Bass response and dynamics in the upper and midbass regions were very good with little perceivable compression. In my room the CE1 easily plummeted into the mid-30Hz range with vigor and pitch definition. On the Olympic Fanfare with the National Symphonic Winds from the LP Center Stage [Wilson Audio], the CE1 reproduced a vivid range of tonal color, fearsome dynamic gradients, and considerable low-level detail upon a magisterial soundstage. This is not a track to play on loudspeakers that lay back in the upper bass and lower midrange octaves. The music should sound victorious, which is exactly the experience that the CE1 conveyed. It was equally impressive on a track like Dire Straits’ “Telegraph Road.” Punctuated by Mark Knopfler’s guitar licks, a runaway piano, and an avalanche of drum fills, the song accelerates like a train without brakes and can overwhelm a lot of good loudspeakers with the sheer dynamic range and resolution it requires. But the CE1 was capable of sorting and organizing the multi-tracked mayhem of this engineering achievement.
At its limits the CE1 doesn’t extend quite as deeply or with the same speed, dynamic impact, and control as the CR1. With the CE1 I could perceive the woofer’s limitations when I cued up Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. So, in terms of the final few hairs of overall resolution, the CR1 will outpoint the CE1. Where the CR1’s dynamic thrust and bass seem to transcend the limitations of its stand-mount birthright, the CE1 gets you 95 percent of the way there depending on your listening habits and the amount of slam you prefer.
Most importantly the magic of the CST driver has been preserved. Inter-driver coherence is excellent, and the unit’s point-source-like performance can still charge the listening space as if it were a single full-range transducer. The CST is a marvel of imaging exactitude that locks in the coordinates of vocalists and instrumentalists with surgical precision. When I listened to the DSD file of The Carpenter’s “Close To You,” each carefully balanced track (and there are a lot of them) seemed bolted into position along unwavering vertical and horizontal planes.
The CE1 allows listeners to pick up depth and dimensional components that are just this side of holographic. You can also spot elements of electronic artifice and gain acoustic insights about a recording session—the microphone patterns, spotlighting over instrumental sections, the reverb added to vocals, and sometimes even the condition of twenty-year-old shag carpeting. As I listened to violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto I could plainly hear the soloist discretely isolated from the various sections of the symphony orchestra. And again during Norah Jones’ cover of “The Nearness of You,” the vocal and piano images each had a different three-dimensional heft and front-to-back physicality. With the CST there’s always elbowroom around individual players, even in the most complex orchestral crowds. But the CST also conveys a particular style of image reproduction that some may find more persuasive than others. It tends to frame the soundstage and target images within those boundaries so finely that initially your ear needs a moment to adjust to this slightly sharper focus. It’s not unlike reorienting yourself to a ribbon speaker or a planar dipole design if your point of reference is dynamic cone drivers. Each speaks the language of music reproduction but with slightly differing accents.
By any standard the CE1 is pure TAD with all the sonic qualities and performance benchmarks that the brand is known for. But at $26,400 (with ST2 stands) the CE1 also clocks in curiously close to its full-range TAD stablemate, the $29,800 Evolution One, which offers the identical CST plus an additional woofer generating greater overall low-end extension, more effortless bass dynamics and, ironically, a smaller room footprint. So, I’m reminded of the classic line from the musical The King and I: “It’s a puzzlement.” Okay, so E1 or CE1? Obviously if the style and the stand-mount experience are paramount, there’s nothing further to say. And I think you’ve already guessed which direction I’m leaning. In any case, my hat is off to those in a position to make such choices. Either way, you’ll be enjoying one of the great pleasures of the high end.
SPECS & PRICING
Type: Three-way, bass-reflex stand-mount
Drivers: CST (1.3" tweeter/5.5" mid), 7" woofer
Frequency response: 34Hz–100kHz
Nominal impedance: 4 ohms
Sensitivity: 85dB (2.83V @ 1m)
Dimensions: 11.4" x 21.8" x 17.5"
Weight: 66 lbs.
Price: $24,000 (stands, $2400)
TECHNICAL AUDIO DEVICES LABORATORIES, INC.
1925 E. Dominguez St.
Long Beach, CA 90810