I have a musician friend who does an extensive amount
of home recording, who once asked me a question to which I still don't have a
good answer: Why is it that loudspeakers designed for home use sound
different than 'monitor' speakers designed for recording studios? The
answer to this question gets right to the heart of an audiophile conundrum:
What are we trying to achieve here? A recreation of the live performance or
of what is on the master tape in the studio? Something else? An enjoyable
listening experience perhaps?
Enter the Daedalus DA-1 speakers. Designed by a
musician who like the friend I mentioned above, seeks the proper 'tone' in
whatever he is listening to, these speakers break a few rules and establish
an important, incredibly enjoyable reference point in the live
performance/master tape debate.
The most striking feature of the Daedalus speaker line
is that they are made of 100% hardwood. No MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard).
While this makes a difference in the appearance, especially if you
appreciate fine woodworking, this was also a choice made for sound. Specifically
MDF is standard issue for 99.9% of speakers made, regardless of
price, because of its sonic deadening characteristics (the way it doesn’t
sound). Lou Hinkley, the man behind Daedalus Audio, chose to use only
natural hardwoods because of the way they do sound. The
speakers are available in Oak, Cherry, or Walnut, but in all cases the front
baffle is made of Walnut backed by Baltic Birch, and the back panel is also
made of Baltic Birch.
I was worried that this implied that the cabinets
would vibrate when the music was cranked, but that was not the case. Using
the trusty fingers on the side, back and wherever else test, while played
loud, revealed that these cabinets are tighter than most. I've done this
test on speakers costing substantially more (now that's getting up there)
and felt nothing, but that is rare. With the Daedalus, there is only a small
vibration present, as I would expect, but it does seem to be of a different
character than other speakers. Perhaps higher in frequency but also more
localized and I would characterize it as 'tighter'.
cabinets have extensive internal bracing specifically to keep the vibrations
down. Also, the crucial midrange driver is isolated from its compatriots by
its own internal cabinet. The two bass drivers also enjoy their own space.
There are three ports located on the lower rear of the speaker for the
One final word on the cabinet construction, it may not
be readily apparent in photographs, but the front baffle is not parallel with
the rear of the speaker, evident when viewed from above. It also slopes
backwards just slightly, and more on one side than the other, as can be seen
when viewed from the side. In other words, this is not a perfectly
rectangular box. All of this helps to reduce the possibility of internal
vibrations and standing waves, but it also gives the speakers a visual appeal. The visual effect
is subtle, but along the lines of a Salvador Dali painting, your eye is drawn
along the edges as it tries to sort out what your mind thinks is supposed to
be a normal box.
The crossover is a time-aligned two-and-a-half-way design
so the two 8" woofers cover different portions of the bass. The 5" midrange
covers a wide range, uninterrupted by crossover foolishness, and two, count
‘em two Vifa silk dome tweeters get the rest. The tweeters are offset from
each other by about 10 degrees so that one is pointing slightly left and the
other is pointing slightly right. The amount of energy going to the tweeters
can be tuned by a three position toggle switch on the rear of the speakers,
near the (five-way) binding posts. The midrange and woofer drivers are all
paper, custom built to Daedalus' specifications.
Center Channel One is all much the same design except it is laid out
horizontally. The two tweeters are in the same vertical array but there are
two mids and two woofers opposite each other. The lowest woofer of the
DA-1s is removed. The Center One is about five times bigger than most any
other center channel speaker I can think of. It is designed for large rooms,
to be hung from the ceiling PA style, or placed on the floor with the stands
provided, which is how I listened to it. None of the Daedalus speaker line is
magnetically shielded. They did not interfere with my 65" Mits rear
projector, but they did interfere with the computer monitor of my home
theater PC which was about the same distance away – 2 feet.
In yet another departure from most speakers sold today.
The DA-1s do not come with spikes. Lou Hinkley does not rule them out,
though, and offers them as a $250 option. I auditioned the speakers as they came, with
their own heavy rubber feet.
All of the hardwoods used in the Daedulus’ come from
renewable, North American forests, so there is a lot to feel good about with
that. Not so with MDF by the way which, because it is constructed of
leftover wood chips and not a small amount of glue, may literally make you
feel bad as it produces some unhealthy gases (called outgassing) for a while after it is made.
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to Part II.