Dali Katch G2 and Cleer Scene Head-to-Head Review
Does anyone need a $600 Bluetooth® speaker? Hard for me to determine. At that level, looks and brand play into the equation as much as sound. I review a lot of Bluetooth speakers, and while I was impressed by the sonorous depth of the Dali Katch G2, it felt like the vocals were all trying to reach me from behind a wall.
I listened over the course of a couple of months to the Dali Katch G2. I was impressed by its richness in looks and sound. But reviews require context. So, I sat for a couple of hours, going back and forth between the Dali Katch G2 and the Cleer Audio Scene. I was going to write a single review of the Katch and another for the Cleer. After this head-to-head competition, I decided to combine them. I found the Cleer Scene offered more realistic audio reproduction just below full volume where it can lean into distortion, and the Katch G2, with powerful depth and richness, proved less accurate than the Cleer.
And that analysis, and the analysis that follows, begs the question: can a $99 speaker beat a $599 speaker? The answer is yes, especially with price considerations. If they were both $99, the fit and finish of the Katch G2 would outshine the Cleer Scene’s nice but not designer exterior. But the sound would still be the sound, and the Scene would, at least for me, still sound better, and sound is why most people buy speakers.
Fit and Finish
Several years ago, I wrote an article for Fast Company (In Fashion, Tech Accessories Are The New Fragrance) on designer influence in tech. I wrote about iPhone cases, for instance, that ran hundreds, even thousands of dollars—an investment that often only lasted until the next iPhone shipped. The Dali Katch G2 feels like it fits into that category, though with a much longer shelf life. The fit and finish are outstanding. The clever, real leather strap that requires a screwdriver or dime to unlock takes nylon lanyards looped through tiny holes to the next level. When not in use, the strap screws down and hugs the rounded edge of the Katch G2.
The caramel white finish looks like it should reside in a case somewhere on Beverly Hills’ famed Rodeo Drive, which I’m sure it does. And that may get some people to drop $599 as a reasonable investment for a Bluetooth speaker.
The Cleer Scene is a less opulent product, a compact, rounded wedge with a broad LED on the front and round radiators tucked into both ends. Accessible controls across the top and in the back offer audio options. While the Cleer Scene isn’t designer-level, it also isn’t an embarrassing rubber block. The speaker’s sculpted edges and fabric exterior may not draw attention as a piece of art, but they are more utilitarian. Winner: Dali Katch G2.
While one would think a $599 speaker would crush a $99 speaker, that isn’t the case. Song after song, from bright piano keys to the rumble of a Jimi Hendrix guitar, the Cleer Scene sounded better, especially in the Katch’s warm mode. In warm mode, the Dali Katch G2 sounded rich, but it also sounded constrained, like the music was playing through the bass or perhaps through a wall of water or a stack of wood. It felt less accessible. And while the Cleer Scene distorted slightly at max volume, it also unleashed every song that I played through it. The vocals sounded present in the crispness, unchecked in a good way.
Switching the Katch G2 to the ‘clear’ mode unshackled the vocals and brought down the barrier smoothing the highs, but the sound was still mired by an audio molasses that blended notes and layers that should sound more distinct. I recommend only listening to the Katch G2 in ‘clear’ mode—I’m not sure what Dali was after with warm mode, as its deficiencies are not hidden.
As much as the Dali Katch G2 touts its low-profile, dual 3.5-inch aluminum passive driver woofers, the bass all sounded like it was coming at me rather than through the room and the table. And as noted, the sound from the 21mm soft dome tweeters seems to struggle to get through the bass tumbling out of the low-frequency drivers and steel cone passive bass radiators. Wherever that bass went, it wasn’t a rumble that made the table shake. A pair of 25W Class D amplifiers drive the Katch G2.
Counter-intuitively, though not so much when you consider the Katch G2’s dual-sided driver design, listening to it edge-on, with the protected ports pointed at you rather than the grill, the speakers create more separation and a more immersive experience than with just one grill facing forward.
The Cleer Scene, on the other hand, made the table where I was testing reverberate song after song as its 20W dual 48mm neodymium drivers and passive radiators pushed sound waves through the wood. I wasn’t testing for it, but it became clear that the Scene was shaking some molecules that the Katch G2 wasn’t connecting with. The Scene does not include a separate of tweets and woofers.
As for immersive sound, the Dali Katch G2 wins that category by pushing sound out from both sides of its mirrored enclosure—meaning both sides of the enclosure are designed to radiate sound through the grills.
Speakers are all about sound. As much as some might question this recommendation based on technology, design and price, my ears told me over and over, with my eyes open and my eyes shut, that the Cleer Scene offered a more natural sound.
I have listened to Elvis Costello since My Aim is True on speakers and systems, great and small. Elvis Costello sounded like Elvis Costello on the Cleer Scene but came across with a deeper, richer tone than he owns on the Dali Katch G2, even in clear mode. I don’t want my speakers to interpret my artists, (which I know they all do to an extent), but the Cleer Scene produced the Elvis Costello I want to listen to. Winner: Cleer Scene.
Charging, battery and external power. The Dali Katch G2 runs for 30 hours after charging from its proprietary charger, which includes international adapters. The speaker charges in about 2 hours to full level, which is impressive for a 3300mAh lithium-ion battery. The Cleer Scene rates at 12 hours of playback time and fully charges in about 2 hours. Unlike the Katch G2, charging time for the 2600mAh Cleer Scene lithium-ion battery will depend on the power rating of the charging block, with lower output increasing charging time. The Katch G2 also offers a USB-A charging port for other devices. Winner: Dali Katch G2.
Bluetooth, NFC and codecs. The Katch G2 supports Bluetooth® 5.0 and apt-X, apt-X HD and AAC profiles. Those in the know will realize that given my tests employed an iPhone and an iPad, I only listened to AAC streams. The inclusion of apt-X is a welcomed feature among streaming audiophiles with access to compatible devices. It would be nice if the G2 also included Bluetooth® 5.2 for future-forward features like Enhanced Attribute Protocol and isochronous channels, along with faster pairing and improved battery life. The Dali Katch also supports NFC for fast connections. The Cleer Scene also supports Bluetooth® 5.0 with the SBC and AAC codecs. Winner: Dali Katch G2.
True Stereo. The Katch G2 supports true stereo by pairing two G2s. I was unable to test that feature as I only had one speaker. It was clear, for instance, on a song like Dido’s Sand in My Shoes, which offers head-wringing stereo pulls across one’s ears when listening to it with headphones, any single speaker fails at reproducing that experience. The Dali Katch G2 does not support the massive sound web of JBL’s party mode that connects dozens of speakers together. The Cleer Scene does not support stereo at all, though its sister product, the Alexa-enabled Cleer Stage, does. Winner: Dali Katch G2.
Wired audio. Both speakers include a 3.5mm jack for wired audio. Winner: Tie.
Microphone. Some will say that because the Cleer Scene is also a speakerphone, it can’t be a great speaker for music. The cost of electronics and microphone surely detract from the emphasis on sound at a $99 list price. I don’t see where the echo and noise-canceling microphone does anything other than make a very good speaker more useful. The Dali Katch does not include a speakerphone. Winner: Cleer Scene.
Buttons. The Katch G2 includes power, Bluetooth pairs, and EQ controls on the top of the speaker, but no music controls for play, pause or skip. The G2’s sound control button switches between clear or warm sounds; toggling, the switch lights the power button. The right side indicates ‘warm’, and the left semi-circle glows for ‘clear’. The lack of audio response or other more understandable indicators makes the EQ a poor design feature—and a questionable complication given the inferior ‘warm’ setting. Then again, once an owner memorizes the left/right designation, it won’t be difficult to navigate. The Cleer Scene includes a play/pause button on top, along with a mute button for the speakerphone and volume, but no EQ setting. Long presses on volume move back and forth between tracks, and the play button doubles up for call pickup. Bluetooth and power live on the back next to the covered charge and 3.5mm audio jack. Winner: Clear Scene.
IP rating and ruggedness. The Cleer Scene rates an IPX7 certification water resistance. I do worry about the exposed radiators on the Cleer Scene because I can just see my 3-year-old granddaughter pushing her finger into the edge and pulling them out—Cleer claims ruggedness in the design that I’m hesitant to test. I did drop the Scene about 4 feet onto a hardwood floor, and it didn’t dent and continues to work, so there’s that. The Dali Katch 2 makes no water, dust or ruggedness claims. Winner: Cleer Scene.
Size and portability: The 1.8 x 10.5 x 5.4 inches and 2.43-pound tall and thinnish Dali Katch G2 distributes its weight very differently than the 8.5 x 3.25 x 2.75 inches, ground-hugging horizontalness of the 2.46-pound Scene. The overall size and weight of the Katch G2, despite the inclusion of the leather strap, makes it a questionable travel partner compared to the more compact Cleer Scene. Winner: lean toward Cleer Scene.
Sustainability: The Cleer Scene could lose the foam and it doesn’t need a plastic bag around the instruction sheet (and if it keeps one, it needs to be labeled for recycling like the one around the USB cable, which could and should also go). The Dali Katch G2, which comes with a cloth cover, should use that cover for shipping and dump the plastic bag covering the speaker and power supply and the plastic wrap around the box.
I know these suggestions suggest process changes, but that work needs to be done as part of the overall experience design so products don’t start their journey in a person’s life with concerns over the environmental impact of their packaging. Winner: Tie. Room for improvement for both brands.
Dali Katch G2 and Cleer Scene: The bottom line
The fit and finish of the Dali Katch G2 clearly make it a designer product. Its audio output feels inhibited, especially when compared to the Cleer Scene’s fresh and unbounded audio. Audiophiles probably expect Dali Katch G2 comparisons to the Ultimate Ears Hyperboom, Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin or the JBL Xtreme 3, but I had the Cleer Scene ready for review, and I put them to the test together. After hours of listening, I would choose to spend more hours listening to the Cleer Scene, a very affordable speaker that puts great sound within everyone’s reach.
For those who need a speaker that also doubles as a speakerphone, the Cleer Scene is the only choice in this comparison.
Dali provided the Katch G2 for review. Images courtesy of Dali unless otherwise noted.
Cleer provided the Scene for review. Images courtesy of Cleer unless otherwise noted.
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