Music in every room is something that’s really important to me. I listen to music (or at least have it in the background) pretty much 100% of the time. I hate working in silence. Music seems to oil the gears of my mind and keeps things moving. In some rooms, like our home study there just isn’t room enough for a “proper” traditional 2 channel hi-fi rig. And it’s not like I do any significant amount of critical listening to warrant such a setup. Naturally, this all means a compromise in favour of convenience.
Usually, when I think of the brand that represents the narrowest compromise of convenience over decent sound, I think of Sonos. You probably do too. The brand has built a considerable and in my view, well deserved, reputation for great sound in very convenient and handsome form factors. Then there is the “ecosystem” of Sonos apps that ties a very pretty and easy-to-use ribbon around the whole package.
My problem (if it is one…) is that I don’t like to be tied to one brand or captive to one ecosystem (sorry Apple…). The kodawari drive is too strong. I need to know if there is better. I’m not prepared to accept less simply for the sake of a cute app. If another maker has created a product that sounds better – I want to know about it.
DALI, the Danish hifi manufacturer known mostly for its floor standing and stand mount loudspeakers, was not a brand I had on my radar when I began thinking about a hi-fi solution for my home office with a convenient form factor. I have certainly heard of DALI, and have auditioned a number of their speaker models. Good, yes; but never really peeled my tangerine, if you know what I mean.
My initial short list contained KEF’s LSX wireless; Sonos 1 and the usual suspects from BOSE, Ultimate Ears etc. The KEF are undoubtedly awesome – but out of the running purely because of price. One of my aims was to see what I could achieve on a budget similar to that of the price of the Sonos 1. Accordingly, that left some really nice units from B&W, Geneva, Naim etc high and dry.
Anyway, with the budget set, the search began. In a small mostly head-fi based store in Wan Chai I spotted the DALI Katch. I say “spotted” because it wasn’t it’s sound that immediately grabbed my attention – it was the Katch’s looks. Apart from its fairly unique design, the build quality is impeccable. It’s a really good looking unit. The looks are assisted by the Katch having a certain Goldilocks-like heft. The thick anodised aluminium frame and the pull-out leather handle also give it that Scandi-design look and feel that I happen to love.
Ok, so it looks great. But books and covers and all that… Keen to know if function met the form, I paired the display unit to my phone and streamed some music from Tidal to the Katch. My initial impression was a resounding “yes”. Without trying to sound too gushy, it was obvious even in the less than ideal listening environment of a Wan Chai hi-fi shop that the DALI engineers had achieved something special with the Katch.
But why had I not heard of it before? Even a superficial listen was enough to convince me the Katch was excellent. It seemed odd to me that it had not caught the attention of the wider audio gear review community. Of course that may have more to do with DALI’s marketing budget than anything else, but I was wary of the fact that it is usually because there is a catch (no pun intended). Some issue or problem that holds a product back from widespread appreciation and appeal.
Whilst continuing to spin some tracks, I reached out to my old friend Dr Google to see if I could find out what, if anything, should stop me from taking the plunge. I scanned a number of reviews from reliable sources. Here they are if you’d like to read them too (the TechHive review is worth a look if you want more info on the Katch’s specs, features and what’s under the hood as far as drivers & amps are concerned):
Like me, you’ll see that the reviews are very positive. Particularly in the area I care about most – sound quality. With no reason standing in my way, I took the plunge.
I’ve had the Katch for a while now. Six months at least. I’m happy to say that nothing has caused me to change my initial impression of its sound quality. Of course, like any small wireless speaker, it has limitations. But taking those into account, I find the Katch’s sound signature to be utterly delightful. Particularly if your tastes run to the more acoustic, jazz and classical end of the music spectrum. It won’t image stage or convey the dynamic range sufficient to give rock or electronic music any great depth or weight. That’s not a criticism, just a reflection of the limitations I spoke of earlier. I will say, though, what it does with what it’s got is still damn impressive.
I initially sidestepped the Bluetooth input in favour of utilising Roon streaming to a Chromecast Audio connected to the Katch’s 3.5mm AUX input and USB A charging only port. Well, that’s how things started anyway. Not so long ago the USB port gave up the ghost. It no longer provides power to the Chromecast Audio (or, if it does, it does so intermittently). There is a workaround for this issue. But it’s not elegant and requires the Katch being tethered to a USB wall wart.
I should point out that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Katch’s Bluetooth capability. It pairs easily with any device and the sound reproduction over BT is more than satisfactory. But Roon is my system of choice and using a Chromecast Audio (RIP) means that I can create a lossless audio stream to the Katch. The uptick in sound quality is noticeable and for me worth the extra hassle.
Other niggles? There are a couple. There is no accompanying app for the Katch or display screen. Meaning controlling the unit, firmware upgrades etc all need to be handled by five buttons that sit on the top of the Katch. It’s not a huge issue and in some ways does keep it very simple to use.
All in all, there is nothing to complain about here. The Katch sounds great and looks even better. It has long battery life (24 hours), is easy to use, and has decent connectivity options. Whilst it’s not redefining the category, if you’re looking for something a bit out of the ordinary that still delivers great sound, you really can’t (and shouldn’t) go past the Katch.