Any way to mod the TAD-803's ?

Hi guys, this is my first post here.

I've recently (3 months ago) purchased a pair of TAD-803's at a low cost. I'm assuming they're the crossover-less design as they are certainly not the "new" model.

I originally had the 803's hooked up to an Onkyo solid state. I was in between amplifiers at the time and that is all I had on hand. As you can imagine, they sounded terrible...I mean really bad. There was absolutely no oomph, any musical complexity seemed to utterly confuse the drivers and as such I had a hard time listening to them, which caused me to develop a sense of buyer's remorse.

However, before my mid line class A amp got back from California (recall because of a faulty transformer), I ended up purchasing a completely modified Jolida 202a. I mean the V-caps, new resistors, cardas recabled, new (old) tubes, wbt posts, 50 watt model.

To be honest, this really made them sing. I've never heard acoustic guitar so visceral and real. Snares and cymbals have a presence that I couldn't imagine. Both male and female vocals carry an emotion so believable that I immediately dismissed my buyers remorse in favor of absolute satisfaction.

But they still have their shortcomings...

When switching over from jazz, light classical, and acoustic pieces to full orchestras, death metal, and rock...I am immediately disappointed again.

High energy orchestral pieces like Mahler tend to get... jumbled. The sound stage shrinks and the instruments lose their individual voices. The same is true for any heavier rock music, the sound just seems to get very compressed.

The issue is somewhat remedied by cutting out 110 hz and below (completely) and sending that to a sub...but there's still a bit to be desired.

My question to anyone willing is - Can I modify the 803's in any way so that heavier music is less jumbled? I've seen these "moon rocks" for sale, but do they really help? And would they resolve my specific issue? Other than that, is there any other solution? Perhaps one I can try out at home?

I love these speakers for acoustic and jazz, but I can't deal with shortcomings in the "rocking out" department.

Thanks for any response,

first off (and no offense), but i'd remove the main drivers just to make sure they're the wide range version without a crossover. i've been fooling with this speaker for a time while i'm in financially lean times (and my attorney is not). this speaker sorely needs cabinet reinforcement/damping/mass imho. i've done some other tweaks to it, but haven't gotten to the cabinet yet. take a look at the GR research website to see how they dealt with the flimsy insignia cabinets with their mods. this is pretty much what i intend to try once i get around to it. i can only imagine that this would allow the speaker to better handle "heavier" music, but i guess i'll find out once i'm done :-)

You can't expect a 17" tall single driver bookshelf speaker to "rock out" at extreme volume levels. The Jolida 202 was designed with small bass shy low damping output transformers - to make the larger 302 & 502 better models. For rock or extreme bass heavy play the 202 is not recommended by Jolida. The 202 is the ideal weekend opera listener amplifer - not designed for teenagers.
the amp may be a consideration here, especially when pushed harder. (thanks reg for pointing that out) i'm using a 50wpc updated vintage solid state amp, but in stock form (which it ain't) it has a damping factor of >200 and ~200wpc dynamic reserve. even before i get to the cabinet mods i can rock out at moderate volumes (taking physics into account as reg also points out). you can't expect too much from any bookshelf speaker, but an iron-fisted grip on the main driver sure helps.
First, thanks for the responses.

Cabinets- I agree, the cabinets seem overly light. I mean extremely so. I haven't taken out the drivers yet, so I honestly can't be 100% on whether there's no crossover. I'll try some of those mods.

to Reg- Unfortunately, I can't help but be a tad bit offended by your post. I don't expect the 803's to be tower speakers, and I'm not referencing volume nor did I ever in my post. The issue is that on more complicated pieces the 803s start to sound muddied, especially in the soundstage department. Now, if bookshelf speakers can't produce full orchestra pieces with any level of believability...then the audio world has some progress to make. But I'm not sure that's the case. I've owned several pairs of bookshelf speakers and even tested a pair of Athena bookshelves with the amp in question and had a more "even" experience across all genres.

As far as the amplifier is imply that this amplifier is incapable of portraying any heavier pieces (be it symphonic, or metal) seems rather ignorant. And your implication about the design seems to state that the 202 is made for an opera audience while the higher priced amps are better for "teenagers". I understand that higher priced products from a company generally perform better than lower priced products. But an amplifier is an amplifier. It's not like comparing a violin to a snare drum. The bass response is adequate enough at 70hz plus (a subwoofer takes over here). ("Bandwidth: 17Hz to 140KHz + 3dB; 0dB = 40 W 1KHz") And the damping factor is most likely above 10 which many consider to be the "definitely good enough point".

To further extract the amplifier from the situation- In the beginning of my post I stated that I originally used a 135 wpc SS amp known for having strong bass/midbass performance. Yet I witnessed the same problem among genres using this amp. Acoustic/jazz sounded acceptable through the 803's - anything heavier slowly sounded worse and worse.

I may just be being too picky. I'm not saying that busier/heavier music sounds terrible. I simply mean that in comparison to the almost beautiful portrayal of simple guitar music or light classical / jazz pieces heavier music just sounds slightly more lifeless.

Just my .02 cents here, but have you contacted Paul Grzybek yet? Since he's the speaker designer perhaps he might be the person to talk to about your issues with your TAD-803 and which mods to make that would "heavier" music less jumbled.
Well, I took out the drivers and found that this is actually the crossover version. However, as they don't seem overly bright to me (with a tube amp), this is probably the better situation.

Do the SD units (the ones without crossovers) have better drivers? Or is the crossover simply removed. On the website it seems to imply that it uses a very similar albeit different driver.

Basically, do you think I could simply install a switch like the new 2007 models?

Cleaneduphippy - I actually did e-mail Paul and asked why the moon-rocks would fix the problems, and asked what else could be done. I've done some speaker design before, so I was curious as to how decreasing the volume would improve bass response, unfortunately I was thinking of sealed containers. (I might go to home depot and get 20 lbs of white marble then roll it in flour =P, just kidding on the flour).

He responded- "Moon Rocks are a specific material with real science based audio properties. (marketed like snake oil for fun!). They eliminate the cabinet side wall sound - place you ear against the 803 - you will hear eerie distorted midgange that comes off the cabinet walls (all speakers have some of this), mixing smearing the driver sound from behind. The rocks deaden this cabinet noise plus the rough sound absorbing rock mass stays piled at a 45-degree angle leaning against the back wall (other materials settle to the bottom, moon rocks stay in place). This rough slanted heavy back wall behind the port helps deaden cabinet noise. Moon Rocks will definitely aid the rock music cone confusion you mentioned. The bass from the 803 is relatively flat with a slight bump up. This bump up when driven hard competes with single driver midrange. Moon Rock cabinet volume reduction behind the port eliminates this bass bump - flattening it further, the cone stops gyrating out of control from cabinet noise backlash."

I'm not sure how it would deaden the cabinet noise, and he stated that it was not intended to couple the speaker to the ground better. I'm assuming the biggest effect is probably a cabinet volume reduction. It's possible that the speakers were originally designed with a box that was too big. Reducing the volume would reduce the qts and cut out a hump if there was one there. Unfortunately, unless the port length was also increased significantly, I'd think that this would effectively drop out a lot of the bass originally provided. With a subwoofer integrated, this may not be a real issue, but he didn't mention where the hump was located. If the bump is in the 85-90 hz region then there may still be a problem.

I opened the cabinet and noticed a few things.

A) There are two large wooden disks glued to the bottom of the box. I'm assuming that these were placed there for one of three reasons. 1) Perhaps this was originally a tweak to reduce cabinet volume after noticing the hump. 2) Perhaps simply to add more weight to the bottom of the box. 3) maybe an attempt to fix a resonating node on the bottom of the box.

B) The walls are very thin and corrugated to some extent. I'll probably try to add more structure to this using the putty advice previously mentioned. The walls are also made out of particle board as opposed to MDF board, this will naturally induce more resonance.

C) The driver isn't coupled to the cabinet very well. First off the screws were very loose (most likely so as to not strip the thin particle board wall). Secondly, there is no seal whatsoever, the metal backing of the driver is coupled directly to the laminate/particleboard. This might not be a big issue in vented designs. But it's probably better to over-design than to risk some weird leaks or vibrations. I'm assuming that the lack of any foam also transfers a lot more vibrations directly to the cabinet. (which I mentioned was very thin and resonance prone)

D) There are air leaks in the back binding post plate. Once again, this may not be a huge problem in vented designs; but it will change the frequency response somewhat, and may cause some noise.

Further Testing:
After doing some simple frequency analysis, it seems like the hump occurs at 90 hz with a slight recession at 100-110. Meaning a subwoofer won't do much to remedy the situation unless the crossover point is set to 100 hz (probably not a good solution). Presumably because I have the crossover design there is also a moderately large hump at 3khz, there's really nothing that can be done to fix this aside from changing the crossover manually or equalizing the original signal.

Some of these results may be skewed slightly by room acoustics, I'm simply reporting what I found in my specific case.
I purchased some putty, a little weather stripping and 50 lbs of gravel for $10 total at home depot. Let's see what happens.
After putty-ing the inside with special attention to the corners, weather stripping the basket ring, and filling each with 10 lbs of gravel... I can say that there's a decent difference in sound.

First off, contrary to what I thought would happen the bass was extended deeper... Now I can't attribute this to the gravel as more should have rolled off the bass but fixed the hump. Before the bass began to roll off at 70-75 hz.. now it begins to fall at 50 hz... This may be due to added weight, mechanically decoupling the driver a little with the weatherstripping, sealing off all extraneous air holes, or decreasing energy lost to the cabinet using the putty.

Secondly, the speakers can play a bit louder before breaking up. Not too much more, but it's still noticeable.

Thirdly, there's something different about the sound.. almost like it's a little thicker or richer, a bit less airy than before. This is the change that I don't welcome quite as much. It's not a big difference though, and I may grow to love this new sound, who knows.

Finally, heavier pieces have been cleared up a bit, most likely just due to the solidifying of the entire design, and possibly due to the hump at 90hz getting fixed (which tended to muddle the mid-range.)

I'll give it some more listening tomorrow once the putty has completely dried.

Thanks for posting this; I just got a pair of the 07 version; just couldn't resist to try them at that price :)

Looking forward to your impressions after listening a bit more.
I've had mine for a week or so and they have broken in nicely; fq. range does not reach too low, but I am impressed with the accuracy and details in mids/highs. For strings, piano, and percussion instruments, this speaker is amazingly real. With a nicely blended subwoofer these things will sound as good as speakers costing much, much more.
The 2007 version is internally covered with some kind of foam. No moon or mars rocks added yet; I'll give it a try with gravel and see if the lows can be extended as Rob says.
Put plast-i-clay modeling compound inside the speaker cabinets and on the speaker driver's frames....
in addition to mass-loading the cabinet, damping the driver basket and improving the wiring, replacing the cheap and overly padded wanna-be nautilus tweeter with a hi-vi tn-28 gives those missing highs back. use a first-order crossover at ~9kHz, padded to your taste (probably between 2-4 ohms, as opposed to the ~150 ohms needed to make the stock tweeter "acceptable")