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HE2006: TAD Spawns Pioneer EX

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by Josh Ray on June 14 '06

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And now, for one of the hottest speakers at the show -- the Pioneer EX speakers. Huh? Pioneer? A mass electronics company! So pedestrian! Ah, but appearances are deceiving. Pioneer made a very wise purchase a few years ago, bringing TAD into its big, happy family. TAD happens to be one of the largest makers of custom pro drivers, using diamond, beryllium and magnesium ages ago when the rest of the industry was making drivers like paper pinatas.

In TAD's case, it's good to be part of the family. With Pioneer's bank account and free reign to design away, TAD unleashed the $40,000 Model 1 and Model 2 speakers that blew up shows past, shocking the industry with its sudden presence. TAD? Pioneer? The biz is still adjusting to these guys taking their place among the vaunted legends.

Of course, why settle with a $40k speaker when you can make one for $9k and get 90% of the performance? These Pioneer S-1EX speakers are TADs to the core. TAD's chief Andrew Jones is one of the greatest guys in hi-fi. Making the rounds at other top speaker houses before settling down at TAD, Andrew Jones brings a lot of the Brit craft to these new American titans.

That driver up top is the concentric (tweet inside midrange) driver from the TADs. Where the TADs use beryllium exclusively, the Pioneers use a combination of beryllium and magnesium. The bass drivers are 7" carbon beasts with enough output to scare old ladies. Seriously, the bass was huge in a huge room. Many a show goer left with serious amounts of drool.

The Pioneer EX also includes the $6000 S-2EX monitors as well as the S-7 center channel and S-W1 subwoofer. Don't expect to find these at your local Best Buy either, Pioneer is expected to tackle the traditional brick and mortar monster.

The only downside I see is Pioneer's after-thought marketing. Check out the Pioneer EX website. About as exciting as tooth paste. Alas, they have the same image problem Sony had when they tried to crack the high-end nut a few years ago and were promptly sent packing. Pioneer has some good tech talk, but unless they can get past the image of "big corporation with overpriced speakers," they'll have problems in the hi-fi arena. Even keeping the TAD name for the EX series would help the image, in my opinion. The good news is there's a lot of buzz about these guys so expect to see some killer reviews soon.

In the pic below, Andrew Jones on the right watching the masses get their sonic worlds rocked. Next page, the TAD Model 2 at CES.

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The TAD Model 1 was replaced by the Model 2 in January. Same price, same great taste, new construction and cosmetics.

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Comments

Dude, good you took pictures of this room. The stupid camera ate mine for lunch. Waah. I still remember my impressions about this room though. Honestly, this room was second only to Ray Kimber's DSD demo in "best sound of the show" for me. Yeah, it is hard to get off the image of Pioneer as a mass marketer of cheap sound systems and car stereos (a reason why they should probably stick with TAD for a high end brand)... but as they say, the proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the listening. There was nothing "cheap" about it. Probably one of the best kept secrets of the HE show.
Alas, I missed the Kimber demo. I heard it at CES, but I wasn't familiar enough with the piece to appreciate it. I'm not surprised you had an impossible time getting good pictures. That yellow shower curtain on the walls is just terrible for photography. The speakers are actually very nice looking, despite how they look in the photos.
By my count, this will be Pioneer's third go at the American high-end. The first was in the 70s with the M-series; the second in the 80s with Elite (which they eventually bastardized to the low level it is today). I guess we'll see if it sticks this time.
You mention that Pioneer "purchased" TAD. This is, I believe, wrong. AFAIK TAD was initiated by Pioneer in the mid-seventies and featured the talents of the legendary Bart Locanthi and Pioneer's Shozo Kinoshita (whose work is now to be found in many great studios around the world and at www.reyaudio.com). The classic and enduring TAD drivers came about because of the talents of the design team and Pioneer's deep pockets and manufacturing skills (I'm guessing about the manufacturing skills bit, but it fits especially when as we are talking about dealing with really nasty material like Beryllium). The new stuff is dull compared to the Exclusive speakers Pioneer used to make (or the big Westlakes that also use TAD drivers). All IMHO.
This was my favorite room at the show. Stunning sound quality coming from what I think is one of the best looking speakers I've ever seen although I'm not crazy about the white mid cone. I asked Andrew Jones about why they chose that color and he said that it is the natural color of the pure magnesium they are using for the driver. He said it could have been anodized any color but it was intentionally left white to show they are using pure magnesium. Oh well. I still think it would look much better in all black. Mr. Cash would approve.
This was my favorite room at the show. Stunning sound quality coming from what I think is one of the best looking speakers I've ever seen although I'm not crazy about the white mid cone. I asked Andrew Jones about why they chose that color and he said that it is the natural color of the pure magnesium they are using for the driver. He said it could have been anodized any color but it was intentionally left white to show they are using pure magnesium. Oh well. I still think it would look much better in all black. Mr. Cash would approve. Definitely best speakers at the show under $10,000.