New speakers and guidance

I am retiring soon and I am going to reward myself by upgrading some of my equipment.  For a budget, I am looking to keep total cash outlays in the net $20k range meaning that I can go beyond $20k with any subsequent funds resulting from the sale of my existing equipment.   My current equipment is listed below for reference. 

I was at AXPONA last year and I listened to the Daedalus Apollos and Apollo 11s.  I absolutely loved the sound of them.  Compared to my existing system, they felt more dynamic and open which are two things that I am looking to improve upon.  They still retained a strong sense of presence and warmth that I enjoy with my current system.

My question is in regards to how best use said funds.  A couple of options come to mind:

  1. Purchase a new set of Apollos and upgrade phono pre to something like Herron or Coincident.

  2. Buy a used set of Daedalus Ulysses/Argos/Athenas and upgrade line stage, amp, phono pre and turntable. 

I appreciate the combined wisdom and advice from this wonderful forum!


Room:                18x21x10

Speakers:          Sonus Faber Cremona Auditors

Amp:                  McIntosh 275 mk IV

Line stage:          ARC LS5 mk II

Phone Pre:        ARC PH5 with GNSC mods

Turntable:          VPI Classic

Cartridge:          Dynavector XX2 mk 2    Enter your text ...
Well I would be leery of buying based on a show demo. There’s a lot more to the sound you hear than the speakers. But I assume you know all that and love them anyway. So the one bit I would add, having come from an ARC PH3SE, the Herron is a huge, monster, step up. Which I’m sure the ARC PH5 with mods is not a PH3SE, but the Herron is so far into another league while the ARC, let’s face it the 5 is just a better 3. While the Herron is a whole different thing altogether. Dynamic and open? In spades. Not to mention a high value for dollar component. Super reliable too.

thanks for the thoughts.  I understand being leery of show impressions as conditions are less than ideal to say the least.  Would love to demo the Apollos  in my room but likely not going to happen. Daedalus do not seem to come up used often, and if I did buy used and they did not work well in my room, I could resell them. Less risk than buying new.... but not likely to find Apollos used vs. other models. 

I tend to agree with your thoughts on upgrading the phono pre as I would like to do that for either option 1 or 2. 
If you do I think you will be shocked. I was. The ARC was compared with a LOT of phono stages back when I bought it, and I mean home auditions. Never in my life would I have believed it was as colored, closed in, and veiled as the Herron revealed it to be. I mean it was huge. My wife heard it even through a closed door. You can find my review around here somewhere. 

I got a whole slew of things you can do that will unbelievably upgrade your system and will be great to do in retirement because they involve a lot of time consuming hands on. But I'm kind of close myself and can appreciate wanting to just buy something to celebrate and sort of commemorate, and a fine set of speakers sure fits the bill.  

My advice with the speakers would be get whichever ones sound the best. I know that sounds cliche but a lot of people would look at the cost/value of new vs used. When the real value isn't the money its your time. You worked hard all your life. Spend the rest of it enjoying the sound you love. That might sound trite but I trust you will get it.

Annika, first, congratulations on your forthcoming retirement!

Re Daedalus, be aware if you already aren't that they offer 30 day return privileges, less two-way shipping and a $200 restocking fee.

Also, the various Daedalus models generally have a similar "house sound," as well as benign impedance characteristics and exceptional versatility with respect to amplifier selection. The bigger and more expensive models of course tend to have somewhat greater deep bass extension and a bit more sensitivity, and some models are designed to have wider sweet spots than others. I would expect that if you call Lou Hinkley at Daedalus he will provide you with valuable and honest guidance as to which model(s) would best suit your room, budget, and preferences.

I have owned a pair of Ulysses for nearly ten years now, and I continue to be delighted with them. My room is 22 x 13 x 8, somewhat smaller than yours, but I would expect that model to do fine in your room as well.

In the past year or so I have been using a Pass XA25 to drive the Ulysses, and for about seven years prior to that a 300B tube-based VAC Renaissance 70/70 MkIII. Both have provided great results.

I also own a Herron phono stage (the VTPH-2 in my case), and I can vouch for Miller's comments about it. And both Herron and Daedalus are among the very best manufacturers in terms of customer service and support, and are a pleasure to deal with.

I suspect that the lower gain version of the Herron (which is what most people buy) would be suitable for your 0.28 mv cartridge, but a call to Keith Herron would be advisable to confirm that. I'm using an Audio Technica AT-ART9, rated at 0.5 mv.

Eventually you will probably want to upgrade your line stage and amplifier. But of course you can do that in stages whenever funds permit, depending in part on the cost of whichever speaker model you decide on.

Best of luck as you proceed. Regards,
-- Al

@erik_squires my setup is in the family room, so treatments are in the context of decorating. I have a floor rug as well as rugs on the front wall. I also have curtains on the window on rear and one side wall.  Since it is a family room, it also has a large sectional couch.  The room sounds quite good all things considered.  Good thoughts on the room treatments. 

@almarg thanks for the comment on returns as I was not aware. I feel if I intend to purchase new I can call and discuss with Lou. However, it doesn’t feel right to me if I go the used route. 
The Herron unit does seem to get great reviews and I will call Keith. 
I appreciate the thoughts. 
Where do you live?  Do you have access to many audio stores locally?  I had Sonus Faber Amati Tradition Homage speakers.  I sold my house  and the new owner demanded them as part of the deal.  I went on a 4 month mission to go around the country by car to listen to as many different speakers that I could.  It was very enlightening.  I listened to Piega, Eggleston, Vivid, Meridien, Focal, Stenheim, Magico, Tekton, Spatial Audio, Magnepan, Vandersteen, Wilson, Raven Corvus, Harbeth, Avantgarde, hORNS Universum and YG to name a few.  

I know now is tough with retail stores being closed but when it does open, you owe it to yourself to take your time and find a speaker that will really resonate with you.  It's funny, after I did my speaker search, I ended up going in a totally different direction that I would have ever thought ---Viking Acoustic Grande Voix.

If you want a good combination speaker / amp, check out Raven Audio.  The Raven Corvus paired with Raven integrated amps are right in your price point and have a 30 day money back guarantee.  
@willgolf they buyer of your house demanded your speakers are part of the deal??!! I can't say I've ever heard of such a thing I hope at least he didn't negotiate you down on the price too much.
jond - you don't want to know....they got my Amp also.  I ended up buying them a brand new Lumin because I was not going to give up my Lumin X-1.  Let's say they got a great deal but when you are dealing in the price point I was in sometimes you take it in the shorts and move on.  I did make money on the house and it allowed me to go explore new avenues in music all good.  
Thanks to all for the responses.  Upgrading the phono pre seems like the easy decision thus far, and it will be done in either of the two scenarios.  
Any thoughts on whether upgrading to Daedalus Apollos is a better path vs used Ulysses?  If I go used, I would have funds to spend on upgraded turntable as well.  Going with new Apollos wouldn’t leave me enough funds to do so. 

I appreciate the collective knowledge and opinions!
I reviewed the Daedalus Ulysses and owned it for a while. You can see my review at 

Having worked with and owned the Ulysses for some time, here are my summary characteristics of strengths and weaknesses:

Strengths: Warm, fairly easy to fit into any system without stridency for top end brightness, "full" sounding bass, and openness off a quasi-line array configuration, taller speaker with potential to have sound stage at what is, imo, proper height. 

Weaknesses: Less coherence in center image, and some smearing associated with duplicity of driver sets, bass drivers separated by a fair bit so as to allow hearing both contributing to the bass (same as the Legacy Audio Whisper in that regard), limited dynamic capacity with mid-sized woofers, and boxy colorations. 

Those who would argue with me re: my description of characteristics - I'm not interested in a debate. This is relative to a wide range of other speakers I have reviewed and owned. 

If you wish to ask questions in regard to any of the speakers in my virtual system, feel free. One that is not pictured, but is well worth mentioning is the Tri-Art Series B 5 Open Speaker with Crossover. Look for my recent review at 

Don't laugh at it. The 5 Open is shockingly good, and frankly has bested all but the biggest, most expensive speakers I have handled. It has far superior coherence to the Ulysses, does not have the box coloration contribution, and has more formidable, easeful bass that reaches lower than the Ulysses. Its secret weapon is an attenuator that allows the 8" full range driver to be dialed in precisely for any room/installation. That is worth its weight in gold. I am astonished at the sound quality for about $5K with crossovers. It would sound like you took your SF's, fed them steroids, and grew them to about 5' tall. 

If you cared to go in a different direction in terms of the main driver, you could consider the PureAudioProject Trio15, which allows exchange of full range drivers to give you a suite of performance from full range dynamic to horn, and even an option for Heil driver. It's a different ball game with a different set of characteristics, but some alike the 5 Open due to being open baffle. Also written up for (I wrote of three iterations; Tang Band, Voxativ, and Horn 1)

I would recommend you first tried your current gear with the 5 Open speakers. 
@douglas_schroeder thank you for the extensive thoughts. I did read your articles on the Ulysses and Tri Art speakers. 
I have to admit that the appearance of the Tri Art speakers is a bit different.  I am probably more inclined to stay with a box type speaker than PAP or Tri Art. Your thoughts on the Ulysses however, may help guide me down the path to the Apollos as they may yield more flexibility in room.  
I do have a Herron phono stage coming that I will get to try out next week. So that will be interesting to hear the change from my current ARC. 
Thanks again for the thoughts. 
Annika, you're most welcome! The Daedalus speakers are always warm and inviting, and will not be fatiguing to the ear. I wish you success in your search.  
I have had the Herron in my system for almost 2 weeks, and it has been a nice upgrade.  It has brought increased resolution and dynamics that I was looking to bring into my system.  Thanks to the group for prodding me along for this upgrade. 

I also spoke to Lou from Daedalus and I am going to order a pair of the Apollos.  I also discussed amplification with Lou, and for my situation, Lou thought I may enjoy the LTA Ultraliner if I would like a change from the Mac.  

It sounds like I have a 3 month wait on the Apollos, so it will be a while any evaluation and decision needs to be made.  
Congrats on the Apollo’s they are phenomenal and far superior to the Ulysses which are no slouch but do not have the new Eton tweeter, latest crossover design and components or the ten inch woofer. All of which are game changers. I know the Ulysses well—a friend owned them with top flight gear. The Apollo’s are another animal and an end of the road speaker—perfect for retirement just sit back and enjoy!
I use Eton drivers in my speakers.  I LOVE them.  Mixed with the right tube amplification, that tweeter will shine like the sun.   

LTA would be a wonderful match.  I have been blown away by how good those amps sound and how cool they run.  David Berning stopped in my room at CAF and we had about a 30 minute discussion about tubes and amps.  One of the smartest people I have ever met.    

Knowing that tweeter well, you could consider running an 845 tube.  The 845 is going to be more linear than a 300B and is going to give you a massive soundstage.  The only issue is that they run hot compared to the LTAs but tube life is long and replacement tubes don't have to be $1100 a pair unless you want them to be.  

I use 45w 845 Push Pulls to drive mine but they have an 85dB efficiency.  Your speakers could easily be driver by a SET with less than 20w.  
And why upgrade? You will have to work very hard and long to find suitable upgrades! Searching could be most of the fun.
I have been obsessing, er, researching about upgrades for the past couple of years already!  
Once the Apollos arrive and I get a feel for how they sound with my existing electronics, I can start the next phase of evaluating amp choices 😊.  
Yes, the researching is part of the journey... and a fun part at that....
I’m sure your choice will be great, remember, it’s not the,speakers per say, it’s our ears which need getting accustomed to a new pair of speakers.

Give them 250-300 hours of break,in before accessing their sound.

 As said 50x- my,speakers took me 300 hours to really get used to them.Even still, when listening after long periods without listening to my speakers, it still takes me a good 30-45 min to get accustomed to their laid back tone.

2nd system with old early to mid 90 pair of BIC V830’s, have a much more outgoing highs freq.
so when I listen upstairs to my Energy speakers, it takes a bit of listening to get my ears used to them.
once zeroed in,  they are heaven, and listening to the BIC’s is a bit harsh for a while, ago I’ll listen at low volume until I get accustomed to they’re tone.

take your time, enjoy the new speakers and retirement!
Congrats on your retirement and the good sense to celebrate it with something you love and can enjoy every day if you so choose ! I did something similar and upgraded to monoblocks when I retired - no regrets! The Herron is a solid value and while burned in a bit at factory will continue to improve. My tube rolling has so far not been rewarded. It does benefit from HRS isolation and a damper block over the toroidal.
i would encourage you to break the new speakers in before changing amps, consider experiment w taps - light loading can significantly alter sonics.
enjoy a long and happy retirement full of great music !