Review: Daedalus DA-1 Speaker

Category: Speakers

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
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:

Associated gear
Audio Research 150.2

Similar products
Vandersteen Quatro
Aerial Acoustics 7B
Audio Physics Virgo
Fried Studio 7
Proac D38
So I'm a little confused. You talk about the company like they have made great acheivements, but then when you talk about the sound, it seems as though you aren't thrilled with it. Did I miss something?
I remember this company from the tiome I helped my friend (who makes electric violins) at the NAMM show (tghe equivalent of CES for music instrument makers). The tone produced by their combination amp (an amp and speaker in one box) with an electric violin stood head and shoulders above everything else I heard there. It was truly memorable, as I have not forgotten them even though I haven't heard anything about them or been involved with the industry since. The tone was rich, vibrant, and powerful, yet non-fatiguing. I'm glad to see they're still in business.

S7 - I think what he's saying is that the speakers were superb in the areas that mattered most to him, but did have shortcomings in other areas. Kind of like the way many people love tube amps for their "midrange magic", even though they may be soft at the frequency extremes. (I think)
I'll try to clarify. The company I was referring to was the dealer (Response Audio) who carries the line and demonstrates the product. As far as the sound produced by the DA-1's--I'll let the review speak for itself.
Dodge, I follow the dealer portion about Resopnse Audio. I guess the question is how do they compare to the other speakers you have listed. For example, you have the Audio Physic Virgo listed, which I have owned. Are they in the same arena, or same price?

Not trying to be negative here. Only trying to become more educated about I product I hadn't heard of before. I just noticed as I read your review that you were ecstatic over the fit and finish, but when it came to the sound, they didn't "image as precisely as some speakers"; "high frequency response is good, not great" and "bass response was not to my liking" which, as you say could be attributed to the room. Did you put the speakers in your room to try and eliminate the problem, or was this demo at the dealer only?

Lastly, are you or did you end up buying them?

So, are you still in the "looking" mode??? At close to seven grand for speakers, one would hope to be able to be satisfied for at least a reasonably long period of time.

FWIW: I've also listened to the Aerial 7B's. They seemed quite nice and had pretty good dynamic range and soundstaging with a very smooth high end and/upper midrange. However, I thought that they were somewhat lacking in sonic detail in general and somewhat rolled off on the high end in particular. My personal opinion only and they certainly weren't "bad"; in fact they sounded quite good, just not breathtaking (for me).

The DA-1's are not your typical high end loudspeaker--and I mean that as a complement. In my going on two year search for new speakers I've heard just about everything out there under 12K--far too many to list. Few have even been worth the trip. I drove 5 hours round trip to hear the DA-1's and I would say it was certainly worth the effort. There is an essential musicality to these speakers that most other high end offerings are lacking. They capture the essential qualities of acoustic instruments in a way that is thoroughly engaging. They are neither pushy nor showy in their presentation--they subtly draw you into the music. I loved what they did but simply got hung up on their bass performance which was not pitch and pace accurate. Again, the room was not ideal. I've been around this stuff long enough to know that a bad room can kill a system and will strike first at the lower frequencies. I'm hoping to arrange another listen in my room, which is a good one. I'll return and post an update after I've had another shot at hearing the DA-1's. As to the questions raised above--yes, I'm still looking but seriously, I'm running out of options. The best alternative at this point (for me of course) is the Proac D38, which is a very good speaker but at nearly 9K not the best value for money out there. I've heard the Aerial 7B--a good speaker that really needs lots of power to sound it's best. I like the warm, laid back sound they produce and the large soundfield. I agree, a little rolled off on top and, to my ear, somewhat sluggish in the bass. For the money, this seems to me a very good speaker--just not entirely my cup of tea. Really, if appearance were not an issue I would by a pair of Harbeth HL5 Supers. These are the best speakers I have heard and for the money an amazing bargain.

Thanks for the follow-up. Two years is a long time, but it's probably worth it to wait and find something you will really enjoy. It will be interesting to hear your impressions about the DA-1's on second listen. Let us know how it goes. Best wishes on whatever you ultimately decide. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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. Great post. Please copy and paste to the thread I started in the A'gon forums. I'm sure others would like to hear your thoughts and may not see them hear.
I would be happy to copy and paste to the original thread, if I only knew how to do this...Any instructions would be appreciated..
You said
"I would be happy to copy and paste to the original thread, if I only knew how to do this...Any instructions would be appreciated.."

To cut and paste:
1. Right click on the review and highlight the whole thing in blue with your mouse.
2. Select "copy"
3. Open up the response box where you want to "paste" the material you've just copied.
4. Left click where you want the cursor to start pasting the text.
5. Right click again and select "paste".
6. That should do it.


For the first two steps I wrongly said:
"To cut and paste:
1. Right click on the review and highlight the whole thing in blue with your mouse.
2. Select "copy"

Here's a corrected version of the instructions to cut and paste text:

-->Before starting, it's helpful to have two separate windows open on your desktop, one with the text you want to copy, and the other with the place you want to copy it to. This can be done by minimizing the one web page, then opening up your browser from your desktop AGAIN, and going to the other web page. Once this is done, you can move between the two pages just by using the little minus button in the upper right hand corner to minimize, and then clicking on the minimized window at the bottom of the screen to maximize it again.

1. LEFT click with your mouse on the text you want to move and highlight it in blue, by dragging the cursor across the portion you want to copy with your mouse.

2. Make sure that the little white arrow that now represents the cursor is somewhere in the highlighted blue area.

(NOTE: If you don't have the little white arrow in the highlighted part, the highlighting disappears when you right click the mouse, and the wrong drop down menu appears).

3. THEN right click on the highlighted portion and select "Copy" from the drop down menu.

4. Minimize the copied window and maximize the page which contains the place you want to copy it to.

The rest of the instructions were basically okay, except that the numbers are now changed, as follows:

5. Open up the response box where you want to "paste" the material you've just copied.
6. Left click where you want the cursor to start pasting the text.
7. Right click again and select "paste".
8. That should do it.

I'm pretty sure that's correct (no guarantees though...).

I'll include them in my short list comprising the AZ Adagio and Silverline Sonatina-III speakers. I suspect that the DA-1 are better. I am using the Cary SLI-80 integrated. We don't have dealers of the aforementioned companies here, so buying any of these without prior auditioning involves certain risk...