Tyler Acoustics, Taylo Reference One Loudspeakers
|Tyler Acoustics, Taylo Reference One Loudspeakers|
Associate Editor, Hardware, Positive Feedback magazine
|19 July 2000|
Frequency response: 22-20k
Power handling: 20 watts minimum, 300 watts maximum
Impedance: 8-Ohm nominal
Crossover points: 80hz and 2300hz
connections: single, bi, or tri wire/amp
Size: 20"w x 24"d x 45"h
Weight: monitors 50 lbs. each, bass modules 90 lbs. each
Price: $5,800/ pair
"Ty Lashbrook has broken through to the big leagues. When you factor in the sweet price, the Taylo’s have to be considered, at the very least, a division winner. With the right supporting equipment, they might even win the Pennant."
It’s been a while since I’ve had something new in the speaker department. The last several years have been dominated by a number of Von Schweikert designs—VR-4.5’s, VR-6’s and VR-8’s, to be exact. I really have been spoiled. They are all excellent loudspeakers and tough competition for any contender. The latest contender, and the first non- VR speaker in three years, comes from a virtual unknown in the speaker world. Have you heard of Ty Lashbrook and Tyler Acoustics? You might have caught him at the last CES show, but probably like me, you don’t have a clue.
Let me take a minute to tell you a little about this unassuming gentleman from Kentucky. This is no self-absorbed audio guru. My conversations with "Ty" have always been pleasant, light-hearted and refreshingly BS free. In fact, with his southern drawl and self-effacing manor, its easy to like this southern good ‘ole boy –so easy, that this normally hard-boiled Yankee lawyer actually found himself rooting for the guy and hoping that his loudspeaker would make the grade.
Ty is an audiophile with a fifteen-year history of tweaking his system and experiencing frustration with the results, particularly in the speaker department. Like many of us, Ty thought he might be able to do it better himself. Unlike many of us, he actually did something about it. He experimented with speaker design and concentrated much of his efforts on cabinet construction and driver selection. He makes no bones about it – Madisound does the basic crossover design using MLSSA and his selected drivers and cabinet volume, then Ty builds the crossovers and cabinets and does the critical listening and tweaking of the circuit in the fully assembled speaker. Let’s be frank, anyone with decent computer skills with today’s software and testing hardware can put together a loudspeaker that has good frequency and phase measurements. The "art" of conventional high-end loudspeaker design is in messaging the basic circuit and minimizing the cabinet effects.
I have listened to quite a few loudspeakers that have had excellent measurements, but fell far short of expectations when subjected to critical listening. You can make slight changes to the values of caps, coils and resisters without seeing any appreciable difference in the frequency curves. But sit down for a good listen and voila! —it sounds like a very different animal. It’s axiomatic that the audiophile ear is far more sensitive than today’s test equipment. Consequently, the excellence of a loudspeaker is more directly related to the quality of the designer’s ear and his ability to tweak the circuit then it is to the test regimens employed.
There are some loudspeaker designers, John Dunlavy being the archetype, that think that the quality of the individual crossover components and the drivers themselves are not nearly as significant as a small group of test perameters. Ty Lashbrook is the polar opposite. His designs are built around the very best crossover parts and drivers he can afford and time listening rather than obsessing over test data.
Drivers 2-12" Peerless woofers,1-6.5" Seas Magnesium cone mid, and 1-1" Scanspeak Revelator tweeter
Crossovers Hovland capacitors are used in the tweeter signal path and Geortz Alpha-Core inductors in the midrange signal path. Steel laminate inductors are used in the woofer signal path. The crossovers are 2nd and 3rd order designs. External tri-wired crossover boxes are available as an option (the review pair came so equipped)
Woofer System Dual 12" compound system with one woofer on the front and the other firing into a sealed compartment in phase with the front woofer and wired in series. The woofers are crossed over at 80 Hz with a 12db slope
The Taylo References are obviously not budget build speakers. The cabinets are well-braced 1.5" MDF in an eye pleasing stacked, truncated pyramid configuration. The ports on both the base module and monitors are front firing. The veneering, fit and finish is impeccable. There are three sets of binding posts on the back (two on the monitor and one on the bass module) so you can fuss all you want with tri-amping or tri-wiring. Tri-wiring is a tweakers dream enabling you to optimize your cables for bass, midrange, and treble….and in case you were wondering, I’m just anal enough to do it.
My review pair came with the outboard crossover option. The crossovers are nested in an elegant black wood boxes that are spiked and have removable tops. The tops are attached with velcro tabs, so it’s a breeze to pop the lids and ogle the insides. What you find there is a veritable "Who’s Who" of high quality parts point-to-point soldered with Silver Sonic wire. My pair also came with Silver Sonic T-14 tri-wire jumpers from the crossover boxes to the speakers. I highly recommend the external crossover option as I suspect that it does make a sonic difference in terms of minimizing problems with magnetic inductance between the driver magnets and the crossover coils and in lessening hysteresis distortion. If tri-wiring is a tweakers dream, then a "pop top" external crossover is an audio wet dream. OK, show of hands –how many of you just can’t leave your audio gear well enough alone? You obsessively "modify" every piece you own, tailoring the sound to your personal taste: "Hmmm…Let’s see, I think I’ll by-pass that big Solen with a Hovland cap…yeah, that tweeters just a tad hot so I think I’ll pad it with a smidge more resistance… and while I’m at it, let’s make it a Caddock." Remember what I said about the "art" of high-end speaker design being the process of messaging the crossover circuit? Well, damn right it is!… and you are hereby invited to be the artisan. It’s just soooo easy with these pop top crossover boxes. You can’t possibly cause any permanent damage. If your changes suck, just try something else, or wire it back with the original value parts. Hey man, if you want to be part of the "Tribe," you’ve got to "tune your bow" (high fives, Dr. Gizmo)! This creative, roll up your sleeve process gives you a real connection to the sound. It’s very satisfying to roll your own and make a true custom loudspeaker.
All right then, now that we’ve looked at the design, components, and specs, does something stand out at you?.. I mean, is something flashing in your head like a Kmart Blue Light Special? Oh, Yeee-ah….. show me duh money! Is this a lot of speaker for $5800, or what! There are many speakers with less in terms of drivers, crossover parts and cabinet quality that are selling for well over $10,000. I know, I’ve had a few of them. In the world of high-end audio loudspeakers, this really is factory direct, wholesale pricing. If these speakers were merely good, competent performers, they would be an excellent value. The good news, Kmart shoppers, is that they’re much better than that.
The Blue Light Sound Tour
"Believe me, you have never heard 12" woofers sound like this. The sound is reminiscent of 6 or 8 inch drivers – fast, with no overhang, and yet with the air moving authority of a larger driver."
I love a big soundstage, not exaggerated in size, just big as the recording venue. With the Taylo references, I enjoyed a soundstage that was intimate with Clark Terry at the Village Gate and the full size of Carnegie Hall when I played Harry Belafonte’s and the Weaver’s live albums. The sweet spot was a little smaller than I’m accustomed to (the VR speakers are noted for a two or three person sweet spot), but once you get locked in, it’s huuuuuge in there. This is not what people sometimes call a "head in the vise grip" sweet spot, but rather a narrow window that will collapse to one speaker or the other if you move your head more then a foot to either side—fairly typical of dynamic driver speakers that do not have any rear firing elements. The optimum placement of the Taylo’s ended up being within a fraction of an inch of my standard setup—not surprising since my wall treatments for primary and secondary reflection points are properly aligned at this location. The speakers are nine feet out from the front wall with their centers three feet out from the sidewalls. The speaker centerlines are 8.5’ apart and my head is eleven feet from each speaker on the diagonal. A 22-degree toe-in provided excellent center fill while maintaining the best stage width and image separation. I knew I had it right when the stage at Carnegie Hall took up the entire front of my room, extending five or more feet beyond the sidewalls. The front of the stage started about a foot back from the front plane of the speakers and went back ten or more feet beyond the front wall. I haven’t been to Carnegie in years, but I would say that this is pretty close to life sized.
The placement of instruments and vocalists on the stage was precise and three dimensional –on a par with the very best I have heard in my room. The ability of these speakers to image laterally well outside the speakers was exemplary. Many good speakers, with a proper set up can do this, but the real trick is to do it while maintaining proper depth delineation. Quite often, images outside the speaker are limited to a small plane – from slightly forward of the speaker to slightly behind it. The Taylo’s placed images all the way back past the front corners of the listening room . I like to use Sting’s "The Soul Cages" with "Q-sound" to test this. For the first time that I can remember, the Q-sound phase tricks worked extraordinarily well. I heard distinct sounds and images coming from behind me at the four, eight o’clock positions (with me in the center of the clock) as well as from the two, and ten o’clock positions and most points in-between. When this is done right it’s quite an amazing carnival trick that will amaze your unsuspecting guests.
Using the Stereophile test disc with the left, right, up and over "clicker" imaging test, I was again impressed with how well these speakers performed. The test where the image is to form a continuos rainbow arc above and between the two speakers, was particularly noteworthy. The Taylo’s produced a nearly seamless arc with very little flattening at the apex. This matches the best performance I have heard to date on this test.
What about the tonal balance of this loudspeaker?…I’d say close to neutral, with a slight lower treble emphasis. This is not a midrange enhanced, syrupy sweet speaker. On the great loudspeaker continuum, I would place it just to the right of neutral center – a touch lean, very detailed, almost analytical with its treble detail. The Revelator tweeter is a revelation of treble detail—microscope precise with very little grain or edge—but , woe to the ‘phile with a second rate front end. You will hear the mediocrity unmasked and it may get ugly. On the other hand, if you have a friendly, always polite tweeter, you might achieve good sound, but never excellent sound. The resolution and extension of SACD disks on the Sony 777ES demands what the Revelator delivers – treble excellence.
The Seas is "mmm" good – a "magnesium midrange marvel." It’s agile, uncolored and speaks the harmonic truth. It easily handles the broad range from 80 to 2300hz, which is precisely the broad band I like to see in a three-way design. Get the midrange right and just supplement the top and bottom – that’s the ticket. The higher crossover point avoids the 1000 to 2000 Hz range that is often a ragged trouble spot for soft dome tweeters and the 80 Hz bass crossover keeps the singing in the midrange, not the woofer. I really can’t find anything truly negative about this speaker’s midrange performance. I suppose that if I had to be critical (duh…it’s my job), I would wish for a smidge more lower midrange warmth and body. The good news is that it was easy for me to dial this in with some tweaks to the midrange crossover.
Bass is surprisingly fast and tight for two 12" woofers. As advertised, the compound loading of these drivers really minimizes cone excursion and distortion. The bass extension is good, but not earth shaking. I think the response starts to deviate from flat below 30hz. The specs are correct in that there is usable bass at 22 Hz, but the 3db down point in my room (14’ × 29’) is probably about 28hz. Ty says he detests bloated bass, so the bass alignment of these speakers is purposefully lean. The internal volume of the bass modules are made slightly smaller than what the Peerless 12’s and the design software calls for. This tends to raise the Q of the system and makes it more critically damped. This is my first experience with this type of bass loading and I must say that I’m very impressed. Believe me, you have never heard 12" woofers sound like this. The sound is reminiscent of 6 or 8 inch drivers – fast, with no overhang, and yet with the air moving authority of a larger driver.
With an SACD front end and the amazing Bel Canto Evo amplifier on board, the two words that best describe my system’s sound are transparency and agility. By transparent, I mean nearly devoid of any coloration, background noise or distortion. The sense of immediacy is almost excruciating. I use the word "agility" rather than "speed" because I think it more aptly describes the effortless dodging and weaving of the musical prizefight -- the system’s ability to stop and start on a dime and then hit you with the hay-maker that comes out of nowhere. Agility connotes a certain grace and balance. Indeed, this system has it in spades. It can render the most subtle nuances and the finest gradations of micro-dynamics with what can only be described as graceful organic rightness.
How do I know my system sounds like this? Quite obviously, it’s because the Taylo Reference Speakers are letting it all come through with outstanding fidelity. A bloated, stodgy loudspeaker would kill this magic. Heck, even a slightly forgiving speaker could make the Goosebumps disappear. This is high praise indeed. I think I have one of the best front ends available today (Sony 777ES SACD), the right interconnects and cables (Harmonic Technology and Analysis Plus) coupled with THE best amplifier (The Bel Canto Evo). In this heady setting, the Taylos aren’t outclassed--they’re right at home.
Checking out at the Express Line
Tyler Acoustics has produced a first rate loudspeaker in the Taylo References. They are a testament to what a clever audiophile can do with a sound crossover design, robust cabinets and near state of the art drivers and crossover components. No, you don’t have to learn the mystical art of speaker design at a temple in Tibet. You don’t have to be "grasshopper" to one of the great masters for many years to "earn" the right to produce a great product. No, armed with only a good set of ears and a penchant for quality, Ty Lashbrook has broken through to the big leagues. When you factor in the sweet price, the Taylo’s have to be considered, at the very least, a division winner. With the right supporting equipment, they might even win the Pennant.