Detailed Review of Dali Oberon 1C, Wireless speakers with streaming that you can connect directly to your TV. You don’t have many options in that area, but with the Dali Oberon 1C, the Danish Dali brings a total solution that is reasonably priced enough to be a real alternative to the soundbar.
Dali Oberon 1C
The Oberon 1Cs are the last active speakers from Dali, the Danish brand that has become a big name in hi-fi circles. It mainly gained that fame with its very solid passive speakers, so speakers that you connect to a separate amplifier. However, the Oberon 1Cs are active models. All electronics are included in the speaker, so you don’t need an extra amplifier. The only cable required is the power cord, no speaker cable is required. Because the 1Cs are also quite compact, you get a music system that takes up little space but still offers better quality. The great asset in terms of music reproduction lies in the fact that you work with a stereo setup with two separate speakers. This provides a more realistic sound image than most sound bars.
But why do we start with this apparently purebred hi-fi product about sound bars? This all has to do with the accompanying Sound Hub Compact that Dali is releasing simultaneously. This modest box is the transmitter that wirelessly provides a set of Oberon 1C speakers with audio. It can do several things, but what is most striking is that an HDMI-ARC port is provided. The Sound Hub Compact is also small enough to be placed behind a wall-mounted television. The sum of two Oberon 1C speakers and the Sound Hub Compact is therefore an interior-friendly, unobtrusive sound system for music and TV sound, with a total cost of just under 1,300 euros.
In addition to the small Oberon 1C, Dali also presents the larger Oberon 7C floorstander and the Oberon On-Wall C. You can hang the latter on the wall. Also fascinating, because the speaker is not very large and you can still create a greater distance between the speaker and your listening position in a smaller space. This creates a larger soundstage on which music plays. Based on our experience with the on-wall Rubicon LCR speakers in our test room, we also dare to say that you can create a nice setup around a TV screen with wall speakers.
The Oberon 1C bookshelf speaker and the other active Oberons build two bridges to previous Dali products. For one thing, they are not the Danes’ first active wireless speakers. Dali first released two more expensive active lines, the Callisto C and the high-end Rubicon C. These are speakers that are priced higher: Callisto starts at 1,200 euros / piece, Rubicon C at 2,000 euros / piece. The Oberon C speakers are much more accessible to the general public. The Oberon 1C that we are looking at here costs 499 euros each, the large Oberon 7C 849 euros per speaker. That lower price is nice, while thanks to the existence of those more expensive models you know that you will not accidentally participate in beta testing of completely new products made by an inexperienced manufacturer. This is a proven and reliable technology.
The second bridge to the Dali past is how the Oberon 1C compares to the brand’s classic passive speakers. The ‘normal’ Oberon speakers have been around for several years and are among the most successful products of the Denon. We have also tested them in a surround setup before. The Dali 1C and 7C are directly related to their passive counterparts, both in design and sound. So you have the choice if you are looking for something for the living room: do you go for passive Oberon speakers plus your own electronics or for the active Oberon C that actually don’t need anything else? When comparing cost-wise, it is important to always look at the total price tag. With the passive Oberons you have to count the other devices, with the active versions only the Sound Hub.
Choice of two Hubs
It is relevant to know that in addition to the new Sound Hub Compact, a larger Sound Hub exists. This substantial and nicely finished device costs 699 euros. That is a considerably higher amount than the 299 euros of the Sound Hub Compact, but it can also be more. However, both Hubs are compatible with all active Dali speakers, so you can choose which one to take. So you can use the Oberon 1C with the large Sound Hub or, say, marry the luxurious Rubicon C speakers with the Sound Hub Compact.
The main difference between the two hubs is that the large Sound Hub can receive additional capabilities via expansion cards. At the moment there is only one card available, the NPM-1. Plug it into the back of the Sound Hub and you get a lot of streaming options, with BluOS as the most important. The NPM-1 makes the connected active speakers available within the BluOS app. It is an excellent app that gives access to a huge number of streaming services and lets you play your own music files over the network. Moreover, you can then combine the active Dali speakers with Bluesound speakers and NAD devices elsewhere in the house. In that sense, BluOS is a real competitor to Sonos, but with a wider choice of devices and with the option to include really high-end devices and speakers.
In any case, linking to a Sound Hub has been made easy. You press a connect button on the hub and you do the same on each speaker. By pressing the same button several times, you indicate which position a particular speaker belongs to. This is easy with a stereo setup: left or right.
Which one will it be?
The existence of the two Sound Hub models does present you with a choice: do you find an HDMI input more important than streaming via WiFi, or not? Because what is not (yet) available for the Sound Hub is a card with an HDMI connection. The large hub does have all kinds of other inputs (including an optical one with which you can also link to a television).
The Sound Hub Compact for its part does have HDMI, but no BluOS on board. You can stream, but only via Bluetooth. Thanks to the support for the better aptX HD codec, the quality is very good, but you do miss things like multiroom support and the intuitive BluOS app. And it may not be the streaming option everyone thinks about, but more and more televisions are coming with apps from music services or streaming technologies. The newer LG TV that we have in the living room, for example, comes with Airplay and has a Spotify app. Android TV sets have Chromecast baked-in. So you can also supply songs to the Sound Hub Compact. The smaller hub also has two optical inputs and an auxiliary input, so that you can connect a record player, for example.
So currently you have to make a hard choice. How about in the future? The Sound Hub Compact may never become BluOS compatible, but we think it likely that there will be an HDMI extension for the large Sound Hub. One reason to believe that is called ‘surround’. We were always told informally that the Dali system is technically ready to work with more than two speakers. That the step to 5.1 seems to be coming, is also confirmed when we look at the back of the Oberon 1C. The button with which you indicate the position of the speaker is provided in five locations (left-center-right-rear left-rear right). Logically, this means that sooner or later Dali will come up with the missing elements for a wireless surround setup, namely a center speaker and a subwoofer.
Stylish, small speakers
The Oberon 1C is a very small 2-way speaker, 27.4 x 16.2 x 23.4 cm in size. A really subtle appearance, especially if you go for one of the two lighter color versions. However, you shouldn’t look for groundbreaking design here. They are really classically designed speakers. A rectangular box, in short. Quite a contrast to the convex, more futuristic KEF LS50 Wireless that normally has a permanent place in the living room.
Fortunately, you do have some choice in terms of colors. There is a completely white 1C, but even hipper is the Light Oak edition that combines light veneer with a white front. If you prefer a dark shade, you can choose from a completely black version or a dark walnut that once again boasts a duotone finish in which a wood veneer is combined with a black front. In all versions, the dark red driver cone of the woofer provides a more special appearance. These are the same finishes as with the regular Oberon, and for the price the design looks quite nice and qualitative. For once, don’t ignore the included speaker grilles, as Dali has turned it into something special. Instead of a classic black fabric you get a grille made of a hip fabric woven with a lighter and dark thread. In the light versions of the 1C the grille is light gray, in the two dark editions dark gray. Not all that shocking, but makes these speakers just a little more fashionable and modern. The Oberon 1C therefore also exudes something Scandinavian.
The Oberon 1C are sufficiently compact to stand on a smaller TV cabinet. The necessary items are also provided at the back so that you can hang them up quickly. Even the power cable is in a niche, so mounting or placing it flat against the wall shouldn’t be a problem. The On-Wall version might be better suited for wall mounting.
We do notice that Dali opts for a small bookshelf speaker here, while the Callisto 2C and Rubicon 2C – the high-end alternatives – are a bit more robust. Perhaps the manufacturer wants to appeal to a public that really prefers a compact solution and Dali wanted to keep the price sufficiently low. It does mean that you can expect a big leap in bass response when you jump from the Oberon 1C to the mature 7C.
Warm and cozy for music
Nina Simone may have been dead for years, but new releases from the singer keep popping up regularly. Often collectors of older work or of live registrations that may or may not be worthwhile. Recently ‘New World Coming’ was added, not an essential addition to her oeuvre, but with some great tracks. The opener is a remix of darkDark, and immediately a nice demonstration of what the Oberon 1C excels at. To begin with, we are not a little surprised how present the beats are in this song. You usually don’t get such a low extension from a more compact speaker. At the same time, the layer is not very detailed, but you shouldn’t expect that either. It doesn’t spoil the fun at all, certainly not when we get the beautiful voice of Simone beautifully presented on the next track (with the long title ‘I Wish I Know How It Would Feel to Be Free’). Her music is not always feel-good in terms of content, far from it, but it is always a lot of pleasure to hear Nina Simone like that. Her work, just like ‘Long in the Tooth’ by big band jazz heroes The Budos Band, is of course good for the little Dalis. They are speakers with a certain warmth and a laid-back character, with vocals that are presented compellingly. You may not be getting all the details served, but you are not necessarily going to care. At this point we were streaming from our Huawei P30 (with aptx HD) and through Qobuz, when we realized we could play music through the television. After all, our LG OLED55C9 is Spotify Connect compatible. Just grabbing the Budos Band album via Spotify immediately resulted in a playback that was a bit fresher. The iconic – or at least for Belgians – ‘Vive ma liberté’ by Arno rolled quite big out of these small speakers.
This experiment confirms something that we have noticed before: Bluetooth with aptX HD is certainly not bad, but we often find the alternatives better. Regardless of how you stream, listening to pop music with the 1C is going to make you pretty happy. They offer the necessary relaxed listening pleasure both for background music and for slightly more critical listening.
A surprising amount of body
After Nina Simone, the step to ‘A Star is Born’ (streamed via Apple TV + on LG TV) is quickly made. Whatever you think of Lady Gaga, you can hardly deny that she can really sing. Not convinced? In this film it is already shown after ten minutes, when Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta brings a very beautiful version of ‘La vie en rose’. On the Oberon 1C it sounds completely as it should, convincing and ear-friendly. If you watch TV with the sound through the Dali’s, you will initially be surprised by the body that is present, but it is actually the good reproduction of the vocals that convince here.
Action films are a bit more challenging, especially at times when something flies into the air again. Our choice for this session: ‘Fast’ n Furious 7 ‘, a real blast, if only because you have a scene where everyone drives out of a cargo plane with their own car – at a height of a few thousand meters. On one side, the Oberon 1C performs nothing short of impressive. Active speakers such as these have the advantage that they can really get the most out of performance thanks to a DSP chip. Dali has really done his homework in this area, so you can turn up the volume very far without the speakers sounding stressed or suddenly missing frequencies. That is something that many sound bars have a bit more difficult. And remember when you hear them: these are actually very small speakers. There is, however, a limit in terms of bombast. If things get really hectic in terms of action, like after that special parachute jump of Dom’s team, maybe it could be a little more. But with that Scandi detective series or movies where perfectly choreographed car chases aren’t a thing, you don’t get hungry. In any case, if Dali does indeed ever release an active subwoofer, the convincing spectacle lovers will immediately be able to add a dash of vehemence. Without having heard them, we suspect that a set of Oberon 7Cs will certainly satisfy the action enthusiast. you are not going to be hungry. In any case, if Dali does indeed ever release an active subwoofer, the convincing spectacle lovers will immediately be able to add a dash of vehemence. Without having heard them, we suspect that a set of Oberon 7Cs will certainly satisfy the action enthusiast. you are not going to be hungry. In any case, if Dali does indeed ever release an active subwoofer, the convincing spectacle lovers will immediately be able to add a dash of vehemence. Without having heard them, we suspect that a set of Oberon 7Cs will certainly satisfy the action enthusiast.
The broad appearance that is typical for Dali also appears to be an advantage here, because you get a smeared soundstage, giving you the impression of listening to an integrated L-Center-R setup. A bit to the detriment of the positioning of effects, perhaps, but it remains convincing – and many times better than the (not without merit) TV speakers of the LG C9. When Jason Statham hits the front of Vin Diesel’s cart with his car, you can hear breaking glass effects flying out of the screen left and right. Watching FF7, for example, is already a lot more immersive. ‘Mad Max’ – the newer version, not the Mel Gibson classic – has an intro that every surround reviewer knows by heart, as audio brands have been pulling it out at demonstrations for years. What do we notice here? Max’s grubby voice is as it should be and action effects come in violently. That smaller sound effects (such as the walking lizard) disappear does not hurt. The atmosphere is good, thanks to the body of the bass and the wide soundstage.
Conclusion of Dali Oberon 1C
The Oberon 1C with the Sound Hub Compact offers an easy way to equip your living room with a high-quality music system that actually reproduces TV sound properly. A big plus with these speakers is that you can hide everything very inconspicuously. You can easily tuck the Sound Hub Compact away behind a TV or in furniture. The streaming options are relatively limited, but you have many connections and it works seamlessly with a television. If you really want to stream and need multiroom, you still have the option of the more expensive Sound Hub.
The Dali speakers are quite convincing for listening to music and TV series. You notice that Dali has a lot of experience in terms of music reproduction, because the Oberon 1C delivers a more balanced musical reproduction than most wireless speakers from mainstream brands. That is also a plus for films; you rarely feel the need to reach for the remote while watching to adjust the volume. Also strong are the dialog reproduction and a sound that never sounds thin, even when you listen quietly. This set is recommended for atmospheric films and exciting TV series on Netflix.
Cons of Dali Oberon 1C
- WiFi streaming via BluOS requires more expensive Sound Huba
- Waiting for surround option
Pros of Dali Oberon 1C
- Excellent price-quality ratio
- Soundhub is easy to hide
- Small speakers that fit beautifully into an interior
- Nicely balanced, even if you listen quietly
- Easy to set up