August 20, 2010

10 Qs For Yoshiro Al Hirano, Chief Strategy Officer Of TAD.

Yoshino Al Hirano, Chief Strategy Officer Of TAD.

If you had been reading our KLIAV 2010 show reports, you may have noticed that both of us(Odiosleuth and myself included) have been very impressed by the TAD system on demo. James of AV Designs, who is the Malaysian dealer appointed by Pioneer to represent TAD(Technical Audio Devices) offered me to meet the TAD official, Yoshiro Al Hirano, present at the show, I just could not refuse. I have developed a need to find out what makes all these little known TAD products so fine sounding. If you wanna find out more just like me, then read on!

Big E: Hi! Hirano San. What is your role in TAD? How is TAD related to Pioneer?

YH: I represent the TAD management, and liaise with the top Pioneer management in regards to all things TAD related. TAD is a very small independent subsidiary of Pioneer. Our facility is located in Kawagoe-City, north of Tokyo. We are staffed by 13 audio engineers who are dedicated to high end audio reproduction. All the electronic components like amplifiers and disc players are made in our Kawagoe-City plant. TAD also have a speaker facility in China, which manufactures all our TAD range speakers, under strict quality supervision of our Japanese engineers based there. Since TAD is a small subsidiary, we are allowed to use the vast resources of Pioneer's R&D facilities, in pursuit of high end audio excellence. This is our strength in the market place.

Big E: Pioneer seems to see something in the high end audio market, that most other Japanese mass market manufacturers have chosen to ignore. Pioneer has back out of the plasma screen TV market when others maintains market share at all cost. What strategy is Pioneer up to?

YH: I really miss our Kuro plasma TVs. I think it's a product of superior picture quality, but so far, only the serious audio/videophiles seems to buy them. The mass market is still price sensitive, irregardless of picture quality. The other manufacturers like Sony and Matsushita, for example, has abandoned their high end audio ES or Technics line of products. Pioneer sees the niche potential in a gradually declining high end audio market. The market, by the way, is still "nicely" sized. TAD will be allowed to pursue high end audio, based on this market potential of US, Europe and Japan. However, we believe Asia is a huge un tapped potential market for TAD.

Big E: I share your sadness with Pioneer's decision to remove the Kuro plasma TV product line. What is TAD's company vision, if there is one?

YH: At TAD, we really want our customer's soul to be emotionally moved by nice music. This is our passion, and we are committed to the company vision.
TAD D600 SACD/CD player. This player have a CD tray opening as smooth as "gliding on air", just like those made by Esoteric. The touch sensitive control panel is on both sides of the display. Not shown here is the dual mono, balanced power supply unit!

Big E: Now we come to the TAD products. What is the philosophy behind the TAD D600 SACD/CD player?

YH: Our development concept for the D600 SACD/CD player is based on the need to prevent jitter, rather than compensating for jitter generated later. Our research indicated that the transport mechanism, vibration control, and power supply circuitry are important aspects to achieving high performance, but most important is the oscillator clock technology. TAD co-developed a high spec oscillator clock which minimises "Phase Noise" up to 80% more effectively, compared to regular grade oscillator clocks, used by other CD player manufacturers. I believe, we still have scope to further improve sound performance at the digital section. One area to note however, is due to the high R&D cost and low market volumes in high end audio, that result is product prices will remain high, unfortunately. The D600 SACD/CD player however, has received positive market response in Japan. At the moment, it is not sold any where else.

Big E: How long do see the SACD/CD market holding on? Why pour so much resource in to what is by now a dying format?

YH: The SACD/CD is still a great media. We can expect to continue enjoying new music contents from the SACD/CD media for another decade, at least. On the other hand TAD is also concern with the development of the Hi-rez online down load services are gaining popularity, even amongst audiophile community. Record companies are seeing huge drops in CD sales, which sooner rather than later, they'll have to use HD Tracks, by David Chesky for example, as their gateway for online music revenue. TAD has business interest all over the world, and people can be very conservative in some markets. Take Japan for example, audiophiles just hate to use PC for music reproduction. Therefore, TAD will simultaneously develop products for both physical media, and the new media.
The TAD M600 mono block digital amplifier, which outputs 3ooW @ 8 ohms and doubles up to 600W @ 4 ohms. TAD says, "Listen without prejudice!". I tried, and no, it does not sound like your normal class D amps at all. This behemoth weights 90kgs per mono block.

Big E: Tell us a little more about your excellent sounding amps please?

YH: These are a new generation of digital amplification technologies, not like anything the high end audio has used before. The twist, however is in the power supply section. TAD is still developing both digital and analog power supplies. This time, for now, TAD has decided to use analog power supply section, and integrate it with digital amplification for better sound quality. Many will think that digital amplification sounds bad. TAD wants audiophiles to listen to this amplifier without prejudice, in regards to the sound character.

Big E: How does Andrew Jones, the renown speaker designer fit in to the TAD organisation? Is his role only in the loud speaker products?

YH: Andrew is a great speaker engineer, and TAD ambassador. He is the Engineering Project Leader who co-ordinates both the TAD speaker design teams in Europe and Japan. Andrew also does his own circuit designs. The electronic components however, are all engineered and designed in Kawagoe-City, Japan.
TAD CR-1 stand mount speakers. Lots of special design technologies built in to this small, "made in China" speakers. My new reference speaker costing well over RM$100k.

Big E: TAD speakers are made in China. Many high end audiophiles are not comfortable with the idea of an expensive China made product. How is TAD addressing this issue?

YH: Audiophiles in the US, Korea and especially mainland Chinese hates "made in China". TAD is aware and understands their concern. That's why I have mentioned earlier, the TAD speaker plant is located in China, but staffed by Japanese engineers to ensure the product quality standards are the same as our Japanese plant. Also note that our essential speaker components, especially the driver units are manufactured in Japan. We only make the wood working and final assembly in China. However, TAD will consider all options available to us.

Big E: Tell us some of the technical design highlights of the TAD speakers please?

YH: Firstly, our TAD range of speakers are based on a dual concentrate driver unit design. Allowing the main driver unit to cover almost full range frequency reproduction abilities, at point source. This eliminates phase shift between driver units which our ears are sensitive towards. It also gives a seamless perception of hand over frequencies between driver units. If you note, our dual concentrate driver units have a shallow cone profile, compared to others who uses this technology. The shallow cone profile eliminates the peakiness, or shoutiness sound character, that some other dual concentrate driver units exhibits. Also note our beryllium tweeter, built in to the dual concentrate driver units. Other speaker manufacturers who uses the same material for their tweeters stamp mould by force to make the driver membrane. That causes the material to fracture at the seams and exhibits metal fatigue properties, which are easily audible in the high frequency range. Our beryllium tweeter membranes are metal etched by chemical process. The process is very exact science and very costly to implement for production. However, our chosen process does not induce metal fatigue on the finished tweeter membrane, thus results in more natural sound character.

Big E: I noticed no pre amps in the TAD product line up(a Bryston BP-26 pre amp was used instead, in the TAD demo system). Any other new products in the pipe line?

YH: TAD will introduce a pre amp in the near future. We will also use the D600 technologies in some of our new media digital products covering network audio, like a stand alone DAC, DAC with integrated pre amp or a CD player with digital input. We have yet to decide it's final form at the moment. TAD may also introduce, at a much later date, a scaled down and simplified version of the D600 SACD/CD player. Again, we have not confirmed anything for the moment.

Big E: WOW! It looks like TAD is a busy company, and you're a very busy man, Hirano San. TAD is certainly the new player in the high end audio market to look out for! Thanks for spending time with me. It has given me valuable insights to TAD the company.

It was already late, the KLIAV show had just announced that it's closing in five minutes! So I left the TAD demo room highly impressed, not only by the sound, but also by the commitment to high end audio, by TAD and it's parent company Pioneer.


Capernaum Creative Solutions Inc. said...

Good write up Big E.

I like the fact that TAD decided to pay attention to vibration and resonant characteristics from right up the signal chain.

Big E said...

Thanks, Felix,

I am glad you like the TAD system just as much as I did.

Ng said...

Big E,
Producing high end speakers in China is the worst decision that TAD can make. There are no obvious advantages other than cost and convenience to do so. TAD will be unnecessary be accused of profiteering!
The answer " same level of quality as in Japan ..." is something so commonly said to defend this issue. Having said so the sound of the TAD speakers sound very "promising" . But selling at that price is also ridiculous out of phase with the business world of high end audio speakers. There are many more establish brands may or may not be be better but can challenge TAD's sound; I believe so! Is TAD a renowned brand? not in 2010! Is TAD buying decision an emotional ones like some cult following? NO! Are there any brands of Japanese Speakers that have become a world benchmark in speaker design , engineering, sound etc. NO! I am sure the above inputs although negative will be useful to James"s to address to his principals TAD /TAD Board of directors. I wish them best of luck , but give them a few trials and years and I am sure with their highly talented people and strong spirit, TAD will make a major impact in high end hifi speakers arena.

Capernaum Creative Solutions Inc. said...

Funny, but the same was said about Japanese cars and Taiwanese manufacturing.

People avoided "Made In Taiwan" with a ten foot pole. The present is quite the contrary.

Ng said...

Funny in the car business: Nissan GTR, Mazda RX8 , Nissan Fairlady, Lexus sports are not made in Thailand. Contrary to TAD price offerings, these Japanese super cars category like high end speakers are offered cheaper them Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, BMW M seris , Aston Martin and Mercedes SL ? Maybe is TAD's long term brand building strategy to make a statement rather to sell!!! Hah ahh- down the road a new TAD speaker seris model will be launch and claims trickle technology from this ultra 6 figures speaker but at most down to earth price!! On the last note, the Germans came out with these Golf GTR to shake the status quo in terms of price and performance!!!

Capernaum Creative Solutions Inc. said...

Thailand now is like Japan of yesteryears.

Probably a Korean Coupe 10 years down the road would beat the crap out of the current Ferrari 599GTB Fiorano. Let alone a Golf GTI.

Change is inevitable.

If one applied yesteryear's mentality, nothing would ever work moving forward.

Aren't we all buying trickle down technology. How many percent of the population can always buy top of the line? I think this is consistent regardless of brands. TAD, Wilson, B& name it.