JCC review: Posted on AudioCircle

Model: Dynamic Audio-One
Suggested Retail Price: $6,400.00
Description: Four Way Tower Speakers
Manufacturer URL: Daedalus Audio .com
Review by JCC ( A ) on June 30, 2004 at 19:45:29

In February, after some strong recommendations from audiophile friends, I decided to try out a new set of speakers from Daedalus Audio. Sure, I arranged to be able to return them, and got a good price for being among the first to try these speakers. Anyway, after several months of listening, I find that I can’t part with these speakers, and I have prepared the following review.

Daedalus Audio owned by Lou Hinkley, has been well known in the pro-audio world for some years. The new Daedalus Dynamic Audio-One (DA-1) is Daedalus’s largest speaker, and it’s first movement into the Audiophile community. Because of Daedalus heritage as a pro-audio company and Lou Hinkley's background as a musician the Daedalus DA-1 embodies a somewhat different philosophy as compared to many audiophile speakers:
? Live Music is the point of comparison ? High end pro-audio is often used in recording studios and at live events. The reference is realistic reproduction, instead of comparison to other systems. ? Dynamic Capability ? The dynamic variance of live music can be extreme and the involved speakers must be able to replicate the performance. Few audiophile speakers can handle the required extreme dynamic range.
The observable and impressive components, including the cutting-edge driver construction, the sophisticated real-wood cabinetry, the scrupulously accurate crossover networks as well as the ability to handle extreme dynamics are discussed in detail on the Daedalus website (www.daedalusaudio.com). No effort or expense seems to have been spared in the design and construction of the Daedalus DA-1. When you first open the boxes, you notice the fantastic cabinetry with old world dovetail construction (seldom seen today). The pictures on the Daedalus website, don’t do these speakers justice, with finishes available in oak, walnut or cherry. The beautiful cabinetry of the DA-1’s blends well with most period and modern furniture. The general quality of fit and finish is outstanding. Without spikes, the Daedalus is solidly stable as some other spiked speakers.
I asked Lou about the hard wood and he indicated that in pro-audio, MDF will not work because with the rough handling breakage is a problem. Furthermore, he indicated that a properly designed hard wood cabinet of roughly 100 lbs would be as stiff or stiffer than a 300 lb MDF cabinet. When you start to listen to these speakers you become a believer. These speakers are rock solid, without a trace of resonance. The DA-1 is a four-way system with a complicated phase coherent crossover. Daedalus is not releasing the crossover frequencies. On the DA-1’s front panel is a pair of 8" woofers, and the bottom of the two crosses over at a lower frequency than the other. Above the woofers is a 5” dynamic midrange with it's own built-in enclosure. Each DA-1 has two tweeters, offset by 10% to provide a large sweet spot. There is a rear facing aperiodic port, which you can easily use to reinforce the bass with corner placement.
When I first fired up the DA-1’s, I quickly discovered that true to their pro-audio heritage, that they are the most dynamic speakers that I have every experienced. With 96 DB efficiency and the ability to take nearly all the power that you can throw (600 watts per side) at them, you can turn your home into a concert hall. When listening to the 1812 Overture, I wanted to duck under the cannon balls. Furthermore the DA-1 sounds like a single large driver, and I can’t find the crossover seams. These speakers have great coherence and solidity from lower bass through the upper treble. Through additional months of listening, this first impression did not fade, and these speakers are very forgiving about room placement. About the only adjustment is a three way treble switch, and placement distance from the corner. When about 3 feet from the corner, I found them to be essentially flat to about 30 Hz. Moved into the corner, the reinforcement brought the bass down to 25 Hz, and down 3 Db at 20 Hz.
Over the past four months, I have continued to listen, and the speakers are now fully broken in. So how do they sound?

Lets start with the DA-1’s treble performance, which is so revealing and musical. I can follow the bloom and decay of cymbals, and hear the background noise of the recording process. I can hear air in recordings that I have seldom experienced in 40 years as an audiophile. The previous time that I heard this air was in auditioning Quad ESL-63’s and again when listening to an Apogee Mini Grand. The back half of the notes with the lengthy bloom and decay came through providing realistic in the concert hall sounds. Furthermore, these speakers are as outstanding with intimate small-scale ensemble music as they are with a symphony orchestra.
The DA-1’s high frequency balance, although quite relaxed, is not at all lacking in treble energy. A familiar recording, Toolbox (VTL 008) nearly stunned me with how meticulously delicate the plucked strings and percussion instruments were, and how precisely they were placed in the soundstage, which was very deep and wide. It is common to hear specific instruments 8 feet external to a speaker’s placement. Sometimes with all of this detail other speakers can sound bright and lose musicality. Not so with the DA-1’s which if the recording is good, sound musical and warm and real.
But the DA-1’s exceptional performance, which extends through all frequencies, somehow seems to bring air and character throughout the midrange and the bass. When you listen to a cello solo on most speakers, the output is commonly recessed. Not so with DA-1 where the cello sounds to be right there, with dynamics and precision that are so realistic. And the midrange with voice and plucked string, and the ensuing harmonics and decay come through in such a lifelike fashion. Air and decay is traditionally thought to be a treble quality, but the fact is that it comes through in other frequency spectrums. I listened to the Indiansong, which is the fourth cut of Toolbox. In the nylon string guitar solo I could discern the movement of the hands on the instrument. This due to the subtleties of sound when one moves there hands on the strings In other cuts with a close miked piano, you can close your eyes and hear the movement of the pianist hands in the sound stage. I don’t think that you will hear that on any but the world’s best speakers, and that includes the DA-1.
One of my favorites is “Tous Les Matis du Monde,” Valois V4640, which features Jordi Savall’s baroque and classic orchestra. This is a massed strings and choral orchestra. In this recording the massed strings, and the choral voices came through with breathtaking detail. The solos and then the choral voices came through with exciting purity, with the strings moving across the soundstage bringing chills to my spine, and I wondered how close the DA-1’s compared to the real concert because this playback came across with such startling realism.
The fact is that the performance from these speakers throughout the audio spectrum is about as good as it gets, but there are a few areas where the DA-1’s surpass nearly all of the very best speakers.

As stated previously, these speakers are the most dynamic I have ever heard (96 DB efficiency, 600 watts per side). So when there is a large dynamic range on the recording the DA-1’s really excelled. With the DA-1’s, the combination of depth, detail and dynamics are beyond what I had heard before. Certainly the Quad’s or Apogee’s mentioned above are no match for the dynamic capability of the DA-1’s. Surprisingly, however, the DA-1’s still excel in the ability to handle the soft low-level passages for which the Quad’s and Apogee’s are so famous. ? Most speakers have narrow sweet spots, and the offset tweeters of the DA-1’s provide for an enlarged sweet spot. With this configuration you can listen with multiple companions and still hear the complete performance. In addition this provides a quality that grabs you when you walk through the room.
When Telarc’s CD-80296 “Pictures of an Exhibition first came out, it was portrayed in the audiophile press as the first CD to surpass the capability of vinyl. The caveat was that you had to be able to handle the dynamics in your system to properly experience this fine recording. I bought and I listened, and I wondered why others considered this recording to be excellent. With the new Daedalus DA-1’s I eventually got around to playing Pictures. Wow, the reviewers were right, this is a tremendous recording. With it’s wide swings in dynamics you really need a reasonable amount of volume to hear the softer passages, and when passages move to ones with greater amplitude and the bass drums are played, the dynamic contrast is spectacular. Well, I knew in advance that the DA-1’s would handle the dynamics, and they did superbly. What further impressed me was the DA-1’s ability to handle the quiet passages reproducing all of the lower level detail, bloom and decay and to so superbly handle the orchestral sound stage.
I always liked Chesky’s “New York Reunion” (JD51) with McCoy Tyner, Joe Henderson, Ron Carter, and Al Foster. When I pulled it from my cache of CD’s, I began to hear low-level details that I had not previously heard. The treble bloom and decay shined and the soundstage was alive. You could almost see McCoy Tyner's fingers move across the piano, and Al Foster's drums and cymbals were on the sound stage. You could place the drums and cymbals in their own space, a few feet apart.
Anyway, the better the recording, the better the DA-1’s sound. With the DA-1’s ability to handle all of the low level details, it will include the good with bad. When I played “Cowboy Junkies The Trinity Sessions” (RCA 8568-2-R), in which the first cut features the a cappella voice of Margo Timmins, the clarity and naturalness of her voice was so real that I could close my eyes and feel her presence. This recording was made at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto, and this venue is famous for it’s ambience. The ambience was reproduced with realism, and the overall musical details were still clearly reproduced, and the result seemed to create a haunting surrealistic portrait of the session.
When I listened to the Verve SACD recording B0001 128-06 “What a diff’rence a day makes!” by Dinah Washington, I could distinctly hear the superiority of the SACD format. This is one outstanding recording from the 60’s, and it seemed to bring Dinah back. Likewise, when I listened to Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon comparing the new SACD version to the older Mobile Fidelity version, the superiority of the new format was easily recognizable with the DA-1’s.

I could go on and on through recording after recording, describing my overall impressions which are generally outstanding. But in completing this review, I felt a need to hook up my older speakers. These are a demo set of two-way Diaural speakers from Diaural, which are very fine speakers in their own right. Before I started, I know that they would not handle the dynamics because I have previously blown woofers at high volumes. I also knew that that would not produce the deep bass that the DA-1’s handle so well. What I didn’t expect was the DA-1’s superiority in ability to provide low-level details. It was fact that the DA-1’s with their 4 way crossover, produced detail and musicality that was superior. This was particularly evident on complex orchestral passages (Telarc CD-80296 ? Pictures of an Exhibition) where an occasional cloud was lifted when I switched back to the DA-1’s. Another major difference was in the bass foundation of the DA-1’s, which was superior. There was a certain plumpness to the sound with the DA-1’s, which disappeared when I switched back to the Diaural’s.

Are they Perfect?

Although, I had difficulty finding deficiencies in the sound produced by these speakers, I have found that you really can here a difference in amplifiers. When I started, I was using an 8th Nerve modified Carver ZR1600. In a lot of listening I felt I was not hearing all that these speakers could produce. I sent out one of my ZR1600's to Reference Audio Mods, for their enhancement, and wow what a difference. These speakers are so good that they will highlight the weak-point in your system, and it likely won’t be the DA-1’s. Like me you might catch upgrade fever.

And with all of the ability to produce low level details you can really hear your recordings, and you might be disappointed with some of your old favorites. When I buy a recording, one of my parameters is sound quality, and I have had very few disappointments. On the other hand, my wife does not have this consideration, and she has been disappointed with some of her recordings. The DA-1’s are mercilessly revealing, and you will hear it all, both the good and the bad.


I don’t know that the DA-1’s are the best speakers available, but they certainly are among the best, and the best that I have ever auditioned, and by far the best that I have ever had in my home. Furthermore they are certainly in the top few in their ability handle extreme dynamic range with audiophile precision. These are one outstanding set of speakers, which I highly recommend.

Associated Equipment:

1. Pre-Amp ? Sony TA-P9000ES modified by Stan Warren
2. Amplifier - Carver Professional ZR1600 with Reference Audio Mods modification
3. Philips SACD 1000 modified by Stan Warren
4. Speaker Cables - Alpha Core Goertz PYTHON MI2
5. Stealth Interconnects ? SCR

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