A Visit to the DALI Factory

DALI’s loudspeaker factory in Nørager, Denmark. (Photo: DALI.)

Seen from the air, Denmark is a vista of farms and wind turbines. But once your plane touches down, it is a land of loudspeakers. Perhaps this is because audio has a long history in Denmark—it was a Dane, Valdemar Poulsen, who developed a magnetic wire recorder in 1898—but there are more loudspeaker manufacturers per person than any other country. According to Wikipedia, Denmark is home to 5.75 million people, compared with New York’s five boroughs, which have a population of 8.67 million However, as well as drive-unit manufacturers Audio Technology, Peerless, Vifa (which merged with Peerless to form Danish Sound Technology), and ScanSpeak, there are Bang & Olufsen, DALI, Dynaudio, Gamut, Gryphon, Jamo, Lyngdorf Audio, Peak-Consult, and Raidho all making loudspeakers. Lots of loudpeakers.

DALI (Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries), based in the small Jutland town of Nørager, had invited a bunch of North American audio journalists and editors to visit their factory on their way to the Munich High-End Show in May 2019. As Stereophile‘s then-new editor, Jim Austin, wasn’t able to take advantage of DALI’s invitation, I took his place.

The nearest airport to Nørager is Aarhus, which is Denmark’s second-largest city. So after arriving in Aarhus on Sunday and spending an afternoon and evening trying to stay awake and a night trying without success to sleep, at 6:30am Monday morning we were shepherded on to a bus for the hour’s drive to Nørager, where we were greeted by DALI’s Area Export Manager Thomas Knudsen (shown above with a DALI Callisto 2 speaker experimentally finished in wood veneer—the Callisto models are usually finished in gloss white or black).

Photo: Michael Lavorgna of twitteringmachines.com, used by permission.

Multiple cups of coffee helped with the jet lag, though I still look a little worse for wear in Michael Lavorgna’s photo as I started the factory tour.

DALI started in 1983 as the house speaker brand for Peter Lyngdorf’s HiFi Club retail chain. The Nørager factory was opened in 1986 and now occupies 22,000 square meters. DALI also opened a 5500-square meter factory in Ningbo, China in 2008, where some production is carried out but quality assurance for incoming Chinese-made parts is also performed. DALI employs 250 people, 100 of whom work in the Danish factory.

Lyngdorf is still the DALI Group’s chairman and as you can see from the slide above that we were shown by DALI CEO Lars Worre, the DALI Group’s corporate structure is both complex and multinational. (“SL” in the slide stands for Steinway-Lyngdorf, the joint venture between Lyngdorf Audio and the Steinway piano company to manufacture high-end loudspeakers and amplifiers.)

DALI itself manufactured 250,000 pairs of loudspeakers in 2018, 93% of which were sold outside of Denmark. Even so, the factory floor was clean and quiet, due in part to the extensive use of automation. Shown above is a robot cutting V-shaped grooves into MDF panels, that had already had their lacquer coating UV-cured.

Once a panel has been V-grooved and had glue added by the robot, an operator folds it into the familiar shape of a loudspeaker and screws the front baffle and rear panel into place.

On a nearby line, another operator oversees installation of the drive-units and crossover, in this case for DALI’s Opticon 1 bookshelf model.

Final stage in the production of every loudspeaker is to place it in a small anechoic chamber and sweep its output against frequency, ensuring its response and impedance fall within the targeted limits: 100% QA.

The cabinets for DALI’s Epicon range are sourced from China. Shown in the top photo are enclosures for the Epicon 6 tower, with their gloss-black baffles. The operator installs the crossover and drive-units, including DALI’s distinctive combination of a dome tweeter and a ribbon supertweeter, which was first seen (in somewhat different form) in 1990. As I wrote in my review of DALI’s Callisto 6C loudspeaker in the September issue, there is no crossover between the two high-frequency drivers: The ribbon tweeter rolls in above 8kHz and widens the horizontal radiation pattern above 10kHz, where the dome tweeter is starting its mechanical rolloff. This is intended to give a greater range than usual of seating positions at which listeners can hear a full high-frequency balance.

The operator takes 30 minutes to assemble a loudspeaker, then signs off on each one. This is an example of the “Quality Circle” concept, where a worker takes responsibility for the complete assembly of a product and thus can take pride in their work. “Tune the process, not the part,” I was told was DALI’s philosophy, so that that each part can be a perfect clone of the original.

More robots. All the midrange and low-frequency drive-units for DALI’s Epicon and Rubicon speakers are made in a separate room in the Danish factory. (The tweeters are sourced from ScanSpeak and the woofers for the Callisto models are made in DALI’s Chinese factory.)

As well as robots, there are people involved in drive-unit manufacture. The operator here is working on the final assembly of one of DALI’s woofers, the cone of which is sourced from German specialist company Kurt Müller and is formed from a matrix of wood fibers. This is said to give an optimal combination of stiffness, low mass, and self-damping. There is also said to be better control of resonances than a pulp cone in the diaphragm’s transition from pistonic motion to breakup mode.

As I described in my 2015 review of the DALI’s Rubicon 8 loudspeaker, a unique aspect of DALI’s woofers is the use of what they call SMC, for Soft Magnetic Compound (SMC) in the pole pieces. It usually takes longer to demagnetize than to magnetize solid iron, this called hysteresis, and it leads to odd-order distortion. SMC is a matrix of individual particles of iron that are each coated with an insulating material. So while SMC is still very highly ferromagnetic, it has a very low electrical conductivity: about 1/10,000 that of iron. The result is a dramatic reduction in hysteresis-caused distortion.

Photo: Michael Lavorgna of twitteringmachines.com, used by permission.

Final stop on the tour was the listening room, where pairs of Callisto 6Cs (in white) and Opticon 6’s had been set-up, the latter fed audio from an Bluesound PowerNode. I grabbed the hot seat. First up on the Opticons was an unidentified bass player on a track from a live Nils Lofgren album who started off sounding like Stanley Clarke then Marcus Miller. Despite the affordable system price—the speakers cost $2199/pair, the Bluesound $800— the sound was clean and powerful, with good low-frequency extension. Female vocals sounded uncolored, and stereo imaging was precise and accurate.

When we switched to the Callisto 6Cs driven by WiFi data from a DALI SoundHub, there was a slight hiccup at first, as both speakers were set to “Left Channel,” resulting in well-centered, stable mono, but mono, nonetheless. Once the speakers had been correctly reset to “Left” and “Right,” however, the sound was . . . well, you should read my review to see my thoughts on the Callisto 6C’s sound. Suffice it to say that I was not disappointed with what I heard in Denmark.

At the end of the day Thomas Knudsen (left) and Lars Worre (right) posed for my camera. We then headed out to the bus and the drive back to Aarhus, past the endless vistas of wind turbines and farmland.

Click Here: Chiefs rugby store

Leave a Reply