I’ve always been intrigued at audio shows by Lou Hinkley’s Daedalus Audio, a custom speaker company located in the the chill Northwestern U.S. Like other West Coast speaker builders (Sean Casey of Zu Audio comes to mind…), Lou strikes me as the kind who likes to do things his own way. For starters, his speakers are constructed out of solid wood, as opposed to veneer-coated MDF or some funky space-age material. As such, Hinkley’s woody creations often seem a cut above (ha, ha…) the rest, both in terms of appearance and sound. Daedalus speakers put me more in the mind of musical instruments than simple sound transducers.
At this year’s Capital Audio Fest, Daedalus was debuting their newest and most expensive speaker, the 96-dB efficient Apollo 11, and what a beauty it was. During my first visit to the room, some lower-fi rock’n’roll music was playing, and the system didn’t exactly jump out at me as terribly noteworthy. However, a bit later, Lou invited me to listen to his new 45 rpm pressing of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s album “Can’t Stand the Weather,” from which he played the track Tin Pan Alley. OK, now I was getting a taste of what these speakers were really capable of doing. I had my computer out, trying to take down some listening notes, and just couldn’t do it, as I was so entranced by the music. I can’t imagine Stevie Ray sounding much more bluesy and soulful, short of a live performance. The Apollo 11s, powered by a full suite of ModWright Ambrose amplification all tied together with WyWire cabling, threw down some seriously lush tone, coupled with loads of texture and extension, seemingly placing the artists there in the room. I could really feel the notes from the kick drum and electric bass pounding against my chest, just like at a concert. Yeah, like I was there… The tubed 30 Watt Ambrose amps had no trouble whatsoever driving these mammoth speakers to concert-hall volumes, and with no sense of strain or distortion. I thought the emotion of the music really shone through.
I’ve heard Lou’s artful creations at a few big shows, and I’m certain that this was the best sound I’ve heard him get in such a venue. Apparently, other folks who frequent these events felt the same way based on commentary I heard after the fact.
What can I say? The Apollo 11s may be one small step for Lou Hinkley, but one giant leap for audio nuts everywhere.
- Here’s what was playing (All prices in USD):
- Daedalus Audio Apollo 11 Speakers $22,800
- ModWright Ambrose A30 monoblock amplifiers $16,000
- ModWright Ambrose One preamplifier $12,000
- ModWright PH 150 Phono Stage $7,900
- ModWright Modded OPPO disc player/DAC $2,500
- ModWright Modded OPPO Sonica DAC $2,500
- WyWires Diamond Series Power Broker AC dist. $4,495
- WyWires Diamond Series Interconnects $4,495
- WyWires Silver Series Power Cords $429
- WyWires Diamond Series Speaker Cables $7,999
- WyWires/Daedalus Power Broker AC dist. $2,495
- WyWires Platinum Series Digital Cables $899