Dali's high-end headphones make Apple's AirPods Max look like mere toys

Designed for wired or wireless use, these ANC headphones promise incredible sound with ultra-low distortion

(Image credit: DALI)

With a price tag that makes AirPods Max seem like budget bargains, the DALI IO-12 noise cancelling headphones are newly announced high-end, hi-res headphones: you might call them cans for connoisseurs. They could prove to be among the best noise cancelling headphones if you want your sound quality to come in a little bit of luxury.

The USP here is DALI's own Soft Magnetic Compound magnet system, which uses the same materials already found in the firm's high-end speakers. It's designed to almost eliminate the phenomenon known as hysteresis, which can cause unwanted distortion; DALI says the result is "crystal clear sound with ultra-low distortion, delivering unrivalled depth and musicality".

They're flexible too, with long battery life and noise cancelling for when you're out and about as well as wired mode for when you're home. That latter option gives you genuine hi-res audio at up to 24Bit/96kHz.

DALI IO-12 headphones: key specifications, price and availability

With custom developed 50mm drivers, the aforementioned hi-res audio and aptX Adaptive over Bluetooth these are a serious pair of 'phones, and they come with all the bits you need to connect to a variety of sources including USB-C, both sizes of stereo jack and in-flight audio systems too. The ear pads and headband are made of real leather, they fold for easy travel or storage and you can expect up to 35 hours of wire-free listening.

Unusually for high-tech headphones DALI has decided not to make a fancy app, preferring instead to have good old-fashioned buttons for skipping tracks, adjusting the volume and other key tasks. I'm a big fan of that approach; I've had all kinds of the best wireless earbuds and headphones over the years and I don't think I've ever returned to the apps other than to install firmware updates. There are two pre-configured sound profiles: Hi-Fi and Bass.

I'm sure the IO-12s will sound as good as the firm promises, because at this price they can't afford not to be: the DALI IO-12s launch in August 2023 with a price tag of £1,499 / £999 / €999.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).