I felt as though I had entered sacred space. As I walked into the huge TAD suite, designer Andrew Jones was playing Aaron Neville's recording of "Amazing Grace." Everything about the sound, the speaker layout, and the rapt silence of the full house felt like a holy shrine.
Jones went on to play a voice with which I'm very familiar, Marta Gomez, singing "Maria." I think. Whatever the track was, I didn't want to move. It was that beautiful. The clarity, timbral accuracy, and total control of the bongos were the best percussion I'd heard at the show.
Rather than playing his big babies, Andrew had hooked up the TAD Compact Reference ($37,000/pair), now in production and in final form. This baby uses the same 6" beryllium midrange unit and 1" beryllium tweeter as its big brother, the Reference 1 ($70,000/pair), and offers 85dB sensitivity, a low-end response that is specified at 6dB at 34Hz, and a treble that extends up to 100kHz.
The amplifiers were the new TAD 600W monoblocks ($53,000/pair) that Erick Lichte described in an earlier posting. In the absence of TAD's forthcoming new preamplifier, Andrew used VTL's marvelous TL-7.5 ($18,500). Equipment racks were from Harmonic Resolution.
The Neville and Gomez tracks were played back through a Zelman TNN300 fan-less computer chassis, outfitted with power supply, multiple solid-state drives, Lynx AES16 PCI card, and RAID 5 hard drives (I hope I've got that right) put together by Chris Connaker of computeraudiophile.com for Tim Marutani ($6000 with lots of storage room). Paul Stubblebine provided some files, including hi-rez remasterings of Boz Scaggs and Patricia Barber, while other high-resolution files came from Reference Recordings and Chesky.
When Andrew invited the assembled congregants to offer up music of their own, I chose the recently released recording of Beethoven's Violin Concerto, performed by Renaud Capuçon. I had already played this recording in many rooms over two days, noting which systems overemphasized the timpani thwacks, which grew bright and edgy on the violin, and which rendered Capuçon's instrument sweeter than it actually was. Swear to God and hope to die, the TAD/VTL system was the first to get it right.
The TAD loudspeaker/electronics combo is a major achievement. Bravo.