Review: Tonian Labs TL-D1 Speaker

Category: Speakers

The Tonian Labs TL-D1 loudspeaker is described as a "semi-open-baffle" design by its manufacturer. It's a mid-sized floorstander with an 8" Fostex wideband driver coupled to a ribbon tweeter. (Tonian does not reveal the details of the crossover and I do not know if the Fostex is
run wide-open or not, but I suspect not, as I've never heard an unfiltered Fostex driver of any sort sound as neutral as this one does!)

This is a truly a remarkable speaker and I think almost anyone would acknowledge that. Why? I can think of several reasons:

1) It is the first speaker I have ever heard employing a wideband driver that is both very sensitive and yet not the *least* bit "shouty". There are no peaks and no uneven frequency response of any sort, and that was verified by me with measurements. This alone is a pretty remarkable achievement - in a speaker of any cost, must less
one costing $2500.

2) It is *astonishingly* dynamic, in both the micro and macro sense, and with very little power as well.

3) It blends a cone with a ribbon in a way that is absolutely sonically transparent. The speaker, like several other very good two-ways, is perfectly coherent and sounds like a point-source. Is is the fact that this is done with a ribbon that is noteworthy.

I listen mostly to jazz, and the speaker is truly remarkable in this genre. Bass reach is entirely adequate and bass articulation and detail absolutely second to none (save perhaps a front-loaded bass horn!). This is really *the* speaker for jazz percussion. Horns have just the right amount of bite, vocals are very natural, and nuance and
detail are exemplary. The delicacy and reach of the ribbon tweeter make the symbols come alive extremely well.

The speaker is perhaps less stellar on rock but still very good. Here, the lack of complete bass extension is noticeable, and some whizzer anomalies or cone break-up occasionally make themselves known. However, this speaker does a much better job on rock than any of a number of single-driver high-efficiency models I've had, mostly
back-loaded horns.

The speaker is indeed very revealing, with changes in sources and amplification very readily audible. I have been rotating two amps, both of them stellar in their own right: a Korneff 45 SET amp and a First Watt F3. Even the 45, with under two watts, is entirely adequate power-wise, but, as owners of such amps and speakers will be aware, the speaker does come alive dynamically a bit more with more

[The F3, at 15 watts, fills that bill. This single-ended (and thus class A), single-stage JFET amplifier is quite remarkable; I never, ever thought I would find a solid-state amp that really holds its own against the best SETs but this one does.]

So, to close out this short review, if you have been seduced by the immediacy and clean bass of single-driver horn designs, but turned off by their bite (or at least a frequency response far from flat), you really need to hear this speaker. Again, I was totally astonished to
find a speaker under $10,000, at least, that can do what it can do. It is an amazing product and true giant-killer.

Associated gear
Click to view my Virtual System

Similar products
Too many to list
Thank you Paul for this most informative review of the TL-D1. You have provided the type of answers that one is looking for when looking at these speakers. Job well done.
Great review of a great speaker. I, too, have the Tonian TL-D1 and couldn't have said it better. A $10,000 giant killer for $2500 about sums it up.