Technical & Editorial

Daedalus Speaker Upgrade

I've been enjoying my Daedalus 2.1 speakers in my stereo setup ever since I reviewed and bought them in 2008.

When Lou Hinkley of Daedalus told me about an upgrade to the crossovers that he was very excited about I was interested but not nearly as excited as he was. A fellow audiophile had chided me for saying a certain cable or tweak made a 'huge difference'. I had to admit that when we say 'huge difference' we usually mean that in reference to how much difference we could reasonably expect. Those of us who have heard and are not philosophically or otherwise opposed to the difference that a speaker cable can make are nonetheless still somewhat surprised by it all and hence the phrase 'huge difference'. I don't recall if Lou used that exact phrase but that was certainly the message.

Now, I guess the question would be how much difference can we expect from a crossover change? Certainly a badly designed crossover is a sonic disaster and correcting basic mistakes there would be huge (so to speak) but this upgrade does not change the design in any way. All of the component values and crossover frequencies remain the same. Rather, the upgrade consists of replacing the components and wiring with higher quality versions of the same thing. Most importantly the capacitors are all upgraded to 'audiophile' hand-made polypropylene. Unfortunately such capacitance does not come cheap. And many are required. The larger physical size of poly caps means that it takes multiple polypropylene caps to achieve the same capacitance as an electrolytic. One particular capacitor on the original crossover board is replaced with a gang of 13 polypropylene caps on a separate board. I think this multitude of caps is the main reason that the total cost for the upgrade is $1550 for a pair of 2.1's.
That upgrade cost does not include shipping which would of course be considerable. Since Daedalus Audio is located near the San Juan islands and I'm in Portland, OR I saved the shipping costs by waiting until Lou was passing through Portland, having him pick up the speakers and then driving up there myself for the return trip. Of course the gas to make the 4 hour drive wasn't cheap but did I mention the San Juan islands? See above.

I also took the chance to visit the Daedalus world headquarters, perhaps more aptly described as a wood working shop. As mentioned in the review one of the primary design features of the Daedalus line is the 100% hardwood construction. This happens in a shop. Not glamorous but highly effective.

So, how did the upgrade sound? In a word, huge. Yes it's relative to how these speakers used to sound before the upgrade which I typically described as 'amazing'. I'll probably continue to use that word unless I can come up with something better. I really wish I could do an A-B comparison on this upgrade but I was without the speakers for about 3 weeks so it's all based on my memory. The main difference is transparency. The speakers get out of the way more and let the finer points of voices and midrange instruments come through.They sound 'faster'.

Transparency is also a word I associate with relaxing (not relaxed) and easy to listen to. This has more to do with how the listener feels while listening than something that we can point to in the sound. There is just an ease in how the speakers move from one note to the next that makes the listener feel at easel. In the bass area the effect is easy to identify. I don't think there is any more energy in the bass region, ie, the lows don't extend any lower but very clearly the bass notes are better articulated. For bass notes our ears and minds are willing to fill in details, or not notice their absence. With this upgrade that becomes less necessary as the texture of a plucked bass note or bass drum is more clearly defined. It seems like speaker designers are able to squeeze more and more out of smallish bass drivers (the 2.1's have 8" woofers). I miss my old 15" woofers in my Goldsound speakers less and less these days.

Lou Hinkley reports that the crossover upgrade will sound even better over a long break in period. For various reasons I haven't been able to just leave music playing for a long period so I'll report back when and if I hear a difference.