There are no longer many really important pan-European loudspeaker brands, but of the handful that there are left, Danish specialist DALI is one of the most significant, with an enormous range of models covering a wide range of prices.
This model is from is the second generation Helicon range, one of the more upmarket DALI ranges, which has been re-engineered and subtly re-voiced from its immediate predecessor, the Mk1 Helicon, and leavened with technology from the go-for-broke Euphonia series.
There have been further developments to some of the drive units, the crossover and enclosures have been changed, and the impressive-looking terminals on the rear panel are all-new.
The Helicon 300 Mk2 is a two-way design, similar in size and intent to the original Mk1. Of the various models in the new Helicon Mk2 range the 300 is, according to DALI, the most versatile, being voiced to suit small and largish rooms alike, more so than its direct counterpart in the Mk1 Helicon range.
Changes specified for the Mk2 300 did not need to be too extensive as the design had already achieved considerable success, but there has been a carefully considered range of improvements with some functional, the others cosmetic.
The enclosure is made from a dual-layer sandwich construction of wood-veneered MDF, with resonance-damping glue between the layers, and the baffle has been changed to black, with a deep piano gloss finish. Another key visible change is the new bi-wire terminal, which is a proprietary design that holds the cable more tightly than before.
The two-way hybrid tweeter design features a time-aligned combination of a 25mm coated silk dome tweeter with a 10x50mm ribbon. The unit gives an unusually extended response and a broader than usual dispersion.
The bass driver remains a small-ish unit, with a stiff, lightweight paper pulp cone with a coated surface treatment. A second magnet has been added, which provides a degree of - but not complete - magnetic shielding.
Other changes include a new softer rubber surround, and a new impregnated linen spider, in both cases optimised for longer excursions and therefore higher maximum SPLs. The changes result in a somewhat better, more precisely controlled bass, though still with a touch of the bloom that characterised the original model.
The Helicon 300 Mk2 was supplied for test with a pair of purpose-designed pedestal stands, the Helicon 300 Stand (£799), which is an extremely heavy unit, finished in the same way as the loudspeaker itself, offset here with a black-painted base plate. The stand and the speaker are best coupled to each other using beads of Blu-tac in the time honoured way.
The unusual configuration of this speaker, and in particular, the use of the hybrid tweeter module, means that special care needs to be taken over fine tuning and positioning.
With a reflex port on the rear panel, the speaker needs some room to breathe, and should be positioned about 30cm or so clear of the back wall, though this distance is not critical. If you're using the dedicated DALI 300 stand, the tweeter will be broadly at ear level anyway, otherwise this is what you should aim for.
The DALI departs from convention in that it's best used facing directly forward, rather than being toed-in. This is DALI's recommendation, but there is some leeway here as the system is not particularly directional in the lateral plane.
During the course of this test, we were able to use the speaker in a smaller listening room before transferring it to a larger one.
The larger room meant a listening range of in excess of four meters and a requirement for more power and drive, which could not be met with mainstream amplifiers from Denon and Arcam, as they sounded a little weaker and lacking in vitality. But the DALI worked beautifully with a big pre/power amp combination from Moon Audio restoring the required discipline and gravitas.
Even in this combination, however, the DALI 300 Mk2 remains smooth and slightly warm, even at times 'woofy', with an attractive, open balance with strong detail and resolution, but ultimately, a lack of definition in the mid-bass registers which sound slightly warm and wooden.
Low frequency extension is not overly impressive - not that this should be expected from a speaker this size - but the overall balance is still very impressive. The midband is especially clean and vivid and the mid to treble balance unusually well judged, with a balance that errs on the right side of the line on any reasonable listening axis.
In the smaller test room, the sound had greater immediacy than in the larger one and overall, this is a speaker that works best in small and medium-sized rooms, up to say, four by five metres, though it remains an extremely attractive-sounding speaker even when used in rooms that ought to be out of its compass. The rooms never completely got the better of the DALI, which is just too classy to be put down.
This is a particularly finely judged loudspeaker, albeit one that may prefer rooms of a particular size, and which is not necessarily easy to drive. It likes a good quality source and definitely comes on song when coupled with powerful and well-controlled amplification.