In the Bayshore Ballroom: Technical Audio Devices

Japan's TAD had two rooms at FLAX, including the large Bayshore ballroom, which itself contained two systems, each with two pairs of speakers. Both systems wowed me even though an intermittent internet connection affected streaming playback.

With TAD CEO Shinji Tarutani in attendance and with Pro Audio Devices (PAD) and Malekpour Design Partners' Dave Malekpour and publicist Jaclyn Inglis shepherding the proceedings, I listened first to the smaller, extremely punchy-sounding rig. It consisted of the TAD-D1000TX-S SACD Player ($21,000), TAD-DA1000TX Third Gen DAC ($15,900), a new 2023 TAD-C1000 Evolution Series Preamp ($24,950), and a TAD-M1000-K/S two-channel Evolution Power Amplifier ($19,500, rated at 500Wpc into 4 ohms). The system drove a choice of two speakers: the three-way TAD-CE1TX-WN Compact Evolution TX standmounts ($32,500/pair; see Herb Reichert's review) and the TAD GE1 Grand Evolution floorstanders ($65,000/pair; review forthcoming).

With the GE1 floorstanders playing, Tool's "Chocolate Chip Trip" was absolutely riveting via the big TAD system, a low noise floor aiding Danny Carey's smooth, storming drum solo as it spread across a huge stereo field with beautiful tone and a stage as deep as the cosmos—which incidentally Tool often references in their occult-themed tunes. John Coltrane and Duke Ellington's "Take the Coltrane" sounded warm, woody, and wonderful until Trane's solo failed, never to play again, due to a bad connection

On the other side of the large ballroom, against the wall, the TAD-D700 SACD Reference Player ($63,000), TAD-M700S Stereo Reference Power Amplifier ($60,500), TAD-M700 Mono Block Power Amplifiers ($96,500/pair drove the TAD-CR1TX-BR Compact Reference One standmounts ($87,500/pair) or the TAD-R1TX-BR Ultimate Reference One floorstanders ($160,000/pair).

After listening to the smaller TAD rig, the big system, with the giant Ultimate Reference Ones, took some getting used to. My head soon adjusted, as Malekpour streamed Joni Mitchell's "All I Want," Al DiMeola's "Splendido Sundance," and drummer Ferit Odman's "On A Misty Night." Total immersion: rich tone, sprightly attack, detailed images that cascaded like mana—have I gone poof and ascended to hi-fi heaven? For these prices, I should—but it doesn't always happen, at any price.

TAD even made Diana Krall's breathy ballyhoo sound good. I'm convinced. Mark Henninger's video follows. As I wrote in an earlier post: Surprisingly, you can get a taste of the sound of the larger system if you listen with good headphones.

Also in the Bayshore ballroom: Studio Float Jocavi Acoustic Panels, Brooks and Family Timbernation Hardwood Racks, and Wolf Audio Systems servers.