Florida International Audio Expo 2023 - Tampa, USA
- Written by Hans Wetzel Hans Wetzel
- Parent Category: Shows-Events Shows-Events
- Created: 19 February 2023 19 February 2023
Florida International Audio Expo 2023: TAD’s Compact Evolution One—Concentric Excellence
TAD, short for Technical Audio Devices, brought the newest version of its Compact Evolution One standmounted loudspeaker to the Florida International Audio Expo for its North American debut. At a quick glance, the CE1TX looks an awful lot like the original CE1, which was introduced back in 2015. As always, the devil is in the details.
Costing $32,500 per pair in the United States, with the matching ST2TX stands raising the combined price to $35,000, the three-way speaker is certainly a premium product. High-level specs remain the same as before, with a 1.4″ beryllium-dome tweeter nestled inside a 5.5″ magnesium midrange cone. This coaxial arrangement, when properly executed, pays real dividends as a point-source design.
Below the coax driver is a 7.1″ carbon-fiber woofer. The CE1TX is a bass-reflex design, but it is not rear-ported. Instead, the speaker vents through slit-shaped ports on the front and back of the brushed-aluminum side panels. The woodgrain has been updated, the speaker’s dimensions slightly altered (the CE1TX is actually smaller than its predecessor), and items like the grilles and white trim ring have been changed, but all these changes are subtle.
Venturing deeper, it’s clear that TAD has scrutinized the Compact Evolution One’s internal components to maximize performance. The CE1TX is 10mm shorter and 3mm narrower than the outgoing model, despite the internal volume remaining identical. The shape of the aforementioned trim ring has been optimized for improved tweeter wavelaunch and dispersion characteristics. Additional internal cabinet bracing has been fitted to the top and bottom panels. The crossover has also been updated.
Moving to the drive units, the midrange cone has been modified through the application of a combined chemical conversion and coating treatment to both sides of the diaphragm, allowing for the elimination of the damping agent on the rear. This results in a net ten percent decrease in moving mass. Mass damping has been added to the surround to improve control of reverse resonances. As a result, second-harmonic distortion is reduced by a whopping 10dB at 1.2kHz. And the midrange’s voice-coil position has been changed to drive down second-harmonic distortion by 5dB in the 200–400Hz range.
The woofer uses an entirely new second-generation diaphragm based on the woofer design for TAD’s more expensive Reference line of loudspeakers. The new woofer cone uses five layers of woven and non-woven fabric to optimize rigidity. The suspension has also changed, with the woofer’s surround actually being softened, while the driver’s spider has been stiffened, all in the name of improved linearity, which is especially important in high-excursion scenarios. Even the matching stand has seen changes with dimensions being altered to accommodate the CE1TX’s changes, resulting in a net 5.5-pound increase to 40.7 pounds each.
The new Compact Evolution’s build quality is outstanding. The high-gloss wood finish is gorgeous, and the aluminum side panels offer a handsome contrast to the black baffles that underlie them. Taking an up-close-and-personal look, I couldn’t find a seam anywhere on the loudspeaker, short of the aluminum binding post panel on the rear. It’s not exactly high art, but I think it’s a good-looking design. Spec-wise, the 41-pound speaker has a listed frequency response of 34Hz–100kHz (talk about wide bandwidth), crossover frequencies at 250Hz and 1.8kHz, a sensitivity of 85dB (2.83V at 1m), and a nominal impedance of 4 ohms. An amp with generous power and current is probably a good idea. TAD also offers those.
Sonically, the new TAD benefited from being set up in one of the large conference spaces, which meant that the pair could be pulled out well away from both the front and side walls. They were partnered with TAD’s own M1000-S power amplifier and DA1000TX-S digital-to-analog converter, fronted by Wolf Audio Systems’ Alpha 3 SX music server. The TAD team played Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole’s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and boy, did it sound good. The haunting version really popped from the Compact Evolutions. I heard a slight forwardness that propelled Kamakawiwo‘ole’s voice into the room with abundant low-level detail. I could also discern each pluck of his ukulele with ease, and the stereo image was rendered with pinpoint precision. That coherent source transducer—or CST as TAD calls it—demonstrated its point-source talent on the track. And that beryllium tweeter definitely lent the CE1TX a fast, agile sound.
Not many companies have a “differentiator,” but TAD is decidedly one of them with its beryllium tweeter-armed CST, and its talents were very much on display in the company’s new CE1TX.
Senior Contributor, SoundStage!
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