Dali Katch Review: Compact with really decent sound
Setting new standards in portable audio, the stunning Dali Katch audio system brings DALI’s digital advances and unique acoustic design expertise to life. By combining these two elements, the company has managed to create a system with incredibly rich sound in an amazingly compact package.
Katch connects to sources via Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX; NFC support will help the device to quickly recognize the source. The developers also did not abandon the 3.5 mm jack, and the USB connector for charging mobile devices allows you to insert a Chromecast Audio adapter into it and connect the Katch to your home network. The battery lasts for 24 hours of continuous use.
The sound of the system can be adjusted depending on where and how it is installed: on a shelf near a wall or in a more open space. In the first case, the device will begin to take into account sound reflections from the wall and compensate for them.
The entire front and rear panels of the Dali Katch are covered with protective mesh with an original pattern, behind which is a two-way speaker system – one 3.5-inch woofer and a 21 mm tweeter on each side. Each of these speakers was specifically designed for use in the DALI Katch as they needed to be built into a shallow enclosure without compromising on sound quality. The woofers are equipped with an inverted aluminum cone, the working stroke of which, thanks to special design solutions, was made the same as that of the woofers in traditional hi-fi acoustics.
The bass drivers in the Dali Katch work together with a pair of oval passive radiators, which are precisely calculated to get very deep bass from this compact speaker. The built-in amplifiers have a power of 2 x 25 W and they operate in an economical class D, efficiently using battery energy and practically without heating. Dual-mode DSP can be used to change the sound of the system, and the two Katch speakers can be configured as a stereo pair.
The speaker cabinet, which was developed using the experience gained during the creation of the FAZON series speakers, is made of aluminum, and its front and rear panels, on which the speakers are installed, are made of ABS. Aluminum made it possible to make the walls of the cabinet as thin as possible without losing rigidity, which provided an increase in the internal volume necessary for the normal operation of the speakers. In addition, the combination of metal and polymer gave good vibration damping – the speaker case does not resonate and does not color the sound even at high volumes. The speaker comes with a nice carrying strap.
When DALI decided to create a portable Bluetooth speaker system, the first thing they did was hold many focus groups around the world and asked their participants to choose the most convenient form factor and attractive design from a large number of options. I can’t imagine that some OEM factory would allow itself such freethinking, because the bosses know best what the people need. But for Europeans who understand a lot about true democracy, this is the generally accepted style of work.
For a portable speaker, battery life is very important, which means you need a capacious battery – this is what the logic of simple solutions says. But the higher the battery capacity, the larger its dimensions and weight. Do you know what the internal volume of the Katch is? Only 0.8 liters, a little more than a bottle of champagne. Therefore, the battery was set at 2400 mAh, while the declared operating time is 24 hours! I will note in passing that it corresponds to the real one, if you listen not at maximum, but at medium volume. Another significant point is that the battery is easy to replace; this does not require any special equipment or any cunning tool. This means that replacing it will not be too expensive, unlike some smartphones, in which the back cover is glued and must be removed with the help of special devices.
It is easy to guess that such an impressive autonomy can only be achieved with a class D amplifier, but this is not enough – all Bluetooth acoustics are equipped with digital amplifiers, but they do not last so long on a single charge. High-performance bass / midrange drivers are also needed. Remember how thick the Katch is? Only 47 mm. It was not just speakers with shallow depth that were required, but with a long travel – the same as conventional 3.5 ”speakers. And DALI designed them. Their diaphragm is convex, made of aluminum, in the center there is a dustproof cap made of soft fabric, this combination helps to smooth out resonances. It is clear that in a small volume, even the best emitter will have a significant drop at low frequencies. Here it is compensated with the help of DSP, but the special design of the proprietary driver allowed us to limit ourselves to only a small correction.
The speaker is mono, but two-way and bi-amping, with a pair of tweeters and woofers installed in it — one on each side. In the center are rectangular passive emitters – a traditional bass reflex port does not fit into such a compact speaker.
If you place the speaker in front of you with the strap on the left, the bass speaker is also on the left, and the tweeter is on the right. Consider this when using two Katch instances in stereo. Since we had two speakers at our disposal, we tested them in stereo and made sure that in order to obtain a normal balance between the channels, it is necessary to mount the devices in a mirror-like manner so that the speakers are positioned symmetrically. By the way, this is how they are depicted in the user manual. Straps inward or outward is to your taste, the result will depend on the environment.
We are not talking about the Katch’s appearance – it is quite in line with modern European design trends, hence the soft lines and pleasant pastel colors. Aside from the fashion for mobile applications. Recently, many manufacturers even supply Bluetooth headphones with mobile applications. There is no big sense in them – except that it is convenient to monitor the battery level. Well, you can also choose the language of voice prompts, if such functionality is available. DALI did not multiply entities and did without additional software.
Connectivity is facilitated by NFC technology, but without it, pairing with a smartphone is easy. And the battery charge is displayed by a universal LED indicator combined with the power button. It is made in the form of a ring with four segments: if all four are on, it means that the charge level is high, some have gone out – the energy reserve has decreased by a quarter, etc. The same ring shows the pairing mode with a blinking blue light, and the right or left halves light up depending on the selected DSP mode. They are switched by the button on the right. If, when pressed, the two right segments light up, this is the CLEAR mode – the high frequencies are raised. If the left two are WARM, the sound becomes softer. The far left button controls Bluetooth. Well, and as you might guess, the plus and minus keys adjust the volume. Generally,
On the right side you can find a 3.5 mm input for analog sources, next to it is a USB connector for emergency assistance to portable devices that have spent their charge far from civilization. You can also power the Google Chromecast Audio adapter from it, and then the speaker acquires Wi-Fi functionality, becomes networked and can even be included in multiroom systems. So if you want, Katch can be very fashionable in every way.
The first impression is rather restrained: nothing special, it seems. Katch plays smoothly, cleanly, in a measure of detail. But gradually you begin to notice amazingly informative low frequencies – you can distinguish a lot of details. Then you pay attention to the vocals, how they sculpturally stand out against the background of the accompaniment, even dense and with a large number of instruments. Modern alt-rock, most often recorded with a nightmarish level of compression and therefore extremely harsh and unpleasant sounding on hi-fi systems, is presented surprisingly smoothly and tactfully. Of course, if you use a source with aptX support, the resolution in the upper part of the range will increase, but I just forgot about the advanced codec – the speaker played very nicely without it, I wanted to listen to it. How the DALI developers managed to achieve this effect – I will not lie, I do not know.