Review: DALI Callisto 6 C

Let’s begin with what the DALI Callisto 6 C are and what they do, all on their lonesome.

The full name includes “Wireless Active Speakers” which gives you part of the picture. “Active” means there are amplifiers inside offering a max power output of 250 watts (Class D) for a reported max SPL of 110dB. Think plenty loud. The driver complement, x-overs are DSP-controlled, include a ribbon supertweeter, a soft textile dome tweeter, and a pair of 6½” wood fiber cone mid/bass drivers. The rated frequency response is 37Hz – 30,000kHz. Think fairly full range. The speakers are rear-ported and DALI recommends placing them 25 – 100cm from the rear wall.

The Callisto 6 C system comes with a “Sound Hub”. The Hub is where you input your inputs which include analog (RCA pair), mini-jack, Bluetooth (AAC and Apt-X HD), and S/PDIF (Coax and Toslink x2) which means the Hub is also a DAC (using the Burr Brown PCM1796). The USB port serves a few functions which include delivering a standard USB 5V to charge a phone or similar device, power a Chromecast Audio dongle, and a service port for firmware updates. Outputs include pre- and sub-out. All inputs are auto-sensing except the mini-jack. The Hub connects to the speakers wirelessly (either 2.4 GHz or 5.8 GHz, whichever offers the best quality) using “a proprietary 30 bit protocol which transfers an uncompressed I2S audio signal in 24 bit 96 kHz, utilizing the remaining bits to control volume, speaker ID and other control data.”

The included remote, which offers source selection, volume control, mute, and on/off, uses Bluetooth to communicate with the hub so the Hub can sit out of site. You can also opt for the optional BluOS module which I recommend because it allows for a number of neat features including multi-room audio with other Bluesound products, MQA, and the BluOS app which gives you an interface for playing back your stored music, either via your network or by hanging a USB storage device off of the USB port, as well as most any streaming service you’d like (including Tidal and Qobuz). BluOS is also Roon-Ready so you can use Roon to control everything, something I also recommend for the lovely interface and the ability to play and group other Roon-Ready devices.

The review system came with the optional BluOS module so setup included plugging in an Ethernet cable from my network. Speaker setup is easy breezy as long as you read the manual. In brief, plug everything in, power on the Hub, power on the right speaker, press the “Connect” button on both, then do the same for the left speaker. Done. You can adjust each speaker’s volume independently if the feeling moves ya.

I think the entire package is cool, yes cool, and adding to the coolness factor is a touch sensitive volume control located on top of the speakers. That’s right—run a finger from left to right along the top of a speaker and the volume goes up. It works in reverse too! There’s also a bunch of small white LEDs on the front of the speakers indicating volume level. Nice. The Callisto 6 C come with spikes and you want to use them because the speakers sound better when you do. I actually preferred their look with the grills on but YMMV. I like the white finish but they also come in the opposite color.

All I want to do is stream—Roy Orbison

Let’s say all you want to do for your music source is stream. With the basic Callisto system, sans BluOS, you can do so from any Bluetooth-enabled player, like a phone, and be done with thinking about hifi. While this setup sounded fine (ut oh), streaming Tidal from my iPhone, it paled in comparison to playing through the BluOS module. Playing from my phone, music sounded closed in, less distinct in every sense of the word, and bit woolly. I highly recommend adding the BluOS module to hear the Callisto at their best, which is the way I listened to them. Of course you’ll probably want to plug your phono preamp into the Hub’s RCA inputs for vinyl pleasures and maybe, just maybe, plug your TV’s sound output into the Toslink input because TVs do not sound good.

During my listening in order to write a review phase, as opposed to listening for pleasure, there are times when a single word pops into my head that seems to capture  the overall sound quality of the thing under review. When listening in this mode to the DALI Callisto 6 C that word was ripe. As in rich and intense. Not lean. Music played through the Callisto felt big and meaty and, in another word, welcoming, like a jolly new friend you meet at a bar. I would say the DALI are mid-range rich with a nicely fleshed out bottom end and a warm smooth yet detailed top end. Put another way, this system is a pleasure to listen to music through.

I spent weeks with the Callisto 6C listening to my stored music and streaming from Tidal and Qobuz so they treated me to tons of music new and old and new to me. I’ve been loving, love-ing, one of Stephen Mejias’ #NewMusicFriday picks, Jessica Pratt’s Quiet Signs. Her voice is rather unique but its unique beauty has grown on me, into me?, and this record is a real sweetheart. The Callisto did a fine job of delivering her character coupled with the array of acoustic and electric instruments that accompany her. Piano sounds nice and weighty with nary a hint of glare or edge and the sound image exists well outside the confines of the speakers, in every direction.

In the barn, speakers sound best about 7ft. from the back wall which meant I had to use after-market power cords. My choice was the AudioQuest NRG-Z3 ($439.95/4.5M)  plugged into the AudioQuest PowerQuest 3 which offers 2 high-current outlets. I certainly could have gone straight into the wall outlets but that did not sound nearly as good. I found the Callisto sounded best with the tiniest of toe-in which made them sonically disappear. Listening to music with crazy spatial cues, like my old standby Fritz Hauser’s Solodrumming, made it very clear that the Callsito can portray crazy sonic cues. In every dimension, up, out, and front-to-back. Nice.

I love Sonny Sharrock. There, I said it. I love his work with Last Exit as well as his solo efforts including Black Woman, featuring my favorite drummer Milford graves. Sonny’s guitar has a very distinct sound which I’d call fat and fuzzy and the DALI Callisto love Sonny Sharrock too. They deliver fat and fuzzy like nobody’s business. What the DALI do not do is super-resolution and ultimate micro-detail. The much (much) more costly Manger S1, which are also active speakers, offer the most uncanny sense of musically engrossing resolution and detail this side of Quad 57s. Back to the Callisto, they are not surgical nor do they offer something I recently heard at CanJam—uncompromising studio sound. They offer people who enjoy listening to all kinds of music sound. If you want to hear what people heard in the studio, I suggest visiting one.

As a package, as a system, the DALI Callisto 6 C with the BluOS Module offer a lot of bang for the buck. The BluOS module adds a lot of great features including better sound. You could get all audiophile-crazy and add your own outboard DAC but what’s the point. The point of a package like the Callisto 6 C is its ability to deliver more with less.

Can I be frank? I dislike reading the word “lifestyle” anywhere, least of all when it comes to hifi. Music is a part of everyone’s life, it always has been and it always will be. The more time you spend listening to music, the more the quality of the experience matters. That being said, you no longer need to fill your home with lots of boxes with lots of cables and lots of power cords looking for a home. Not to mention a place to sit all of that stuff. If you want to live with music in your home, a product like the DALI Callisto 6 C makes a lot of sense. If you want that music to be captivating and jolly good, the Dali Callisto 6 C should be on your short list.


DALI Callisto 6 C
Price: $5,750/system includes the BluOS Module
Specifications
White paper

Company Information

DALI A/S
Dali Allé 1
9610 Nørager
Denmark
Phone +45 9672 1155

US Distributor

Lenbrook Americas
633 Granite Court, Pickering, Ontario Canada, L1W 3K1
(905) 831-6333
info@lenbrook.com