What does £120k get you in the world of Hi-Fi? With Japanese brand TAD, quite a lot. The Reference Ones are their flagship speakers and are, to put it briefly, imposing in stature and in sound. Once you’ve managed to haul the 150kg box through your front door into your listening room (probably a two-person job) and paired them with a suitably powerful amplifier (I opted for a pair of Gryphon Mephistos and a Zena preamplifier) you’re ready to go!
If you’ve never heard of TAD before they are a special division of well known Japanese brand Pioneer electronics that specialise in high-end audio, Technical Audio Devices has been going since 1975 and are innovators in the Hi-Fi space.
DESIGN AND BUILD
It’s clear straight away that TAD has spared no expense in the materials used in the Reference Ones with the outer surface of the enclosure featuring Pommele Sapele wood similar to what you would find on a luxury hand-crafted guitar or piano. Our demo pair is in Emerald Black and really stands out without being too shouty. The chassis is made in collaboration with Japan’s leading furniture manufacturer Tendo Mokko and it oozes quality.
Similar to some Focal speakers, they use a beryllium tweeter dome that provides plenty of brightness and detail in the treble. As a whole, they don’t feel “overdesigned”, everything is there for a reason and designed with sound-quality as an absolute priority.
When spending this kind of money on a pair of speakers, everything has to sound fantastic not just one or two genres of music. Whatever you throw at them, they can take it. I cycled through heavy rock music, electronic, jazz, techno, acoustic guitar literally anything to try and find fault but couldn’t. The truth of the matter is that they are just great allrounders and to be fair at this price they definitely should be.
Here are a few personal favourites of mine…
Etran by Disclosure has to be my new favourite demo song just edging in front of Got To Keep On by The Chemical brothers. It starts off with very traditional tribal drums with chanting and builds until a deep powerful electronic beat sweeps over and becomes centre stage. The TADs excel with electronic music as they can provide plenty of detail thanks to the beryllium tweeter without sounding too harsh and have lots of “oomph” for the bassy parts.
On rock tracks like The Way You Used To by Queens Of The Stoneage the high gain, high tone distorted guitars sounded thicker than I’ve heard them on other speakers. Josh Homme’s vocals take the centre stage with the guitar riff but are not overwhelmed by it.
Dreams by Fleetwood Mac is a go-to track to test a system’s ability to reproduce female vocals. Stevie Nick’s vocals were incredibly bright on the TADs without sounding too harsh. I was getting great detail in the accompanying instrumental without being overloaded.
Granted, these speakers are expensive but you do get a lot of speaker for your money. TAD has definitely positioned themself at the top end of the market but the Reference One is a flagship in every sense of the word. If I had a spare 120k lying around, I know exactly what I’m spending it on.
Model No: TAD-R1MK2
Model: 3-way bass-reflex floor loudspeaker
LF: 25cm (10 in.) x 2
16 cm (6 1/2 in.) MF / 3.5 cm (1 3/8 in.) HF
Frequency response: 21 Hz to 100 kHz (-10 dB)
Crossover frequencies: 250 Hz and 2 kHz
Unit polarity: LF (+), MF (+), HF (+)
Amplifier requirements: 50 W to 300 W
Sensitivity: 90 dB (2.83 V/2.83 V @ 1 m free space)
Maximum sound pressure level: 115 dB
Nominal impedance: 4 Ω (minimum 4.1 Ω)
Weight: 150 kg (330 lb)
Dimensions: 554 mm (21 3/4”) (W) × 1,293 mm (50 7/8”)
(H) × 698 mm (27”) (D)
Price when tested: £120 000
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TAD Reference One TX