It seems like I’ve covered the Daedalus/ModWright pairing at audio shows for longer than I have been going to audio shows. Impossible, sure, but it’s worth underlining the point — these guys have been teaming up to provide sonic joy for a while and for a reason. What reason? They sound damn good — and damn good together.
Lou Hinkley’s all-wood approach to building Daedalus Audio loudspeakers is controversial, but like most controversies in high-end audio, the debate seems unconnected to actual experience. You can rant and rave all you like about “what things ought to sound like” but until you hear “what things actually do sound like”, the debate is just absurd on its face. Fact: the room at AXPONA was a case in point in a long running stream of examples for how to make great sound.
The Argos is now in Version 2, and retails for $12,950. Like every speaker in the lineup, the Argo looks like hand-crafted artisan furniture and would really not be out of place in any living room where your friends and family can appreciate it as a functional sculpture. It’s pretty. Not your cuppa? Well, you are wrong. It’s still pretty. The upgrade to the Argo is largely internal, and while Lou is generally mum about the exact nature of these in-line production upgrades, “better bits” in the signal path are among them, as are “better bracing” for the extremely dense and robust cabinetry.
Here paired with the familiar $9,995 LS 36.5 DM preamplifier from ModWright Instruments, a two-box balanced pre with a dual mono, tube rectified and tube regulated, external PSU. The $8,495 KWA 150 Signature amplifier was providing the juice.
The Elyse DAC (pricing is still TBD; availability later this summer) decoded the tunes. Elyse is a tubed affair with 24bit/192kHz support that happens to be a Class-A and Lundahl-transformer coupled both in and out. The power supply is tube rectified and, choke regulated with dual-discrete solid-state voltage regulation. It’s zero feedback. There are no coupling capacitors. Inputs for S/PDIF, AES and USB. Did I mention that the data and clock are buffered? Yeah. This is a no-joke DAC.
But that’s not all — the Elyse was there for only some of the tunes. Also here (and new) was the introduction of the $7,900 PH 150 Tube Phono Stage (available in May). All options are available right from some handy (and chunky!) front-mounted knobs. Gain ranges from 52dB to 72dB for MM and MC carts, with user-selecteable steps in between, and all the loading options you could ask for are available. The power supply is external, and is solid-state rectified and regulated. A VPI turntable topped the rack.
The sound here was surprisingly real-sounding. I’ve always been impressed with the dynamics and timbre that this gear presents. Reference quality, and even if the Westin Hotel’s square room provided some challenges, that was common throughout the show and not related to the rather prodigious power that the Argos can generate.
Not sure what else Dan Wright has up his sleeve for ModWright, but I’m thinking that it’s now possible to build an entire system around his brand, regardless of source (assuming you’re not looking to add tape). Matched up with the more organic looks of the Daedalus line, the juxtaposition with the industrial ModWright chic is the kind of old/new thinking that makes this industry interesting and audio shows a must-see (and not just a must-hear).
WyWires presented their new Platinum line of cabling, used throughout, along with their Silver Series of power cords and digital cables. A WyWires/Daedalus joint-venture Power Broker ($2,499) distribution system tied that back-end together. The rack was made by Daedalus Audio.