August 12, 2011

The Ultimate Digital Source! TAD-D600 CD/SACD Player.

Now we all know how much Odiosleuth loved this TAD disc spinner, to the point of suffering from withdrawal symptoms after he had to send it to me! For the 3 of us in Odiosleuth's room that fateful night of 3rd July 2011, listening to the TAD-D600 and C2000 pre amp, powering the Pass Labs XA-60 and a pair of PMC IB2i, will forever change our reference point in the context of super high end audio.

I had a quick run thru the TAD-D600 disc spinner before sending it back to AV Designs and this is my somewhat belated report!(Now that the KLIAV excitement has cooled down) Since Odioslueth has already gone in to great details about the construction and feature count of the TAD, I'll just skip to the bits that mattered.

Using the TAD-D600 disc spinner in place of my resident Bryston BDP/BDA-1 combo is a revelation. I've never thought CD playback technology has marched on this dramatically since I abandoned the format a few months back. The TAD-D600 just loves to spin CD after CD, and I never got jaded or tired listening to it. In fact, the only thing that bothered me a bit was that I keep hearing my system putting it's finger print on to the musical signal, post TAD. I just wished I had the TAD-C2000 pre amp in my system back like that fateful 3rd July night, but alas, it was not to be.

Back to the TAD, the first thing that struck me was like how much micro details it pulled out of that 5 inch silver disc. It kinda reminded me of the Esoteric X-03 SE disc spinner, except that thru the TAD the details were somewhat less "showy", less attention grabbing, but rather of the more organically integrated in to the musical fabric kind of presentation which is hard to beat. There was no noise floor from the TAD to talk about and the back ground of music was pitch dark, allowing the staging and imaging properties to prop out easily. It's hard to talk about the tonality of the TAD too, as it's rather chameleon like in that respect, mostly reflecting the recording that's been played back at the time. With the TAD, the hardware just disappears and leaves the music to work it's magic. I thought the bass quality of the TAD is "sub"liminal(pardon the pun, very much intended!) to as it seems to go a octave or so lower than most other digital source, but not only that, the bass had a supple and non-hollow quality that is very much like an analog source. The mids are highly transparent and at the same time presents vocals with a solidness that some lower end turn tables will find it hard to match! The highs are pristine clear, "airy" in quality and if I may use the pixel for visual analogy, is one of the finest I've heard from any source, digital or otherwise. This lead to a totally au-natural, most grain free, musical presentation I've come across. Limits, if any heard, I think I was listening to the limits of my system rather than the limits of the TAD component, because by now, after repeated listenings in the AV Design's showroom, and at Odiosleuth's place had me convinced that this TAD disc spinner is meant to be partnered with the best ancillaries possible, which are sadly beyond my economic means.

Most CD players which also plays SACD tends to only excel in either format, but never both. This TAD again impressed me with the way it handled SACDs. I've got the odd few SACDs lying around and the TAD played them with much conviction, never before realised in my system, by this fringe, if technically superior format. Via SACD, the TAD-D600 became even more transparent, organic and dynamic. One can almost say that it almost sounded like analog in it's presentation. I played my favorite Jennifer Warnes album, The Well  on SACD. My often used test track, An Ode To Billy Joe was a joy to listening to. The grand piano in the song was well "grand" with all the audiophile licks like pedal noises, and internal mechanical workings being fleshed out like never before. Not only that, the string harmonics and wood resonances of the piano were revealed their full glory. The way Jennifer vocally tease the microphone and her phrasing is very exact in it's portrayal.

I then move on to plug my Bryston BDP-1 in to the TAD-D600, via it's AES/EBU input with the aim to stream some hi-rez files. And my, my, what bounty this little move brings. I first compared by streaming some 16bit CD ripps on AIFF just to check if there's any difference vis-a-vis playing the actual same CD on the TAD transport. I heard no difference what so ever, which is good, because that means my ripps are as good in quality as the high end CD transport playback, or the TAD's transport is just so superior that what ever supposedly weaknesses due to the CD transport design are all but mitigated.

Next I tried streaming some hi-rez FLAC files to the TAD, first some 24/96 then working my way up to 24/192 sampling rates. I am happy to report that the TAD locked on to the incoming digital signals, regardless of sampling rates, first time, every time reliably, unlike some other players that we've tested earlier on. With hi-rez files, I am just transported to hi-rez heaven, if there's such a place here on earth! Forget about hifi and just cut straight in to the musical event being replayed, especially live recordings, which is painted on a big finely textured canvas screen in front of the room and the whole performance just comes alive! The TAD-D600's DAC is just so superior that returning to my regular BDA-1 DAC just left gaps in the same musical event, paint on course canvas(is that slightly nutty Big E talking AV projection here or what? Ha! Ha!) and left me wanting. To be fair, the TAD is nearly 8X the price of the Bryston combo and taken in that context, the Bryston combo can certainly held it's head high, mainly because I never suffered any withdrawal symptoms after sending the TAD-D600 back, but I tell you that was a real close call too(the withdrawal symptoms, that is!).

The thing with TAD is that it does everything it sets out to do the with best of today's digital technology allow able. It's certainly THE best CD & SACD player I've heard to date, what's more, it's an absolute musical time machine with hi-rez material streaming via the Bryston BDP-1. I'd certainly recommend for any body with the financial muscle to consider buying the TAD-D600, to seriously also consider bundling the Bryston BDP-1 in to the purchase for THE Ultimate Digital Source money can buy today!

TAD is sold by AV Designs, contact James, or Tony at 03-21712828.

10 comments:

Xav said...

Ive got a CD12 from Linn, how does the TAD D600 compare ? I still love the musically of the CD12 but would like to upgrade to a SACD machine capable of being a good DAC too.

Big E said...

Hi!

I actually had a short stint with the Linn CD12 just before laying my hands on this TAD D-600.

In comparison, the Linn CD12 was the reference player in it's days, but digital technology has marched forward by leaps and bound since.

The Linn is still an absolute joy to listen to, with it's easy, and slightly laid back presentation. It still follows the tune like only a Linn can. However in terms of resolution, bandwidth, dynamic range, linearity and noise less back ground, the TAD's performance is by far ahead. The TAD is so convincing as a music maker, it just disappears as a hardware, without trace sound signature of any kind. It's the most true to source digital front end I've heard!

TAD D-600 is the epitome of today's state of the art in digital music playbck.

Just to throw another bone for you to pick, do consider the Playback Design MPS-5 too! Also featured in these pages!

Happy shopping!

Xav said...

Thanks so much for your comments.

I actually tried the MPS5 about a year ago, and while i liked the DAC part quite a bit, i hated with a passion the transport which i found noisy and cheap. I hated it with such intensity that i got rid of it and swore to never buy any Esoteric based transport, ever.

Which is why I'm glad TAD have done the hard work themselves: how is the transport part anyway ? Feels solid and reliable ?

Also did you try the D600 as a DAC only ?

I think i might just cave in and order the D600 next week, if its that good :)

Big E said...

Xav,

I agreed that the transport section of the MPS-5 is somewhat flimsy in comparison with the rest of the build quality. However, I don't think that transport is supplied Esoteric, but rather it is a cheaper TEAC transport.

Esoteric transports that I've experienced in their own and DCS players are solidly built and offers the smoothest operation ever!

You're right, the MPS-5 performs better as a DAC.

Now for the TAD, the all aluminium transport section of the TAD is equally solid, if not better built than Esoteric's.

I tried the TAD player with everything, CD, SACD and DAC for my Digital Media player, and the TAD's audio performance is without peer and remains so today.

Xav said...

Actually the MPS5 transport is the second most expensive OEM transport from esoteric line, called VRDS i think.

I've also heard bad stories on K3 transport from esoteric, brand new one, which was also very noisy.

As for the D600, from what you say, it's closer to the Linn CD12 ? Because that's the best I've personally ever experienced.

Im starting to think that a Aurender + D600 could be a killer combo. But it looks like D600 is huge, gonna have to make some room :)

Did you hear a notable difference between the C2000 as a source and the D600 ?

Xav said...

Wish I could understand the google translation of this page where they compare MPS5 and D600 http://community.phileweb.com/mypage/entry/1698/20100508/

Big E said...

Xav,

Like the CD12 which was the reference many years ago, the TAD is today's digital reference.

Sorry, can't translate Japanese either! But that kinda proves about the Playback Design MPS-5 rivaling the TAD-D600, however the TAD still has the edge, sound performance wise.

According to specs the output of the D600 is similar to the C2000, except for a few components in the audio signal path where the D600 has superior parts stuffed.

I don't think you'd go wrong with the TAD!

Xav said...

Ah should have been more precise, i wanted to ask if transport quality of the D600 was closer to the Linn level of quality, which to this day i have never experienced better ? (reliable, solid, ease of use, pleasure of using, etc...)

Its real torture deciding between an all in one C2000 or going all out, spending x2 for seperates.. But its good torture :)

Big E said...

Xav,

The TAD transport is among the smoothest and most silent I've experienced in use. In fact better than the Linn CD12.

I envy your dilema choosing between the C2000 or the D600!

Xav said...

Wow, ok, im sold :)