Review: Daedalus Audio Ulysses Speaker

Category: Speakers

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.

Associated gear
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
Nice review. I have a bit of trouble getting past the idea of two tweeters, but I know that Daedalus is not the only company doing it. What's the benefit?
the two tweeters in the DA-1.1 & 2.1 are primarily to widen the sweetspot. it's a tricky design process, maintaining a solid image while making the sweetspot room sized, this took a while to get right. ; )

of course another benefit is higher efficiency and power handling, i'm a firm believer of never pushing a driver anywheres near it's power limit. i feel that much of the fatigue and distortion comes from pushing drivers to 30% or more of their capacity. for the Ulysses these were the main considerations to using two tweeters. again this was not a case of just slapping two drivers in the baffle, it took a bit of design and research to get this. the end result though is even better imaging than if we'd just used one tweeter.
Sweet dreams are made of these. I can only hope to own a pair in the future. Thanks for the review! Are you using the isolation stands with these or?
Yes, I'm using the stands. They raise the speakers about 9" and put the tweeters at ear level.
Fwinston, Thanks for the quick reply. Maybe Daedalus can chime in with why the speaker wasn't designed with the tweeter at a normal ear level rather than forcing the buyer to also get stands. Looking at it I took it to be a full-range floorstander but maybe it is actually considered a very large monitor?
there are a few reasons the speaker wasn't built without stand;
1. that would have changed the cabinet volume/dimensions
2. the larger cabinet would have been much more expensive than the stands, it would have pushed some dimensions past a 'tipping point' where the cost would be radically disproportionate to the additional size.
3. it would only be able to be shipped by freight, in many cases this would increase shipping costs radically.
4. the stands are actually a two piece design and offer flexibility in terms of height and appearance. we have even done custom heights.

the last is a major concern for me as i try to design for flexibility, people have many different needs and i try to accommodate that.

lou hinkley
Lou, Thanks for the explanation. Those are definitely valid points and I certainly appreciate flexability. Will you be showing at RMAF this year?
yes, i'll be in room 1030 as always, (the suite at the end of the hall 10th floor).
we'll be using the Art/Gill Audio pre & DAC and Dynamic Design cables. i haven't decided on power amps yet but it will be high power tubes. Clayton plans to use my Ulysses speakers for their room, this is a great match and i would like to offer tubes since Clayton very nicely cover solid state. i used the Clayton at THE show this year and they are very, very good!
i look forward to seeing you there
Manley Neo-Classic 300b amps are $13,200 each, that's $26,400 for 2. Did you start and sell off your own company to earn such dollars? You are certainly a fortunate guy for such equipment. We all choose our path in life which if often affected by skill, hard work, helpful mentors, and luck to be at the right time, right place. Wish I could travel, at least  a little bit,down that path with you. Your equipment chain is exceptional & is likely more than the payoff amount for my home mortgage. Suggestions please to get that cost of entry?