DALI KATCH Portable Speaker Review
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DALI are no strangers to sound. With more than 30 years under their Danish belt developing loudspeakers, it’s almost a bit of a surprise it’s taken them this long to come out with a portable Bluetooth speaker they’re actually making a song and dance about. But it’s with good reason. The KATCH is a serious sound product.
As the market for headphones and portable speakers exploded over the last decade, traditional HiFi companies saw this as a perfect opportunity to appeal to a much broader market.
So when DALI set out to create KATCH they took a good long hard look at who the audience would be. A successful product would have to be first and foremost visually appealing. Yes.
Secondly, it must be easy use in a variety of applications. It should be portable enough to take it outside, be able to pack it away to go on holiday, but it must also pack enough juice to play all day sans mains-power.
If all those boxes are ticked, then finally it must sound great too.
KATCH is available in three styles, Dark Shadow, Cloud Gray and Green Moss. While the review sample we received is named Cloud Gray, there’s nothing gray about it at all. Odd.
The extruded aluminium chassis is more of a rose colour, and the plastic mesh grill is a creamy bone colour, matched to the leather carry strap neatly recessed into one end. There’s no doubt this particular finish is quite feminine, and while absolutely stylish in every way, it wouldn’t be the choice for this reviewer.
The Dark Shadow (Blue) and Green Moss (Khaki) finishes are quite retro in styling and either would be more welcome on my office or a hotel room desk.
Weighing in at just over 1kg, KATCH is an ideally compact size at 269mm (w) x 128mm (h) and just 47mm thick. It’s just the right size to pack into an overnight bag or suitcase without taking up much room at all.
In your hand it feels weighty and very solid and gives a feeling of a well-built portable product. The leather carry strap sits neatly in a recess to one end and with a slight push of your thumb, slides out.
BUILD & SOUND
Utilising the great strength of aluminium allowed our design team to design a cabinet with a much thinner structure which maximises the precious internal volume without the loss of the required rigidity. Matching the aluminium cabinet with a composite front and rear baffle ensures the perfect mix of materials to remove any potential internal resonance and ensures that the cabinet does not add any unwanted acoustic energy to the sound generated by the drivers.
The aluminium chassis brings together two ABS plastic baffles hosting dual passive radiators, two 3.5” aluminium woofers and two 21mm light-weight soft dome tweeters.
The woofers work in unison with the passive radiators producing an impressive bass response that is surprisingly good for such small drivers. When you think back to early computer speakers which essentially kick-started the small format loudspeaker, we’ve come such a long way.
By firing the speakers from both sides, KATCH reproduces music from a source that appears much bigger than itself.
KATCH is powered by a Class D amplifier providing 2 x 25 watts of power. When you stop and think about it, that’s a lot of power for a battery-powered device that boasts 24 hours of listening time.
Thanks to advances in Digital Signal Processing (DSP), DALI has been able to maximise the frequency response and timing of each driver, resulting in an overall linear frequency response that can easily be considered “hi-fi”.
Connected directly to the amplifier is the advanced DSP that handles the Bluetooth and analog inputs. The DSP’s built-in DAC delivers a balanced stereo signal to the amplifier stage. According to DALI, this keeps the amplifier design simple, but effective, transforming up to 95% of the battery power into output power. The amplified audio signal is sent unfiltered to the woofer and via a simple crossover to the tweeter.
Two EQ presets are available via one of the top facing buttons. According to the supplied literature this button toggles between a ‘warm’ and ‘clear’ sound. Warm evidently adds a little boost to both the bottom and top end of the frequency spectrum.
In my listening, in an open space the ‘warm’ setting was the most desired, however when placing KATCH on a shelf or 6” away from a wall (loading the rear facing speakers off the wall), the ‘clear’ preset was best. Options are good.
Making the simple connection via Bluetooth Apt-X to our office PC, we cycled through our International HiFi Show playlist on Tidal, and the StereoNET playlist on Spotify. Both offer a very broad mix of music genres.
Bass lines are tight, timed correctly and tonally enjoyable. The major drawback with compact enclosures by their very nature is that woofers need air in which to breath. DALI have overcome this challenge with KATCH.
The stated frequency response is 49Hz – 23kHz. We have no doubt it is achieving 49Hz and to achieve lower frequencies would require bigger speakers which would see KATCH becoming less compact. I think they’ve found the right balance and compromise.
The midrange is enjoyable while not edgy, sharp or shouty. Vocals and percussion extending into the upper frequencies are accurate. In fact, I’m so impressed with the KATCH sound I would love to hear KATCH as a
stereo pair. Sadly, DALI’s Australian distributor sent just one lone unit.
From Hugh Masekela to Bombay Dub Orchestra, Ed Sheeran to Jimi Hendrix’s Machine Gun, the DALI KATCH just keeps delivering. You’re not going to run a house party with one of these, but it’s certainly got enough grunt and bottom end to fill your office, living room or alfresco area with big, pleasing and immersive sound.
Making the connection to KATCH is simple via Bluetooth 4.0, and of course NFC. There’s also a 3.5mm input jack. What’s more convenient though is the combination of the built-in USB charging port with the 3.5mm jack, allowing you to add a $35 Google Chromecast Audio to KATCH.
With this you can cast or wirelessly stream just about any music source directly from your smartphone or tablet to the unit. It adds yet another connectivity option to what is already a versatile product.
DALI say the internal (but replaceable) Li-Ion battery has a total capacity of 2600 mAh which should see playing time of around 24 hours at normal volume. We’re currently 18 hours in so edging closer to the claimed play time. Other users online have reported an easy three days with normal use in between listens.
Recharging couldn’t be easier. Just 2 hours from the supplied power adaptor will see KATCH ready to go.
With the portable audio market growing and an endless array of choice for the buyer, it can be hard to know where to turn. There’s some big names on the market in this space.
DALI have styled the KATCH to appeal to a fairly broad audience with their three colour options. What’s more impressive though is that they have absolutely nailed the form factor as a conveniently sized speaker that can be taken virtually anywhere.
At $699 it is far from the cheapest portable Bluetooth speaker on the market, but the KATCH sound quality and battery life is class-leading at this price point. Adding a second unit for stereo sound would become costly so my advice is if you want true stereo sound, you’d likely be better looking at a compact or micro HiFi system.
DALI’s experience in sound is clearly evident with KATCH. They’ve taken no shortcuts nor have they made any compromises.
Check out DALI KATCH for yourself, available in Australia from October 2016.
DALI is distributed in Australia by Dali Distribution.
Frequency Range (+/-3 dB) [Hz] - 49 - 23,000
Maximum SPL - [dB] 95
Crossover Frequency - [Hz] 2300
High frequency driver - 2 x 21mm Soft Textile Dome
Low frequency driver - 2 x 3.5” Aluminium Cone With Cloth Cap
Low frequency passive driver 2 x 73 x 52 mm Steel Cone
Enclosure type - Closed Box With Dual Passive Radiators
Max. Amplifier Power Output [RMS watt] - 2 x 25
Amplifier Type - Fully digital Class-D
Connection Input - 3.5 mm mini jack, Chromecast ready
Connection Output - USB Charge Output (5V/1A)
Wireless Input(s) - Bluetooth™ 4.0 Apt-X
Functions - Dual Sound Mode (Clear/Warm), Stereo Pair Mode, Power On/Off, Source Select, Standby (Auto Power) Off, NFC Pairing, Volume
Standby Power Consumption [W] - <0,3 (Mains Adapter)
Dimensions (HxWxD) [mm] - 138 x 268.5 x 47
Weight [kg] - 1.1
Accessories Included - Universal Mains Adapter (1.75 m wire length), Quick Start Guide, Mains Adapter Plugs, Travel Bag
Optional Accessories - Chromecast Audio Dongle