Bound for Sound #173 August 2006

Daedalus Audio DA-1 Loudspeakers

By MGD

 

Set-up.  A speaker this efficient is capable of being driven by just about any power amplifier.  Still, not just any old amplifier will do.  Regardless of how sophisticated the crossover might be, controlling five drivers is not something that can be effectively done with a 4 wpc, triode tube amp.  Believe me, I tried it and it didn't work.  The efficiency is there with this speaker, but so is prestigious power handling capability.  The manufacturer states a continuous power handling rating of 350 wpc with 1000 wpc peaks.1  That fact alone suggests how inadequate 4 wpc may be in extracting the true dynamic capabilities this speaker was designed for.  Little surprise then that this speaker responded best with the Pass X350.5 and the Monarchy SE250 hybrid monos.  I would also suggest the Edge G6, the Pass X250.5 and the Clayton M100 monos as superb matches for the Daedalus.

    The speakers come with hardwood platforms, which, when used with the appropriate screw-in audio points raises the speaker several inches off the floor.  Included are real cork sheets for placement between the speaker and the platforms.  I tried the speakers with, and without, the cork sheets and came away without a preference.  I did however like the resultant sound with the platforms in place.  The speaker tends toward some lower midrange warmth and lifting it up an inch or two resulted in greater transparency in the lower mids.  Nice touch.

    Regarding the 3-way high frequency toggle switch.  I started off with it in the middle position.  In as much as the speaker has a built in warmth factor in the mids and lower mids (even with the platforms in place), I went with the switch in the "up" position so as to bring the highs up a bit.  Putting the switch in the up position gave a little more sparkle to cymbals and a better overall balance tonally.

    During my listening I used a variety of speaker cables and came away thinking that the speaker did a nice job of letting me hear the difference between them all.  It was the Daedalus that allowed me to determine the full measure of the superb Signal Cables.  As a whole, I wouldn't worry very much about speaker cables with this speaker as long as they are good ones.

           

Before the Audition.  Out of the boxes the construction quality was immediately obvious.  Hardwood enclosures and dovetail joints used the way they are in the Daedalus aren't exactly commonplace in high-end audio.  I don't know if it's still true, but part of the allure and sonic excellence associated with Sonus Faber loudspeakers from Italy, arose from their use of hardwood cabinets constructed to the highest level.  The quality of the cabinet is a vital aspect of the quality of the sound.  Manufacturers such as ACI, Merlin and Silverline overcome the use of MDF by going to extremes in terms of internal treatments (coatings and bracing) and exotic finishes (non-resonant "skins").  And the results that they obtain, in most cases, can be very pleasing to the ear.  However, in every instance of hearing (and in a few cases, building) a speaker with a hardwood cabinet the results have tended toward excellent ... superb tones and never overdamped.

    In as much as I'll never know for sure just exactly how much of the positive performance here can be attributed to the cabinet, its materials and construction techniques, I'll simply report that true to my prior experience with hardwood cabinets, the Daedalus exhibited excellent tone quality mated to room shaking dynamic precision.

    Not a lot is known about the crossover (designed by Guy Velurud), and Lou Hinkley remains basically mum on the subject; well, at least for the most part he does.  After my initial audition, I e-mailed Lou remarking to him that the coherence combined with the easy dynamic swings (large and small) all contributed to an organic quality that I associated with 1st order crossovers.  His response was quick to point out that there wasn't a single 1st order crossover network within the DA-1.  But beyond that he wouldn't go. He did tell me that the 5" cone midrange driver had an effective bandpass of 700 Hz to 7,000 Hz.  I asked because the driver barely moved during passages with considerable midbass energy. Crossing it in at 700 Hz explained some of that, but it also tells me that at least one of the 8" bass drivers is running all the way up to the same 700 Hz.2  On the treble side, going all the way up to 7,000 Hz with a 5" driver would seem  to be a bit of a stretch.  Not that the driver couldn't take it, but beaming has to be an issue at such an extreme.3  As you'll see below, Lou pulls off his slight of hand by creating a driver system wherein all five drivers are melded (with overlap) into a single music actuating amalgam instead of five independent driver circuits tied together with various crossover schemes.  In new world parlance, you'd call it a holistic approach.

The 8" woofers are cool.  Made in the USA, I can't recall the last time I saw a new production loudspeaker (at least one that I could take seriously) with pleated surrounds on the woofers.  Old fashioned looking they are, but after weeks of listening, my ears and brain tell me that these were the only drivers capable of making this system complete.  By my math, these drivers should have a higher open air resonance than the standard butyl roll type surround with other woofers.  The woofer can go higher in frequency that way, a characteristic it obviously needs in light of the apparent crossover points.  A real balancing act is taking place considering the high roll off, the large size of the cabinet and the three port aperiodic rear vent approach.  And Lou pulled it off.  Well, save a few sniglets that I'm reserving, he pulled it off admirably.

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