Last evening I had an audio epiphany. After 44 years in this hobby, I thought I had a good idea what was possible to achieve in 2 channel stereo in a "normal" residential living room environment.
Those who've read any of my posts know that I've had ~250 pairs of quality speakers, ranging from "budget" champs like Dynaco A-25 (my first, in 1968), to my all time fave, Apogee Divas. I've heard hundreds more. My current main system, revolving around a pair of Selah Audio Tempestas with a James EMB-1000 sub (fed by a modded Oppo BDP83-> Eastern electric minimax dac plus-> Cullen Modded PS Audio GCC-500 integrated, PS Audio Power Plant Premier, Zu cabling), is highly photographically accurate- very detailed and lifelike, with nary a flaw in the reproduction to my ears. Very clean and smooth, perhaps somewhat dry sounding, but very enjoyable.
A member of a circle of seasoned 'philes with whom I've shared the hobby for the last few years has a wonderful system- a very fine vinyl front end, plus a Mac mini music server feeding an Ayre usb dac, and Shindo pre and amp. With his previous speakers, Devore Gibbon Super 8s, the sound was spookily spacious, with good balance, detail and openess, but for a slightly bright top end and a lightweight bottom end. A great sounding system.
This friend recently took delivery of a pair of Daedalus Athenas, and after a good breakin period invited the circle over last night.
From the first note, we all knew we were hearing something special. Harmonically accurate and natural, every instrument and element was very convincingly accurate, with solid, natural bass into the mids 30s, at least, and a wonderfully detailed yet naturally easy top end.
But the most arresting feature was the immediacy of the presentation. We were no longer listening to the proverbial "open window on the performance", but the illusion that the performers, whether a cello soloist or the Count Basie band, were IN THE ROOM, in 3-d. This system went beyond photographic accuracy, such as I have in my rig, to HOLOGRAPHIC accuracy. I can't describe it any other way.
I can't truly assign credit solely to the speakers- the Shindo gear is justly famous for their immediacy and spaciousness, and the room (a seemingly normal living room) participates in some way I don't really understand, but the Athenas took everything to another level entirely from the Super 8s. I think anyone would be impressed by the improvement, and the amazing illusion produced.
I can recommend if anyone is in the market for a pair of modestly sized, beautifully finished floorstanders and wants to spend, say, $8k or more, should find a way to hear the Athenas (or their larger brothers) and if necessary, stretch the budget. These beautifully handcrafted speakers are not cheap, but they take high fidelity to the next level, in my experience.