Review: Daedalus Ulysses V2 Speaker

Category: Speakers

Following is my review of my new Daedalus Ulysses V2 speakers

Lou Hinkley is an real craftman, musician and really stands behind his products. He got his start in audio building natural guitars amplifiers with impeccable speaker cabinetry . A number of professional musians praise his work. Since then Lou expanded to audio and his speakers have been getting major attention for being musical and very engaging. He shows at RMAF, Capitol and Axponea with a network of owners willing to give auditions as well as his northern Washington state shop. A quick google search will lead to glowing reviews and top system considerations. If you heard Lou's speakers in 2012 or before you haven't heard his V2 upgrade which is significant. Original owners are able to upgrade.

The Ulysses have two 8" woofer drivers - top and bottom, then two 3 1/2" midrange cones, in the center are two soft dome tweeters that are slightly offset and angled to provide both exceptional imaging and wide sweet spot listening. The drivers at made specically for Daedalus. The crossover's magic and seamless intergration of the drivers top to bottom is well executed. Lou uses the same high end wire in his speakers as the top of the line resolving Daedalus / Wywire speaker cable.The cabinets are solid wood with old world craftsmanship. You can see in the small back ports that the cabinet is 2 1/2 inches thick. The speakers have no resonance issues and disappear in the room

Oscar Wilde said - "forgive me for the long letter, I didn't have time to write a short one"
So excuse my lack of brevity

I received the speakers a couple months ago and they have such great synergy with my system

The speakers have been a real revelation for me.

I live in New Orleans - play a little upright bass and see a wide range of music constantly. My son is a music student and plays in several symphonic groups, acoustic guitar, piano and rock bands.

I always am looking first for very natural and neutral tonality. All too frequently that comes at the expense of resolution. Not with the Ulysses.

My room is 14 1/2 deep by 27 wide - my system is on the long wall (preferred orientation with the flow from room to room and view outside)

I am mostly analog on the front end

The high efficiency of the Ulysses has been a godsend. I was able to use my Atmasphere MA1s without strain on the otl which likes to see a high ohm load. Not so with lower efficiency 4-6 ohm speakers.The 80 watt Doshi J'Hor tubes i have are a godsend with the Ulysses.

Now the important part

The sound

The speakers

First and formost - the tonality was dead on. Resolution in spades Overtones, space - you could hear the subtle resonance of the stringed instruments. Very natural- seamless drivers top to bottom. Jazz, classical, acoustic, and rock - all dead on.

You could hear subtleties like slight differences it how loud or soft a drummer used his brushes, the guitarist playing further forward or towards the bridge, the open tones of a sax.

Events came in and faded very naturally. Lots of air around the instruments.

Another great thing was that a lot of speakers that play acoustic music well just don't have the punch for rock music. Not so at all. With the Daedalus The dynamic swings are dramatic and it doesn't take a lot of volume to get to a revealing and natural level of impact. Something a lot of speakers lack.Have your cake and eat it too

I love the concept of flat frequency to 30 hz. I've had speakers that go as low as 20 hertz and you sacrifice a lot to get there for diminishing returns. And it limits you to high powered amps that are generally solid state - not my cup of tea on the tonality end. The speakers were lacking nothing on the bottom end, excellent balance, tight natural and controlled bass from 8" drivers. That said my HT room has a JL Audio F113 that handles those subsonics that movie audio guys throw in for chest tingling impact. The sound you feel more than hear. Did not miss a sub or extra low end at all, in fact regarding my room the bass nodes for it's size wouldn 't like the lowest frequencies anyway. The Ulysses have a well defined and properly balanced low end. Much like you see in the range of real acoustic music. Jazz upright music I play around the house and know all too well - it was spot on. But throw on a driving rock or funk band and that low end was there

If you are seeking thunderous subsonic punch Lou makes the BOW subwoofer which integrates with his speakers.

I usually prefer a narrow point source for pinpoint imaging with minimal drivers. That is great but the sweet spot ends up being very narrow. Lou's slightly offset angled tweeter design is incredibly refined giving sharp imaging and placement both from left to right but also with depth and height. And the sweet spot is expanded dramatically. Symphonic and jazz music recorded with the ambiance aspects of the hall and musicians - with properly spaced out mics gave a holographic aspect.

Separation of instruments is also there in spades. The layering really broke out. You could feel the size and resonance of drums, the loudness and impact of various instruments and the intent of multi tracked studio masters. Wow. Take for example Crosby, Stills and Nash. I had a hard time distinguishing Crosby in the mix because his voice blended so well with Nash's. The separation with the Ulysses is so good you can hear the timbre in Crosby's voice and it's resonance very distinctly and it is a real treat.

There are too many recordings I could rave about - all but ones with serious flaws (loudness wars, or ear bleeding sharp high end) are engaging. Lou does provide a -0.5 and -1.0 db adjustment for bright recordings or equipment. The speakers are going to resolve everything in the source but without adding any coloration on their end. Too many critically lauded speakers color and distort the sound and I am always baffled audio gurus and audiophiles being enamored with them. Flashy sound that doesn't stand up to long listening sessions. Lou's speakers could be preceived as "mellow" when in reality they are really dead on. Detailed resolution and tonality. Not HiFi - they let the warmth of the music come through. Importantly I did not feel any aspect of listening fatigue and I am very sensitive to high frequencies. I listen for long periods of time

The speakers really disappear in the room, except visually that is, for their exquisite woodworking. You can tell Lou's guitar amp cabinet designs have had a nice impact on his 2 channel speaker designs and relevant resulting sound. A labor of love and old world craftsmanship

I am really rediscovering my musical collection, probably for the forth time with major upgrades, seeking out original UK vinyl releases, etc. to capture everything possible in the performance.

The very best i can get. Sleep deprivation and cancelling my direct tv to spend most of my time at home listening to music.

As nice as a major audio component is a key factor in your system, and it is critical, is whether the manufacturer stands behind it. I have built my system from the ground up using many great indiependant direct manufacturers. Word of mouth, reviews and stellar designs. I owe many of you on audiogon for my great sonic discoveries. Lou is a really incredible person and so concerned about your audio satisfaction. I bought my speakers second hand and he treated me as if I were an original owner. He walked me through the V2 upgrade he performed and kept me informed and made sure things were optimally set up, we discussed synergy with my amp options, break in characteristics (take your time - not 24/7) etc and gave room and positioning suggestions. His speakers don't come up often on the used market - the owners love them and are not parting with them. The person I bought my speakers from saw a post of mine regarding looking for someone to host an audition. He bought a smaller Daedalus speaker in their line to match going to a smaller room. Lou is still following up with me. I can't say enough about Lou, he really stands behind his product and is a great guy.

Thank you again Lou, in fact I can't thank you enough

Anyone considering a modest priced speaker with beautiful, engaging presentation should consider the Ulysses or one of the other Daedalus speakers

I am raptured by the passion of the music, not equipment

Associated gear
Click to view my Virtual System
Here is more detail on the cabinet and drivers fronm Doug Schroeder's excellent 2012 Dagogo review (which includes a direct assessment of the V2 upgrade)

I didn't address the particular drivers etc.

The side walls of the speaker are of unequal length, causing the rear baffle to be nonparallel to the front. As is in the case with many speakers of non-symmetrical cabinetry, this aids in breaking up sound waves within the speaker. Three bass ports in a triangular orientation near the bottom of the Ulysses can be directed toward the interior or exterior of the listening space depending upon the direction of the rear baffle. By switching the speakers around, the ports can be arranged to fire toward the opposite direction. I found this useful to improve the heft of the bass, and firing the ports outward I utilized the side walls of my room, which are eminently solid, to increase the liveliness of the bass. Note that toe-in also affects this, and I found I preferred the speakers toed-in just to the outside of my ears. Upon setup one can swap the speakers and experiment with bass port directionality and toe-in. This makes the Ulysses a more flexible speaker for smaller rooms.

The included maple hardwood stands are cut to the same shape as the Ulysses’ cabinet and come with Soundocity outriggers. This allows for the generously sized spikes to elevate the speaker well above even thickly carpeted floors. The outriggers are able to be adjusted so as to facilitate a backward cant of the front baffle, which is not to time align the drivers but to give the soundstage more height. I am used to rather large reference speakers and even the Ulysses at about 51” on the stand is not the biggest, though with the front baffle angled back it did not sound to me as being too low.

Inside, the Ulysses has hand built passive crossover networks by Guy Veralud, described by Lou as one of the behind-the-scenes gurus of speaker design. Internal cabling is silver coated copper. The drivers come in pairs per channel; 1” Eaton tweeters, 5” customized Fostex full range, and 8” proprietary Daedalus Audio Dynamic Drivers made in the U.SA. The mid and bass drivers are paper coned with cloth surrounds and treated to resist moisture for very long life. All connectors are gold plated, crimped and soldered with silver.
Thanks for your review - it was a pleasure to read. I've admired the Ulysses and it's nice to hear from someone who has paired them with such a nice system as you have. The amp combination you own is lovely.

Given their sensitivity they could be a good match for my 18w Lamm amps.

Great review, Tom! Glad that your Ulysses have worked out so well.

As you indicated, it's remarkable how Lou has managed to combine such a natural tonal balance and non-fatiguing sound with excellent resolution and dynamics, accurate transient response, and perceived "speed." Not to mention exceptional versatility with respect to amplifier selection, and heirloom construction.

My Ulysses are the final v.1 configuration that existed prior to the introduction of v.2, including the all-poly crossover. Although all indications seem to be that the v.2 upgrade is significant, as you said, I'm sufficiently happy with the configuration I have that I don't envision undertaking the risk, downtime, and expense of sending them on what would be a coast-to-coast round-trip for the upgrade.

Thanks again for the excellent review. Enjoy!

Best regards,
-- Al
nice review. I heard these a couple years back at caf and thought them to be one of the best of show. Lots of sound per $$$. could be end gamers for many I'm guessing.
OK, great review. I really appreciate the amount of detail and specificity that you put into your write-up. Thank you for your efforts. The Ulysses is one that I've been hoping to hear soon, but I've not been able to get to a show in person recently. Yet. I keep wondering if my MC352 amplifier might be too much (or merely not necessary) for a speaker this sensitive. Moderate power tube amplifiers seem to be the direction Ulysses owners are going.
As for power, we use the Modwright KWA150 and others also use high power amps with these. The only problem would be if an amp needs to run near rated power to sound right, which is very unusual for a quality amplifier. The advantage of lots of power with sensitive speakers is enormous headroom and speed. Basically these will perform well with pretty much any high quality amplifier.

Goheelz, we just signed to do Newport with Zesto! Hope to see you at a show!
Lou, thanks very much for joining in, and for your always reliable comments.

Goheelz, I would add to Lou's comments that the difference between the 350 watt capability of your amplifier, and the 150 watt capability of the Modwright KWA150 which Lou frequently demonstrates with, is only about 3.7 db.

Also, when changing to speakers that are significantly more sensitive and efficient than the ones you have, the possibility of having too much gain in the system, that might cause the volume control to have to be operated undesirably close to the bottom of its range, should be considered. In this case it appears that the Ulysses are probably about 8 to 10 db more sensitive and efficient than your Spendors. I see, though, that your C2300 preamp has provisions for independently trimming the levels of its various inputs, with the trim range being +/- 6 db. So if you are presently not using the volume control in say the lower 25% or perhaps 33% of its range for any of your sources, OR if you are not presently setting the trimmer to significantly attenuate the signals from any of your sources (so that you would have that 6 db to work with when going to the more efficient speakers), that won't be an issue.

Another means of reducing system gain, btw, is by inserting a pair of inexpensive in-line passive attenuators, such as the Rothwells, at the inputs of the power amp. Some members here report excellent results with them (including me in the past, although I no longer need to use them), while others report that in their systems they seem to compromise dynamics to some degree.

-- Al
thanks everyone for your insightful comments and compliments

almarg - I couldn't have put it more succinctly

"Lou has managed to combine such a natural tonal balance and non-fatiguing sound with excellent resolution and dynamics, accurate transient response, and perceived "speed." Not to mention exceptional versatility with respect to amplifier selection, and heirloom construction."

Al - I heard the V1 at RMAF 2011. I bought my Ulysses used and had them shipped directly to Lou who did the V2 upgrade

I can understand why you wouldn't want to part with your V1s. Glad you are content. I recall someone on Audiogon saying "the enemy of great is better"

Metralla - the Doshi Aalap pre is phenomenal, the synergy with the Doshi 80 watt amp with the Ulysses is a match made in heaven

Goheelz - it is well worth the effort to hear these.
I went to RMAF for a day in October then a few days under quaking aspen in the snow dusted mountains. Sunny days that I thought would never end.

I tried three amps on the Ulysses. Atmasphere MA1s (100 watts), 80 watt Doshi, and Van Alstine (300 watt in 4 ohm).
The speakers were very dynamic with each. Good point Lou made on higher watt amps. The Van Alstine is more refined when it is taxed with a higher output load but still sounded good - the other two amps plenty of dynamics and prime sound.

Regarding the preamp volume control
My Doshi has a step down transformer
So it is running at a full level then reduced down - I believe it is 31 clicks - very specific values.
I have a low output moving coil and used to run it at 3pm position for 85 db., now I run it at 11:30 - 12 for the same high volume.
Al, Lou, Audiotomb--

I appreciate the excellent and well-informed advice. Lou, I will track you down for a demo one of these days. Maybe the next RMAF.

Al: the attenuator idea seems spot on. I may try that if I go the higher efficiency route. But of course that could be a way to avoid the inevitable investment in a quality lower-powered tube amp :)