Daedalus DA-1

The Daedalus DA-1 is a medium size floorstanding speaker that is exceedingly musical and a joy to behold. I recently had the opportunity to audition this loudspeaker at Response Audio in upstate New York. Bill Baker, who owns Response, is a tube and two-channel audio enthusiast who designs and builds his own amplifiers and demonstrates the DA-1's with enthusiasm and integrity. I recommend his shop to anyone in the Northeast as a source of off-the-beaten track gear and honest, helpful service.

The DA-1 is made from solid hardwood, using old world handcrafted techniques such as dovetail joinery. The speakers come in oak, cherry and black walnut, with the baffles made of the latter material regardless of finish. They are simply stunning to look at--I found myself rubbing my hands upon the surface as I would a fine piece of furniture. The speakers are also "proportionally correct" in that, while clearly a large and full range floorstander, they do not and will not dominate the room by their sheer physical presence. Lou Hinckey, who designs and builds the speakers, has also incorporated some interesting geometry by making the inside panel narrower than the outside one and sloping the baffle slightly to time align the drivers. The result is a unique and attractive package that is said to minimize standing waves inside the cabinet.
Lou is a musician who builds acoustic amplification PA systems and therefore entered the world of high end speaker design via a side door. He brings his musicians ear and determination to reproduce acoustic instruments faithfully--and this he has surely done. In fact, this is perhaps the most attractive aspect of the DA-1's sound. Obeos, violins, guitars, cellos, etc. are reproduced with flesh and body. The ability to distinguish between clarinet, oboe and basson is as easy as when you are sitting in front of an orchestra. This, I have found, is a rare quality in many audiophile designs. Instruments tend to sound thin and homogenous, with much of their communicative cues lost. This, for me, strips away much of the emotional quality of the listening experience. The DA-1's are fully engaging, drawing you into the performance in a way few speakers are able to do.
Lou also talks a lot about listener fatigue and has designed the speaker to be a winner over long listening sessions. I can confirm this having spent about 4 hours at Bill's shop. The DA-1's are highly listenable, with a slightly recessed midrange similar to the BBC dip found in brands like Harbeth and Spendor. The DA-1's don't dump the music in your lap, they draw you into the performance without sacrificing detail and clarity. How Lou was able to design and build a high resolution speaker that does not offend over long term listening, I don't know--but he has. While the DA-1's may not be as revealing as some speakers, they are fast, dynamic and highly resolving.
The DA-1's do not image as precisely as some speakers. The soundfield is not huge despite the size and multiple drive units. Images are somewhat diffuse (due, perhaps, to his use of two tweeters slightly offset to enlarge dispersion). This did not bother me in the least, as I am not "into" soundstaging and imaging per se. However, some may be disappointed in how the speakers localize instruments if that is your cup of tea. Rather, the DA-1's sound like live music in that the presentation is bold, dynamic and the sound like that you would hear at a live concert.
High frequency response is good, not great. The tweeters do not spit or misbehave but the speakers lack the last bit of air and definition that some comparably priced speakers produce. This may have been due to inadequate break in time. The speakers do have a two position adjustment for the tweeter output and this was set at "high" during my listening sessions.
The bass response was also not to my liking. There was good authority but in Bill's room (which is very large and not really well designed for music reproduction--he is in the process of renovations which should yield better results) I found the bass lacking pace and timing. It also seemed as though part of the lower regions was being emphasize over others. My discussions/correspondence with DA-1 owners suggests to me that the room was the culprit but I am reserving judgement. Anyone care to weigh in here?
In the end, the DA-1's are, for the money, one of the best (if not best) loudspeakers I have heard in my search thus far (and some of you know how long I've been looking). With the exception of the bass, which I believe may be room incurred, and the slight lack of air and extension in the treble, you would be hard pressed to find a more musical and enjoyable loudspeaker. I strongly urge anyone who is in the market for a beautiful floorstander that is easy to drive (96db) and fun and involving to listen to to give Bill a shout and check them out. If you do, please post your thoughts and keep the dialogue going about a relatively unknown product of serious merit.

Here is the Daedalus website:

great review, i own the daedalus loudspeakers and think there one of the best speakers ive owned. very dynamic and realistic sounding. ive owned some very exspensive speakers over the yers which never really gave me the live sound that the daedalus provide. the bass is different them im use to. i started useing a rel sub and that helped. i dont know if this is room problems or what but the bass seems a little hard sounding. tahnks dovidc
Has anyone auditioned the Daedalus speakers against the Vandersteen 2 or 3? I'm intrigued by them, however they are still relatively new in comparison to Vandersteen which has been around for decades, and his speakers have been refined through the years.
Steinway--I've heard the Vandy 2, 3A, Quatro and 5A's and can say without a doubt that the DA-1's easily better all but the 5A's--and by a signficant margin. The Quatro comes close in terms of providing a smooth, relaxed presentation but they are not as dynamic and effortless as the DA-1's. The 2 and 3A don't even come close to the performance of the DA-1. The 5A is the best speaker I have ever heard and therefore betters the DA-1 in all respects, IMHO. It is also double the price (and then some). Bottom line--the DA-1 is a top tier speaker and certainly better than most of what is out there. I've just got to sort out what happend with the bass during my audition. Other than that, what you have is a world class speaker in an attractive package.
I have these wonderful spks for the last 6 months and enjoying them immensely. Based on the review above I agree with his observation except the bass response. The weak point of these spks is that it lacks pin point imaging. The soundstage is huge, both depth and width but the images are slightly diffused. Other than that, the spks are very dynamic and detailed without any hint of brightness or listener fatigue.
After spiking the spks, the bass response improved tremendously with very good pitch, definition and impact. Hence if properly setup these spks can reproduce very good bass.
Over the past 10 years in this hobby, possessing a spks for 6 months or so , I have an urge to replace them with something better and more expensive, BUT my DA-1 are so musically satisfying that I am not at all motivated to change them. Sure there are many better spks than DA-1 but I cannot afford them.
I estimate that I now am between 200-300 hours, breaking in my DA-1's, and they just keep getting more enjoyable with each listening session.

As Dodgealum & I have discussed offline, I whole heartedly believe that two major factors contributed to the disapointment that was experienced during his audition...(1) the design of the demo room had negative effects on the sound (2) the speakers may not have been fully broken in.

These speakers truly are something special.
Thanks, guys, for the helpful comparative information on Daedalus vs. Vandersteen. Much appreciated!
I was recently introduced to this thread and would like to chime in here. When Berrelchief auditioned and purchsed the DA-1 speakers, the audition was in an entirely different enviroment as it was my old building. The room was dedicated to the Daedalus speakers (13' w x 17' d x 10' h) with concrete floors.
I am well aware of the room accoustics in the new location and this is being addressed. Even I have noticed the DA-1s reacting differently. The room is huge at about 1400 ft with suspended ceiling and a full basement below. I have since had an engineer that designs recording studios stop by and his thoughts mirrored what is being said....... the room needs work.

Over the next few months, the room will be devided into dedicated areas and accoustics addressed accordingly. I have not been in the new building very long and time has been a great issue.

The bottom line is that even I realize there is a situation with the room and in due time, this will be taken care of.

On a final note, I can also assume that the speakers here for audition may not have been fully broken in. I had bass drivers installed that had "some time" on them but the midrange and tweeters may not have reached their 200 hour mark which is what I find to be the magical number.
If my comment came across as though I was bashing anything, I apologize.

I was shocked that Dodgealum left his demo session with anything but an A+ reportcard. My comments were only to back up that the shortcomings that Dodgealum described do not add up. I am basing this on my speakers, as well as the demo that I did in Response's previous location, last summer.

As Dodgealum and I were exchanging thoughts, it was obvious that his experience did not reveal how great these speakers are (for so many reasons.) Therefore, based on what he described, I could only conclude that there were room issues and it sounded as though the speakers needed more time cooking.

Bill, you know that as a dealer, you have my full respect & support. So, if something was read out of context, I am sorry.
Hello Barrelchief,
I am not sure how to read your recent post. I did not in any way think you were making any negative comments. My post was to agree with what appears to room issues in my new location as experienced by Dodgealum during his visit. This is why I mentioned your audition was in my previous location in a better, dedicated audio room.

I truly appreciate your added comments to this thread and took them as you meant them, as a positive.

Looks like I should be apologizing for something being read out of context, I am sorry.
I want to jump in here as well. Bill, glad to have you aboard on the post as you have the most experience with this speaker. I hope a careful read of my initial post/review will reveal:

1. That I believe the DA-1's are an excellent speaker and have great potential that I may not have realized during my visit because.....

2. The speakers were placed in a difficult room and....

3. May not have been fully broken in. And....

4. That Bill and Response Audio are great to work with and are competent, honest and enthusiastic dealers for the Daedalus line.

Looking back, I wish I had waited for a second listen in a different location before writing the review. However, I was so excited about what I heard during my initial session that I wanted to get word out about this fantastic product. In all my years in audio I have not heard a speaker that provides such a natural, fullrange, detailed and non-fatiguing presentation of music. Only the Harbeth line can compete for sheer musicality and they don't go as deep or look nearly as nice doing it. Honestly, much of what is out there that passes for "high end" loudspeakers do not possess anywhere near the integrity of the DA-1's. I told Bill this when we talked briefly after my audition. I am looking forward with great anticipation to hearing the speakers again and resolving for myself the issues with the bass response. All signs point to a difficult room and Bill's recognition of this only seals the deal. I'm glad to see DA-1 owners stepping up to praise their speakers--they are worthy indeed. Sorry if my review left anyone with a bad taste in their mouth--I'll add to the post after hearing the speakers again within the next few months.
my daeadalus da1 are fully broken in. one reviewer states they dont have auiophile imaging. i agree they dont have pinpoint imaging, which i think this audiophile imaging is unreal in live music. the daedalus have excellent precise and real staging abilitys. you can pay alot more for that audiophile sharp imaging but it wont be realistic like the daedalus
>13' w x 17' d x 10' h)<


That is an awfully small room for what is a somewhat large speaker. Hell, that's the size of my bedroom, and I would never think of putting anything bigger than a monitor in it. I'm not sure how you ever got them to sound right in such a tight space. Maybe you didn't realize their full potential, that is my guess.

Hi Dodgealum, funny that you mention Harbeth in your follow up, as I've been reading about Harbeth speakers and am impressed with their loyal following and history. This brings up an issue for me: Harbeth is a venerable, decades-old firm that has both the experience behind them to have refined their speakers, evidently, to near-perfection. Harbeth also benefits from a great deal of research and development facilities, both their own as well as from the BBC. They are a tried and true company. Daedalus is new to consumer speakers without the same trackrecord as Harbeth. I find myself just being more comfortable with Harbeth given their history. Perhaps the Daedalus speakers are the latest flavor of the month until owners tire of them and move on to, say, SP Technologies or another cult speaker company. Of course, the decision comes down to personal preference, but reviews and Internet audio sites can be confusing.
I am a DA-1 owner and one of the guys that spoke with Dodgealum about the Daedalus speakers.

I've owned the DA-1's for better than 8 months now and they are the most enjoyable speakers I've ever listened to and I've been at this for over 25 years.

With the exception of a few months with Ref 3A Royal Virtuosos, the DA-1's replaced a double set of Wayne Piquet refurbished Quad 57's (Wayne does excellent work with these)and the DA-1's are equal to or better than the Quads in every way I can describe. Subjectively, they are a whole lot easier to look at too.

As far as power handling and the ability to play at realistic levels, ther is no comparison to the Quads. The one thing they do have in commor with the Quads is their immediacy and ability to be enjoyed at low listening levels which is unsurpassed in my experience, especially with most "audiophile" speakers. They are as thrilling to listen to today as when I first got them.

There is no comparison to be made with the Royal Virtuosos. The RV's sound thin, dynamically challenged and grey compared to the DA-1's. Imaging wise, once set up properly, there is not that big a difference between the two.

This review is very accurate and expresses my feelings accurately about the DA-1's, with exception of the bass issue and imaging.

They are room fussy to get really right and they don't do imaging like the old Dunlavy's do/did, but they are realistic and do have an excellent sense of depth and stage width. On a good classical recording, things are as I hear them live at the Asheville Symphony. If you have the correct listening room, put on the old XLO test disc and optimize the speakers accordingly...inch by inch...they can image accurately and wonderfully.

As far as the bass, in my dedicated 18 x 24 room, and with a high current amp (Parasound JC-1's in my case), they are fantastic in tone, pace, timing, weight and extension. The most realistic bass I've heard yet. They were designed to be very sensitive and to take gobs of power, but they, like a lot of other multi driver speakers, like current.

The room is critical here as the DA-1's are a full bandwidth design and will excite room modes if not placed properly or in a room that is too small. Again, they need the right room and need to be positioned properly. I have them about 13 feet apart and 13 feet from my listening area, three feet from the side walls and the first reflection points are damped with acoustic paneling. I also have the front face of the cabinets about 6 feet into the room. I also toe them in about 20 degrees on top of their designed natural toe in.

As far as the high frequencies, they do not grab ones attention, which is what I prefer and find realistic, but they do have a natural sense of air. They are not dull, in any case..

I would take a guess that they might not mate well to systems that are already soft and warm, or in smallish rooms that necessitate close proximitry to nearby walls and corners, so try to listen to them in your own listening room with your own equipment. If your room has a resonance problem, fix it...

While I am not now, I like them enough to probably become an audition site for Lou here in the mountains of Western NC, so my interest may end up being vested in something other than just an opinion. But for now, this is as honest an opinion as I can give. If you can hear the Daedalus speakers, set up and driven properly, they are as big a sonic bargain as exists in the high end.
Fig (Answers)
I must clarify my previous post which might have implied that Lou Hinkley and Daedalus are new-comers to audio, when, in fact, they have been designing and making highly-regarded speakers and amps, for professional use, for 14 years, which is an impressive trackrecord. Along the way, Mr. Hinkley has developed his own proprietary components used in his products. Sorry for short-changing Daedalus and their prestigious history.
Well, Steinway 57, I've never auditioned any model of the Harbeths, but have read many positive as well as a few negative remarks about their speakers. The Daedalus is sort of a "new kid" on the block, but if you know the sound of the real thing (acoustic music), you cannot help but be impressed by the neutrality of the Daedalus. It doesn't matter what the history or pedigree of a speaker is if it can withhold from editorializing the signal it is fed. My guess is that a good many audiophiles might not rank it highly on first exposure as nothing stands out to grab your attention. It doesn't possess any rise in the treble to create a false sense of detail, and the bass response is extended but not elevated. If there is any imbalance (the key word here is "if"), it is in the bass and the way the speaker interacts with the room in the bottom end. Also, when new, the bass is the last thing to "come around", so one should have a good many hours before getting too carried away with fine tuning the placement or treating the room for bass anomalies.

As far as staging goes, it does not throw the kind of stage that a good dipole or open baffle speaker can create, but its staging is nonetheless of reasonable width and depth. It is not a speaker where the listener has to hold his/her head in a vice to get a stereo image--any seat on the sofa will do.

This is a speaker than can reproduce a piano in all its weight and dynamics. Having just returned from CES (no, the Daedalus was not on exhibt there), I feel confident in saying that I would probably have preferred listening to the Daedalus relative to 95% of the speakers I heard there, and this includes many speakers that were many times their cost. The Daedalus is a speaker for long-term listening as it does not fatigue.

I don't own Daedalus speakers and I don't know Lou Hinkley, but I do know a good speaker when I hear one. As an added bonus, the fit and finish of the speaker is exemplary. Anyone in the market for a speaker in that price range or above should give these an honest listen.
Steinway, much of what you say makes sense however what is unique (I think) about the Daedalus is that it is clearly NOT a flavor of the month type of speaker. All that Theloveman says is true--they are not designed to grab your attention with a hyperdetailed (yet ultimately fatiguing) presentation. Nothing about the speaker really grabs your attention. Rather it is the musical performance that is inescapable from view. I agree, companies like Harbeth have devoted considerable time and effort (read: research) into developing their loudspeakers. Their Radial driver is, IMHO, the best midrange/bass driver in existence and they have such a depth of knowledge about how to blend their drivers with a sophisticated crossover that the sound is seemlessly engaging. I've said it over and over here and elsewhere, Harbeth is currently building the best, most consistently musical loudspeakers today. For the money they simply cannot be beat--I know, I've been trying to replace my Compact 7's for over two years with another speaker up to 10K. Of course, they have a particular "house sound" that may not be for everyone, but most musicians and music lovers gravitate toward their lineup. However, as Theloveman indicates, this does not mean others cannot produce a speaker that has many of the same musical qualities of the Harbeth/Spendor camp. The Daedalus are a very good speaker and not the kind you a likely to see hyped and then abandoned after the "next best thing" comes along.
Whoa, check this out, kids...Mr. & Mrs. Daedalus are the proud new parents of the DA-1's little brother...the DA-2