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Capital Audiofest 2016: Because Tidal, enough said

CAF-Tidal-4439

I was told, years ago, that there were certain expectations that were completely legitimate to cling to. Horns have a certain sound to them, for example. As do triodes. And panel speakers. And ceramic drivers.

The problem, perhaps obvious giving the way I’m framing this, is that most of these expectations are wrong. Or, if not wrong in kind, certainly wrong in degree. Panel speakers do tend to blow up images to larger-than-life. Horns do tend to sound discontinuous. Triodes do tend to sound soft. And ceramic drivers are not dynamic.

Yeah, about that last one ….

I’m not exactly sure where that comes from, to be fair. There may well have been some issues with early Accuton drivers, or drivers from other manufacturers, with some kind of brittleness — I don’t really know. If so, that was all before my time. My experience with ceramic drivers is almost exclusively through widgets made by Accuton, and has not been problematic in any way. My experience, quite to the contrary, is that they can play loud-as-hell, and even better, play loud and clean — that is, no breakup or worry about a crash-and-burn, and still provide a crazy-real view into the microdynamics of any venue or performance.

Take Tidal, for example.

Tidal (the German loudspeaker company, not the streaming media service) makes ultra-lux loudspeakers that feature the latest work coming out of Accuton. These speakers feature a precision crossover design that has the appearance of being absolutely coherent. Add in their growing use of the Accuton “diamond” drivers for an ever-more-perfect pistonic approach (which they call “Diacera”), and we find Tidal pushing the boundaries of accuracy-in-reproduction. These speakers are warm, full-of-life, and breathtakingly rich in their sound, with a level of detail I’ve not heard outside of headphones. And the sound of a Tidal speaker is entirely in keeping with the elegance and style of the package that the sound comes wrapped it — quite simply, it’s stunning. So much so, that I bought a pair.

award-sighting-smDoug White of The Voice That Is, a Philly-area dealer for Tidal, Bricasti, Aurender, Brinkmann and more, has been my go-to for almost a decade, especially when I’m actively considering raiding my retirement fund. As a dealer, his approach is completely service-oriented, but he’s very laid back — as he says, he’s in this for the long-haul and not the quick sale, so don’t bother asking for his “best price”. But you want to know what the deal is, or how to make your dollar go farthest — even when you’re exploring the very reaches of what’s possible in the sonic arts — then Doug is worth the call.

While I’m blowing smoke in my friend’s general direction (insert a winky-face here), I will offer that there’s a couple of things to keep in mind about Tidal speakers. One, they’re nowhere in the neighborhood of cheap. Don’t bother calling any dealer and expect to get an Amazon “deal-of-the-day”. One look at the speaker will tell you why that is — that finish is crazy. That’s not hours worth of labor, pulling that level of luster off of that natural wood veneer, that’s weeks. There really is nothing that looks like this on the market today — anywhere. And when they say “piano black”, just be aware that piano makers have never seen this finish before. Trust me on this one.

But for those that are looking for a bit of a break, well, Tidal now is offering a different approach — a no-finger-print “Velvetec” finish that goes a long way toward bringing the price way down.

Doug was driving the “baby” of the current Tidal lineup, the 2.5-way Piano G2 speakers. These speakers are all-new, and feature new bracing, new tuning, new cabinets, new everything except the general approach. Yes, they’re a 2.5-way — which says to me, “regular living spaces”. Tidal has many speakers in their line that get quite a bit more complex (3-way, 4-way, and more), but these should be the most straightforward to integrate as well as the easiest to drive. If I was going to trade up my Contrivas (the next model up the line), I’d be looking at these.

The new speakers are 4Ω nominal, but note also that the impedance doesn’t drop below 4Ω either, so expect to want at least a 30 watt amp to get the most bang-for-your buck out of them.

The Tidal electronics (this is one of those brands that can cover you, soup-to-nuts, if you like) match, naturally, their speakers — well, at least assuming you don’t opt for the veneer — the black on the chassis looks like liquid (it’s a nightmare to photograph), accented by brightly polished silver trim. The knob on the Preos-D preamplifier (which comes with a phono and a DAC) is an unexpected delight — and yes, it’s worth a separate comment all on its own. Assuming you’d dare to turn it — it’s brightly polished silver, so, think “fingerprint magnet”, which is probably why you’ll be using that remote — but when you do, it’s solid, smooth-to-the-turn, and just quietly shouts “quality” at you in that same way that a butler just never would. And best of all, at the other end of that knob is one of the most sophisticated mechanically-isolated digitally-specified-but-fully-analog resistor-arrays that I’ve come across. WANT.

My time in the room was spent listening to tunes coming variably from either an Aurender N10 streamer courtesy of a Bricasti M1SE DAC, or a Brinkmann turntable.

My thought, listening? Wrap it up. I’ll take the whole lot. This was easily one of the very best rooms at this show.

  • TIDAL Audio Piano Diacera G2 Speaker (stained Mahogany finish) – $42,900
  • TIDAL Audio Preos-D Preamplifier – $32,900
  • TIDAL Audio Impulse Dual-Mono Amplifier – $32,200
  • Aurender N10 Music Server – $7,999
  • Bricasti M1se DAC – $10,000
  • Brinkmann Spyder Turntable – $12,000
  • Brinkmann 10.5 Tonearm – $5,490
  • Brinkmann EMT-ti Cartridge – $3,990
  • TIDAL Audio Reference Powercord 1.25M – $6,750
  • TIDAL Audio Reference XLR cables 1.25M – $7,500
  • TIDAL Audio Reference Digital SPDIF cables 1.25M – $4895
  • Dynamic Design Neutron SW16 Digital ~ 1.5M Powercord – $7,500
  • Dynamic Design Challenger AE15 Digital ~ 1.5M Powercord – $4,000
  • Signal Projects Hydra Reference Phono Cable – $2,300
  • Purist Audio Design 25th Anniversary IC – RCA 1.5M – $9,570
  • Purist Audio Design Dominus Luminist Revision Speaker Cables 3M – $17,460
  • StillPoints ESS GRID Rack $8,600-12,100, varies w/configuration
  • StillPoints Ultra SS Isolators – $249 each
  • StillPoints Ultra 5 Isolators – $699 each
  • StillPoints Ultra 6 Isolators – $899 each
  • StillPoints Aperture Panels – $699 – $749 (Cherry) each
  • Signal Projects Poseidon S40 Power Conditioner – $11,000
  • Telos Grounding Noise Reducer – $5000
  • On Static Display: TIDAL Audio Piano G2 Speaker, shown in Black Velvetec finish – $22,800
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About Scot Hull (979 Articles)

Founder, Editor and Publisher at Part-Time Audiophile and The Occasional Magazine.