You reach a point in the track ‘Trans-Am’ (on the album Sleeps With Angels) when Neil Young’s guitar takes solo flight, a coda rather than a middle eight, the emotional release valve for the steady, meandering yet inexorable approach to this musical climax. Of course, being Neil Young, it’s not exactly your average guitar solo; all long strings and awkward, angular phrases, it embodies astonishing delicacy and power. Gliding just above and yet totally distinct from the sporadic bass notes, it’s a thing of beauty, as complete as its structure is fragile, the perfect end to a near-perfect song. But just how perfect you’ll likely not realize until you hear it on a really good system – one that tracks micro dynamics and reveals harmonic textures, one that flows with a natural, unforced sense of pace and timing, that gives the music its own voice and concentrates instead on shading the gaps between the notes. In short a system that uses speakers like the really rather remarkable Raidho TD1.2. Even for a brand that has startled and divided the audio community as often and deeply as Raidho has, this speaker is something special.
As a company, Raidho’s history has been short but dramatic, arguably with more than its fair share of twists, turns and narrowly avoided pitfalls. But for all the excitement and drama, one thing has remained constant from (almost) the beginning: since the arrival of the original C1, with its innovative integrated baffle and driver basket and deep, boat-backed cabinet, the brand’s compact, two-way stand-mounts have been consistently the most fascinating and engaging performers in the line. The C1 quickly spawned the C1.1 and later C1.2, while also spinning off in the much more affordable (but sonically nearly as impressive) shape of the Scansonic MB-1. An evolution in cone material resulted in the seriously pricey D1 while the junior X-series offered the X/XT-1 – although that speaker was, somewhat inexplicably, shorn of the boat backed cabinet and much of its visual appeal as a result. Nevertheless, Raidho’s two-ways continued to intrigue and amuse in equal part, their considerable strengths becoming progressively better balanced against their weaknesses with each iteration, until the C1.2 finally nailed the small box tight-rope walk.
Along with a step-change in performance (and, far from coincidentally) the C1.2 also marked a change in ownership and some welcome financial stability. With Danish electronics conglomerate Dantax holding the purse strings, the Raidho brand has finally started to really deliver on its promise, cleaning up its act, refining its existing technology and entering a period of steady evolution. That evolution has centred on two aspects of the company’s novel driver designs: the mechanical structure and particularly the rear venting have been significantly modified, resulting in substantial improvements in performance, particularly at bandwidth extremes (and resulting in the spectacular new, integrated driver/motor structures first seen in the TD3.8 at Munich last year): the other developmental area has been in terms of driver cone and diaphragm materials and it is the latest cone technology that gives this version of the established two-way its TD prefix – and arguable much of its seriously impressive performance.
Right from the start, Raidho has relied on composite ceramic cone technology, deep treatment of the raw aluminium diaphragm producing a three-layer sandwich, with hard ceramic skins either side of a soft, aluminium core (and a distinctive, almost white colour). That creates a cone with the benefits of stiffness and good self-damping – the twin grails of loudspeaker cone design. But like all composites, the real virtue of the approach lies in the ability to alter or control the sandwich structure in order to tune its performance. The D prefix used on the flagship range denotes a stiffer, lighter, synthetic diamond coating in place of the ceramic skins, but that has now been superseded by a more complex structure that takes the original ceramic sandwich and uses a high-temperature sputter deposition process to deposit a precisely calculated mix of titanium and titanium nitride particles on each side, before that process is repeated to create the final seven-layer sandwich. The goal was to approach the performance of the D-series diamond cones at a more approachable cost. In fact, they achieved a performance that gets awfully close to the D-series drivers in some respects, and actually betters them in others, the seven-layer construction delivering superior self-damping, a lower fundamental resonance and a stiffer overall structure. The new cones, with their sombre, matte grey surface first appeared in the XT variants of the entry level X-series, allowing those speakers to leapfrog (and thus render obsolete) the more expensive C-series. Now, the TD-series steps in to take over from both the C-series and the D-series, extending performance without extending the price of the flagship line.