Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries (DALI for short) has a number of different speaker ranges and the relatively new Mentors slot neatly into the price gap between the near-budget vinyl-finished Ikons and the more costly Helicon and Euphonia ranges.

The Mentor range has gradually expanded since we first encountered the large floorstanding Mentor 6 a little more than a year ago (HFC 290), and if that model proved a little too large and bassy for our 4.3x2.6x5.5m listening room, there's a good chance this smaller Mentor 5 pair will fit the bill rather better.

It's certainly one of the prettiest and most compact floorstanders around, standing just 88 cms off the deck and also looking slim from any angle, thanks to the use of relatively small 130mm bass/mid and bass drivers. High-quality real wood veneered enclosures are available in either cherry or black, too.

All the Mentors use variations on DALI's proprietary dome/ribbon treble module theme, above a range of different size enclosures and bass/mid drivers. In this middle model, the smallest of three floorstanders, the two 130mm drivers have 95mm dish-shaped doped paper diaphragms.

Loaded by a rear-port, the upper main driver operates all the way up to the main 3kHz crossover point, while the lower one is just used to reinforce the bass and lower midband and starts rolling off above 800Hz. The treble module combines a 28mm soft dome and a 17x45mm ribbon on a single chassis, the ribbon just operating above 10kHz, partly to extend the bandwidth and partly to ensure consistently wide lateral distribution.

The enclosure has slightly convex front and back panels, presumably to increase stiffness and marginally reduce standing wave focusing. The whole thing feels very solid too, with a total weight of 13.5kg. The drivers themselves are mounted on an extra silver-grey flat baffle panel.

A neat separate plinth improves the stability footprint, and if thumbwheels lock the spikes, they seemed more effective than usual. Twin terminal pairs apply the signal input, permitting bi-wiring/bi-amping options.

Sound quality

Clearly intended for free space siting, the very compact dimensions tend to place the ribbon tweeter a little below seated ear height. It may, therefore, be worth adjusting the spikes slightly, so that those at the front are slightly longer than those at the rear, giving the speaker a slight backward tilt.

While there's no denying the good overall tonal balance and fundamental neutrality of this speaker, it also has to be acknowledged that in other respects its communication skills are unimpressive. Over a period of several days it behaved itself impeccably, but failed to excite much enthusiasm on the part of the listeners, as both dynamic expression and all-round coherence seemed rather weak.

Some midband boxiness was audible on speech, perhaps as a consequence of that slight upper mid-prominence. The rather strong treble noted in the measurements was also obvious enough, but it's inherently sweet, rarely seemed intrusive and should be easily handled with a little care in system matching.

It's always frustrating to find a speaker that seems to tick all the right boxes in terms of ingredients and measurements, shows no obvious signs of weakness, and yet somehow lacks the vital spark that breaks down the barrier between musician and listener. In the case of the Mentor 5, the whole seems rather less than the sum of its parts, musically speaking.