• 2009 CES Notes: Part III

    The TAD suite at CES this year produced some of the best sound of the entire show. OK, I must admit to being a little bias because I did build the music server TAD used for the entire show. Fortunately everyone who sat through a demonstration from TAD's Andrew Jones was very pleased with the sound as well. Thus you can be sure I'm not exaggerating just because I was involved in a tiny piece of the sound quality. Much of the build information about this exact server can be found in my previous article titled Absolutely Silent Audiophile Music Server. The hardware is pretty close to what Robert Harley used for his music server article in the January issue of The Abso!ute Sound. In addition to fine tuning the OS I configured Windows XP to operate using only three services and 57MB of RAM at startup. Scaling back a Windows operating system is never a bad thing in my opinion.
    The playback application used in the TAD room was Samplitude 10. A Lynx AES16 card provided the digital I/O, using legacy firmware and drivers of course. From the Lynx card to the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC was the same custom cable I've been using in my system since I purchased the Alpha DAC. Having a single HD26 connector and single XLR connector at the opposite end is really nice compared to the stock Lynx cable with all the extra "antennae." As the photos and video show the Alpha DAC was connected to Pass Labs XA 100.5 monoblocks which powered the TAD Compact Reference Monitor loudspeakers. These speakers have stunning build quality as well as sound quality. At around $30k the speakers better offer this level of quality.

    Perhaps the "funnest" part of the whole TAD suite was the selection of high resolution music on hand. Recording legend Bill Schnee from Schnee Studio is working on a project with Doug Sax to release high resolution material. You may recognize Schnee and Sax from previous work the two have done notably albums for the Sheffield Labs label. One of the most popular recordings from the Sheffield label was the Drum and Track disc. Bill Schnee brought some new drum material with him that was recorded and mixed live to 2-channel at 24/192 high resolution digital. The drums used in this recoding were a brand new state-of-the-art Yamaha drum set brought into the studio specifically for this purpose. The final product must be heard to be believed. It was fantastic to say the least. Another of my favorites played by Bill Schnee in the TAD room was from Natalie Cole in full 24/192 high resolution. In fact Bill is nominated for a Grammy this year for Best Engineered Album, non-classical (Steve Genewick, Al Schmitt & Bill Schnee, engineers (Natalie Cole) - Still Unforgettable). The current plans are to release this high resolution material on Bluray Disc. I spent some time talking to Bill Schnee about formats and encouraged him to release downloads in addition to a physical format. Options are never a bad thing. Even if this material is available only on Bluray we will all be the beneficiaries of Doug Sax and Bill Schnee's tremendous work to bring true high end sound into our homes. These guys have some great ideas in mind and are really making an effort to bring quality music and sound into the mainstream and expose younger people to great musical experiences. Bill is well aware that kids today are introduced to music that's terribly compressed in every sense of the word and he is really engaged in this effort. If all goes well more labels and artists will jump onboard and we'll see a plethora of high resolution content coming our way. Look for this project to progress in the near future and please support this effort if you are a fan of great quality recordings.





     

     


     

     

    TAD Suite

    TAD Suite
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    TAD Suite

    TAD Suite
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    Computer Audiophile Configured Music Server

    Computer Audiophile Configured Music Server
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    Computer Audiophile Configured Music Server (close-up)

    Computer Audiophile Configured Music Server (close-up)
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    Higher resolution download (44 MB)

     

     
    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Romanesq1@gmail.com's Avatar
      Romanesq1@gmail.com -
      Nice setup and seeing a reel to reel is pretty wild but don't know those TAD speakers. Really am skeptical about the 30K massive price tag for a two way speaker. That seems too much and yes, I bet they sound really good.<br />
      <br />
      They do have a nice size ration and I wouldn't mind hearing them. Just can't see the pricetag. Wonder how much "weight" they deliver. I had a pair of B&W 803 Nautilus that I liked with powerful solid state power like those Pass Labs and liked even more the fuller sound the 802 and 801s in that family could produce. I'm wondering how these TADs would compare. <br />
      <br />
      Is it even necessary to run Pass Labs monoblocks with those speakers I wonder?<br />
      <br />
      The Blue-Ray soundtracks sound interesting. Since we won't ever have SACD accepted we do need something and maybe this will be the more widespread improvement at some point. <br />
      <br />
    1. joeljoel1947's Avatar
      joeljoel1947 -
      This was some of the best sound at the show no doubt. I hung out there quite a few times, and got to chat with Andrew, as well as the Tape Project guys. As an open reel buff, I really like what Andrew Jones said during one of the demo's:<br />
      <br />
      "OK, that last piece was recorded in high resolution at 24/192 and played back through the Berkeley DAC. Next, we are going to a "higher resolution" and we are going to play one of the Tape Project tapes on high speed open reel."<br />
      <br />
      You gotta love that!<br />
      <br />
      This room got incredible sound each time I was there. That said, no Chris you WERE NOT biased at all. And I totally agree, Bill Schnee playing back that Natalie Cole in full 24/192 high resolution was some of the best sound there, period. I bought the "Still Unforgettable" LP at the show!
    1. odyssey's Avatar
      odyssey -
      Chris,<br />
      <br />
      Could you post some suggestions on "stripping down windows" as you mentioned you did for the PC you built? This is something I haven't really tackled yet but would like to try.
    1. proth's Avatar
      proth -
      The TAD uses a coincident midrange-tweeter (sort of like what Thiel does) and I believe both drivers utilize beryllium cones, with the pair's operating range something like 400hz to 40khz. It also has a lower-mid woofer which brings usable bass down into the 40s. Its definitely a 3-way. While expensive, it is every bit the reference that the full-range TAD Reference 1 is, just in a monitor form factor (and without the lowest octave). It was one of my 4 favorite rooms at the show for sound (I'd also rank the Vandersteen/Aesthetix room, the Kubala-Sosna/Hansen/Tenor/Continuum, and at a much lower price point, and again with limited bass extension, the Spiral Groove/Sonics room).<br />
      <br />
      Chris, I tried to figure out who put the server together, but I was in the room during a demo and so didn't amble up close enough to the unit to see the "computer" before Audiophile for Tim Marutani Consulting. But congratulations on being an integral part of a show room with great sound (a difficult task). - Pete -
    1. ciamara's Avatar
      ciamara -
      In my humble opinion, TAD drivers are the best on the planet. However, to truly experience them, you need to hear the larger drivers.