For years, I used to be a type of choosy audiophiles who swore they’d by no means use noise-canceling headphones for severe listening. Early ANC (energetic noise-canceling) fashions created bizarre stress in your ear, had boomy bass, and killed element within the highs. It’s solely up to now yr or two ANC headphones from the likes of Sony and Bose have gotten adequate to alter my thoughts. So it shouldn’t come as a shock that I’m a 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 attempt its new IO-6 headphones.

The corporate has been constructing audio system since 1983, nevertheless it’s largely targeted on European markets, and it’s by no means made headphones of any type 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 displaying as the corporate seeks to develop into new markets. Not solely are the IO-6 certainly superb, they could be my favourite ANC headphones proper now.  Although they lack a killer function, 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 trend selections (I might all the time go for extra colours, however these two are a superb begin).

Some options may really feel a bit extra high-end, such because the Bowers & Wilkins PX7, however the IO6 are not any slouch within the seems division; I even obtained a number of compliments whereas carrying them.

Seems to be apart, I used to be completely happy 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 saved the headphones from making use of undue stress on my noggin. Maybe the perfect praise I may give the IO-6’s seems and luxury is that after 4 years collectively, these are the primary massive headphones my girlfriend appeared to truly need to maintain onto.

Dali additionally scores factors on the usability division. I abhor the development of constructing all the things 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 fitting earcup is definitely a big button that serves to manage 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 carrying gloves or within the rain.

If I something, the button disc may really be a bit too straightforward to press – I generally performed music by chance once I wore the headphones round my neck. Additionally Have in mind the headphones additionally haven’t any auto-pause function once you take off the headphones, which is ok by me as I’ve discovered such options to create extra hassle 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 will 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 had been efficient in powering the headphones
  • Bluetooth apart, you’ll be able to 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 offer 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 once you plug them in by way of USB.
  • You’ll be able to invoke the Google Assistant or Siri with an extended press on the first button.
  • The IO-6 are IP53 water resistant.
  • They assist each AptX HD and AAC codecs.
  • The headphones are available a pleasant semi-hard material case and embody each USB-C and three.5mm cables, in addition to an airplane adapter.

Noise cancelation and sound impressions

All this could be for naught if the sound and noise-canceling had been no good, however the IO6 handle to offer 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 on account of how good the passive isolation is; the earcups themselves create a adequate seal that many customers actually in all probability don’t have to activate ANC on a regular basis.

I discovered myself solely turning it on once I was in a really noisy setting such because the subway. Normally, the ANC shines when it’s essential cancel low-frequency noise, such because the hum of your AC or the rumble of an airplane, however for all the things else, passive isolation suffices. On the opposite finish of the spectrum, I usually 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 energetic noise canceling, you may need to take a look at the Dali IO-4, which haven’t any noise-canceling, however value $100 much less and promise 60 hours of battery life on a cost. My evaluation on these out quickly.)

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

The IO-6 are my favourite sort of headphones – those that don’t place an emphasis on any specific a part of the frequency response and as an alternative 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 might desire a bit extra oomph, however the IO6 strikes a pleasant stability to my ears, such that there’s sufficient bass in hip

Spatial cues are offered 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 associate 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 popular their tonality to the Sony 1000XM3, which had been my earlier noise-canceling champs. In truth, I discovered their tuning to be fairly just like one among my all-time favourite headphones, the $1,500 Focal Clear, besides with a bit extra bass (a superb factor in my e-book!). Contemplating the worth differential, that’s no small praise.

Measurements

The IO-6’s efficiency can be evident of their measured frequency response. I take advantage of 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 will be helpful for comparative functions towards headphones measured on the identical rig. This helps me quantify tonal variations relative to different headphones in the marketplace, as we will inform rather a lot a few 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 purple is the Sony WH-1000XM3. These are each headphones I contemplate 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 here are calibrated such {that a} flat-ish line ought to be perceived as pretty impartial by most listeners.)

We will 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, may make them sound a bit shiny, however to not the purpose of being harsh to my pretty delicate ears. You’ll be able to see the curve follows the Focal fairly carefully within the highs, resulting in a neutral-ish tonality that’s maybe a hair shiny.

You’ll be able to see the IO-6 runs proper between the Sony and Focal in bass amount, matching my listening impressions and my preferences.  The IO-6 might not be the only option when you desire a hotter sound, with no threat of ever sounding shiny, however they symbolize an general impartial response with simply the correct quantity of bass and mids.

That stated, like most closed-back headphones, the IO-6 requires a correct seal to sound their greatest. Whereas I didn’t have a lot hassle getting a superb seal because of the plush padding you’ll be able to see how a poor seal will trigger a steep bass drop-off within the sub-bass:

Lastly, right here is how the response modifications relying on whether or not you’re 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 comparable, 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 provides you numerous extra vitality round 2KhZ, which is able to are inclined to make the headphones sound too ahead and maybe a bit shouty. So whereas they nonetheless sound good with the interior processing disabled, you’ll need to flip them on to get probably the most out of their sound.

I’ve little or no to complain in regards to the Dali IO-6. Sure, it’s dearer than many rivals, there’s no app out there 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 specific function.

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 usually the primary headphones I attain for, whether or not touring or listening at residence.

Lengthy story brief: Dali caught the touchdown. Not unhealthy for a primary attempt.

The Dali IO-6 can be found from Amazon for $499. When you don’t want energetic noise canceling and can be proud of headphones that merely block out loads of noise passively, the IO-4 have nearly similar sound high quality, double the battery life, and solely value $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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