Bound for Sound #173 August 2006 By MGD page 2

Daedalus Audio DA-1 Loudspeakers

The Audition.  Some speakers need to be positioned perfectly before they sing.  The Daedalus hit all the right notes with my first placement. Still, I moved the speaker around a bit just to satisfy myself that the first location was the right one.  Turns out the speaker has a lot of "right" locations as long as one isn't too far off in the first place. Speakers that are this easy to position for tone and timbre usually don't image for snot.4  Add to that some of the owner comments that I'd seen describing the speaker as "musical" and "relaxed", and I started to worry.  After all, if the recording has spacial information in it, the speaker should deliver it (amongst other things).  Sounding pretty is not everything.  The DA-1 is not laser-like in it's imaging characteristics.  It's less precise than the ET LFT-16 in that regard.  But I found the location of instruments to be spot on.  In addition to that, the instrument occupying a particular space had unusual body and dimension with dense deep tones.  So, while images upon the sonic stage may not be focused with the ultimate precision, it sounded realistic and there is plenty of body to make a recording come alive. For some, however, the world of music is little more than dynamic realism.  For them, it's not just being able to play loudly, but it's a matter of capturing the demarcations between dynamic changes, and the more graduated (or more subtle) those discernable graduations are, the better.  Generally, a loudspeaker that has an emphasis on complete tones, a full midrange and the full palette of harmonic colors doesn't exactly glisten with dynamic action (think in terms of the older AR and KLH speakers).  That's not the case with the DA-1's. Steve Sammut of SAS Audio was over with his new 11A tube preamplifier.5  We were using the Monarchy SE250 mono amps with his pre, and of course, the DA-1's were in place.  After some sampling of the standard audio faves (his and mine), I pulled out Red Norvo's, The Forward Look (Reference Recordings RR-CD8).  Cut 12 is a lesson in dynamic wallop and percussive realism.  On that cut is one of audio's all time great drum kit impacts with lots of cymbals and high-hat.  Steve had never heard the recording, so I knew he was in for a real treat ... so, I turned it up.  Along came the track 12 slam followed by a nifty drum solo; Steve's eyes lit up.  At that, he turned toward me and said, "I've got to hear it again."  Needless to say, we played that cut more than a few times after the initial shock of audio authenticity displayed by the DA-1's. Proof positive that the DA-1 successfully combines rich tone qualities and full harmonics with outstanding dynamic range and transient edges. I can therefore say that this loudspeaker loves jazz, and other musical fare that highlight transient action, punctuated dynamics and rich tones.  As such, the DA-1 represented to me a pleasant combination of powers that unexpectedly included the ability to portray lush richness while having wonderfully true detailing with a generous amount of snap and action.  Acoustic guitars, an instrument that is particularly revealing of a speaker's qualities, came across as alive, twangy if necessary, and with good box resonance.  Regarding the age old question of "box or strings", the DA-1 had a fullness that seemed at times to slightly emphasize the guitar body, but it was always clear that the strings could be heard as vibrating and exciting the body while in contact with the player's fingers.  Nice job, and a speaker that a string lover such as myself could appreciate. Auditioning revealed two areas where performance might be improved.  I, and persons in for a listen, noticed a "shelving" (Steve Sammut's word) sensation between the upper mids and lower treble.  I called it a "notch."  It's as if there's a dip in the response in the transition area that effectively warms the sound a bit, while at the same time serving to create an audible contrast between the highs and the midrange.  I must admit that the effect isn't entirely offensive as it lessens what for many systems is a problem area of response.  I also felt that the bass, while powerful and room filling, could become a little confused when driven very hard.  The Pass X350.5 is a truly powerful amplifier capable of sorting out the bass while maintaining the drive and scale of a recording.  The DA-1's have a big, room filling, sound that begs for realistic sound pressure levels ... to a point.  When pushed with the Pass6 to levels that were a bit more than your average loud, the woofers seemed to get confused, even congested.  Interestingly, the confusion came, not at the very lowest frequencies the speaker was capable of, but at something slightly higher than that.  It was almost as if the two woofers were slightly out of sync when driven really hard; perhaps at levels harder than you will ever run them. Vocals with this speaker had unusually natural tonal qualities.  Not shouty, but not recessed either, male and female singers were nicely textured and sufficiently independent of other sounds on the stage to re-create a nice sense of "thereness." The two tweeter arrangement originally gave me reason for concern, especially since one of the tweeters was angled a few degrees outward.  And these tweeters, while nice ones, aren't exactly Esotars or VMPS ribbons.  Yet, cymbals were airy sounding and well disbursed laterally.  I also thought that bells and woodwinds came across as palpably real with good recordings.

Conclusion.  The Daedalus DA-1 has a clearly discernable character that emphasizes big sound, complete harmonics and a vivid presentation.  In other words, there is a lot to like here.  This speaker will definitely appeal most to the "relax and forget it" crowd, though as Steve Sammut and I determined, when there is dynamic headroom to be experienced the DA-1 is up to the task. It's an efficient speaker.  There is no doubt in my mind that Lou could have traded off some efficiency for even more extended bass response, but he chose not to.  After all, the tradeoffs he made resulted in an almost unique combination of speed and warmth in a single package.  Squeezing more bass out of the system was certainly possible, though I doubt advisable for the losses that would have been experienced in other areas. Lastly, this speaker did an excellent job of disappearing in the Big Rig.  More so than even some small speakers, I didn't often get the feeling that the sound was coming from two sources in the room with some center fill thrown in.  Going back to the Red Norvo drum kit, it was

placed well behind the plane of the speakers, seeming to originate on the right side of the stage and sometimes behind the right speaker.  Visually, it was almost as if one had to look behind the speaker to see the drummer.

Personally, I'd put the Daedalus a little behind the VMPS RM40 in terms of overall performance, and pretty much even with the excellent Silverline La Folia.  The La Folia clearly had the better deep bass response, while the DA-1's had an organic aspect about it's presentation that was difficult to beat.

Overall, this was a real nice speaker that I could have lived with indefinitely on a day to day basis.            

 

1.  The manufacturer tells me that he likes the idea of 1,000 wpc with his loudspeaker.  That much power can be an asset, but a 1,000 bad watts would be a curse.

2.  And in this case I'm guessing that there is considerable overlap between the drivers. 

3.  Necessitating, I believe, the use of the two 1" Vifa tweeter drivers, one of which is offset by 10 degrees for dispersion purposes.

4.  I first used the term "snot" to describe the imaging of the big Soundlabs.  Maybe it's not the prettiest term, but it gets across the idea of smeared and indistinct.

5.  And a fine preamplifier it is.  Even better than the 10A in my estimation.

6.  As well as with the ultra powerful XLH.

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