This Danish operation was once closely linked to a leading Scandinavian hi-fi retail chain, but it has always operated entirely autonomously and independently as a speaker manufacturer and indeed has proved more successful on the UK market than most overseas brands.
The DALI name has nothing to do with surrealism here, but is actually an acronym for Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries. The Mentor range, probably best described as ‘affordable upmarket’, is one of several in the DALI portfolio and consists of six stereo pairs which share a number of proprietary engineering techniques.
The most obvious of these is seen in the tweeter arrangements. The top five Mentors are fitted with a high- frequency module that combines a conventional doped-fabric dome with a somewhat narrower ribbon-shaped planar device, ensuring fine power handling and headroom, while maintaining wide dispersion.
The speaker itself is very compact – DALI describes it as: ‘essentially a Mentor 5 with a single five-inch bass/midrange driver’ – and our sample came beautifully finished on five of its six faces in a very smooth cherry real-wood veneer. Black wood veneer and high-gloss white are the two alternatives here.
Whereas the front and back of the enclosure proper are gently curved, the front part is completely replaced by a flat panel in textured light grey. Mounting lugs for the optional grille are clearly visible. The rear panel also has mounting lugs, this time for fitting the optional wall bracket, perhaps if used for the surround channels in a multichannel sound system.
The terminal block has a single pair of multi-way connectors and also incorporates a well concealed port. The main 120mm bass/mid driver has a dish-shaped diaphragm made from long-fibre pulp some 95mm in diameter. The tweeter module combines a 28mm doped-fabric dome with a planar element 45x25mm, the latter divided into three narrow strips.
The Mentor 1’s Blind-Listening Group Test gave a disappointing result, as the balance seemed rather lightweight and forward, while its complex tweeter arrangement didn’t seem to confer any particular advantage.
While it sounds dynamically quite lively, this might well be because the upper midband is rather exposed and this is probably responsible for inhibiting transparency and introducing a touch of nasal coloration to voices. Although the in-room measurements didn’t provide any particular reasons to anticipate such findings, the Mentor 1 did sound rather small and lacking in body, warmth and weight. There was no denying an observation which was unanimously recorded by the panellists: ‘Big percussion seriously lacking’. ‘A bit small and aggressive; lacks warmth and authority’. Furthermore, the top end received some criticism for sounding rather sibilant and detached.
Following damage sustained by the original pair during transit, a brand new pair was sent with the warning that they hadn’t been run in. Although we did our best, extra running-in time is difficult to find when carrying out a Blind-Listening Group Test. While this might help explain the DALI’s weak low- frequency performance, its lightweight forwardness remain significant handicaps.
LIKE: Attractive design with lovely veneerwork, alongside a lively sound
DISLIKE: Has a rather lightweight and forward character
WE SAY: Lightweight sound is rather forward, coloured and lacking in transparency
• Hybrid dome/ribbon tweeter module
• High-quality veneer or gloss-painted finish
• Bass/mid driver has long-fibre dish-shaped pulp cone
• Choice of black or cherry veneers
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