Almost everybody who has been around the studio business for a while is familiar with Technical Audio Devices (TAD), the professional division of Pioneer Electronics. Historically, TAD has made both drivers (its 4001 compression driver is a staple in the large soffit-mounted monitor world) and finished speaker systems. Historically as well TAD’s products have been priced well beyond the range of the project, or even mid-level studio user. The TSM-300 is TAD’s venture into that user base. Although they are not inexpensive monitors, they are well within the range of the serious project, middle level and (of course) upper echelon studio.
Product PointsApplications: Closefield studio monitoring
Key Features: Two-way; twin 6-inch woofers; 1-inch compression driver with horn
Price: $599 each, $1,090 per pair
Contact: TAD (Pioneer) Electronics at 800-872-4159, Web Site.
The TSM-300 ($1,090 per pair) is similar to TAD’s previous offerings in that it utilizes in-house designed drivers developed to meet the requirements of the project.
A pair of 6-inch woofers flanks the new 1-inch titanium diaphragm compression driver with horn. Interestingly, the woofers are of a design that dispenses with the traditional foam edge roll, having instead an edgeless configuration. TAD claims benefits such as greater excursion capability, vibration reduction and freedom from edge roll-induced cone deformation are achieved with the new design.
The newly designed compression driver features a titanium diaphragm with a ferrofluid encapsulated voice coil. The horn itself was developed to physically mirror the aperture size of the twin woofers, and is combined with acoustic pipes installed in close proximity to the horn/driver unit to eliminate unwanted internal resonances.
The TSM-300 measures 20 3/8 inches high by 9 5/16 inches wide by 12 3/16 inches deep and weighs in at 23 pounds. The cabinet is finished with a good quality teak- colored vinyl wrap, and detachable acoustic cloth grilles are included. I left them off during the review process.
Frequency response is stated as 35 Hz to 35 kHz with no deviation criteria specified. A pair of high-quality gold-plated binding posts is provided, as is a tweeter level control, which allows for an increase/decrease of the tweeter level. The nominal impedance is rated at 6 ohms, and the sensitivity is a reasonable 88 dB at 1M. The crossover frequency is 2,500 Hz.
My auditioning setup consisted of the TSM-300s on 36-inch-high, cement-loaded speaker stands driven by a Yamaha P2201 power amp (a 250 watt per channel no-compromise bipolar design) connected to my Neotek IIIc console. A borrowed Bryston 3B-ST was also called into service during the review process. I auditioned the speakers using two-track mixes played back on my Studer A80RC deck, as well as commercially recorded CD references. In addition, I used the TSM-300s during the tracking of a spoken word project with T’ai Chi teacher Rich Marantz on both the vocal and backing music sessions.
I found that the TSMs threw a wide soundstage, and provided more detail than I was used to hearing from my current closefield monitors (Fostex NF-1s with upgraded capacitors), especially in the high end. I was especially aware of artifacts such as tape hiss and room noise that were presented in a way that made them especially obvious. I preferred the sound of the TSMs with their tweeter level set to the “decrease” position, though I still found them to be a little bright in the high end.
The twin woofers combined to produce higher levels of bass than you might normally expect from a closefield monitor. The quality of the speaker’s lower ranges was very good, with only a small trace of cabinet-induced resonance. Though a problem area in some designs, the four front- mounted ports were almost completely free of chuffing and other turbulence-related anomalies. The TSMs seemed to be well matched to both the Yamaha and Bryston amplifiers.
Along with extended listening, the published frequency response charts seem to indicate a midrange dip in the 3 kHz region. You might like to think of these speakers as being the opposite of the typical Yamaha NS-10 sound. Their somewhat recessed midrange does make them easy to listen to over extended periods of time, but could cause mixes to skew toward being mid-heavy, and perhaps a little dull. As with any monitor on the market today, users will learn to compensate for the tonal peculiarities that are unique to their installations.
One thing that I particularly enjoyed about the TSMs was their capability for high sound pressure levels. In part due to their horn design (horns can be 20 or more times more efficient than a conventional driver), they are able to play at loud levels without sounding compressed and pinched, since the drivers (especially the high-frequency compression driver) operate much farther away from their absolute limits. I feel that good horn systems have an “ease” about them that conventional drivers rarely achieve.
The TSM-300s are an intriguing choice in today’s saturated studio monitor market. They offer a technologically advanced complement of drivers, excellent dynamic capability and detail resolution that is certainly unmatched in their price range.