Review: Daedalus Audio Ulysses Speaker
In 1994 I assembled an audio system consisting of a MicroMega CD player, Audio Research SP9 MKII preamp, Quicksilver Silver Mono tube amps, and ProAc Response 3 speakers. This system served me well and gave me hours of listening pleasure. But, in late 2002 I moved into a new home with a 5000 cubic foot area that included my dedicated audio room and my audio system was unable to fully energize a space of that size.
My first change was to replace the MicroMega CD player in 2004 with an Opera Consonance 2.2. I was still quite happy with the ProAcs so in 2006 I decided to find out how much more performance I could coax out of them with different electronics. Living in the Chicago area afforded me access to quite a few high end audio shops and after bringing home numerous preamps and amps for audition, my heart was won over by a Manley Neo-Classic 300b preamp and a pair of Manley Neo-Classic 250 amps. This combination proved a great match to the ProAcs, making them perform much more dynamically. I realized at some point I might replace the ProAcs but felt confident that the Manley electronics would drive just about any speaker I would consider.
After a year and half with this updated system I felt a curiosity to listen to other speakers. I made the rounds of Chicago’s audio shops and listened to a variety of speakers in my budgeted $5-8K price range. I was (pleasantly) surprised to discover that my ProAcs faired quite well against the current competition in that price range. Not until I entered the $12K and above bracket did I begin to find speakers that outperformed the ProAcs.
Not wanting to spend $12K or more on new speakers, I began considering brands that sell directly to the customer. While it’s more difficult to audition their products, these brands appeared to offer high quality parts and workmanship. Four brands made the list: Tyler Acoustics, Salk Sound, Selah Audio, and Daedalus Audio.
Through a combination visiting people’s homes and attending several audio shows I was able to hear models from each vendor.
To my ears, there wasn’t a bad speaker in the group although they certainly sounded different from each other. Choosing one requires considering what speaker characteristics are important to you. For me it was 1. accurately portraying instrument and vocal tonalities, 2. the ability to deliver the music’s dynamic swings, 3. to sound as close to a live performance as possible, 4. and be non-fatiguing.
After multiple auditions of many hours each, I decided on the Daedalus Audio Ulysses and placed an order for a pair in ebonized walnut. Communicating with Daedalus Audio’s Lou Hinkley was a joy. A professional musician himself, Lou designs his speakers and uses materials that virtually guarantees reproducing musical events in the most natural and realistic way. The Daedalus Audio website is a good source for additional information as well as numerous reviews and comments that can be found on various audiophile websites.
The Ulysses arrived at my door in early June. I opened the boxes and was taken by how the ebonized walnut had the look of fine furniture. With eager anticipation I hooked them up, powered up the equipment, and sat down for a listen.
Right out of the box the sound was superb although I was told by Lou and other owners the speakers need about 100 hours of play to start sounding their best. Compared to the ProAcs, the Ulysses have a richer tonality, smoother highs, deeper bass, and a greater sense of musical fullness and scale. The sound is relaxed and natural with all frequencies blending well as from a single source. One feels drawn into the music as it washes over you rather than feeling the sound is being projected at you.
I immediately rotated through the stack of CDs I used for auditions:
Holst, The Planets; Jupiter; orchestral work, dynamically delivered and instruments beautifully layered in the soundstage
McCoy Tyner, New York Reunion; intimate performance with great interplay among the musicians; sounds like they’re jamming right in the room with me
Alan Broadbent, You and the Night and the Music; piano performance; I can hear and feel the power of the piano as the hammers hit the strings
Jazz at the Pawnshop; ah, the rounded sound of the vibes as they’re being struck
Holly Cole Trio, Don’t Smoke in Bed; Holly’s voice is suspended in space; rich, warm, and full of emotion
As I continue going through my music collection I’m discovering that many CDs which I thought were merely OK (such as Marsha Ball, Blue House) are filled with subtleties and a fullness of sound I hadn’t previously heard.
I can’t thank Lou enough for designing and building this outstanding speaker. If you’re in the market for new speakers, try to give the Ulysses a listen.
Opera Consonance 2.2 CD player
Rega Planar 3 turntable with Benz Micro Glider cartridge
Manley Neo-Classic 300b preamp
Manley Neo-Classic 250 amps