There is a line that I like to draw, down the middle of the audiophile community. On the one hand, there are those that gravitate toward a “tonal sound”. On the other hand, there are those that are utterly thrilled by speed and detail. And on the gripping hand, there’s TIDAL Audio.
There’s more to this than simply splitting the difference between tone and speed, because that’s just a terrible way to joint this particular side of beef. Too many exceptions. Too many broad strokes. But the point is, there are quite a few folks that really love that hi-fi sound and just as many that seem to shudder at the very phrase. Which you happen to be has nothing to do with anything other than personal taste, and while we all know that most folks only have taste in their mouth (ba dum bum), there are some brands that do a better job of building bridges than others. I think TIDAL is one.
It’s not that anyone is ever going to mistake them for a horn. They’re not. This implementation of the ceramic drivers (with or without the diamond tweeter) is far more like an ESL than a horn. But there is more emphasis on the roundness, the timbral completeness, than I’ve heard with many modern “ultra clean response”, no-noise, super-damped presentations. And unlike the warm bounce that you get with tubes and horns, there’s a crazy-good, super-precise sound stage that you can achieve that makes mockery of the whole 3-D analogy that most systems attempt to reference.
Shown here at AXPONA was the $23,000/pair Piano Cera, a two-and-a-half way floor stander with ceramic Accuton drivers from tweeter to woofer. The cabinets are a distressingly black pool of suspended ink and photographing them is one of the most irritating things a show goer like me has to contend with. There’s really just no way to capture the luster and glow of these things with a picture and for that, I’m sorry. Oh well.
I will say this, however, the other thing you’re going to miss out on is the fact that I’ve never heard this speaker sound better.
For that, I have to lay the wreath at the feet of the new $30,000/pair Bricasti Design M28 mono block amplifiers. These soon-to-be-released amps looked like a pair of wall-safes that someone was in the process of stealing. Given the sound in this room, that errant thought was pretty much spot-on. Holy guacamole! More details: fully differential, Class A/B, 25dB of gain, 200wpc into 8Ω, doubling into 4Ω and doubling again down into 2Ω. THD + N is .0009% at full power at all impedances. And, perhaps most interestingly, there’s an … attenuator?
Stepped attenuator in 6 db steps at the rear of the amps to easily match level gains with any source and more importantly the M1 DAC to optimize the analog gain structure when using it as a line pre to drive the amps.
Fronted by the Bricasti M1 DAC, now at $8,995 and an Oppo player, this system was one of my Best In Show contenders.
I’m still shaking my head at this room. I know Bricasti designer Brian Zolner is the owner of a pair TIDAL Audio loudspeakers, so with that as his reference, it’s no mystery at why the synergy here was so outstanding. And to be frank, I had no idea that those little Pianos could make that kind (or that much) bass. Wow.
Purist Audio Design Luminst Revision cabling was used throughout. Stillpoints propped up the loudspeaker and some of the gear. And providing
ballast gravitas to the sound field (and the audio rack) was the flagship power distribution system from Silver Circle Audio, the $9,500 Tchaik 6.