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DALI IO-12 | True Hi-Fi wireless headphones

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Early Verdict– We can’t wait to experience Dali’s expertise in high-end wireless headphones. Our initial impressions look very promising!

Pros Cons
Clever use of in-house tech Strong competition at this level
Support USB-C playback
Great battery life

There exist premium wireless headphones as well as high-end wireless options. Apple set the trend with their extremely high-quality Apple AirPods Max. Since their introduction in 2020, we’ve witnessed the rise of even more expensive headphone models aiming to elevate sound quality. Notably, the Focal Bathys and Mark Levinson No. 5909 are exceptional illustrations, crafted by well-established hi-fi brands. They demonstrate that superior sound quality often accompanies a higher price tag. Now, Dali, a prominent brand, has stepped into this arena with its recent IO-12 over-ear headphones.

Read More- Dali Phantom H120 Review


Priced at £999 ($1499 / €999), this places the Dali headphones in the same price range as the Mark Levinson No. 5909 (£999 / $999 / AU$1599). The Focal Bathys, retailing for £699 ($799 / AU$1199), might also catch your interest in this market segment. We’ve rigorously tested both these models and both received top-notch five-star ratings.


Dali isn’t new to the wireless headphone market, with the IO4 and IO6 being earlier entrants. However, these earlier models were competitors to premium and more mainstream brands like Bose and Sony. The IO-12 aims to elevate the game, which is necessary to make an impact in this newer, more expensive sector. Dali has something intriguing and distinctive in store for this new release. The IO-12 headphones are the pioneering devices to incorporate the company’s patented Soft Magnetic Compound (SMC) technology, intended to minimize distortion. SMC, commonly present in the magnet systems of Dali’s high-end speakers, including the flagship Kore valued at £70k, and the recently unveiled Epikore 11 floorstanders, diminishes hysteresis, reducing unwanted distortion for a clearer sound.

Additionally, the design showcases a substantial 50mm driver utilizing a paper fiber cone. Dali opted for this size as larger drivers aid in reducing distortion. The headphones also feature damping material akin to that found behind the tweeters of specific Dali loudspeakers. Like other headphones at this level, the Dalis don’t fold completely but can fold flat. The headphones come with a robust and lavish carry case, a necessity given their price. The oversized square earpads, wrapped in leather, exude opulence. This extends to the headband, padded where it rests on top of your head. A close inspection of the pads reveals a subtle bump at the bottom of each, a deliberate design choice to ensure an optimal seal—Dali believes this is a critical area to minimize sound leakage.


Dali has ensured comprehensive connectivity with the IO-12. Bluetooth is available for ultimate convenience, including aptX Adaptive support. Moreover, you have the option of utilizing the 3.5mm socket (a cable is provided) or connecting directly to a computer using the USB-C connection (a USB-C-to-USB-Type-A cable is included). This setup allows you to bypass your computer’s built-in DAC in favor of the Dalis’. When listening through this method, the headphones support up to 24-bit/96kHz sample rates natively, with higher rates being downsampled. The headphones can be used wirelessly, wired, or passively, ensuring functionality even when the battery depletes.

Dali has incorporated a passive filter for maintaining consistent sonic character when the headphones are powered off. On the left earpiece, the only connection is a 3.5mm jack. The right side hosts all the controls, including the power/pairing button and a button to switch between the headphones’ ‘bass’ and ‘hi-fi’ sound modes. The former imparts extra weight to low frequencies, while the latter prioritizes a pure tonal balance. There’s also a button for toggling ANC and enabling the transparency mode. Control buttons are situated on the right earpad, with the central surface serving as the play/pause button, while the top and bottom sections are dedicated to volume control. Holding down the power button swiftly activates pairing mode and any other action requiring a button press is executed promptly and seamlessly.

Sound quality


In terms of battery life, the IO-12 offers a commendable 35 hours, surpassing both the Focal Bathys (30hrs) and Mark Levinson No. 5909 (34hrs). During our initial encounter with the IO-12, playing Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” over both Bluetooth and USB-C revealed a clear, expansive sound. Detail levels seemed spot-on across the frequency spectrum. Switching between bass and hi-fi modes made a discernible difference, with a slight boost in bass weight for the former and a return to a balanced sound for the latter. Transitioning to The XX’s “On Hold,” there was a distinct maturity in the sound, evident in Oliver Sim’s smooth, soothing vocals. Playing John Williams’ “Main Theme from Jurassic Park” showcased a graceful flow in the string section, complemented by percussion. This level of refinement surpasses what entry-level wireless headphones can deliver.


While our time with the IO-12 at the Dali stand during the High-End Munich show was brief, the noise-canceling functionality seemed satisfactory. We were informed that the headphones employ ANC technology akin to Sony’s latest models, raising our expectations for comprehensive testing. Of course, a thorough evaluation over an extended period is needed for a definitive verdict. Nonetheless, Dali’s venture into this relatively new headphone space is promising. Considering our positive experiences with their previous models, we hold high hopes for the IO-12. Stay tuned for the official review.

Elena Petrovich

Elena Petrovich is a passionate Tech Enthusiast and skilled Audio Engineer with a keen interest in the ever-evolving world of technology. With extensive experience in the tech industry, she has been instrumental in crafting insightful content covering a wide spectrum of devices, including Phones, Tablets, Laptops, Home Theater systems, Soundbars, Speakers, Headphones, Smartwatches, and Gaming peripherals. Her expertise lies in distilling complex technological concepts into accessible and engaging narratives, making her a valuable voice in the tech community.

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