First Listen: TAD Compact Reference Loudspeaker

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TAD Compact Reference
First Listen: TAD Compact Reference Loudspeaker

Having heard versions of the TAD Compact Reference (TAD stands for Technical Audio Devices) for a couple years now I wasn’t believing my eyes a couple weeks ago when this speaker finally appeared on my doorstep. But there it was. Well, not quite my doorstep. It was accompanied by a couple of strong gentlemen who unpacked the four boxes (two for the stands). Also, Andrew Jones, engineer and chief designer extraordinare behind the TAD Reference One and Compact Reference. After bolting them down to their stands and taking a few moments to position, it took all of about three minutes or so of listening to realize that the TAD maybe the greatest stand-mounted speaker I’ve ever encountered if not one of the best speakers period. It combines the warmth, weight, majesty,  and soundstage of a floorstander with the image focus and precision of a small compact. There's a harmonic complexity and a naturalistic bloom and a musical rightness that simply hits you between the eyes. There’s a calm to this speaker and though it can be physically forceful –virtually pinning you to your seat with impact– it never sounds “hi-fi” or forced, etched or edgy.

How does it do this? Expensively for one. The pure beryllium diaphragms of the coincident midrange & tweeter (formally known as the CST for Coherent Source Transducer) cover the range from 250Hz to 100kHz. It’s a completely proprietary in-house design that you won’t see anywhere else except on the TAD flagship Ref One. Combine that with a short coil, long gap 8** woofer with a tri-laminate cone of woven aramid fibers sandwiching a foam acrylic cone plus a multi-compartment enclosure of extreme rigidity and driver isolation and a myriad of other design and technical achievements  too lengthy to delve into here and the result is a speaker of such tonal expression and sensitivity to the source that you will find, as I’ve found, that it’s difficult to wrestle yourself away from it. I’m still in the “getting to know you” phase of this evaluation and am just getting a grip on its overall character (it does have one BTW) and sonic limits but thus far my jaw remains on the floor. Price: $37,000/pair. http://tad-labs.com

TAD Compact Reference
TAD-CR1
Type: three-way dynamic driver in bass reflex cabinet
Drivers: One concentric with 1 3/8** tweeter and 6.5** midrange; one 8** woofer
Frequency Response: 32Hz-100kHz
Sensitivity: 86dB
Impedance: 4 ohms
Dimensions: 24.7** x 13.4** x 17.5**
Weight: 101 lbs

detail of CST driver (above)
Back panel detail (Below)