TAD Micro Evolution One loudspeaker John Atkinson March 2018

John Atkinson wrote about the TAD ME One in March 2018 (Vol.41 No.3):

Visiting Herb Reichert's Bed-Stuy bunker to pick up the KEF Q350 loudspeakers, which he reviews elsewhere in this issue, I let slip that I was thinking of giving a listen to the pair of TAD Micro Evolution One speakers reviewed by Thomas J. Norton in the February issue (footnote 1).

"You should—you're going to like what you hear," promised Herb, who'd been listening to a pair of the stand-mounted, three-way TADs at Steve Guttenberg's. Tom Norton had also liked what he'd heard: "In my months of living with the ME1s, I can't recall a single instance of obvious midrange problems with otherwise good recordings. Instrumental timbres were convincingly reproduced. . . . Nor was I disappointed by the ME1s' excellent soundstaging, which excelled in both depth and width when the recording cooperated." He concluded: "The Micro Evolution One is a remarkable speaker. Highly recommended."

I set up the TAD ME1s on 24"-tall Celestion stands, the single pillars of which were filled with lead shot and sand. The speakers were placed closer to the room boundaries than the floorstanding GoldenEar Technology Triton References, which I'd reviewed in January 2018—in fact, close to the positions my current reference stand-mounted speakers, KEF's LS50s, usually occupy. My system was an NAD M50.2 music server feeding S/PDIF data to an MBL Noble N31 DAC, this linked to an NHT Passive Volume Control and first a pair of Pass Laboratories XA60.8 monoblock amplifiers, then a pair of Lamm Industries M1.2 Reference monoblocks. (The Lamms were used with their output-stage bias current set for speakers of "1–6 ohms.") The electronics were all plugged into an AudioQuest Niagara 5000 Low-Z Power/Noise-Dissipation System, which I've found does indeed make black backgrounds sound blacker.

The 1/3-octave warble tones on Editor's Choice (CD, Stereophile STPH016-2) were reproduced at full level from 200Hz down to the 80Hz band, with then a slight boost of the 63Hz tone. The 50, 40, and 32Hz tones were shelved down slightly, and the 25 and 20Hz tones were inaudible. With the latter two tones, however, I could hear no wind noise from the slots on the enclosure sides. With dual-mono pink noise from the same CD the tonal balance was even and uncolored, and didn't appreciably change as I moved my ears above and below the tweeter axis.

After the time I spent with the full-range GoldenEars, the TAD's bass sounded on the light side—TJN had found some boundary reinforcement of the low frequencies helpful. However, the ME1s offered superb clarity and definition in the bass. With "I Say," from Happy Rhodes's HR5 (16-bit/44.1kHz ALAC, Aural Gratification), there were enough of the low-frequency underpinnings to drive the track along, and the speaker's clarity in the lower mids worked a treat on the chugging-along percussion figures. As TJN noted, the ME1's midrange and treble were uncolored, and there was an addictive purity to its high frequencies. I commented a few months ago that while the sound quality of Stevie Winwood's Greatest Hits Live (2 CDs, Wincraft/Thirty Tigers WM002) is generally excellent, "While You Take a Chance" is an unfortunate exception. Yet when I played this track through the TADs, my dissatisfaction with the sound seemed misplaced. Yes, it still didn't sound as natural as I would have liked, but the ME1s allowed me to put such audiophile issues to one side and let the music wash over me.

The dual-mono pink-noise track on Editor's Choice produced a narrow, stable central image that didn't splash to one side or widen at any frequencies. TAD owners can thus be certain that the speakers will accurately decode the imaging information on their recordings. Robert Silverman's recent performance of Beethoven's Piano Sonata 32, Op.111 (MQA-encoded 24/88.2 FLAC file, the first unfolding performed by the NAD M50.2, Silver Lining/Audio High) was reproduced with only a small degree of ambience around the piano—the recording seems to have been made in a fairly dry room—but the image of the piano reproduced by the ME1s was stable and tangible.

Fig.1 TAD ME1, spatially averaged, 1/6-octave response in JA's listening room (red), and of Dynaudio Contour 20 (blue).

Listening done, I measured the TAD's spatially averaged response in my room (footnote 2). The result is shown as the red trace in fig.1. The ME1's output gently slopes down in the lower midrange and bass, but, as noted above, there's useful low-frequency extension in-room down to 30Hz. The upper-frequency in-room response is superbly even, and while a gentle measured top-octave rolloff can be seen, I feel that this is actually more neutral in-room behavior, given the increased absorptivity of the room furnishings in the high treble.

The blue trace in fig.1 is the spatially averaged response of the Dynaudio Contour 20, which had impressed me when I reviewed it in May 2017 and wrote that it is indeed "a high-performance loudspeaker with a transparent sound." The Dynaudio's in-room response is not quite as even as the TAD's, and there's a little less energy in-room above 8kHz, but it's otherwise very similar. While the speakers are very different, other than both being stand-mounted speakers of similar size, I suspect that this is a case of convergent evolution.

Herb and Tom were right: It may be expensive, but TAD's Micro Evolution One is indeed a special loudspeaker.—John Atkinson

Footnote 1: The TAD ME1 costs $12,495/pair (stands, $1795/pair).

Footnote 2: I average 20 1/6-octave–smoothed spectra, individually taken for the left and right speakers using an Earthworks QTC-40 microphone, SMUGSoftware's FuzzMeasure 3.0 program, and a 96kHz sample rate, in a rectangular grid 36" wide by 18" high and centered on the positions of my ears. This mostly eliminates the room acoustic's effects.

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spacehound's picture

One on the 'marketplace', the other on the speaker itself.

I am pleased to see that TAD has now become a serious player in high end 'domestic' speakers, and quite a popular one. It is good to see a 'real' manufacturer, as opposed to what I call 'a few guys in a garden shed' making speakers and selling them through tiny 'specialist' dealers that only hifi 'enthusiasts' ever visit.
And a major manufacturer such as Pioneer has FAR more resources to call on than the 'garden shed' (or as a maximum, some small industrial unit) manufacturers so is likely to make better speakers. Who are these 'garden shed' outfits? You can guess the two I mostly have in mind :-)
It works, too. I live near Southampton, UK. There are no less than three central 'high street' television/AV/audio shops that carry a small stock of TAD speakers or will quickly obtain them for a 'listen' as they have dealt with Pioneer for many years.

Why do I like it? It is enlarging the marketplace so 'legitimising' it to some extent. The small manufacturers cannot do those things.

The speakers.
As a fan of Tannoy dual-concentric (coincident) speakers I have known that Tannoy have been right all along for fifty years plus, and other manufacturers such as KEF, and now TAD, are confirming that correctness.
However, at 12,000 dollars the price is a nonsense. You can buy Tannoys with ten or twelve inch 'coincident' drive units for that and they sound amazing. And KEF are not far behind.

Whatever you say about this TAD it remains a small squeaky speaker with no real bottom end. No sane person will pay 12,000 dollars for that. It just isn't hifi, though I am sure it is as good as you will get in a small box. Even calling a six and a half inch driver a 'woofer' is nuts, though nowadays everyone does it.

For both of my reasons above, were I to change from my present Tannoys, TAD is the first place I would look, though not at these particular speakers.

prerich45's picture

This is Dave in Milton, nice review and nice measurements! The TAD looks really good with the Rel added on. I see you have given them the nod for Class A (Restricted Extreme LF)...with that said, you also mentioned that other companies can give the TAD's an sincere challenge. Would that statement lead me to believe that we may have other Class A (RE LF) speakers that are far less expensive than the TAD?

hb72's picture

thanks for interesting review! I see lots of text about bass and whether it is sufficient or not: here my thoughts about it:
31 squaremeters may be modest for US standards but is plenty for people living in large cities such as Tokyo, London, NY, also SF, people who also have & want to spend the dough on these beauties for their fancy city flats.

Also I'd like to invite friends of systems that reach below 40Hz (rather one octave pls, not a few semi-tones) to convince me about the indispensability of this very frequency range to great undivided enjoyment of (most) music (i.e. not earthquakes or car-crashes ..).

rzr's picture

This was a terrible review for a very nice loudspeaker. Stereophile has been losing it and this review continues to show this trend. Most of the article used either low-fi marantz, a home theater pre/pro in 2 channel mode, and an amp that has been out of data for over a decade. Why not go buy a $100 sony all in 1 box system at Best Buy to do the review?
The reviewer ups the ante and uses a better pre and amp from BAT, and guess what, the speakers perform better! Amazing when this happens. These speakers should have been reviewed using the BAT pieces 1st, then moved up to better upsacele pieces like the PS Audio BHK and Directstream DAC/Player and guess what, performance would skyrocket. If you want to continue to use a pre/pro and a proceed amp, you should think about going over to Sound and Vision.
The TAD corp should restrict you guys from reviewing any loudspeaker system that costs over $500 until you change your review process

supamark's picture

if you'd actually read the review you'd have noticed he explicitly states that he also works at Sound & Vision (hence the surround system). I've been reading Mr. Norton's reviews for like 30 years, I think he knows a little bit more about all this than you do.

Oh, and Kal Rubenson's review of the $4k pre/pro used:

Since you've demonstrated that you don't actually read through articles, Mr. Rubenson summed it up thus:

"...the decidedly improved analog outputs benefit all audio functions, including analog multichannel pass-through. If your concern is primarily for music playback, can you do better spending $1000 or so for a separate multichannel preamp? No way. It's easy to recommend the AV8802A, despite the bump in cost: It offers cutting-edge features and outstanding sound."

The more you know!

PS - pretty sure the pre/pro is lifted directly from the $7k McIntosh pre/pro with the *identical* back panel - both companies are in the Harmon corporate fold.