Why is Audiophilia reviewing a computer? And a Windows computer, at that! This Apple fanboy swore he'd never use another since a series of unpleasant episodes twenty years ago.
I received a very nice email from Dell Corporate Communications suggesting I have a listen to the world's first 'audiophile computer'. The XPS 27 is a standalone, desktop computer with the screen, motherboard, RAM, etc, all encased in a solid metal enclosure. The computer has a 27 inch screen, which, combined with all the clever stuff, makes the machine impressively large. A MacBook Pro laptop, it isn't.
What projects this Dell into audiophile territory is the ten speaker soundbar built into the unit. I always smile when civilians try to describe an audiophile or what constitutes Audiophilia. How could they know the depths of audio depravity we plumb? How much is that interconnect? A soundbar amplified by two internal 50W amplifiers does not make this piece an audiophile component. Yet, one has to give kudos to Dell for giving it the old college try. Did they succeed?
The computer is a very fine looking unit with a dynamite 4K touchscreen display. It was loaded with Windows 10. After an eon on a Mac, the Windows operating system is a bit of an odd duck, but it looks good and is somewhat intuitive.
Dell suggests that the XPS is 'The new standard in superior sound.' And goes on to describe the musical features: 'The sound system has a distinctive integrated sound bar which includes ten discrete speakers powered and controlled by digital dynamic amplifiers producing 50W per channel. Two tweeters produce clean high notes and crystal clear voices with lively, yet accurate stereo imaging. Four full range drivers provide a powerful punch and clear, accurate midrange. Two passive radiators reinforce the lows and provide a rich, deep bass.
The XPS 27 is the world’s first PC with two independent, down-firing full range speakers. These work to augment front-firing speakers for heightened sound ambiance and are tuned to work in conjunction with the stereo drivers to fill the room with immersive sound.'
That's a lot of firepower being directed from a small footprint. As such, stereo separation, as with most soundbars, even the vaunted SONOS, is the weak spot. If you can suspend belief momentarily, the sound dispersion the Dell produces is excellent. As for pure sound, it is by far the best I've heard from a computer.
I logged into TidalHiFi and had Drake's latest release pounding soon after (More Life). Electronic music always sounds so good on lifestyle systems - bass was thunderous and accurate (down to 70 Hz). Watch the volume -- adjusted on screen by touch or mouse or via the gorgeous wireless keyboard -- or you're liable to get a noise complaint from your neighbours. It won't distort at 100% volume like many, cheaper computer solutions.
What was surprising was the excellent depiction of classical music. Chamber music such as Schubert's Octet sounded very beautiful without much demand for power or fine resolution. The lone string bass' pizzicato was solid and reverberant. It was placed beautifully in the soundstage, too.
Larger symphonic works demanded more and the XPS delivered. Listening to the opening movement of Shostakovich's 5th Symphony was instructive. The complex orchestral lines had depth in the soundstage, but not too much width. Physics comes into play. Also surprising was imaging, which was much better than I expected. Also fine was instrumental timbre and vocals. This is where even good lifestyle stereo separates and computer speakers fall down.
Grammy award winning producer Jack Joseph Puig co-designed the XPS with Dell. You can listen to music through the Groove music app built into Win 10 or Windows Media Player.
The XPS 27 was two years in the making. You won't find a computer with a better screen or onboard sound. Dell has engineered a computer that offers sensory overload.
I surfed a while. It's fast and a very immersive experience. I don't game, so cannot report on that important aspect. I'm assuming it has the latest in processors so gaming should not be an issue -- and it looks so much better than those super fast Alienware machines.
The XPS 27 has a good selection of I/O ports. There's an Ethernet jack, two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3, four USB 3.0 ports, and an HDMI connector. Also included, an SD card reader and headset jack, and HD webcam.
If you're a Windows user and are in need of a new desktop computer, I advise you to check out this latest Dell. For picture and sound, you won't get better. Highly recommended.
Further Information: Dell
Price: USD$ 1499 (every configuration comes with a 4K panel and the premium 10-speaker sound system).
Price as reviewed: USD$ 2799. (Core i7-6700 / 16GB-RAM / 512GB-PCIe SSD / AMD R9 M470X GPU)