Review: Tube Audio Design TAD-60 Tube amp
I have had this Amp for 2 months now. I bought it on sale from 2baudio.com for $899. Paul's selling price is all over the map, and you just have to wait for his sales. (For instance his speakers were on sale for $500 last week and this week the same pair is $1500.)
I compared it with a Sim Audio I-5080 integrated (similar to the current I-3; retail price was $1300 5 years ago).
After letting it burn in for 24 hours, I AB-ed it against the Sim Audio. My wife (not a gadget freak, but has good ears) joined too; she was intrigued by the "industrial" "old fashioned" look of the TAD-60(which I find cool and she finds a bit ugly).
We used 3 recordings: Jacqueline Du Pre's recording of Elgar Cello Concerto (orchestra, cellist), Diana Krall's Love Scenes (female vocal, bass, piano), and Karajan's 1977 recording of Beethoven's 9th.
After one listen it was clear: the Tube Audio amp completely dominated the Sim Audio. My wife commented that both sounded good, but that the TAD-60 made the cello seem much more realistic. One could hear micro details of Du Pre's playing, and her hand moving up and down the cello. The piano sounded fuller and more real on TAD-60. We both noticed that Diana Krall sounded extremely different on the two amps (though good on both, she sounded breathier with the Sim Audio). Bass accompaniment on the Krall album had much better definition with the TAD-60. My wife found the violins slightly more realistic with the Sim Audio amp.
The TAD-60's principal strength was the ease with which it conveys dynamics; this makes symphonic music extremely exciting to listen to. I have been listening to symphonies a lot lately.
I have not listened to any other Tube gear for any length of time (except occasionally in high end audio shops). I am not sure whether or not what I am hearing is the "Tube" sound, or just a better amp. But the TAD-60 is a keeper. (I have sold the Sim Audio.)
Most surprising to me was that two amps in roughly the same price range could sound so different. I had assumed that beyond the $1000 price point, differences would be rather subtle. Not so.
Note: I have done most of my listening in UL mode with a slight amount of feedback. The Triode mode was more "listenable" but didn't convey the same excitement and dynamic sound. However, it is good to have that mode for bad recordings. Also, rock music often sounds better in triode mode to me.
Pros: Great dynamics, bass definition. Different modes (and variable feedback) allow you to tailor the sound a bit, especially to make bad recordings more listenable.
Cons: No remote control. Only one input. You have to remember to turn it off when you are done listening. (Tubes burn out quicker otherwise.)
p.s. I have lately added the TAD-150 Signature preamp to the system which has taken performance up another notch. More about that in a future review.
pps: Sorry if i don't respond to comments quickly; I don't look at them too often.
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