Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

Have You Seen?


Sometimes you just luck out. I’d sat for a while listening to the TAD Laboratories Reference system, and it was a packed house, as you’d expect on a Saturday afternoon at an audio show. I sighed to myself and figured I’d nip back up to my room and grab my laptop so I could come back down and sit, listen, and write, as is my wont. It works well at shows, I find, to sit still in a chair and write about the room, rather than gather details and then write it up later in my room or at the bar over a light Yankee beer.

The elevators at the Embassy Suites hotel were jammed, so I took the stairs instead. When I arrived back at the TAD room, I thought someone had walked over their grave because the room was empty. Some sort of synchronistic cosmic event had conspired to give me total freedom, so I chose the front middle seat right sharpish.

I had about 20 minutes of peace before the room filled back up, and it was lovely.

The TAD Compact Reference One TX (CR1TX) is a very large standmount loudspeaker, but it’s not the biggest speaker in the TAD line. That distinction belongs to the Reference One TX (R1TX), which sells for $160,000 per pair (all prices in USD). While the CR1TX initially presents as a two-way speaker, it’s actually a three-way with a tweeter coaxially mounted at the apex of a 6.5″ midrange driver. And that full-sized midrange makes sense when you consider the equally full-sized 8″ woofer.

At $87,500 per pair, plus $5900 for the stands, the CR1TX is pricier than many high-end floorstanding speakers. Looking at the images of the speaker online or in a catalog, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it might be a bit overpriced, given that it’s just a monitor.


But sitting there, listening for a solid hour (it’s never good to make snap decisions at shows), I realized that the CR1TX’s size is not representative of its abilities. A pair of CR1TXes easily filled the large room where TAD was demonstrating two full systems—one at either end.

This speaker is a statement-level, luxury product from soup to nuts. The cabinet is made in collaboration with a respected Japanese furniture maker, and the driver complement is the culmination of decades of research and development in both the professional and consumer spheres.

With the exception of the Wolf Audio Alpha 3 SX music server, the system consisted of TAD components. The D1000TX Evolution SACD player ($21,000) was functioning as a DAC, sending its signal to the C600 Reference preamplifier (discontinued, $38,000 when available). Power was supplied by two M700 Reference amplifiers ($60,500 each).


A sphere of sound launched from the speakers. Coherent, effortless vocals, most notable on “My Love Mine All Mine” from Mitski’s album This Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We. (This album is a treasured find for me, and I thank the folks at TAD for introducing me to it.) The vocals formed a well-rounded presence between the speakers. Next up was “Birds” by Dominique Fils-Aimé. This track actually startled me with crisp hand claps and deep, bottomless, infinite bass, meshed with floating vocals. The TAD Reference system radiated effortless power and grace.

So yeah, these speakers, this system, sounded great, and so far—at the end of Saturday—I’ll proclaim the TAD Reference system as the best sound I’ve yet heard at Florida International Audio Expo 2024. As I was finishing this off, the TAD folks swapped ends and began playing their less expensive Evolution system. It sounded very good, but I was spoiled, and so I left the room richer for having heard the Reference system.

Postscript: On Saturday night, TAD hosted a meet-and-greet after the show closed. After downing a quick glass of a very good Japanese whiskey, I turned around and had a good listen. Right here was possibly the best set of party speakers in the world. TAD was demonstrating the R1TX speakers. They were playing some loping, rhythmic R&B music, but not the crap they play on the radio today. No, this was juicy, well-recorded, fun music, and they were playing it very loud. I walked up to one of the speakers and placed my hand on the side. It was completely free of vibration. Even close up, the sound was free of edge and distortion.


The entire room was flowing with the music, caught up in the wave. It was a perfect way to end the night.

Jason Thorpe
Senior Editor, SoundStage!