I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to make introductions for all of these products in play, but I’m going to do it anyway. As the players in this round of musical royal-rumble have some disparity between their asking prices, and with that some context is needed.
Firstly I’ll start with the Apollo loudspeaker from Daedalus Audio. Lou Hinkley of Daedalus describes the Apollo as their “desert island” speaker. It’s the smallest in the Apollo lineup, but is capable of producing full scale dynamics with ease. It features a three-driver array (10-inch woofer, 5-inch mid-range, 1-inch dome tweeter – per side) that functions more like a point-source than you’d expect. The front baffles are angled inward toward the listener, which works well for near field listening if that be your chosen application, but also for helping to assuage first reflections on side walls in the more typical two-channel implementations.
Secondly, and completely out of order, the LampizatOr Pacific DAC and Super Komputer (music server). The DAC sits at the top of the heap in both terms of the brand and within the market competition when it comes to tube DACs. The Pacific DAC is not a DAC-of-the-week type product. It’s an heirloom piece of electronics, and it’s built to express that level of quality in both sound and physical design.
Thirdly, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. The VAC Statement 450i iQ Integrated Amplifier, which is a cost no object integrated that in atypical fashion later spawned a stereo amplifier version of itself, it’s that good. The Statement 450i iQ builds upon the prior art of the Statement separate components. Conceptually the 450i includes a Statement 450S iQ power amplifier, a Statement Line Stage, and phono stage with multiple inputs, variable gain, and adjustable loading. Power supply arrangements are dual mono throughout, with six main power transformers for left and right power amplifier, left and right line stage, and left and right phono stage. The internal topology is fully balanced.
VAC’s patented iQ Continuous Stable Automatic Bias System keeps the KT88 output tubes set at the intended operating point at all times for better sound, protection, and automatic indication of when tubes should be replaced. As far as numbers are concerned I’ll leave you with two important ones — 225-watts per channel, and 400lbs in it’s custom shipping case.
I’ve heard all of the Apollo series loudspeakers before. Bigger and not so bigger. This being the smallest, I didn’t expect this to be one of the best Apollo or Daedalus experiences I’ve ever had. New heights for the Apollo loudspeaker were reached in terms of disappearing acts, imaging, resolution, and unbridled tone quality.
The LampizatOr DAC by outward appearance alone may come across as some tubey, squishy, lush, and warm sounding device. It is not. I remember the first time I heard it, I was surprised that it imparted none of these colors or colorations (yes, there’s a difference there). The Pacific is one of the paramount devices in terms of clean and exacting digital presentations through the glory of tubes.
The VAC Integrated didn’t punish or bully it’s way to the front of the pack, instead it blended perfectly with all the associated equipment lifting all ships as the sonic waters grew deeper. The takeaway from this experience is best distilled into two clauses.
1) The Daedalus Apollo when attached to $150K worth of preamp and amplifier does not hide or inhibit the upgrades, they play right along with them as if they’ve been there before.
2) The Statement 405i iQ Integrated when attached to anything, will make it sound profoundly better. Even when the prior electronics used were already considered top of the class. Proof that a $150K integrated amplifier matters.