Tidal Audio Akira loudspeaker Page 2

The Akira's bass didn't bloom to quite the extent it had with the Wilson Alexia 2s, but was still weighty enough to satisfy. In the October issue, Sasha Matson raved about Ry Cooder's new album, The Prodigal Son (CD, Fantasy FAN00236). After reading that review, I asked Amazon Prime to overnight the CD to me. Robert Francis's bass in Albert Reed's "You Must Unload" provided a firm underpinning with the Tidals. More significant, the Akiras laid bare the atmospheric looped accompaniment in "Nobody's Fault But Mine," contrasting it with the upfront-but-never-too-much balance of Cooder's creaking vocal and virtuosic acoustic guitar. It was the Akiras' ability to separate the threads within each recording that impressed me—they simply stepped out of the way of the music making.

Disaster. The motherboard of my 2012 MacBook Pro died, and the tech at Mike's Tech Shop, in Manhattan, was doubtful it could be replaced—more of that "we can't repair vintage computers" thing I described in my review of the Roon Labs Nucleus+ server last August. So I bought myself an i7 Mac mini with 16GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive and restored everything I had on the MacBook Pro, apps and data, using the Time Machine backup. I used to run FuzzMeasure 3 app on the laptop, in conjunction with a Metric Halo MIO2882 FireWire audio interface, to examine loudspeakers' in-room behavior, so three weeks or so after I began auditioning the Akiras and had gotten a good handle on their sound, I ran the app on my new Mac mini. What I didn't realize until too late was that the output level wasn't set to –20dB, as usual, but to 0dB—a level ten times greater. I clicked on Measure—only to dive for the Constellation amplifier's power switch as an almighty roar filled the room.


Kerblammo! (footnote 1) Though the amplifier blew a fuse before I could turn it off, the left-hand Akira's diamond-diaphragm tweeter was fried. I shamefacedly e-mailed Doug White and Jörn Janczak to explain what had happened.

On receiving the news, White was remarkably coolheaded. He explained that, as Tidal closely matches everything in their speakers, the factory has on file a full record for every drive-unit installed in every Tidal speaker sold. Janczak would therefore have Accuton manufacture a new tweeter that would be a clone of the one I'd destroyed, and White would install it.

A week later, I was back in action with two working Akiras—and watching White perform the repair had given me a glimpse of the speaker's insides. As beautiful as are the Akira's external finish and appearance, its interior revealed superb attention to details of construction and design that most purchasers will never be aware of.

Back in action
Changes in amplifiers produced larger differences in the sound than I was expecting. I'd begun my auditioning with the Lamm M1.2 monoblocks, which proved a synergistic match with the Tidals. Changing to the Constellation Performance Centaur II 500 stereo amplifier, which I reviewed in our October 2018 issue, was less of a good match. While the Constellation had a more refined sound than the Lamms, it made the Akiras sound a little too lean. Replacing the Constellation with the inexpensive Mytek Brooklyn Amp, reviewed in September 2018 by Ken Micallef, fattened up the low frequencies; and while image depth was reduced, the tiny, 7-lb Mytek acquitted itself better than I'd anticipated. But no, I don't think anyone will be driving $215,000/pair speakers with a $2495 amplifier.


I then tried the Audio Research Reference 160M tubed monoblocks, which Jason Victor Serinus reviewed in the October 2018 Stereophile. The ARC amplifiers in Triode mode, driving the speakers from their 4 ohm taps, better fleshed out the upper bass than had the Constellation Centaur 500. Christian McBride's solo double bass in the intro to "All or Nothing At All," from Diana Krall's Love Scenes (DSD64 file, Impulse! IMP 12342), had the correct combination of weight and definition with the tubed amps. The Akiras got the scale of recorded instruments right.

The REF 160Ms also preserved the Constellation's well-defined soundstaging. As I write these words, it is almost exactly 20 years since I recorded the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, augmented with Daniel Phillips on second violin and Robert Rinehart on viola, performing Elgar's passionate Piano Quintet at the 1998 Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. As explained in the booklet for the resulting CD, Bravo!, noise problems in the auditorium meant that I had to use close miking on the instruments, placing the output of each mike into the appropriate places in the overall soundstage captured by a distant pair of omni mikes. As I listened to Bravo! through the Akiras, while there was perhaps a little bit of extra rosin on the four bows, the picture painted by the Tidals was extraordinarily true to my memory of the performance in Santa Fe's St. Francis Auditorium. The hi-fi system as time machine!


Toward the end of the time I had the Akiras in my system, the media were celebrating Leonard Bernstein's 100th birthday. To pay my own tribute, while lifting to my lips a glass of a rather nice Pinot Grigio, I played Yes's version of Bernstein's "Something's Coming," from Yes: Deluxe Edition (2003 reissue, 16/44.1 FLAC, Atlantic/Tidal).

I saw Yes live several times at the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s—in both their hard-rocking club-band phase, with Tony Kaye on organ and Peter Banks on guitar, and in their pomp-rock heyday, with Rick Wakeman on keyboards and Steve Howe on guitar. And Bill Bruford was consistently one of the most intelligent of rock drummers. But not much in the way of recorded prog-rock playback, since those days nearly half a century ago, has approached the experience of hearing Yes live. With the Tidal Akiras driven by the Audio Research monoblocks, it did!


While the Tidal Akiras always sounded superb, throughout my auditioning of these speakers I was never sure I had fully gotten the best from them. Changes in cables and amplifiers were more audible than I had experienced with other speakers; it's possible that further experimentation with ancillary components would have produced even better sound. (After replacing that torched tweeter, Doug White left with me Tidal's Impulse LPX dual-mono solid-state amplifier. It is our policy not to comment on the sounds of products we have not yet reviewed in our review of another product. However, as might be expected, the pairing of Tidal speakers with Tidal amplifier was to the benefit of both.)

No matter: The Akiras are the best-looking, best-built, best-sounding speakers I have had in my listening room—as they should be at the price.

Footnote 1: Now that NBC no longer broadcasts Formula 1 races in the US, I do miss commentator David Hobbs's language, this being one of his most colorful declamations.
Tidal Audio GmbH
Premium US dealer: The Voice That Is
PO Box 445
Newtown Square, PA 19073
(610) 359-0189

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"Diamonds" in the sky ............. Rihanna :-) ..........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

How can the diamonds get fried? ....... Aren't they supposed to be heat resistant? :-) ..........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be JA could review one of the new Aurender music servers, shown at RMAF 2018 ......... The new servers are available up to 24TB or 12 TB x2 (RAID1) built-in internal storage .............. BTW, the new servers are also, MQA capable (you don't have to use MQA, if you don't want it .... MQA police are not gonna put you in jail) .......... Aurender also showed a unit with a built-in CD ripper along with the new music servers at RMAF 2018 ........... We don't have to mess with the conventional computers ........... There is a pre-view posted on AudioStream website :-) ...........

jeffhenning's picture

...Better can be made DIY with DSP and a fully active design for way less money. The kicker with that is you have to know how to design them. I do.

Regardless, Accuton makes a good deal of the best speaker drivers on the planet. And the measurements show this is a great speaker.

Unfortunately, had they gone the active route, done the speaker as a partial dipole, used DSP and made a servo cardioid sub to go with it, this speaker would be even more mind-blowing.

I can make a DIY system using close to the exact drivers from Madisound with Benchmark AHB2 amps to drive the mains and Rythmik servo subs for less than $50K. I think that's on the extremely high side.

I can see from the photos that this is a ridiculously engineered speaker. There were no corners cut. It's state of the PASSIVE art which means it's not state of the art.

I think Tidal is marching in the wrong direction. When they finally make fully active speakers, watch out!

Anton's picture

I remember your trenchant posts about Wilson speakers, now the Tidals.

You are missing a real market niche, here!

Can we see the stuff you've made?

misterc59's picture

I'm planning on a couple (or more) upgrades, and would love to see something on floorstanders as that's one of my near future upgrades. Although my budget is a tad smaller, it would be nice to see something of good quality that would put a fraction of the dent in my pocketbook!


timinator2's picture

Have you open-sourced, or posted anything we could learn more about? I think we are entering a new age of DIY with 3D printing, home laser cutters, and DIY CNC machines. I would be greatly interested in your designs. The ability to recreate fully fleshed out and creatively designed edge-of-the-art gear has never been better. Though one might argue it was easier in 1920 when all you needed was a plank of wood a couple of tubes and a transformer. Or in the case of loudspeakers a really big horn and call it done.

Anton's picture

How did you sneak those babies past Fremer, he's the high end speaker reviewer.

I love you, JA, but I hope you shipped them to Mike for a definitive opinion.

I loved "wallet straining."

It would be "wallet herniating and mortally disemboweling for me!"

Thanks for a fun read.

I did note that Tidal seems to using the Contribution Pricing model.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Wallet is gonna drag down the balls too along with it, while herniating :-) ................

"Great Balls of Fire" ............. Jerry Lee Lewis :-) ..............

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Speaker and electronics company Tidal (pronounced Tee - DAHL) is totally independent of / completely unrelated to music streaming company Tidal.

Anton's picture

And next you'll try telling us that the AMG Giro (pronounced 'hero') is not made by Mercedes or that the Oracle Delphi (pronouned ore-ACKLE Delf-eee) is not really made by Larry Ellison.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

....... And Alexia is not made by Amazon Alexa and Jeff Bezos :-) ..........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

And Wilson Audio is not owned by Wilson Phillips or Woodrow Wilson :-) .............

Ortofan's picture

... the $20K KEF Reference 5 speakers "gave me all I need for musical and sonic satisfaction."
So, what more does the Tidal Akira do for over ten times the price?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Comes with "diamonds" .......... You know diamonds are expensive :-) .........

foxhall's picture

Having the TIdal speakers allows one to glow about them while ferrying friends via private jet for a weekend at the house in Aspen.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Revel top of the line Ultima Salon2 speakers $22,000 (Stereophile Class-A) .......... Have been in continuous production for at least 10 years ......... Stereophile reviewer LG uses them in his reference system ........ JA also did a follow-up review ...........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

One of the amplifier models used by LG for the review of Salon2 were Bryston model 28-B mono blocks which put out 1000 watts into 8 Ohms .......... Those amplifiers were also reviewed by Stereophile ........ Those amps are also in continuous production for at least 10 years with some internal parts changes ..........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

The Salon2 does not go much below 4 Ohms ......... The Bryston 28-B is capable of delivering up to 1800 watts into 4 Ohm loads .......... The KEF Reference 5 does not go much below 4 Ohms either .......... So, the 28-B can deliver up to 1800 watts to KEF also ............

HammerSandwich's picture
"JA" wrote:

...more of that "we can't repair vintage computers" thing I described in my review of the Roon Labs Nucleus+ server last August. So I bought myself an i7 Mac mini...

Ouch. The Mini hasn't been updated since October, 2014, so it was vintage even before you strained your wallet. (Okay, PCs aren't that expensive these days, thank God.)

The buyers guide at MacRumors.com is a good resource here.

foxhall's picture

Your comments about how those of us who could never afford the equipment at these prices still enjoy reading about them.

Metalhead's picture

Wow, was jealous (not of the speakers) they are nice to read about for entertainment (just like my old Scrooge McDuck comics) but of John having caught Yes in concert in their prime and peak years. WOW.

Caught the Rabin, Anderson, Wakeman version of Yes earlier this year and they were excellent. I had not planned to go but caught Roundabout on the radio and decided what the Hell, why not. So glad I went as Anderson sounded incredible. Cannot believe he can still sing so effortlessly and relaxed in that range for close to two hours. Great show. Just flat out fun and enjoyable.

Hope Scrooge McDuck, the Saudi princes, and Russian oligarchs enjoy the speakers.

Anton's picture

You could probably hide an entire body inside a pair of those, if it was butchered correctly.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Those partitions in the loudspeakers can perfectly fit those parts :-) ...........

tonykaz's picture

Why bother ?

We might have ROLEX cravings but probably not the $200,000 Presidential in 24k Gold with high quality diamonds. ( or something even pricier like a PP )

We can realistically expect the $20K loudspeakers from PS Audio to be fully competitive or probably better than these Fancy Pancy Tidals that don't have the Arnie Nudel DNA.

Of course, if you are already a Gulfstream Owner being driven around in the backseat of a S600 AMG merc. these beautiful Diamond encrusted cabinets are right down your disposable income stream, after all, you earned it.

Certainly, a Pair for the Hamptons House. ( maybe a full 7.1 surround system, for gods sake )

Tony in Michigan

Bogolu Haranath's picture

That Hamptons House deserves Wilson WAMM speakers with Thor's Hammer sub-woofers 7.1 surround sound system :-) ...........

RobertSlavin's picture

A pair of Raidho D-2.1 speakers have a total of four mid-range/woofer drivers with diamond coatings and retail for $48,000 to $54,000. The Tidal Akira speakers have just two mid-range drivers of diamond and retail for $215,000. The rest of the Raidho D-2.1 also appears to be made with expensive components. I would have appreciated Mr. Atkinson showing greater skepticism for the price in this review.

Let's remember that you can still get a pretty good home for $215,000 in parts of the U.S. (never mind in other parts of the world).

My understanding is that Stereophile's policy is not to review components in its full reviews, as was done here, unless the product has five US dealers or, in some cases, is available by mail order. This review said the number of dealers wasn't disclosed.

I think because of the ridiculous price and the apparent lack of dealers Stereophile should not have reviewed it, at least as a full review.

tonykaz's picture

There wouldn't be a Dealer Network for this sort of thing, would there ?

It's an Inner Circle of Guru's that help the Affluent top 1%ers ( like Sports Stars with 1.5 Mil. Contracts ) fill their Status & Ego needs.

Beryllium drivers are shit compared to Real Diamond Coated drivers.

People that read this Magazine are the people that are "NEVAH" allowed on that other side of the Velvet Rope. FOR GOD'S SAKE!!

We regular civilians live wonderful lives dreaming about owning a Rogue Amp, a Pass Amp, a Prima Luna Amp & maybe a nice selection of interconnect Cabling and if we get lucky a P20 from PS AUDIO!

Magazine Covers are a World of their own, they sit on the Barns & Noble Shelp competing with all the other Glossys for the best reach and grab numbers ( sell-thru ). After-all, didn't we read Playboy for the Journalism ? ( or Rolling Stone for that matter )

This issue : Jim Austin & Nelson Pass, Focal Kanta by Deutsch, Jim Austin and the PS Audio P20, scribbler extraordair talks Rogue, JVS does Tubes ( egads ) must read, HR looks at the PS Sprout mk.2, JA studies Luxman, Iverson looking at D/A conversion.

Phew, tons of dam good stuff with a vintage Aretha Franklin on the Front cover. ( singing for Ortofon )

Stereophile saves me from following the Corn Harvest yields too closely, thank-y'all !

Tony in Michigan

prerich45's picture

I'm reading a lot of post complaining about the Tidal's pricing, and yes it's up there. However, I remember hearing the Tidal Piano Diacera's in a show years ago - and they're one of the best I've heard in my life! Fit and finish were superb, and the sound almost made me cry and shout at the same time. They were better than the B&W 802's that I heard, Better than Aerial 7t's, better than Martin Logan CLX, and better (imho) than the MBL setup at that show as well. Yes, the speakers cost a lot and I may never have an opportunity to own them (unless I win Megamillons). I haven't heard these yet - but if they take their DNA from the Piano's.....they just might bring a person to tears.

tonykaz's picture

tears is exactly what we're crying about here, ( not bitching about ), crying like an onion causes.

Tony in Michigan

K.Müller's picture

Dear sir.
Very agreeable comment from my viewpoint.
If you hear one of these speakers, you feel what hifi is all about.
Good luck for the future!

dumbo's picture

The below quote hints to the forgotten item.

"To pay my own tribute, while lifting to my lips a glass of a rather nice Pinot Grigio"

Come on JA, you can't leave your fellow wine lovers hanging on what this nice Pinot was :)

The cabinet construction picture is impressive indeed but given the fact that the noted "discontinuities at 90Hz, 700Hz, and 1.1kHz" were present in both cabinets its probably safe to assume that this issue wasn't the result of a botched "in field" hardware replacement on the one speaker requiring a fix.

Perhaps "Cork" isn't the right material to be used as a buffer between the drivers and the cabinet in this case. Afterall, for almost a cool quarter mil for these speakers one might expect something a bit more esoteric in terms of materials.

Anton's picture

Let's see, JA has mentioned beer in a recent review, now wine.

There was a Scotch fueled review at Audio Stream.

I'm liking the mild added lifestyle joy, thank you!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

They need to get some bourbon, tequila, vodka, gin, cognac, hard cider and moonshine fans in the reviewing team :-) ...........

Anton's picture

I'll go for one bourbon, one scotch, and one beer while listening to John Lee Hooker.

You can take it from there!

Jason P Jackson's picture

The version of those diamond tweeters available to the public from Thiel and Partner (Accuton) measure so poorly that they are unusable. The uptick in distortion at ~9khz makes them the worst measuring tweeter I have seen.

K.Müller's picture

Dear sirs: did anybody of you had the chance to listen to this speaker? If so, i am pretty shure the comments on this side would be much more favorable. I have been fortunate to compare on many occasions at the High-End shows in Munich what the exposing manufakturers call theyr pinnacle products. Till now, no other design managed to bring me closer to the music.
The Tidal-speakers,- althou admittedly pricey,- are far from the most expensive ones in this context, what makes them an even greater achievment in my opinion. You can hear the money beeing spend for the ingredients not for advertisement. Congratulations from my side to Mr. John Atkinson for his sincere rewiew of the Akiras. Please go and have an ear for yourself. There are much cheaper Tidals out there.
Best regards, K.Müller
( Please excuse my imperfect english )