Update: The Zensor lineup appears to have been discontinued. You can check out our best-of page for alternative recommendations.
DALI is a Danish audio company that makes several full lineups of home theater speakers, from MidFi all the way to very high end. The Zensor AX 1 is a powered/active version of one of their flagship speakers from the their popular Zensor lineup. Unlike the passive Zensor 1, the advantage of the AX 1 is that the amplifier is built in, meaning you can just plug it right into the wall and its ready to play. More and more companies are starting making powered speakers right on par with popular higher end passive speakers, and the A1 X is certainly one of them.
The cabinet is fairly boilerplate MDF panels, around 3/4 inches or so, with a separate baffle piece that has its own gloss finish. The insides of the cabinet are partially fitted with non-specified acoustic dampening material, probably some kind of foam, which according to DALI minimizes unwanted resonance and allows the port in the back to move air better. The speaker comes in classic black, wood, and white with a vinyl finish, but the latter two colors frankly look jarring in contrast with the interestingly crimson woofers. The speakers do come with nice looking detachable covers that hover a bit beyond the baffle.
The drivers are where this speaker really starts to stand out. The tweeter is a very nice looking ~1 inch textile dome housed in a slight waveguide. The woofer is made of an actual wood fiber blend, and you can see the texture if you zoom in close enough. It’s their proprietary material that has the potential to be very light and stiff, and is certainly a level up beyond more commonly used rubber, plastic, or even metallic blends.
The AX 1 is retrofitted to remain a pair just like the passive version. The parent speaker has a 2 x 50W amp built in, which connects to the child speaker which is, in effect, a passive speaker that’s the same as the Zensor 1.
Wired inputs are a standard 3.5mm jack, optical toslink, and a sub-out line to add a subwoofer if you wish, which is a significant feature that a lot of lower end powered speakers lack thereby giving them an inescapable ceiling. The AX 1 is also Bluetooth compatible which is nice. A little remote control is also included.
So how does the build and design ultimately impact performance? Well, the speakers achieve a max SPL of 104 dB, which, though not quite as loud as some of the larger and beefier powered monitors available, is plenty to fill just about any room that isn’t exorbitantly large. The response range is decent for a bookshelf speaker of this size, but not stellar. While the tweeter gets nice and high, which means it gets low as well and thus helps the woofer do its main job of focusing on the mids, a 53 Hz floor with a single ~5.5 inch is always going to have limited bass. It’s the common bottleneck of two way bookshelf speakers. But, you can easily add a subwoofer and easily overcome that. These might sound OK for some standalone, but others will likely opt to add a subwoofer.
Size and weight wise these speakers run middle of the road. They do have a fair amount of depth (10 in), and will also need room in the back for the ports to breathe, but beyond that they shouldn’t be too hard to place. The backs also have keyhole mounts and mounting brackets are actually included, in addition to rubber feet to help with some default separation if you just decide to place them. It’s a nice additional inclusion with all essential connection cables – they’re really ready to fully go out of the box.
One potential downside with DALI as a company is that they don’t offer their own direct warranty, so you’ll need to be sure the intermediary dealer is authorized and offers a decent coverage. We’d say 2-3 years at least would be up to par for a speaker of this price and caliber.
Our Overall Take, As Compared To The Competition
The fact that DALI is a more obscure audio company nestled in central Europe means that prices and availability tend to be all over the place. If you see them get down closer to $500 from an authorized dealer (there are some on Amazon sometimes) and can secure an adequate warranty, we’d say these would be strong competitors in the Mid/HiFi tier of powered bookshelf speakers, mainly because of the distinctly advanced driver materials. But its more likely than not that US customers will be able to get better and more reliable value from a company with established US or Chinese production. Check out the links below for some alternative recommendations.