Hands On: $5,750 BluOS-based DALI CALLISTO System Redefines Wireless
Backboned by the latest wireless audio technologies, as well as Lenbrook’s BluOS whole-house audio operating system, the DALI CALLISTO ups the ante for consumer audio.
Robert Archer · December 19, 2018
Towards the end of this past summer (2018), Lenbrook, the U.S. distributor for the European audio company DALI (Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries), announced the DALI CALLISTO line of wireless, active speaker systems.
Available in two versions—The bookshelf-based Model 2C and the floorstanding-based Model 6C system—the CALLISTO product line takes wireless, active speaker systems to new levels without forgetting traditional source functionality.
DALI CALLISTO Features and Setup
Lenbrook sent me the larger of the two system options, the Model 6C, which features a pair of tower speakers with a central hub unit.
The Model 6C is an active speaker system that employs built-in Class D amplification, along with 24-bit digital signal processing (DSP). Internally the bass-reflex design Model 6C speakers incorporate a ribbon tweet, as well as a 29mm high-frequency soft-textile driver, and a pair of 6.5-inch low-frequency woofers.
The Model 6C’s digital-to-analog converter (DAC) utilize Burr Brown PCM1796 DAC chips, and the wireless speaker system is capable of delivering digital audio resolutions up to 24-bit/96kHz. In addition, DALI specifies the Model 6C’s frequency response at 37Hz to 30kHz.
The system comes in a choice of white or black finishes.
DALI CALLISTO 6C Specs
- Available in a choice of black or white finishes.
- The DALI CALLISTO package incorporates the BluOS whole-house audio operating system.
- DALI says the system supports wireless audio transmissions up to 24-bit/96kHz of high-resolution audio.
- Built-in aptX Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay2.
- The system’s hub unit supports legacy source component connections.
- MSRP for the DALI CALLISTO 6C is $5,750.
Moving on to the system’s central hub: The unit is roughly the size of a source component such as a CD player or cable set-top box and its appearance is dominated by a centrally located volume knob that includes an LCD screen to help communicate volume levels.
The central hub’s rear panel features an analog RCA output, a subwoofer output and a choice of RCA analog, auxiliary in analog, coax digital, and a pair of optical inputs.
The rear panel also incorporates an Ethernet port and provisions to support Lenbrook’s (Bluesound, NAD, PSB Speakers) BluOS wireless whole-house audio platform, which in turn supports high-resolution audio, MQA compatibility, and a host of streaming services.
In addition, BlueOS supports multiroom operability with BluOS-based products from brands like Bluesound and NAD.
Setup is pretty simple, and not much different than pairing a set of Bluetooth headphones to an iPhone or some other smart device.
Just like a set of wireless headphones, there are buttons on the back of the speakers that you press. Through this process, the system recognizes each speaker and through these steps, the speakers will configure as the left and right speakers within the system.
The system’s whole-house capabilities configure through the BluOS app alongside the central hub. This process is similar to most app-based audio systems that ask integrators to follow a series of setup prompts for include network options and streaming services.
In my case, I use TuneIn, which doesn’t require users to sign in, as well as Amazon Music, TIDAL and Pandora. I also have an Apple Music account, but while support is coming soon, at the time of this review BluOS doesn’t support the service.
DALI CALLISTO Performance and Final Thoughts
Before I get into fine detail concerning my listening experience, I’ll admit that maybe I’ve turned into the thing I hate the most: An audiophile curmudgeon. Hearing demos of the system in the CE Pro office and at CEDIA Expo didn’t knock me out, but once I got the system at home it was a different story.
Thankfully the CALLISTO system helped me escape audiophile curmudgeonville and showed me how much fun and entertainment is possible from a well-engineered wireless audio solution.
I started my listening by connecting my iPhone 8 via Bluetooth to the system so I could listen to some of my favorite Apple-based content like some instrumental music from Pete Thorn and select tracks from Lisa Loeb, Extreme, Steely Dan and AC/DC. I found the system revealing, with the production on Pete Thorn’s new record coming across dense and a bit compressed, while Loeb and AC/DC sounded more open and dynamic through the DALI gear.
I also thought the speakers imaged well with Bluetooth.
Hearing "You Shook Me all Night Long" from AC/DC, I could distinctly hear Malcolm and Angus Young’s guitar placement within the mix, along with the vocals, drums, and bass.
Detail wasn’t sacrificed either. On P!nk’s "Who Knew," I thought the system resolved the production techniques found on this great pop song that includes the addition of keyboards to the second verse underneath the guitar, bass and vocal tracks, and later the strain in her voice as she pushed her vocals for emphasis on the line, “until we meet again.”
Later I heard the same levels of resolution on the famous shuffle pattern Jeff Pocaro plays at the beginning of Toto’s "Rosanna" with a slight bit of reverb added to the drums. Steve Lukather’s clean guitar part that comes in just before the verse is panned to the right and it also contains a touch of reverb that stood out while listening through the system.
Moving into the world of BluOS, I listened to sports talk radio from a local Boston radio station and CD-quality level content from TIDAL. The higher quality TIDAL content really allowed the system to showcase its capabilities.
The TIDAL-based MQA encoded content definitely sounded fuller and simply better than my Bluetooth streaming sessions did. Listening to a mix of bands using TIDAL, most of which weren’t audiophile recordings, did nothing to detract from the fun the CALLISTO system produced.
One thing I’ll point out is that my listening room employs a live end/dead end design with acoustical design on one side and no design on the other side. Unlike most reviews, I placed the speakers in the untreated end because, as a lifestyle system, I thought this would best represent the listening environment of most homes.
Underscoring how good the DALI system sounds—even with the system located in the “live end” of my room—I thought the CALLISTO Model 6C system sounded smooth, articulate and dynamic.
Roughly a year ago I reviewed a NAD Masters M32 integrated amplifier that included built-in BluOS and I really liked it. Used in tandem with my system components that included Monitor Audio speakers, I thought the combination brought high-performance audio into a new era.
The DALI CALLISTO Model 6C system delivers the same level of performance and functionality I experienced through the Masters M32, as well as similar systems for thousands of dollars less, making it a much better value.
Now that we've established the performance of the system, let's quickly look at the environmental impact of the system. Integrators should be aware of one minor point: Since it is an active speaker system, the speakers will have to be located near power outlets. But, other than having a network robust enough to reliably support streaming media, there should be no apprehension in offering this solution.
Stylistically, I wish the speakers’ industrial design had a more contemporary appearance that reflected the state-of-the-art technologies the system incorporates, but I really have no concerns about this system: It is a killer package and highly recommended as a solution that represents today and tomorrow’s audio consumers’ needs.
CE Pro Verdict
- Outstanding sound quality highlighted by a big soundstage.
- BluOS app is easy to navigate and it offers plenty of music/audio choices.
- Support of Bluetooth and legacy sources provides system flexibility.
- As a lifestyle product more color choices with the finish options would be nice.
- The CALLISTO’s industrial design is conservative; it does not signify with the level of sound quality and the user experience the system offers.
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Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at firstname.lastname@example.org
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