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Daedalus Audio Ulysses Floorstanding Speaker And Bass Optimization Woofer (Bow) Review

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Bass Optimization Woofer (Bow)

Double down

There is one easy “tweak” of the speaker which will improve performance holistically, a tweak I have done with many speakers having only one set of inputs. After using this method on several occasions with clearly superior results I now invariably double the sets of speaker cables. Just as has every other such speaker, the Ulysses perked up in a very satisfying manner, including the treble, when I did so. I strongly suggest that the prospective owner of the Ulysses procure two sets of speaker cables of their choice. I am fully aware of the existence of bi-wire sets, but these often have compromises in the total gauge as compared to two individual sets. Note well the need to get one set with spades at the speaker end and the other with bananas! You likely will not be able to attach twin sets of spades to the Ulysses’ posts.

When it comes to such methods I have no interest in arguing over electrical theory; doubling speaker cables works, and works wonderfully. My guess is that the primary benefit is in the increased total gauge, a variable I believe is primary to the attainment of superior sound. Very simply put, the more metal, the more musical nuance and grace – something which the Ulysses showcases. Perhaps at some point a magical thread of a speaker cable will force me to rescind that declaration, but having tried many skinny wires up to this point and all of them failing I’m not holding my breath for it. Regardless, if you have your favorite speaker cable and double it up you will, I can almost absolutely assure you, hear a lot more of what you like. When I did so the Ulysses gave me a lot more of what I like, more simmer!

Ulysses with Jones Audio and Pass Labs

Before I wax eloquently on the full blown system, I will share a bit about use of the Ulysses alone with two powerhouse amplifiers, the Jones Audio PA-M300-1-2 monoblocks and the Pass Labs XA-160.5 monoblocks. I assure you I had plenty of power on hand to test these high efficiency speakers! I used both of these amps with the Simaudio Moon Evolution 750D DAC/Player, the Purity Audio Design Silver Statement Preamplifier and a suite of Clarity Cables.

The Jones amps are classic high class A/B design, and the Pass Labs, a gorgeous Class A. The Ulysses easily showed the character of each amplifier. Both of these amps reside in the approximately $24k range, and both acquit themselves as such. Case in point: The XA-160.5 was the thinner of the two, as though one were contemplating the upper atmosphere verses the lower, thicker blanket of air surrounding the earth. With the Pass Labs, the microdynamics were especially notable, as decay of cymbals and telltale clues of reverberation of the recording venue were quite apparent as produced by the Ulysses. It is nearly an inviolable law of amplifier/speaker interaction that a lower efficiency speaker, say one with 4 Ohm impedance and 83 dB sensitivity will be far less lithe, less spacious sounding in comparison. The ease with which the Ulysses can be driven is a big advantage in that regard.

Conversely, the sheer brute strength, the macrodyamic grip of the PA-M300 is magnified by the ease with which the Ulysses is driven. Like a linebacker picking up a baby, even powerful passages are as nothing to the PA-M300. This leads to the sensation that the amp and the Ulysses are fast. The transient response is lightning quick and the snap of the bass string exciting.

I have seen plenty of casual comments that one can get the majority of top sound with a $5-10k component. Don’t fool yourself; you cannot. The disparity between the high end and more affordable gear is vast. In this particular case I used the discrete Opamp combinations in the Eastern Electric, see my Audio Blast Eastern Electric Minimax DAC Discrete Opamp Rolling article, in which I call it my “Digital Toolkit”, to add heft to the Pass amp and add definition to the Jones Amp. I will have more to say about both of these products in their own reviews, but in regards to the Ulysses, it responded well to both amps. Do not fear use of solid state amplification with the Ulysses. During the review period I vacillated between favor for tubes and solid state. Usually, I settle on one or the other as the preferred mode of amplification, but in this instance I was happily undecided, which says terrific things about the Ulysses. I often gently steer prospective owners toward one or the other as my impression of a speaker sets in, but I have no qualms about saying the Ulysses will highly reward either solid state or tube fans.

Take a BOW, and a crossover

On the Daedalus website Lou refers to “Subwoofers Are Essential,” a brief note from Paul McGowan of PS Audio which asserts that the ideal of a full range speaker system is 10Hz on the low side, and that one must use subs to achieve it. Only radically capable audio systems can approach that ideal; I set as an achievable target for most audiophiles 15-18 Hz, which the largest of floor standing speakers can reach. Is it necessary to supplement the Ulysses’ 28 well-crafted Hertz? The short answer is yes, if you want an ultimate experience. One only need hear the Ulysses alone versus with the BOW to realize instantly that the fullest expression of performance comes with use of the BOW.

The Ulysses is quite capable as a stand-alone full range speaker system at 28Hz-22kHz +/-2dB (love those tight specifications, Lou!). However, it is optimized by the addition of what else, a Bass Optimization Woofer or BOW, which essentially works only with the Ulysses. The tie-in with Homer’s Odyssey is unmistakable; Odysseus (Ulysses) returns home after the Trojan War disguised as a beggar to investigate his household affairs. Penelope, his wife, has been faithful, waiting twenty years for her husband to return, though many suitors have pursued her. Penelope is prompted to have an archery contest in which whoever can string Ulysses’ Bow and shoot an arrow through a dozen axe heads will take her for himself. As is the case in mythology only the incognito Ulysses can do so, thereby proving his identity and reuniting with his wife.

Lou has chosen a good name for the Bass Optimization Woofer, as it is the ideal “weapon” to complete the performance of the Ulysses. It is as close to proprietary as a physically separate woofer can get. A typical subwoofer can be used with a wide range of audiophile main speakers. Functionality, flexibility and setup of subwoofers can be surprisingly involved, but many of the better ones have several adjustments to accommodate the speakers to which they are associated.

The BOW has none of this. It is essentially a big driver in an empty, albeit extremely well built, box. I do not intend that as a derogatory description but rather a no-frills analysis to appreciate the elementary nature of the BOW. The recommended placement is approximately one foot to the side and one foot behind the Ulysses. Initially I placed it at that location but found that I preferred it parallel to the front baffle of the Ulysses. As it is so well integrated I did not find its presence there distracting.

The BOW utilizes an outboard active crossover, also ensconced in its own matching hardwood case of approximately 15” x 10” x 7”. The one I used was a prototype which was basic in functionality; to the right of the level control sit two pair of inputs linked internally so that the signal can be routed out again from the second pair direct to the amp for the Ulysses without being treated by the crossover. Think of it as a variation on jumper bars; the signal going in is immediately shipped out. Why on earth would anyone do this? It would only be done if the preamplifier being used has only one set of RCA outputs. The majority of amps do provide two sets of RCA outputs, but there are oddballs around, especially amps which are originally designed for balanced (XLR) operation.

On the left side of the level control are two outputs which carry the signal after it has been treated by the active, low pass crossover to send to the BOW only the lowest of frequencies. The active crossover is used with the BOW at all times, unlike the fixed passive crossovers for the Ulysses, which we will get to in a moment. From the preamp the signal for the BOW arrives into one of the right sets of jacks and comes out via another RCA interconnect to the amplifier used for the BOW.

The prototype lacked identification of “Left” and “Right” or “Input” and “Output,” which I assume will be marked well on the consumer model. I have hooked a lot of systems together with cables, but I had to check with Lou about the connections. Such indistinctness in connecting the speakers would stop nearly any cautious audiophile in his tracks. The proper orientation is not intuitive, as some components use the vertical arrangement for L/R inputs and outputs, while others use horizontal orientation. The correct orientation for the BOW active crossover is even more confusing; either of the top inputs can be used for either Left or Right. The key is consistency when bringing the signal out from the crossover using the left set of jacks; if the right top input is used for Left channel, then the left top output on the other side of the attenuation control is used for Left channel out. Daedalus has a verbal walkthrough of the crossover on the site, but it really needs a detailed diagram to eliminate any confusion.

I sought more information about the final design of the crossover for the BOW and learned it will have crossover point selector switch with presets to 55 Hz (standard) or 80 Hz (useful for HT). A Mono/Stereo switch has also been added. The line level inputs and outputs which were on the front of the prototype unit have been moved to the rear where the 15A IEC resides. These sound like practical, positive design decisions. From Lou’s discussion of it, I understand the crossover should be available by the time this article is published.

That covers the active crossover and BOW, but not the Ulysses itself. When used with the BOW as an integral main/woofer system the owner may obtain optional, fixed high pass crossovers which can be custom-ordered to your amplifier driving the Ulysses. Picking up the discussion of using two stereo amps, for a more economical or space-saving option, a multi-channel amp with no less than four channels can be used. Conversely, for an ultimate rig four monoblock amps might be used.), assuming the preamplifier has two sets of outputs one set will be sent to the active crossover while the other set will be sent directly to the amp governing the Ulysses speakers.

I will repeat myself for absolute clarity. While the active crossover of the BOW must always be used with them, the use of passive fixed crossovers for the Ulysses is not mandatory. If desired, the input impedance of the amp to be used for the Ulysses is sent to Daedalus and fixed crossovers will be built to perfectly mate the Ulysses to your amp. I used a set of fixed crossovers with a value of .1uf which worked for both the Pathos Classic One MkIII and the VAC Phi200 as they both have the same input impedance of 100 k Ohms.

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