T+A elektroakustik is a major high-end presence in Europe with 120 dealers in Germany alone. Deliberately and incrementally, T+A has been working on achieving greater visibility in markets worldwide. Central to this effort for 15 years has been James Shannon, T+A’s Export Sales Manager, who visited me briefly last December to confirm that the estimable Talis S 300 loudspeakers were performing as they were supposed to. One nuance is worth passing along. Not once in the several hours we spent together did Shannon refer to his employer as T and A—as he probably should, as that’s shorthand for Theory and Application (Theorie und Anwendung in German)—but as T plus A. That small edit, which I fully embrace, diminishes the tendency for the smirking and giggling that, inevitably, ensues after “T and A” has been spoken aloud a few times. Now if you decide to further investigate this lovely speaker and visit one of the company’s 21 North American dealers—more are coming onboard in the near future—you won’t have the experience of saying “I’d like to check out the T and A,” and have the gentleman behind the counter direct you to a dive bar down the street.
T+A makes nearly every category of audio product, including digital and analog electronics, turntables, cables, power conditioners…and loudspeakers. TAS has reviewed several offerings within the past few years. In Issue 260, Alan Taffel was greatly impressed with both the performance and value of the PA 3000 HV integrated amplifier and MP 3000 HV music player; Neil Gader was enthusiastic about a similar combination, the PA 2500 R and MP 2000 R MKII in TAS 275. Robert Harley gave top marks to the $22,800 PDP 3000 HV CD/SACD player and DAC in 268; it was on his recommendation that I auditioned and purchased the less costly but nonetheless world-class DAC 8 DSD. But we had yet to consider a T+A loudspeaker.
Which is surprising, as T+A began life as a speaker company in 1978. Its founder, Siegfried Amft, studied plasma physics at university (as they say in Europe) but also took classes with Dr. Fritz Sennheiser, of microphone and headphone fame, who became a mentor. The young Amft decided he’d like to get into the audio business himself, and as loudspeakers required the least amount of initial investment, that’s the path he took. Fortunately, an early product was a big success. The Criterion transmission-line models, introduced in 1982, remain in production and Amft is still running the company. Over the years, T+A’s development team, which now includes 13 graduate-level engineers, pioneered a number of significant innovations such as active and, later, digital speaker designs. The current loudspeaker lineup includes a range of technologies, aesthetic values, and price points, ranging from the Solitaire series (T+A’s largest and most expensive speakers, which employ a one-of-a-kind electrostatic midrange/treble driver) to the much more affordable Pulsar models. The Talis series includes the two-way R 300 bookshelf speaker at $9900 a pair, and the three-way S 300 floorstander, $13,900 per pair and the subject of this review.
The Talis S 300 is easy on the eyes—a sleek, solid, aluminum tower available in either a silver or black anodized finish. The front surface measures 8.3" across and curves gracefully backward to a rear aspect just 4" wide. The S 300 is 11" deep and, without spikes, 41.4" high. The wall of the enclosure is fairly thin, maximizing internal volume without compromising strength or rigidity: The Talis S 300 weighs 72.8 pounds, about 50 pounds less than the similarly sized Magico S1 Mk2, another extruded aluminum design. A sound-absorbing material is applied to the S 300’s internal walls.
Unlike a number of American high-end speaker makers, T+A doesn’t own CNC or surface-mount machines to fabricate parts for its wide range of products. Rather, the metalwork and manufacture of other components are assigned to outside companies, often German ones. For example, T+A has circuit boards made at a technologically advanced Siemens facility that is literally across the street from its own factory complex in Herford, a town of 65,000 in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The Talis’ aluminum drivers are built to T+A’s specifications from parts manufactured by two long-term suppliers in Asia and then assembled in China. Intent on assuring that no one can copy its drivers, T+A owns all the tools required to make the baskets, cones, voice coils, spiders, and surrounds.
The S 300 employs a 1" (25mm) dome tweeter, operating out to beyond 30kHz, a 4.72" (120mm) midrange, and two 6" (150mm) woofers that cover the same frequency range and function in parallel; crossover frequencies are 250Hz and 2200Hz. A waveguide for the tweeter is machined into the baffle to assure that the HF driver’s dispersion characteristics remain smooth, even at the tweeter’s handover to the midrange. The Talis is a bass-reflex design with two ovoid ports at the rear of the loudspeaker. Two sets of speaker terminals are connected by a reassuringly robust jumper cable, in the event you’re not bi-wiring. Fabric-covered perforated-metal grilles attach magnetically to the front baffle—these certainly don’t look to be acoustically transparent, and I did all my listening with them removed.