Films like Inception and Interstellar with very low LFS with cause bottoming above 60db which is disappointing, but setting up as small speakers with a crossover at 60hz and the sub avoids this limit and the setup sounds great. Little of the music I listen to gets to this limit, but I've just been deliberately testing again tonight (see below) and some tracks hit it. Dead Inside by Muse does it in the intro above about 68db, for example. Bit it could just be my speakers.

These are the first floorstanders I've owned and also in a place I can push the volume. This recently drove me to demo Focal Aria 926s, as a next price level step change comparison. I set up a blind A/B music test for my girlfriend between the Arias and the Oberon 5s. Long story short, without knowing which were selected, she preferred the Oberon 5s to the Arias. She felt the sound was more evenly balanced across the frequency range, across a range of music from classical to rap. When I switched on the sub with the Oberons, she preferred that even more. So she preferred Oberon 5s with and without SB2000 (RRP £1500 total) to £1800 Arias with no sub. I kept the test fair. She didn't know which were playing (she's only been to my place once before so she's not familiar with the sound of any gear here). There was enough gear positioned in front that she didn't know what the third setup (Oberon plus sub) actually was.

To me, the Arias were louder at a given volume due being more sensitive, and had lower, fuller bass. But they retail at 4.5x what I paid for the Oberon 5s, and it simply is not worth the extra.

But the kicker came in the form of Beautiful Escape by Tom Misch.

Try this yourself if you can.

I can listen to that track at 80db on the Oberon 5s and there's noticeable bass distortion (overloading) at that volume. 75db, it's loud and basically perfect. But the Arias couldn't handle anywhere near that level. IIRC, above maybe 58db, the mid and bass drivers both hugely distorted so much that I had to stop the track less than a minute into it. Both speakers behaved the same.


The point of my test was to see what a step change in money could get me in sound change. I was shocked and disappointed. Sure, the demo speakers could have been knackered, but this track is a great test tool to expose lower end flaws. I won't bother spending that kind of money on speakers.

I got zensor 1 and zensor vokal on great ex display/demo prices, so my surround system was that hybrid.

From this, I conclude:

Dali wanted a reason to up their prices. They did this by bringing out Oberon with "SMC" being basically the only marketing difference to the Zensor, but the price being about 50%+ more. The range goes Spektor, then price doubling to Oberon.

I've done side by side testing and there's very little difference IMO between Zensor and Oberon, such that you normalise very easily. I don't have any problem with a zensor centre. An Oberon one would be more than double what I paid for the zensor. Not worth it IMO.

I also got a bargain pair of Oberon 1. Side by side with the 5s, there's again remarkably little difference in performance given the difference in price. Seriously. The 1s are really great speakers. If you only had 1s plus a sub you'd not be wanting for music or movies.

80db is the volume limit set on my amp and it really is pretty much the top volume for all of my dali kit. From the upper 70s, this start to either become less clear or distorted somewhere, depending upon the track, but there's plenty you can listen to at that level, including films. Obvs, that's loud, so I don't do it regularly outside of testing the boundaries.

Tonight I just picked up a used pair of Zensor 3s to compare a 7" driver in a bookshelf, to the later generation floorstanders. They sound remarkably similar. In some ways the bass is bigger from the zensor 3. I haven't found a price I want to pay for Oberon 3 hence the Zensor 3s.

I'm comfortable in the belief that Dali just needed a product refresh to whack up prices.

In conclusion, I think that Oberon 5 and 1 are brilliant, and so is Zensor. I think they're all interchangeable. I recommend to the SVS sub. If you go ahead with this combo, I'm sure you'll be happy. But I strongly advise you to be shrewd about sourcing. Bargain hard buying new, the margins must be big. If RS come down £200 on Oberon 5 (29%) want to be paying that. I would like to do a side by side with Oberon 7, but there's no way I'm paying £900 for them.

The issue with the grille rattle isn't a deal breaker for me, but I think Dali should have gone to magnetic grilles.

PS, avoid the Altecos. They are sh*t. Just buy secondhand zensor 1s to mount high or get celling speakers.

Check out Audioholics YouTube videos on Atmos specifications and the HRTF curve. I think it's bollocks. DTS Neural X makes far better use of height channels than Atmos during my testing of all this. On paper, the Altecos are literally worse speakers (bottom at 76hz) and I find this in practice. No top down effect for me at all.
 

svarto

Novice Member
@Skepticima thank you!! So much information, hard to know where to start.

I ended up going wtih the Dali Oberons set (Oberons - 2x5s, 1xVokal, 2x1s), paired with the SVS SB-2000 and the Denon AVR-X3500H - basically what you recommended as I found a nice deal on the Oberons. I am really happy with the setup, it brings movies to another level and I can actually hear the difference between lower quality mp3s and lossless music (same as you, brought in the wife in a blinded test and she could tell the different 100% of the time).

I am still playing around with the settings, as it is my first HIFI setup - takes time to understand the differences and how to set things up. I have the crossover at 80hz at the moment, will try to move it to 60hz to see if there is a difference. I am volume constrained as I live in an apartment, but I have been slightly disappointed with the "fullness" of the sound coming from the front Vokal and 5s - I would have expected more oomph in movies, but this might also be because I can't crank the volume up :)

After calibrations, I have had to tone down the surrounds a little, even though they sound great it can be a bit overpowering. Haven't found a permanent setting to increase the Fronts yet though, I see it in "Options" but it gets wiped everytime I switch to listen to music and back to movies.

The entire codecs still have me confused, I am keeping it on Auto and see the Denon picking up the TrueHD or DolbyDigital with a +DSur - sounds good but the +DSur is confusing when I am playing 5.1 sound on a 5.1 system, should be a simple passthrough to my speaker setup and no mixing required by the Denon.

Overall, I am super happy and it just reinforces what you wrote seeing it from you. If you have any advice on settings on the Denon AVR-X3500H for a beginner please let me know! (I have run Audessey, all speakers as small, bass crossover at 80hz, LFE bass, Dynamic EQ on and other settings off).
 

Skepticimia

Novice Member
I think it's worth talking your neighbours and getting permission to play loud /finding time when they are out so you can explore the upper performance a bit. Something for your next sick day.

Audyssey set up used as a starting point and levels kept there. I've set all crossovers to 60hz. LFE + main @ 80hz on the sub. All speakers config'd as small.

I've opted for Audyssey reference profile at the moment. I've turned off all Dynamic EQ and vol features.

The Zensors atm are the surrounds, Oberon 1s just sat on top of the 5s for either a/b comparison or height channel. This basically results in the same effect as the Altecos ie just a louder front soundstage.

As for which mode you use, as I understand this, selecting a +Dsur brings in any front height or top height speakers as well, regardless of the source ie a non atmos/DTSX source will getting synthetically up mixed to the extra channels.

Test this yourself and see what you think by switching your stirrings front the back channels to the extra strings ones then set them at front height or top front or middle. Then, put on a movie and go stand by those speakers and see what comes out...
 

Skepticimia

Novice Member
... You make this change from settings /speakers /amp assign

Select either front height, top front or top middle.

Now select dolby digital and watch a 5.1 disc or stream.

No sound should come from the height speakers.

Select dolby digital +dsur. Some audio should come from the height speakers. What and how much is down to the dolby DSP in this mode.

Now compare this to DTS neural X and dts x virtual.

I'm confident you'll get more from the height channels.

Now, get a genuine Atmos disc eg MI:6.

As long as the disc is being played straight into the amp, or via eARC from, say, an LG C9, you should get the full Atmos soundtrack to the amp.

If you're only using ARC (LG C8) you'll only get 5.1, not atmos, going to the amp.

Doing this revealed atmos to be, IMO, anything but the greatest revolution in home audio since the gramaphone, or whatever the dolby claim is.

I was able to take my height speakers far enough away from the fronts to know exactly what was coming out of the atmos channels. It was elements of the musical soundtrack at low volume, and some isolated effects. During the chopper chase, I think they were putting more of the rotor noise into the top channels.

I tried American sniper, BR 2049, and at least one other atmos discs and promptly returned the £260 Altecos, having got the same effect from my zensor 1s for less than half the price for a more capable speaker.

The down switch on the Altecos did nothing I could hear. I could not get a top down effect from ceiling deflection.

The information in the atmos channel was so little it wasnt worth the outlay.

Where atmos is now is sort of where 5.1 was 20 years ago. You can buy it, but you'll rarely use it unless you spend money on sources, and even then its down to the mix. You can't expect a majority of scenes in a given film to need overhead sound.

Engaging DTS X on atmos and none atmos sources done more of the soundtrack into the height channels, if that's what you want.

With just 5.1 speakers, you don't need to care about any of this. You can use any of the modes knowing that you're still getting 5.1 decoded.

From what I can tell, I prefer dts HD Master soundtracks. They just seem to sound bigger than dolby.

I avoid any of the other DSP on the denon eg virtual, mono movie etc etc. Just stereo or an appropriate multi channel mode. Multi channel stereo can be great with music. Dolby digital or dts x on music can, as set now, be centre heavy, and that's with the levels all set by Audyssey.

People talk about timbre matching across the front and so me having a zensor vokal and Oberon fronts might seem some kind of sin. It sounds fine. One day I'll find and Oberon vokal at a price I want to pay and then give it a go just so I can.

I'm awaiting the delivery of a zensor pico vokal I got for dirt cheap to both compare and probably send to my parent's house. It was £56.Ijust by up see what the box size does to the performance in comparison to a full size zensor.

As for your perception of fullness across the front, set the crossovers to 60hz
 

Skepticimia

Novice Member
Then try having the sub crossover set to 80hz so there's overlap. Now though that the Oberon 5s can go to something like 39hz and centre similar, so you could try dropping to 40hz and 60hz crossovers.

One thing you should definitely try is this :

Settings /speakers /manual setup/speaker config

Set fronts to large
Set sub to none
Set centre to large
At surrounds to small


Now try movies and music. See what you think of just the dali low performance, without the sub. The above settings should ignore the crossover song as now, on Large, the amp is sending full range signal to the fronts. Use that to see what sounds and volumes cause the fronts and centre to bottom out /distort. You can then bring the sub back in.

I have my fronts set to small, which stops movie and some music LFE overloading them.

Bear in mind that you normalise rapidly to your own gear, whatever it is, and your usual listening level.

Two mates came round recently and they said my set up is the best they've ever heard. They were laughing as I made them watch mad max fury Road and some other noisy stuff.

When my GF came over she couldn't really handle sustained listening above 70db. The first time, I subjected her to Tron Legacy and the volume I had it at disturbed her a bit. I liked it until I realised that I couldn't hear what she was saying say next to me.

Re lossless versus mp3, I can hear a difference between 320bps and some lower rate, but above 320bps I can't pass ABX tests.

Most people can't, apparently. Try them for yourself on that gear. Google will lead you to them.

This is why I'm very skeptical of huge amounts of hifi chat. Most discussions reviews involve no reference to science or objective tests. The worst offenders for hokum appears to be the cable industry and the hifi rack thing. If vibration is a killer to solid state electronics, why are speaker manufacturers making active speakers where the amp is inside a pressurised box? No review I've ever read mentions this. Utter bollocks.
 
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