What We Like
- Great design and build quality.
- High-quality components and transducers.
- Impressive response across the range.
What We Don’t Like
- Not all that great for larger rooms.
The reign of DALI Zensor 1 bookshelf speakers has lasted for a few years. Even now that they are no longer number one, these are by far some of the most capable speakers you can get for less than $500.
One look at the Zensor 1 speakers hints that you are looking at something truly special. DALI puts a lot of focus on the appearance of their products without taking anything away from the performance. The result of that policy is a CNC machined MDF cabinet that features carefully installed internal dampening material everywhere but the back panel. The front baffle is just a joy to look at. There is a combination of black composite materials and aluminum that simply puts Zensor 1 in a category of their own.
DALI offers a variety of vinyl finishes, including black ash, white and our favorite – light walnut. No matter which one you go for, you are guaranteed to have a pretty stylish set of bookshelf speakers. Another little detail that adds to this overall impression are the dark brown woofer cones, which we will address a bit later. Compared to other speakers in this price range, Zensor 1 comes across as extremely refined.
The selection of transducers DALI went with for this build is pretty interesting. They have used the lightweight dome tweeter that can be found in more expensive DALI models. One great thing about this tweeter is the addition of the damping material under the dome. Below it, we have the well known 5.25″ Zensor 1 woofer.
This unit features a wood fiber cone. That is definitely something you don’t see every day. DALI recommends an amp that can deliver anywhere from 25 to 100 Watts of power. Following this advice will give you the max SPL of 106 dB to play with. Lastly, we have semi-magnetic shielding, which is more or less standard for this price range, but still something worth mentioning.
The nature of components DALI has chosen to use for this build is impressive considering the price. This is partially the reason why Zensor 1 was, and still is some of the best speakers you can get for less than a grand.
One thing you will notice straight away is the level of transparency delivered by these speakers. However, that doesn’t mean Zensor 1 are reference monitors. DALI has actually managed to find that fine balance between clarity, accuracy, and color. Trebles are very enthusiastic and agile leading straight into warm mids. Once you reach lower in the frequency range, the woofer kicks in with a pretty defined response.
No matter what genre you push through these, the tone profile adapts to the music quite nicely. This leads to Zensor 1 sounding much bigger than they actually are. The only drawback to these speakers is the way they handle medium to large rooms. When you try to push them far enough to compensate for all that extra space, they quickly reach the critical point. However, that is not something we can really hold against them. Performance wise, a pair of Zensor 1 will go toe to toe with much more expensive sets and often end up in the lead.
DALI’s award winning Zensor 1 speakers might have been around for a while, but their performance is still up there with the best. When placed in the context of their current price range, they simply dominate.