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.
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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!
Part III: The Sound
With around 200+ hours on the speakers I began to listen in earnest. I’ll try to summarize my findings in general terms but my commentary will also provide comparison with the outgoing DA-1.1s, which were among the best speakers I have heard in my audio lifetime and certainly the best I have owned. It should also be noted that the Apollo’s were driven by my 20wpc Linear Tube Audio “Ultralinear” amplifier, which is an exceptional match for high efficiency speakers like those from Daedalus Audio. While Lou’s designs are known for their ability to play well with lots of different designs, both solid state and tube, there is IMHO a special magic to be found in pairing Daedalus speakers with the LTA UL. Finally, I should qualify the remarks that follow by noting the insertion of Daedalus/WyWires SE speaker cables into the system after the break in period was complete. I plan to dedicate Part 4 of my review to the dramatic impact these cables had on the overall sound quality of the system--I now consider them essential to getting the best out of Lou’s designs.
The first thing which struck me about the Apollos is how similar they sound to other speakers in the Daedalus lineup. These include the Ulysses, which a friend owned for a time before going to a full tilt horn system from Wheelfi, and the Zeus, which is Lou’s two box per side statement speaker that I was fortunate to hear at 2018 CAF. I also had a chance to hear the Apollo 11 and the Poseidon side-by-side while visiting Lou in Ferndale last October. Now hearing the Apollo in my own system confirmed there is definitely a “house sound” that is consistent across the entire range--generally the sign of a designer who knows the sound wants and how to go about getting it. To my ear the Daedalus sound begins with accurate tonality--instruments and voices have all the warmth and harmonic richness of the real thing. Much of this has to do with getting the midrange right and IMHO Daedalus speakers are among a small, elite group of loudspeakers that get this critical frequency band correct--Harbeth and Quad ESL’s come to mind as members in good standing. Daedalus speakers also feature nimble dynamics and the ability to play loud without strain or listener fatigue. Lou’s designs are somewhat unique in combining high efficiency, stable impedance and high power handling in one package. Daedalus speakers can play very loud with super low distortion, even when driven by relatively low power amplification. Finally, all Daedalus models are very coherent from top to bottom--there are no frequency aberrations that draw the attention of the listener, owing to scrupulously designed crossovers (Lou builds these in collaboration with guru Guy Veralrud). These are the qualities I loved about my DA-1.1s and that I have heard in every other model in the Daedalus Audio lineup--including the new Apollos that were now playing in my living room.
However, as I began to listen critically following the break in period, I began to notice several characteristics that clearly distinguished the Apollo’s from the outgoing DA-1.1s and vaulted their performance into the very top echelons of loudspeaker performance, regardless of cost. For example, it quickly became apparent that the Apollo’s were revealing the presence of more notes--lots more notes. The Apollo’s did a much better job of unraveling complex musical passages than my DA-1.1s, revealing to a much greater degree the artistry of the performers. For example, complex guitar, mandolin and dobro passages found in recordings by AKUS, Nickel Creek and Nick Drake were a revelation. I began to gain new appreciation for recordings I have listened to for years, as guitar riffs took on increasing sophistication due to enhanced clarity and inner detail. Where notes had run together like a fresh painting exposed to a misty rain, each note was now distinctly portrayed against those that preceded and followed. This increased inner detail was present through the entire range. For example, listening to “Never Let Me Go” from the “Standards Vol. 2” LP you can hear the way Gary Peacock bends the strings on his upright bass to shape the notes. I have listened to this cut dozens of times--it’s one of my favorite jazz trio recordings--and while I have heard Peacock’s fingers on the strings I never heard him stretch the notes in this way. I can tell you it added significantly to the performance and made it feel much more “live”. It is fascinating to hear something new in recordings you know so well and the Apollo’s enhanced inner detail comes without any unwelcome side effects, such as tipped up highs or a more forward presentation. In fact, I found the Apollo’s to be slightly less up front sounding than my DA-1.1s, and yet much more revealing of the recording venue, performance, and preferences of the studio engineers. So what you have with the Apollo’s is gobs of inner detail along with a more refined presentation that lays back just a little, particularly when the recording heads in that direction.
In addition (and clearly related), the new Eton tweeter is a much faster, more extended and accurate transducer than the model it replaced. The high frequency extension of the Apollo is striking, as is the delicacy and accuracy of reproduced cymbals, bells, and triangles. For example, the opening of Cassandra Wilson’s spellbinding version of “Wichita Lineman” from her “Belly of the Sun” CD features a variety of delicate percussion sounds that are portrayed with startling realism by the Apollo’s. By comparison, other similarly priced speakers that I have heard can have “papery” quality that diminishes realism, or tipped up highs that introduce a slight hardness or glare to some recordings. With the Apollo’s, the percussion sounds correct in terms of tone, transient attack and decay--put simply, there is a “you are there” quality that is very compelling. Again, this is a welcome improvement over the DA-1.1s and one that comes with zero downsides.
Another thing about the Apollo’s that jumped out at me was the soundstage. With my DA-1.1s the presentation was more holistic, providing a more diffuse stage with more generally localized performers. With the Apollo’s, the stage is presented with more precision and multiple layers, with gobs of air and space around instruments and performers. This has been pretty exciting development, and has left me chuckling to myself on more than one occasion as the relative positioning of the performers is magically recreated in my living room. For example, while listening to Mozart’s “Haydn Quartets” (Phillips Quartetto Italiano) during a passage where each member takes a brief solo turn I could precisely locate each instrument across the stage and their relative distance to each other and to my listening chair, noting how the two violins were positioned quite closely while the viola and cello were equally spaced from each other and from the violins. I’m guessing one of the violinists was a lefty which put their instrument in close proximity to the other or they simply sat closer to each other and away slightly from the rest of the group. In any case the net effect was to bring the whole performance to a new level of realism that comes with instruments that are appropriately scaled and placed on the stage. The Apollo’s also do an incredible job disappearing as a sound source in the room--the layers of sound and precision placement of instruments render the speakers completely invisible--eyes open or closed. While soundstage precision and expansive layering are not particularly high on my short list of system must-haves, I know there are many others will find this a very welcome characteristic of the new Apollo series.
The Apollo’s are also an incredibly low distortion transducer. While my DA-1.1s could play loud without strain, the Apollo’s are capable of going VERY loud with absolutely zero distortion. I have only heard a handful of speakers that can thunder like the Apollo’s without losing their cool or driving me out of the room. The other day I spent about three hours in front of the Apollo’s, listening to a wide range of recordings at volume levels much higher than usual--yes, the family was out--and I never once felt an ounce of fatigue. If you want a speaker that is easy to drive--again, I am using the excellent 20wpc LTA Ultralinear--that can play really loud (and yet retains body and dimensionality at low volumes as well) the Apollo’s may be your ticket--particularly if you are seeking electrostatic-like purity but also want a system that rocks. Just for fun I cranked up MOFI’s One Step “The Nightfly” and was just blown away at the power and drive of these speakers. “Morph the Cat” provided a similar opportunity to shake the walls and rattle the windows while Leland Sklar’s bass in “She’s Already Made Up Her Mind” and “North Dakota” off Lyle Lovett’s “Joshua Judges Ruth” CD had extraordinary heft and control. Yes, these are excellent recordings, but to play them at volume like this without losing any of the subtle nuances further up the spectrum is pretty exciting stuff. This ability to play loud without distortion also renders the Apollo’s capable of projecting the power of the human voice in an unbelievably realistic manner. Just a few examples--listening to the normally whisper quiet Jacintha belt out “Our Love Is Here To Stay” at the very end of that track rocked my world. Or Linda Ronstadt with Nelson Riddle (MFSL “What’s New”) launching into “When You Wish Upon a Star” her voice rising to a crescendo like a Ferrari V-12 that just keeps pulling harder as the revs go higher holding the note without a hint of distress.
Speaking of “Morph the Cat”, I may have saved the best for last in discussing the bass response of the Apollo’s. This may be where the sound departs most significantly from my wonderful DA-1.1s and the area of performance that I am still coming to fully appreciate. Like the Apollo 11s I heard in Ferndale, (and unlike most other speakers I have auditioned), the bass response of the Apollo’s with the new ten inch driver is much more integrated into the overall musical landscape. Initially, the Apollo’s came across a bit lean in comparison to my DA-1.1s. However, as I listened more I began to appreciate the seamless coherence of the bass. Clearly the bass went considerably deeper than my DA-1.1s, with greater weight and impact--I could feel “Morph the Cat” in my chest. But with the additional depth and weight came an increase in clarity and articulation, with slightly less midbass bloom. At the end of the day the Apollo’s do have an ever so slightly leaner balance in the midbass than my DA-1.1s, but one that sounds more correct top to bottom, with more extension on both ends. For listeners who want to follow AND feel the bass line, the Apollo’s are going to be hard to beat. One recording that particularly stood out was Janos Starker’s performance of Bach’s Cello Suites on Mercury Living Presence (SACD). Again, here was a recording I have listened to dozens of times yet with the Apollo’s Starker’s artistry was much more apparent, as well as the unique subtle qualities of his instrument. I have never heard a cello so realistically portrayed, in any system, ever.
In fact, the Apollo’s so effectively communicate the artistic qualities of each performer that I found myself falling both in and out of love with musicians whose work I thought I knew like the back of my hand. I now find Starker’s playing style a bit too flamboyant for my tastes, and I will look for other interpretations of these great works as points of comparison. The same is true for Diana Krall, who I held in moderate esteem before the Apollo’s, and whose vocal technique I now find more than a little irksome. On the other hand, the musicianship of Quartetto Italiano, particularly on Mozart’s “Haydn Quartets”, is peerless while the fingerwork of Nick Drake on “Pink Moon” and the vocal phrasing of Frank Sinatra on the LP “Only the Lonely” (MOFI) are intoxicating. Bottom line--the Apollo’s simply put you at the recording venue in the best seat and let you hear what is going on in the most intimate way possible.
Today marks the two month anniversary with the Apollos. I still catch myself taking a spin through the living room just to take in the design and craftsmanship that went into building these transducers. I am a longtime fan of Lou Hinkley’s work--those who follow the forums might call me a “fanboy”--so be it. I’m no impartial reviewer, I’m a Daedalus lifer, and I’ve been at this long enough to know that audiophiles have many different sonic and aesthetic preferences and that the Daedalus sound and look won’t strike everyone’s fancy. However, for those folks who are interested in handcrafted loudspeakers that look at good as they sound, want natural sounding transducers that are easy to drive, never wear on your ears, and yet somehow convey all of the emotional power of a great live performance, the Daedalus Apollo series should be at the very top of your list of possibilities--regardless of price.
Working with Lou was a pleasure. He patiently helped me to choose the correct model for my listening room, eagerly embraced the challenge of using quarter sawn oak on the baffle and rear panel, produced an inlay design that captured our design aesthetic, and worked through the stain formula to match our existing furnishings. The result is a pair of Apollo’s like no others--ones that reflect the thoughtful selection of materials and painstaking labor of a master craftsmen, musician and audiophile. When I sit down to listen I also get to look--and I love what I see and understand what I’ve got--and that means a lot. With the Apollo series Lou Hinkley has once again elevated his game. I think you will be hard pressed to find speakers that sound better, look better and make you feel better about your audio aspirations.
Next up….what a difference a cable makes!
Put simply the LTA UL had a transformative impact on my system. I am constantly amazed by this amp--so pure, liquid, expressive and sensible--it weighs nothing, the tubes are cheap and will last forever, it puts out little heat, ETC. Designed for high efficiency speakers like my Apollo's, the LTA controls them better than my previous 150wpc solid state amplifier. All this performance is the result of clever, tested technology from the brilliant mind of David Berning. For more, I wrote about the LTA UL here:
My original plan was to get two and use them as monoblocks but once I hear what a single UL could do in my system I decided a second would be overkill--I have never felt any sense of dynamic strain with this amp driving either my old DA-1.1s or the new Apollo's. A game changing amp if paired with the right speakers.
Yes, using a Herron VTSP-3A (R03). Seems to me this is a totally underrated linestage--the VTPH-2A phonostage gets all the accolades but the linestage is equally amazing. That said, I understand the LTA Microzotal linestage is phenomenal and partners beautifully with the UL. Lou shows with this combination and I heard it with the Zeus at CAF in 2018. The sound was excellent.
My short answer is absolutely! Lou feels the Apollo's are his most versatile model and can make beautiful music in all types of listening environments. My room is 13 X 17 X 8 so only slightly larger than yours. I imagine if yours is a dedicated space you may want to pull them out away from the back wall and listen nearfield. The clustered driver array means you will have seamless coherence in this application. Or, put them closer to the wall and you will be replicating my set up where I have them positioned on the long wall and am sitting a little under 9 feet from the baffles. If for some reason you wanted to go smaller, Lou has a model called the "Studio Muse" which uses the same driver array and an 8" woofer, along with some of the same premium crossover components. Always best to have a chat with him to see what he recommends!
Part III: Daedalus/WyWires Speaker Cables
Once the Apollo’s had broken in and I had a good handle on what they were doing in my room, I reached out to Lou to talk about speaker cables. Lou offers cables he has jointly developed with Alex Sventitsky of WyWires. According to Lou and Alex, this design is ideal for all Daedalus speakers; enhancing detail, dynamics, frequency extension for a very natural and lifelike listening experience.
I have long thought about upgrading to the Daedalus/WyWires cables but other system priorities always prevailed. For many years I had been using a pair of Dynamic Design Lotus Series cables that sounded very good--better, in fact, than several other cables I tried in a shootout scenario a number of years earlier. So I was eager to hear what the new wire would do with the Apollo’s and whether there were additional sonic heights to be reached.
I received the box from Alex on a Friday so was excited to have an entire weekend to see what they would do. The cables are relative thick and pretty stiff so keep this in mind if you have lots of turns to make--they can be bent to suit but just know these are not the most pliable speaker cables you will ever own. The fit and finish is excellent, with super high quality threaded connectors that can be swapped out by the end user in seconds. It should be noted that the cables arrived after spending some time on Alex’s “cooker” which I’m told substantially eliminates an otherwise lengthy break in process. I found this to be exactly the case--after 50 hours in my system I heard no change in presentation at all.
Let me preface my remarks about the Daedalus/WyWires cables by saying that with respect to the cable controversy, I would put myself slightly on the side of those who feel cables DO make a difference. I’ve done enough shootouts in my own system and with my audio buddies to appreciate the subtle changes cables can yield. That said, I firmly believe that cables should be relatively low on the list of audio priorities. Getting the room right, selecting appropriate loudspeakers that reflect your sonic preferences, listening habits and room size/configuration, and having good source material are all WAY more important than cables, IMHO. Carefully selected, cables can enhance system performance in meaningful ways--particularly speaker cables, which seem to have a more significant impact than power or interconnect cables. But folks who are trying to make speakers they don’t really like sound great using different (usually expensive) cables are, in my view, barking up the wrong tree.
So, what do I think about the Daedalus/WyWires speaker cables? Put simply, they really should be considered mandatory for all those who own and enjoy Daedalus loudspeakers. As to the sound, two words come to mind--”technicolor” and “relaxed”. I was literally stunned when I cued up the first track after installing these cables. I had be listening to Mozart’s “Haydn Quartets” (Quartetto Italiano on Phillips) throughout the evaluation process so went back to these to see what impact the new cables would have on the sound. I dropped the needle and when the music kicked it startled me--as in I jumped back in my chair. The sound was so incredibly real--such extraordinary color and vibrancy combined with amazing phrasing and intensity. And yet somehow the sound was less upfront, less in your face, more refined and spacious. I can recall a similar experience upon hearing the Spiral Groove SG-1.1 with the Centroid arm and Lyra’s top cartridge a few years ago in a familiar system. Incredibly detailed and yet much more refined than I had ever heard from the same familiar recordings.
In addition, there was a marked increase in the fullness and power of the bass with these cables. Tracks I had played previously with the DD cables, such as those from “Joshua Judges Ruth”, took on considerably more weight in the bottom end, with no corresponding hangover or midbass emphasis.
There really isn’t much more to say here except that there is a strong linkage between the insanely good sound of the Apollo’s and the use of the Daedalus/WyWires speaker cables. The Apollo’s sounded really terrific with the Dynamic Design cables that I used through the break in process but they became something truly extraordinary with the Daedalus wire. In this application, I cannot recommend these cables highly enough.
The last hurrah…..what feet?
Great review! (Both of them, actually!)
Part of me can’t wait to hear these beauties...and part of me (my bank account) is recoiling in fear. I trust your listening impressions and expect to be blown away.
I totally agree on the cables - they really are a component upgrade unto themselves.
Initially, I used some rubber feet on the bottom of the Apollo's so that I could move them about to dial in the best position in my listening room. As I said, I don't have a lot of space to play with so there was very little moving going on--a slight toe in and some measurements to make sure the two speakers are exactly the same distance from the rear wall. I had planned on doing some broader experimentation with different spikes and footer products, but time has been tight the past few months and I was not able to do so. I had a set of Stillpoints Ultra SS to try and compared these with some new, beautiful spikes that Lou introduced recently. They are extremely well made, attractive and have nice leveling thumb screws. Lou also sent me his speaker DiDs to use with the spikes but for various reasons I was unable to try these. I've seen this combination at shows and my sense is that this is the hot ticket for Daedalus speakers--the new spikes coupled with the speaker DiDs. That said, I tried the new spikes sans DiDs and they were an improvement over the rubber feet in all the ways you might expect--tighter focus, better bass and a more holographic sound. I then substituted the Stillpoints Ultra SS and was somewhat surprised at the performance gain over the spikes--it was substantial. I was hoping this would not be the case as the Stillpoints are very spendy. But the Ultra SS made the speakers completely disappear--stunning really. The soundstage became much more expansive and layered, creating an eerie sense of realness that was addictive. I also noted an increase in clarity and focus as the performers emerged from the blackness. My guess is that Lou's new spikes coupled with the speaker DiDs will bring a similar level of performance at a fraction of the cost of the Ultra SS. I plan to try this set up once things calm down and I have some time to play around. But for now my listening sessions are going to focus on the music, not the accessories. I love the sound I am getting from my Apollo's--it has been four months now and I am still smitten and consider myself blessed to own these masterful creations.
They are nice speakers but Xover components not even close to top quality , Mundorf evo series way too much plastic takes away from naturalness, Now Duelund capacitors they are up there their cast, but not their resistors the carbon masks detail I have used them all, and for example Caddock which Wilson use on several series verydetailed, Path Audio is currently top resistor in North America. Jupiter, Millflex. And Jensen Copper foil paper oil caps
all all more natural then Mundorf, and Their Supreme series is their
best efforts. I am just stating that natural Copper foil, oiled paper
jensen has been doing in Denmark for over 90 years, Duelund
has their own methods very-similar though, and share the same building. Jupiter again natural long grain waxed paper-copper foil .
my point the Apollo can be noticeably better still .the Xover parts
would cost you perhaps another $1-2k but the end result would be superb.i spent 20+ years and owned a Audiostore for 10 and
listened to many of the best and heard the best capacitors and parts out there. Just go to Humble homemade hIfi capacitor test
it is a pretty accurate capacitor cook book.
Apparently what is considered "top quality" is pretty subjective, eh? Also there is the question of what one is trying to achieve?
We use top quality capacitors ,many of them made for us, to achieve as transparent a sound as possible. There are others we could use similar to ones mentioned that to my ears have a certain sonic signature. While that may float someones boat it is not what we do here. That being said yes there are other caps we could voice with that we could achieve similar results to what we get currently and possibly even be very slightly better. After many decades of experience we have found that a blanket replacement of caps does NOT necessarily result in better sound and can sometimes degrade that sound at great financial cost.