Unleash the Power of Sound with Dali iO-12: A Symphony for Your Ears
The Dali iO-12 is a gorgeous pair of headphones with 3.5mm and USB-C-connected audio (notice to iPhone 15 owners) for up to 24-bit/96kHz resolution or aptX adaptive quality if going wire-free. The chocolate color with gold embellishments and luxurious cushioning is gorgeous. Audio is detailed and perceptive whether you use the bass increase button or listen unaltered, and ANC is surprisingly effective. There is no app, so in-app sonic customization fans should avoid this. Do you care? That’s your call.
Dive Deep into Audio Nirvana with Dali iO-12: Your Gateway to Sonic Bliss
|aptX Adaptive; USB-C wired audio
|USB-A to USB-C and 3.5mm cables supplied
|10 – 48,000
|16 – 24 bit audio, 32/44.1/48/96 kHz sample rate
The Dali iO-12 debuted at High-End Munich in May 2023. And high-end they are. If you want them, you’ll need deep cash; they cost more than premium options like the Focal Bathys ($799, £699, €799, AU$1,210) or Bowers & Wilkins PX8. They’re not as expensive as the wired Meze Audio Liric ($1,999, £1,799, or AU$3,399), but they’re still four or five times the cost of many high-quality, aggressively priced solutions. For starters, consider the Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2, Sony WH-1000XM5, Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2, Edifier Stax Spirit S3, and Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless.
Dali’s IO4 and IO6 wireless headphones have been tested in our labs for years. Both competed with luxury (and popular) Bose and Sony. To make a splash in this newer, pricier market, the IO-12 intends to step it up. Dali has something intriguing and distinctive about this new model. The IO-12 are the first headphones with the company’s patented Soft Magnetic Compound (SMC) distortion-reduction technology.
SMC is used in Dali’s £70k flagship Kore and recently revealed Epikore 11 floor standers magnet systems. It lowers hysteresis, which causes distortion, for crisper sound. Also included is a big 50mm driver with a paper fiber cone. Dali chose this size because a larger driver reduces distortion. Damping material behind Dali loudspeakers’ tweeters is present in the headphones.
With the IO-12, Dali has covered all the connectivity bases. Bluetooth is convenient (including aptX Adaptive support), but you can also use their 3.5mm socket (a cable is included) or USB-C to connect them to a computer. This lets you use Dalis’ DAC instead of your computer’s. The headphones support 24-bit/96kHz sample rates natively, downsampling anything higher.
The headphones can be used wirelessly, wired, or passively, which is useful if the battery dies. Dali also implemented a passive filter to preserve the headphones’ sound when powered off. A 3.5mm jack is the only left earpiece connection. All activity is over on the right. Here is your power/pairing button and a button to choose between the headphones’ bass and hi-fi sound settings. The former adds weight to low frequencies, whereas hi-fi provides the cleanest tonal balance. A button toggles ANC on and off and enables transparency mode.
We start our brief time with the IO-12 playing Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy over Bluetooth and USB-C with crisp, wide sound. Detail levels are good throughout the frequencies. No detail stands out. Switching between bass and hi-fi modes has a slight effect, adding bass weight to low frequencies while restoring balance.
The XX’s On Hold has a mature vibe, as Oliver Sim’s lead vocal is calm and comforting. Play John Williams’ Jurassic Park Main Theme, and the string part flows nicely with percussion. This refinement is unmatched by entry-level wireless headphones. We used them briefly on the Dali stand at the High-End Munich show and found noise-cancelling fine. We’re hopeful that we acquire a pair to test because they feature ANC tech like Sony’s newest headphones.
No doubt, these headphones are pricey. However, they deliver great sound and ANC. Spend money on the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless, Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones, or Sony WH-1000XM5 for the greatest (and most tweakable) transparency profiles, EQ presets, button modifications, spatial audio, or other benefits. App support and smart features are missing from these headphones, which frequently miss a high-res codec, have poor call quality but superb sound, and lack water resistance. There are none. The Dali iO-12 advertises “no app required” as a feature, but we’re skeptical. 7 The build is stunning, the sound is detailed and integrated, and the battery lasts 35 hours. If you want more power, go boss.
|Neutral, clear, detailed sound
|There is no accompanying app
|Elegant construction and finish
|No spatial audio processing
|Audio via USB-C
It’s fantastic to see Dali enter the relatively new headphones market, but we’ll need to listen to them longer to decide. We like the IO-12 after testing their earlier versions. Stay tuned for the official review.
What Is The Price?
DALI IO-12 wireless noise-canceling headphones cost $1,300 (£999 or €999) or $1,700 CDN.
What’s battery life?
The headphones have a 35-hour battery life, wired or wireless listening, and two sound settings for ‘Hi-Fi’ and ‘Bass’ music.
The primary features?
Added Bass/Hi-Fi button USB Audio supports 24-bit/96kHz resolution. Excellent ANC, but less feature-rich than competitors.