In some ways, the Tidal line of speakers looks quite conventional and some of the materials they use may seem common. But when you hear Tidal speakers, you know there's far more going on under the surface than might be obvious to casual onlookers.
Tidal Audio's founder and chief designer, Jörn Janczak, worked in Germany operating CNC machines before starting Tidal Audio, and the precision involved in that type of work is certainly evident in the loudspeaker company he helms today. Tidal's speakers are built solidly and finished impeccably, particularly the piano-gloss finish that Janczak feels is the very best in the world. But their beauty isn't only skin deep. Some of the inner workings, especially the crossover technology, might be not only unique but also groundbreaking.
Sitting down with Janczak at CES gave me an opportunity to dig in a little deeper with the owner and chief designer at Tidal. I asked him what made his loudspeaker designs unique, and he was clear that neutrality is the overriding goal: "The result we achieve is attributable to many different things, starting with good measurements. If I hear things that make them sound different, then I avoid those things because it means the speaker is colored." As to how he designs his products, he said, "It is 95% measurements and 5% hearing, with the step response being the most relevant measurement and then frequency response immediately following that. Flat frequency response affects tonality but not timing." Janczak feels that time is critical to localization and whether a sound seems "right" to our ears. According to Janczak, "A good step response ensures that the complexity of music is reproduced as it is in reality."
It's been said that loudspeaker design involves a balance of tradeoffs. But it seems that Janczak has addressed multiple elements of advanced loudspeaker design, and therefore accomplished a number of design goals simultaneously. His crossover design, for instance, could be unique in that it uses multiple filter types to achieve extremely flat frequency response (+/-1dB he claims) and a near-perfect step response that indicates that the arrival of all the drivers' outputs are simultaneous. When asked precisely how he accomplishes that, Janczak goes from outspoken to dead-quiet. He will talk openly about every aspect of his speakers' designs but won't disclose the exact details of his crossovers -- these, he feels, are what gives his company its competitive edge.
Although the Tidal drivers might look like the standard models sold by the German firm Accuton, according to Janczak they aren't. Accuton is located just minutes away from Tidal, and the two companies work closely together to produce exactly what Janczak needs for each speaker model. The German company Mundorf is also located close by, and they supply the custom crossover components that Janczak uses for his unique filter networks. Janczak said the companies "work closely together to solve problems, and I can get custom parts that suit my needs."
Tidal has been in business for 11 years, but it's been during the last few that there's been a groundswell of buzz about them. After talking to Janczak in-depth, I can see why, and all indications point to their continued popularity. So don't be fooled by the classic, understated appearance of Tidal speakers. Examine every aspect of them closely and you'll see something special going on. Listen to them and you might find yourself so enticed that you end up among the Tidal wave of owners across the globe enjoying a truly high-performance super speaker.
Editor-in-Chief, The SoundStage! Network
Tidal Audio website: www.tidal-audio.de