Updated: Aug 19, 2021
Written by Cheryl Tan
Dali is a pretty well-known speaker brand, with their excellent loudspeakers having built quite a name for themselves. They’ve finally ventured into headphones, and the Dali IO-6 is the brand’s first pair of active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones.
It comes in two colours, Iron Black and Caramel White. The Caramel White is the one we have on hand, and it’s definitely a nice change from the standard black headphones we’ve been reviewing. Build quality is solid, as expected from Dali, with exceptionally plush cushioning on the headband.
There are buttons and sliders on the right earcup, a slider to turn the headphones on and off and to activate Bluetooth pairing, a button to activate ANC or Transparency mode and a few LED indicators for Bluetooth connection and battery life. There’s also a USB-C connector here for charging, which is always nice.
The metal accents on the arms and earcups prevent it from feeling too plasticky, which is great considering the price point of these put it squarely in the premium headphones segment. The padding on the cups is sufficient for listening to these for a prolonged period of time. I had them on for around 6 hours on a flight, and while my ears did heat up, it wasn’t uncomfortable. Clamping force was perfect and I didn’t notice any pinching at the top of my head.
Inside the dark gray fabric carrying case, you’ll find a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable, a USB-A to USB-C charging cable and a flight adapter. The cables are the same cream colour as the headphones, which shows Dali’s attention to detail. A lot of brands are leaving out including flight adapters now, but it’s still a good-to-have accessory. Unfortunately, the case is a little on the big side since the headphones can only swivel inwards and not fold in on itself like some other headphones can.
The metal disc in the middle of the right earcup controls audio playback, volume, track skipping and call answering. The 3.5mm jack is on the left earcup for wired listening. Battery life is rated for 30 hours, and I’ve found that standby time for these headphones is insane, with 60% left when stored for around two months.
Instead of oval cups, you get a perfectly circular shape with these, which is great for users with wider ears, although if your ears are taller than they are wider, you might feel them brush against the sides of the padding.
The sound is exactly what you would expect out of something coming from Dali. The first thing I noticed was the excellent separation between individual instruments and the vocals. The soundstage is also sufficiently large and each instrument occupies a definite place without the sound ever getting muddy or compressed.
Bass is thumpy and detailed while still remaining controlled, which is great when considering this is a pair of audiophile-grade flat response headphones, but comparing it to the Sony WH-1000XM3 will leave users disappointed if they’re looking for more of a punch or something that has a fun sound.
Mids are excellent; guitars and percussion really shine through. Thanks to the separation, listeners will really be able to enjoy the track in an analytical manner. Vocals never blend into each other, but provide enough harmony to make each track a comprehensible experience.
I really enjoyed the treble and highs here, with beautiful detail and just enough energy for me. Listening to Max Richter’s Spring 1 was a delight, with the delicateness of the strings and again, the detail and separation play to their full advantage here.
The best part is that there is a fluidity and consistency in the sound throughout the tracks, with no specific focus except to sound good and accurate. And that’s a refreshing change compared to the V-shaped sound signature that has been popular lately.
Moving on to the ANC, I’m a little bit disappointed here because of the inability to adjust the level of noise cancelling. The button for ANC switches between on and off, and Transparency mode. There’s no app to control ANC or any other function of the headphones either.
For the audiophiles, the IO-6 supports SBC, AAC, aptX and aptX HD. It’s running on Bluetooth 5.0 as well, and I didn’t experience any issues with connection during my time testing it.
The noise-cancelling itself is quite effective, however. Low rumbles from plane engines are cut out and I sat through my flight comfortably. There was a child screaming for a bit on the plane, but it was 70% muffled and once a movie was playing, I could ignore it completely. I reckon it’s on par with the Bowers & Wilkins’ PX7, although right now, nothing on the market is able to dethrone the Sony WH-1000XM3 as the ANC king.
At S$669, the Dali IO-6 is definitely in the premium headphones segment, and thankfully, they display that in their build quality and more importantly, sound quality.
The Dali IO-6 can be found at authorised retailer The Experts Group at their showroom at Funan Mall, as well as at the distributor, Eighteen 77.