Walsh style TLS-1 by HHR Exotics Ohm F style

Walsh style TLS-1 speaker by HHR Exotics review 1/21/13

I recently purchased a pair of HHR Exotics Walsh style TLS-1's. Before doing so I spent many months on a quest for the best system I could afford to celebrate my fiftieth year on planet earth. After reading some great reviews on Audiogon and other threads I decided to give Dale at HHR Exotic Speakers a call.
When I first spoke with Dale it was not too hard to come to the conclusion that Dale was very passionate and beyond qualified when it came to all things audio. Dale referred me to a client who purchased a pair of their TLS-1’s and who was also a musician. This was very helpful because I could speak to someone who shared a view point that was similar to my own. After that call, I did what was the unthinkable for me. I purchased a pair of TLS-1’s without hearing them! Mind you I did much reading and learned as much as I could about the Walsh style transmission line driver.

The process took about three months from the time I ordered the speakers from Dale, as their were prior orders ahead of me. We shared many ideas and had many phone conversations over the course of the time Dale was building my speakers. He also provided pictures and info teaching me about the speakers as he built them.
I drove to Ohio to pick them up when they were completed. When I arrived I was welcomed by Dale and his wonderful wife Yin like an old friend. Dale had my speakers set up and ready to go. We sat in his listening room, he fired up his system and off we went. After putting the TLS-1’s though a laundry list of music spanning many decades and styles focusing on content as well as recording techniques I must say I was feeling like the Cheshire Cat.
What the HHR TLS-1’s produce is much more than I could have conceived. The sound stage was more than a wide front facing curtain of sound, it was enveloping me. The amount of uninterrupted overtones produced by a single driver delivering the whole wave over the three different cone materials captured so many nuances in the timbre of all instruments it was mind boggling. I had never heard music produced this way. The sound is so three dimensional it actually becomes addictive, like some ride at Disneyland that stimulates senses you’d forgotten or didn’t know you had.
After spending two great days with Dale I packed my truck with my speakers and headed home. It has been three months and I must say this is turning out to be a never ending honeymoon. I must also mention the fit and finish of the speakers all the way around are impressive.
Dale Harder offers a hand built speaker with old world craftsmanship while incorporating cutting edge upgrades that bring this speaker design to a whole new plateau. At this price point it would seem impossible that you could acquire something of this quality custom built by a master like Dale.
My System:
Speakers- HHR TLS-1
Amps- Carver Cherry 180 mono blocks
Pre- Conrad Johnson PV-12 (tube upgrade)
Processing: Aphex Aural Exciter
CD Player: Jolida DD-100A (with platinum Hotrod upgrades)
Tape: Akai 747 DBX
Tape: Denon DR-M44HX
Turntable: Audio Linear TD 4001
Dale and I still stay in touch and share our passion for music, I am so grateful for such an amazing product and experience.
Dan Donofrio, Connecticut
I thought this the appropriate place to chime in with my experience with HHR Exotic Speakers and Dale Harder. While I do not yet have the TLS-1, what I do own is the TLS-1 Walsh driver sitting atop the original Ohm Acoustics cabinet… heavily modified by Dale. I recently purchased these on Audiogon. They were sold to me because the person selling lost his listening room. I have been listening for a couple of months now and I feel I can shed some light on these speakers and my experiences with them.
First about Dale Harder... I have spoken to Dale at least 4 times regarding the speakers. Remember he did not sell me these, so he has no real financial interest in these speakers. He is only supporting me and the speakers after they had been sold to me. He has been very generous with his time and knowledge. He has helped me with set up and answering any questions I have had. He is clearly very an expert when it comes to the Walsh style driver. He is now manufacturing a vastly improved driver and cabinet. I personally feel this is a labor of love on his part and he is doing what he feels he needs to do in order to perpetuate the nearly lost technology found in the Walsh driver.
About the speakers… Please remember mine are not the complete HHR TLS-1. While the TLS-1 driver was built by Dale in its entirety, mine still have the 30 - 40 year old original Ohm Acoustics cabinet …3/4” plywood. While Dale has made substantial improvements to the “box”; extra bracing; resonance control; adding a plinth to the bottom, and even though they were very nicely refinished, it is still the old box and constitutes what I consider one of the weakest links in these speakers. Considering the new complete TLS-1 comes with a non-resonant 2” thick constrained layered cabinet I am sure Mr. Harder agrees with this statement.
So on to how they sound; Yeah, what does a crossover less, coherent Walsh Transmission line speaker sound like? In a word – Musical.

In more than a few words:

1. These speakers produce what I consider to be the most believable soundstage of any speaker I have ever heard. It is three dimensional, accurate (not to be confused with the pin-point imaging which I consider inaccurate) and full. The listening room boundaries disappear with the performance in a way that can only be described as life like.

2. Vocals sound WONDERFUL. You can “see” the performer in your mind. They sound very real. Male voice is chesty and breath-full with no boom. Think Leonard Cohen and smile. Female voice is glorious and never etched except when the recording is hard or strident. Think Allison Krauss and sigh. On the topic of recordings, I would have to mention that these speakers are extremely revealing and not at all forgiving of poor recordings. If you want your speakers to make everything sound good, then these are not for you. If you long for accuracy, you will be justly rewarded when the recording is “you are there”. On the downside, you will know when the sound engineer did a poor or mediocre job.

3. Bass is outstanding except for some resonances that I attribute to the old cabinets. These old cabinets do resonate, but even so the overall bass performance is excellent. In conversations with Dale I have concluded that when he actually builds the cabinets from scratch this goes away for even more clarity. Even with the old cabinets, I am often surprised by the bass depth and clarity. It is actually the accuracy and tunefulness of the bass that makes the old cabinet resonances somewhat audible. These speakers with their low bass can easily excite spurious resonances from the room, floor, windows etc. so be prepared to treat your room. Vinyl hobbyists will need to be careful of subsonic sound.

4. Amplifiers with power are mandatory. I am currently using a Spectron Musician II with great success. I am thinking a minimum of 200wpc is needed to properly control these drivers.

5. Overdriving the TLS-1 drivers. On Dale’s site he clearly states the consequences of overdriving these speakers. You should never exceed the maximum excursion of the driver. If you overdrive them, you will destroy them… end of story. These are not head banger speakers nor are they made for Home Theater. They are made to reproduce music. They will play to 95db peaks all day long. I have found about 5% of the time wanting a bit more headroom than that. That is it. This is really my only negative with these speakers and I have decided that I can live with that in exchange for what they truly deliver. Music to my ears.

In summing up, a bit about me. I have been an “audiophile” since I was a teen and I am 60 now. I heard the original Ohm Fs when I was in my early 20s and I loved them and had wanted to hear how they stood the test of time for many years now. Even then I remember they were power hogs and at the time there was nothing much around that could properly drive them. I have had many high-end speakers since then and when these came on Audiogon I took the plunge.
I have not been disappointed. I am confident that these speakers can hold their own with any speakers now produced regardless of the cost. Let me state for the record that I have no affiliation with Dale Harder or HHR Exotic speakers other than being an owner of the speakers I have just written about. For me my biggest dilemma is I am thinking of selling these so I can purchase the HHR Exotic TLS-2. If anyone out there is as intrigued as I was about Walsh style driver technology, drop me a line perhaps we can help each other.

Fred Manheck
I too am interested in these speakers - what I am reading thus far peaks my interest and I would love to experience a listening session. Unfortunately, I do not know where that may happen, living in the mountains of Virginia.

For those who have experience hearing the walsh driver / HHR, do you have any experience with electrostatics and if so could you write a comparison?

Another question I have is drivability of the HHR's - specifically, would a Atma-Sphere MA-1 OTL tube set up power HHR's satisfactorily? Certainly it is well known that OTL's don't play well with speakers that have impedance's that drop below 4 ohms.

My current set up is Atma-Sphere pre, Atma-Sphere MA-1 amps to Quad 988 ESL's. I have maintained this system, in this configuration, for several years and am very pleased with the fast, accurate tonality and musical nature of the Quads - my only grips are in the area of narrow soundstage, limited bass frequency at the extremes, and limited dynamics (due to Quad's safety mechanisms) -- I reckon the end question is; would the HHR play-well with my Atma-Sphere's while giving me what the Quads do (right) and alleviate my gripes (Quad negatives)...??? My musical tastes are wide, from symphony to rock and I do not see myself replacing my OTL amps.
Hello Grateful,

Sorry, I have not been on the Agon for some time, so I am not sure if I have ever answered your questions or not...
Just in case I have not, here goes.

While I can give you an answer regarding the TLS vs. an Electrostatic, it would just be my biased opinion, so I will allow others to comment on this.

The TLS Family of speakers are extremely easy to dive and represent almost an entirely resistive load to an amplifier. They have very low inductance and almost ruler flat impedance with as little as +/- 1 ohm across their range, with the exception of a high thin peak at resonance.

Your Atma-Sphere amps will drive the TLS-4, 5, TLS-1 Hybrid and TLS-1. Your amps are too small for the TLS-2.

However, I do not recommend less than 100 watts for a shoe-box, as head room is everything, so they may not achieve full capabilities.

The TLS Family is quite tube friendly and demand the best of SS or tube equipment.

I will be brutally honest and tell you that our speakers are not forgiving, and will not turn a Pigs ear into a silk purse. They are extremely revealing and will let you know if you have a poor recording in a heart beat. Or, poor equipment.

They will also spoil you and once you have heard them you will not be able to go back to listening to standard speaker. This, ...not from me, but from 100% of our client base.

Hope this helps.
Great listing to you.
Dale Harder
HHR Exotic Speakers