There’s a myth surrounding loudspeakers that needs tearing apart. It’s that Japanese audio manufacturers aren’t as good as making loudspeakers as their British or American counterparts. Generally, this is nonsense, and comes about in part because of Japanese collectors and their passion for classic BBC and Tannoy designs, and in part because a lot of the best products made in Japan, stay in Japan. TAD is one of the rare exceptions – the high-end audio arm of a larger company that has a truly international outlook, and as a consequence its loudspeakers have commanded extraordinarily high respect in the audiophile community.
TAD’s loudspeakers have also commanded an extraordinarily high price. The TAD Compact Evolution 1 is an attempt to address those lofty tags; it’s still not a cheap loudspeaker in any sense of the term, but TAD is not a cheap brand. This standmount loudspeaker represents everything TAD can put in a standmount loudspeaker without it either costing as much as a new E-Class Mercedes, or having it sacrificing what TAD represents in sonic terms.
First seen as a concept at last year’s Munich High End, then in final form at CES 2015 this year, something of a buzz went around the Venetian Tower that TAD was making a sound from a standmount that shouldn’t be happening – they were filling a big room with the kind of sound you might expect from a larger floorstander and the sort of transparency you could hear from an electrostatic design. A similar result occurred at Munich 2015 and a similar result occurs every time people sit in front of them - including when I sat in front of them.
These are three way loudspeakers with a 35mm coaxial beryllium dome tweeter sitting in the acoustic centre of the 140mm midrange cone, and a 180mm MACS (multi-layered aramid composite shell) woofer sitting beneath that. These loudspeaker units are made by TAD for TAD and are recognised for being virtually unbreakable in normal use. Or even abnormal abuse: basically unless you take a chisel to them or connect the speakers to an arc welding generator in place of an amplifier, nothing you can throw at them will trouble the CE1 drivers.
The signature bit of deep-clever in the Compact Evolution 1 is its port. Make that ‘ports’; there are two vertical slits built into the enclosure’s side panels, and the aluminium plate that covers these side panels effectively creates a flared port extension to the front and rear of each loudspeaker. This means the port fires simultaneously to the left and right sides of the front and the rear of the loudspeaker. You could almost think this a port with a loudspeaker attached to its centre. What this unique BiDirectional ADS (Aero-Dynamic Slot) port arrangement does is help overcome the physical placement issues that surround a rear-firing port as well as the ‘chuffing’ effect from a front-firing port, but also helps reduce internal standing waves within the cabinet. In the last throws of a show, when the visitor numbers begin to dwindle and the engineers go walkabout, I know of many loudspeaker designers who took a very close look at this port design with a combination of professional respect, personal envy, and corporate espionage on their mind. Doubtless within a couple of years, we’ll see a lot more loudspeaker companies ‘discovering’ this innovation.