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Daedalus DA-1 Floor-Standing and Center One Center Channel Speakers

Part II

January, 2006

Rick Schmidt

 

The Sound

Daedalus states that these speakers are 96 dB efficient, which is a remarkable claim. I cannot refute it, and in the aspect of listening where that most matters Ė headroom - I believe it. These speakers effortlessly handled whatever amount of power and volume I threw at them. The sound never broke up or became incoherent, no matter how much I cranked it. Thatís the second time Iíve mentioned cranking it in this review, and that's what I did with these speakers. Given the unorthodox design, I was prepared for something that reproduced acoustic instruments well, but that couldnít handle rock. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In both my two channel system and in my home theater, combined with the Center One, at any volume level, the DAs were incredibly consistent in presenting a coherent musical picture. A picture of live music.

I found myself trying to find the densest, most demanding material in my collection to see if there was something that was beyond the reach of these speakers. I never found it. The gold standard in dense music is the band Curve. Female vocal, constant, heavy feedback guitars, more guitars, synthesizers, bass guitars, drums, drum machines, all conceived at the intersection of rock, industrial and shoegazer. This is my vote for the best band ever, but I donít listen to them as much as I would like, because most of their music is available on CD only at this point (they were active in the 90s), and it becomes very fatiguing.

The DA-1s never heard of fatigue. They sorted out the dense mix of Curve and left me looking through my collection for another CD that I donít play enough.

I had a similar experience with Juliana Hatfieldís new CD Made In China. I once resolved to learn guitar by learning songs that I liked. I wanted to start with something that I thought was simple three-chord rock. I bought the sheet music for an earlier Hatfield classic "Only Everything". First song: 17 chords. Needless to say I didn't learn guitar, but I appreciate this music and her musicianship all the more. The Daedalus DA-1s really had the sound of a live performance. From a sonic perspective, it was as though I was seeing Ms. Hatfield and her band in a small club, where the volume level was set just right for a change, and the acoustics were amazing instead of atrocious.

I want to expand a bit on this. I listened intently to the DA-1s to try to figure out why it is that they should sound more like a live performance than many other speakers. I would say that part of it is that these speakers are not dark. Not that they are too bright, see below where I talk about the tweeter switch. It's just that they are not dark. A black background is something that I have praised in other speakers, and I probably will do so again in the future. The DA-1s donít have that. The upper midrange especially is quite full. But there was nothing there that didnít belong there. As I drilled in with my best critical ears, everything I heard sounded right. As I would imagine the recording engineer intended or even better, as I imagined this band would sound if I listened to them live.

I've recently been tweaking my reference speakers with a ridiculous, external baffle to extend the front plane of the speaker and hopefully eliminate diffraction. I canít explain why this visually obtrusive project has had the greatest effect on CDs, but it has.

Vinyl playback, which was already good, was not changed much. The Daedalus DA-1s have a similar story. CD playback was so good and non fatiguing that there is not a big difference with vinyl. It was still great, but not the big difference from CD.

This is where I first started playing with the tweeter tuning switch on the back. Of the three choices, lets call them 'more', 'neutral', and 'less', because the switch is not labeled. I found that I preferred 'more' and 'neutral' for CD playback and 'less' for vinyl. Seems like it should have been the other way round given CD's potential for edgy high frequencies, but this is what I found. That's why the switch is there, it's up to your ears.

It's not a huge effect by the way. Way less than you would get if you happened to have a preamp with tone controls for instance.

One other thing about those tweeters, because each speaker has two, with the offset in direction between them, the sweet spot is huge. Or there just is no sweet spot, take your pick. There was no bad place to be in my 12' by 17' listening room.

My home theater room is smallish, roughly 10' by 13' with only a 7' ceiling, and only one opening. Yes it's the dungeon of entertainment. Lou was worried that even the two DA-1s with the Center One would overwhelm the room and create bass modes, so I did not audition the available matching surround speakers. I was able to avoid unwanted bass modes with what I did have, however. Probably because of the oversize futon and shelves, and slight variation from a straight rectangular room. This was good because as before, I cranked it.

There is a new DVD from Rush, R30, commemorating 30 years as a band. If you ever liked Rush, I really recommend this DVD, even if you've been disappointed by previous live Rush releases as I have been. The Daedalus setup really made me forget that I was listening to a system and just let me enjoy the music.

With movies too, dialogue was more relaxed, the sound of it wasn't an issue, I just watched the movie, got into it more. I noticed at one point that it seemed like my screen was bigger. That is the home theater magic, good sound makes the picture "better".

Conclusions

These speakers are not cheap. At nearly $7k for a pair of DA-1s and an additional $4,400 for a Center One, if you can afford these, you have a lot of choices. But, I heartily recommend that you put these on your short list, especially if you have a big room accommodating many viewers or listeners. Daedalus has roots in speakers for public address systems Ė used by musicians - and that experience is what led to the DA-1s and the Center One. These speakers did an incredible job of not just filling the space I had, but filling it with music.


- Rick Schmidt -

Associated Equipment

Mitsubishi WS-65908 HDTV

Analog source: Nottingham SpaceDeck
Digital sources: Cambridge Axur 540D, Naim CDX

Preamps: Edge, Arcam AV8
Amps: Edge M4, Outlaw 770
Speakers: GoldSound Kit #9

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