Daedalus Audio Apollo Speakers

Part I:

“Your cabinets are done--they look beautiful”. I wasn’t talking to the guy doing a custom kitchen in my mansion on the hill. I was talking to Lou Hinkley of Daedalus Audio. When was the last time your speaker guy said “your cabinets are done”? If you answered “never”, you may want to give Lou a call. It feels pretty cool. And based on the pictures I’d received over the past few weeks they did indeed look quite beautiful. The cabinets in question would eventually house top flight drivers, crossover components and wire, but for now they were just pretty boxes--very pretty boxes.

Fast forward several weeks and the cabinets, now cured and fully loaded, were on their way to New Jersey for the holidays. Well, it sure seemed that way--until one of them showed up without his twin brother. That was Christmas eve, and the next four days would be some of the most difficult and frustrating of my audio lifetime. Fedex, overwhelmed with holiday traffic, provided daily delivery confirmations that kept me waiting by the door, like a jilted lover left standing at the altar. At one point my little lost Apollo sat for two days in Ohio--a victim of Christmas revelry and the subsequent hangover? Once loaded on a truck he made only as far as eastern Pennsylvania, teasing me from across the Delaware River like Washington did to the Redcoats in the winter of 1776-77. Finally, on the 28th, he finally found his way home, inside a box that clearly tested the limits of Lou’s exceptional packing. Not to worry--inside was all smiles and my saga ended on a happy note.

Now those beautiful cabinets stood like sentinels flanking my equipment rack. Taking in the exceptional craftsmanship, careful selection of materials, and tasteful design elements I was completely overcome with joy. My outgoing Daedalus DA-1.1s were simply georgeous--I really hated to see them go. But the Apollo’s, impossibly, offered something even more pleasing to the eye. An ever so slightly more compressed and robust appearance--more Lawrence Taylor than Dwight Clark, for those of us who recall the football superstars of yesteryear. The proportions are so correct, and the multiple angles (only one 90 degrees in the whole box) so subtle that a week later I am still discovering (and appreciating) new bends as the sunlight moves through our living room.

Lou calls the Apollo’s his “desert island” speakers and I can see why. The size and shape of the cabinets suggest a pleasing appearance in both large and small rooms. Mine is only 13 X 17 X 8 and yet they do not dominate the space. Yet should I ever have the opportunity to place them in a much larger venue, I am sure they will project a confident presence. And then there is the wood--hand selected planks of quarter sawn white oak--including, at my request, on the baffle and rear panel to create a contiguous facade--gently stained to match our Stickley heirloom furniture and buffed to a satiny patina to reveal the complex grain structure of the wood. And finally, a simple, dramatic yet somehow understated inlay pattern on the lower half of the baffle--comprised of several exotic (yet renewable) hardwoods carefully selected and unique to this project.

The Apollo series represent the pinnacle of the Daedalus lineup, with three models that incorporate a new 10” woofer that is made to Lou’s specifications. Lou feels that this driver has a “special magic” and designed the Apollo series to take advantage of the speed, power, and smooth midbass response the ten inch woofer provides. In addition, the Apollo series loudspeakers feature extensively braced asymmetrical cabinets and deploy Duelund resistors and Mundorf EVO Gold capacitors--housed in a fully isolated and sealed crossover panel--to further increase speed, detail and refinement. Finally, the Apollo’s incorporate additional enhancements that are now featured in every Daedalus loudspeaker--trim rings for the woofers and midrange driver (a modified Fostex full range) that substantially reduce distortion, and a new tweeter from Eton that provides more speed and extension without a hint of strain or fatigue.

The Apollo’s, which represent the smallest speaker in the series, feature a clustered driver array that acts like a point source for exceptional imaging and peerless coherence, even when used in a near-field application. Also available from Daedalus are five additional models of varying sizes and driver configurations that utilize a custom 8” woofer and a subwoofer (BOW) with a passive crossover. (Not to mention a range of accessories and isolation devices that work wonders under DACs and other electronics that are sensitive to vibration). In sum, Daedalus now offers a full line of handcrafted loudspeakers that combine cutting edge crossover networks, custom drive units, and handcrafted hardwood cabinets--all brought together in the service of music by Lou Hinkley, a musician and craftsmen with over twenty-five years of accumulated wisdom in the field.

“Your cabinets are done--they look beautiful”. They sure do. And boy were they worth the wait.

To follow…..the set up and the break in process.

Congratulations on your new purchase.  It is always extra special when the speakers sound as good as they look.  There is something to be said about a very fine piece of furniture.  Please keep us informed on the sound and best of luck with them.
His cabinets do look beautiful. I bet you will enjoy them for a long time.
Congratulations on the speakers and also very well written!
Bet they sound great with your LTA's.
Thanks everyone--yes, the synergy between Daedalus Audio speakers and the LTA Ultralinear amplifier is an important piece of the picture. The Ultralinear was designed by David Berning specifically for high efficiency designs like the Apollo's. This is one reason Lou will be showing the Apollo's with the Ultralinear at Axpona in April. (Lou will be using a VAC integrated with his larger Apollo 11's in a different room). Though I am using a Herron linestage currently, I was able to hear the LTA Microzotal paired with the UL at CAF last fall (on the Zeus statement speaker system) and the combination was phenomenal. I'll be posting some listening impressions soon and these will be framed as a product of the LTA/Daedalus combination, though the nice thing about Lou's designs is that they are capable of producing great sound with a wide range of amplifiers (tube/solid state/high or low power).
Part II: Set Up and Break In Process

Like my DA-1.1s, the Apollo’s proved incredibly easy to place. I don’t have a dedicated listening room so my hifi must share our living room, whose configuration demands loudspeakers on the long wall with their backs to each passage into the space. Given the need for egress and ingress (my father-in-law loves these terms) and the desire to produce the widest possible stage, there is very little room to maneuver. So basically, I plopped the Apollo’s down exactly where the DA-1.1s had been and that was the end of it. However, had I a more forgiving room with lots of placement options, Lou assures me that the Apollo’s can perform their magic positioned virtually anywhere in rooms of varying shapes and sizes--another reason he calls them his “desert island” speakers.

Once so positioned I connected them up. I purposely held off on making any system changes while Lou did the build so that I could have a clear comparison to the outgoing DA-1.1s.--so I was dying to hear what the Apollo’s had to offer. My DA-1.1s were fully tricked out--Lou supports his clients by offering upgrades as his craft and available components improve--so I was keen to see just how far the new models were going to exceed the exceptional sonics of my old 1.1s. Over the decade I owned the DA-1.1s, they went back to the PNW twice to receive enhancements of the crossover network and internal wiring (All Poly and V2) as well as the addition of trim rings for the woofers. Each upgrade preserved the inherent warm musicality that Daedalus is known for while enhancing speed, inner detail, resolution, and staging.

I loved my 1.1s and would never had parted with them had I not traveled to Ferndale last year and heard the new ten inch driver for myself. Housed in a pair of mid-sized Apollo 11s, I was stunned by the seamlessness of the presentation, by the fullness of the sound, and by the sheer impact of the bass (when demanded by the material). What really got me was how integrated the bass was with the rest of the sonic picture. My DA-1.1s did bass better than most--in fact, much better. The Apollo 11s, with the new ten inch driver, owned the bass. So shortly after I returned from the PNW Lou and I began talking about my next pair of Daedalus speakers. And now here they were, all wired up and amps aglow--sweet!

For the first track, I put on Rosanne Cash’s “10 Song Demo” CD. I sat back, hit play and adjusted the volume. Promising, but not what I had anticipated. Lou told me to expect a long break in period--up to 400 hours--so I wasn’t concerned. He had put some hours on them in the shop but clearly things needed to open up. Also, my system had not been used for several months while Lou was working on my cabinets, so the electronics also needed some time to gel. So I stayed for the first few songs, pushed the “repeat” button on my Esoteric X-03SE, and left the room. Over the coming hours and days I would return to assess progress and it was very illuminating. Like an early spring flower responding to the warmth of the sun, the chill of the night, or a late season snow shower, there were (mostly) big gains and (occasional) minor setbacks.

The notable gains through the break in process fell into three broad categories: refinement, extension and staging. First, as the hours passed a slight coarseness to the sound, particularly evident in voices and piano, became smoother. Like a vintage bottle of bordeaux that needs to be decanted for an hour before you take the first sip, the midrange began to develop a more complex and pleasing character after 40-50 hours of playtime and improved slightly thereafter--thru the 100 hour mark. In addition, both the bass and treble seemed slightly constricted--the bass a little lean and the treble lacking air, delicacy and immediacy. Here, too, the hours were very kind, with substantial progress in both areas realized after only 10-20 hours but with further gains in the treble response (in particular) even after 100 hours. Finally, the speakers initially sounded a little two dimensional. There was some depth to the soundstage but limited layering. As the midrange came into focus, so did the staging with significant layering evident by the time I got to the 40 hour mark.

After four straight days and then another two weeks of periodic play (over 200+ hours), I began to listen in earnest. To follow--my listening impressions of the Daedalus Audio Apollo loudspeaker system. Stay tuned!

Great review so far, Dodgealum!  You’re a talented writer, and your enthusiasm is infectious.  I’m looking forward to the rest of your review!
Enjoying your read.  How does your ultralinear handle these speakers?