20 June, 2009

Home Visit: TAD 3401 /Kondo

pics. Exclusive 3401, from Russian site Kogerer (top). Setup we auditioned (left).

Home Visits: Not one, but TWO Exclusives; TAD 3401/Kondo

For many years I have always wondered why many tube people want to use TAD. From the dealer in HK to individuals, it's rare to hear even a semi-decent performance using tubes. In contrast, there are a few good performances from ss setups, even with the huge 2401.

Unlike JBL, which may respond to tube as well as ss setups, IMHO the studio TAD (US) models respond largely to ss only (I am sure people will argue with me on this). Japanese Pioneer Exclusive however is somewhat different. The more efficient lower-line 300 was widely popular in HK, and I previously had a pair. It worked with tubes pretty well, with one BIG exception: the bass responds better to ss amp.

After having heard some large TAD/ss setups, I was quite stunned when many months ago I went to tubediyer's dive to hear his newly acquired Exclusive 3401. Now, here is something that is like JBL L300, a complete thing that can deliver with all kinds of music and with little fuss. Think of it as a less efficient L300 with wooden horn that can deliver higher volumes without stress. The 3401 sports a 斩崩刀 tweeter/supertweeter that has better extension than the 077; a midrange with a wooden rather than plastic horn, and a big woofer. Like the much later 2401/2, the 3401 is FULLY ALNICO. Here is good info on various Pioneer/TAD loudspeakers

Although the wooden horn of 3401's midrange driver is very small, with the help of the tweeter the 3401 achieves an excellent dispersion, feeling of air and presence that to my ears OUTCLASSES its succesor 2401. Here lies one of my strong beliefs: A very good 3-way is better than an excellent 2-way. The 3401 is 3-way, the 2401 2 only. Enough said for me; YMMV.

At tubediyer's place I heard a very humble $2k ADCOM ss amp do great justice to the 3401. With speakers of this caliber, one doesn't need to invent excuses for poor sound.

The next time I heard the 3401 was at Andy's place. The day was actually designed to test out the iPod/ Wadia iTransport. I took my AUDIO NOTE DAC 2 (old version, PCM63-20 bit; 6DJ8 buffer stage). This DAC is one of my favorites, superb sound with a high output that suits SET amps. This day was no exception.

The setup matched very well with the KONDO M7 (line only preamp) and Ongaku (integrated used as amp). Sound had good presence and the power was enough for Andy's smallish LR. Andy's setup was known to be bass-lean, but on that day I did not notice it. The sound was good enough to make one long for a full Kondo set...

It's really gratifying to see an old friend getting better-than-ever sound. I have known Andy for a long time, and every disc sounds better now. The speakers surely deserve the biggest credits!

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