Dali iO-6 Headphones cancel out the competition: review

It’s a wireless earbuds society these days, thanks to the rise of Airpods and the ultra-convenience we chase day in and day out. But none of that truly does justice to music and sound, and a newcomer to the headphone market, Dali, is here to remind you of exactly that. They’re the reminder we need, too, a reminder that the hi-fi headphone market remains alive and well, and that it’s still worth tossing on a pair of extra-large cans when you really want to hear all the details of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.”

Meet the Dali iO-6 headphones, a pair of wireless hi-fi cans that are designed to be worth every penny of their ultra-steep retail price ($499). Danish manufacturer Dali is best known for its speakers, but it channels speaker intensity and feel with this foray into headphones. The Dali iO-6 is thoughtfully designed and expertly crafted, and the result is a device that shines if you love audio detail.

The devil is in the details for these cans, which in some ways feel throwback. We’re a minimalist culture these days, taking cues from Beats by Dre’s tight designs when it comes to sound. But Dali wants to make over-ear cans worthwhile, and it proves that by delivering a milky sound. Tiny details are present in nearly every song, from “Like a Prayer,” to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” The guitar moments take off in Run-DMC’s “Walk This Way,” and Green Day’s “Time of Your Life.”

If there’s a shortcoming to this detailed, high-level sound, it’s a surprising lack of bass. There’s only limited thump in Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” for example. Then again, even this seems calculated for your enjoyment. Many headphones struggle to deliver clear explosions during movies, but the iO-6 has no such issues with the heavy action of the "Avengers" films, and it thrives when I play "Call of Duty" on PC. Clarity is the name of Dali’s game here, and it’s effective and well-rounded.

Design is well-rounded, too, even though Dali is theoretically a bit new at this. These over-ear cans don’t really feel all that substantial, even though build quality is plenty sturdy. I wore them for four hours straight one day, and didn’t have any signs of ear fatigue. Earcups that rotate a full 180 degrees help, and extra-cushiony leather keeps your ears comfortable. It’s an elegant package overall, and it naturally seals out plenty of ambient noise, even before you explore the active noise cancellation features.

The active noise-canceling is sound, driven by a small battery of buttons on one earcup. Dali learns lessons from the industry, keeping buttons minimal and small, permitting a still-tight aesthetic to shine. You get a power button on the right earcup and some easy touch controls for volume adjusting, call handling, and noise cancellation built right onto the surface of the earcup. It feels familiar and intuitive and it handles exceptionally well.

Dali’s noise cancellation, meanwhile, is impactful, completely shutting out all noise, whether you’re on the subway or just working at home trying to drown out the kids and the dog. You focus on satisfying, elegant sound, instead. Dali stays with the times, though, and adds what it calls “Transparency” mode, stopping the music and letting you hear everything around you, a sleek addition for airports and train stations.

All the possible goodies you could want are bundled in with the iO-6s too. You get a USB-C cable for easy charging, a smart, modern choice when some headphone companies are still in the micro-USB days. You even get a 3.5mm cable and a flight connector, two throwback pieces you may never use, since many laptops, iPads and phones lack 3.5mm ports. Still, it’s better to be more compatible than less, and Dali gets major credit here. One thing you don’t get (and this is a plus) is an app; Dali’s headphones are meant to be controlled more easily than that, so you won’t have to download a single thing onto your phone.

The entire package is well worth your time if you’re looking for some easy listening. Sure, you’ll want your earbuds for the gym, and maybe you’ll want them for quick errands too. But when it’s time to really listen to a song? You’ll want these.

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