November 27, 2011

BIG Sound, Little TAD! TAD TSM2201-LR Monitor.

TAD TSM2201-LR Monitor. Cute little corner ball feet and brace is supplied for desk top monitoring if required.

Regulars of this blog would surely know by now, our fondness for most things TAD. When James of AV Designs informed me of the arrival of what he'd call "an affordable TAD" and if I am interested to test drive it? I said YES, faster than a jiffy!

Priced at a Ringgit below RM$10k, this surely is as affordable as TAD gets, I think. While the Reference series audiophile TAD speakers are priced from six figure upwards, there's not much to sneeze at this designed for studio, baby TAD near field monitor either. This is a well proven 2 way sealed box design, which will allow desk top positioning, or wall mounting, if traditional means of speaker positioning is not feasible. There's an aluminium tweeter and a 8 inch mid bass driver, giving this TAD a frequency response bandwidth from 50Hz-40kHz. The headlining technology is however, not the drivers themselves but the waveguides(which resembles the convex shape of a cone and flange to aid sound dispersion) incorporated in to them. The figure 8 shaped box also helped to disguise the visual bulk of the 8 inch driver well, besides providing for improved box rigidity and offering the technical advantage of less front baffle surface diffraction.

Overall fit and finish is of high standards, but that studio grey/black surface all round does make this TAD look and feel rather industrial like indeed. Only one pair of high quality speaker binding post is provided, which makes hooking up this baby TAD a rather easy task. Since James had forgotten to bring me a pair of speaker stands to go with it, I have to improvise for this review. I used me pair of Fact 8 as speaker stands, which proved higher than useful, but a neat trick is to turn the pair of baby TAD around on it's head, tweeter down, mid bass driver top. This at the very least, allows the tweeter to be on ear level when I am sitting on my throne. Since this is a near field mini monitor, I set it up closer to my throne than usual, with about 50 inches from the rear wall and 22 inches from the side wall, no toe in. I am rather impressed with the fact that bass response was still strong in my 10ft x 12ft small room. With the speaker position confirmed, four gobs of blue tack is used as speaker/stand interface on each side.

Baby of the ambitious TAD speaker family, great for small rooms and pockets of equivalent size!

The initial healthy bass response gave me a false impression that the TAD did go rather low, but on closer listening with more familiar recordings showed bass extends to not much more below 50Hz or so, as confirmed by the frequency response chart. However, where the bass is still playing, there's reasonable amount of texture and lines of note to note transfer are clean and precise. The mids are where the magic is, say the Brits!, And this TAD is prove that a rich, full, well endowed and solid mid range always works as a compromise to bandwidth limitations. As I've said this TAD is band width limited at the bottom, and as shall be on the top of the frequency spectrum too! The highs are accurate, refined and just slightly rolled off at the extreme. A little more air and sparkle at the top sure wouldn't go a miss here.

I found the TAD TSM 2201 to be less transparent compared to my resident PMC Fact 8, however it wouldn't be fair as the latter cost more than 2.5 times the price of the TAD. Here's a little phenomenal that I learned from this review. I normally associate transparency equals to honesty in sound reproduction. This TAD taught me that my presumption is not necessarily correct. I felt it's important to point out that despite being the more transparent of the two, the PMC Fact 8 also somewhat beautifies recordings to some extent. Good recordings sound great, and poor recordings can still sound like able on the PMC. The TAD on the other hand, true to it's studio monitor origins, just points out a bad recording while sounding just as great with a good recording. Case in point is Carly Simon's No Secret album. While the latest 24/96 hi rez file is far superior then the earlier CD version, to the point which it was on frequent rotation when I was on the PMC Fact 8. However, the TAD just pointed out everything that's wrong with the recording, and it just sounded flat and hissy through out. This take no hostage approach will certainly please some people, but not others.

Carly Simon is my favorite 70's female voice, but her recording often left some to be desired. This 24/96 hi rez file from HD Tracks is much better than the earlier CD version, but still the baby TAD pointed out all it's flaws of the original recording. As they say, can't polish a turd!

I must also comment positively on the staging/imaging scale offered by this baby TAD. It's rather larger than what it's dinky size would suggest. The large stage scale and solid imaging properties make this pair of speaker easy to follow. For some reason, this TAD sounds especially realistic when playing electric and bass guitar tones,with all the pedal effects laid bare for all to follow. I found myself playing more and more rock music with the TAD. For a small speaker, it will certainly play loud without much protest. I am a loud listener, many have said, but I've never up set the limits of the TAD during it's time here. I've never had any issues with regards to dynamics either, micro or macro in kind.     

Clearly, the sum of it's sonic parts as described above does not quite do justice to a rather enjoyable sounding, yet accurate overall portrayal of music. During it's two weeks with me, I've never the urge to remove from my system what so ever, despite down grading from a much more expensive pair of speakers. That's the true testament of an accomplished product. However, as there's a queue of new equipment piling up outside my man cave means my time with the baby TAD must end sooner than I had hoped for. 

The baby TAD sitting on my very expensive Fact 8 speaker stands!

At the price, it's hard to fault the performance of the baby TAD. It's sins are of the omission kind, and perhaps sometimes one can find it's honesty just a little too brutal. However it makes up points by being a highly natural performer of music, if somewhat bandwidth limited. James tells me that an up grade package would soon be available to extend the bottom end of this baby TAD, ala Rogers AB-1 for the LS3/5A. Yes, that means there will soon be a bass module for the monitors to sit on and give it a more full range sonic advantage. Last but not least, this is the cheapest way to get on board the TAD bandwagon, just like a BMW 3 series in the car analogy equivalent, if badge snobbery is as important a consideration to you?

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


Ken said...

I dont think it is fair to review a speaker by placing it above another one!
I dont think the review you wrote would be believable.

Capernaum Creative Solutions Inc. said...

Big E,

Is that why Carly Simon never sounded good in my system!


Capernaum Creative Solutions Inc. said...


I agree with you.

I had a good listen to the speakers at AV design in both Stereo and 5.1.

They sounded much better than how Big E described it here but Big E did hit the nail the spot on most of his description here. On some things, it could be speaker/room coupling related.

Big E said...


If only more readers think like you??? Ha! Ha!

Have you listned to the TAD speakers yet?


No worries, as mentioned, I am truly transparent in my reviews, and will show the review conditions always, so our readers can conclude for them selves if the product is worthy of their attention and hard earned dollars.

I have a strange feeling that you may right that the TAD should sound better when mated to a pair of proper stands.

Ahh... can't win em' all!

Capernaum Creative Solutions Inc. said...

Big E,

I felt that you wrote a good review of the TAD monitors. I wished it could be longer and more elaborate so that I can enjoy reading a little longer but I understand your limitations in both cases.

I read your review with the knowledge of your pictures in mind and I can relate to your findings as such. You did a great job inverting the speakers. Excellent move and I would reckon it would give a more correct representation, sound wise. If I know good monitors, depending on venue, they can usually be placed sideways, upside down and still give you good bandwidth representation.

Personally, I believe the only thing better than proper stands would be the dedicated subs! :-)I look forward to the next review with the subs below instead of your venerable Fact8.

Ken said...

Big E,

I have never heard this TAD monitor speakers yet.

To be frank, after owning bigger speakers, I never fancy small speakers anymore. I am not saying that they sound poor but I much prefer bigger speakers.

Also on another note, I must stress that quality of review is important if you want to grow Hifi Unlimited. To do this, you must review gears in a correct manner to maximise its potential.

yap sang said...

Should a reviewer know that this speaker must sit on proper spk std to make it sound right ?

yap sang said...

It is not a strange feeling that placing on a pair of spk std should sound better , it is s basic and fundamental knowledge that it is sound better .

theaudiroom canada said...

Stereo Calgary Says...
The louder the better. There is a difference between listening to loud music and listening to loud good music in a good system. Thats why we have competition series...

Dave said...

While the Reference series audiophile TAD speakers are priced from six figure upwards, ...