Tyler Acoustics Taylo Reference Monitors
Show of hands...how many of you have heard of Tyler Acoustics?
That's what I thought.
For the last 15 years to 20 years I've been keeping track of the various web-based audio mags with my ear-to-the-ground for interesting (and affordable) new products. And yes, I've noticed reviews, here and there, for this small company based in Owensboro, Kentucky. Although the reviews always seemed positive there was no way to get a first hand listen unless you knew someone who owned them (I didn't!). Or you a made a committed effort of time and energy to have them shipped to your home (one thing you may recall about Tyler Acoustics was that they were one of the earlier adopters of the direct-to-consumer marketing model). Ultimately, Tyler was just one of the many names that I kept tucked in the far recesses of the "audiophile" memory section, needless to say, it has become very crowded in there and...to my wife's great chagrin... (I've had to evict some other perfectly good memories to free up some space). So, when Clement approached me to see if I'd be interested in reviewing the Tyler Acoustics Taylo Reference Monitors (herein Taylo Ref Monitor). Of course, I happily obliged knowing I could finally make a further dent in that incredibly long bucket-list of items that I'd love to hear.
So arrangements were made and lo and behold a pair of speakers and stands made their way to my home.
Let me tell you something about them and why I feel that anyone looking for speakers for a small to medium sized room may find a lot to like in these Taylo Ref Monitors. Actually, they may work satisfactorily in a larger room too but I just didn't get the chance to test them in that way. I surmise this because they play "big" for their size. And, very importantly, they played loud enough for my tastes (as my audio buds know, I find more realism at the real-world-end of the volume spectrum).
Take note of this because as this review progresses I will be trying to point out how I personally weigh different criteria; with the objective to offer you a way to decide how much (or if) my observations will serve your needs. The hierarchy of qualities that I emphasize may or may not be yours. And that's perfectly fine. I only dwell on these things with the hope - if we are in sync - of being helpful. In my mind, I've been a reviewer for a very long time but it's only just recently that I've actually had to commit my thoughts to paper. It's much more of a workout then I suspected. My admiration for those who do it (well!) has only grown.
My philosophy on reviewers is you have to find those that align with your own tastes and use them as a guidepost to navigate thru the complicated waters of our hobby. That's why, as we move along, I'll be trying to be as transparent as I can in offering a sense of MY tastes in music and sound.
With that in mind let me say that my tastes in music (probably like yours) branch out in a lot of directions. For your ED-ification let me just toss out a few recordings (LP's) that I've lately tended to use for reference duties: Joe Pass (various of the Virtuoso series) and John McLaughlin (up, down and all around his catalog), as he's one of my all-time favorites). Miles Davis; particularly his 70's stuff along with Jim Hall with Red Mitchell. Throw in various Classic Rock, Progressive Rock, Blues and Fusions of every stripe.
The Tylo Ref Monitors certainly benefited by a couple hundred hours of break-in. Not that they sounded bad right from the get go but as the time on them increased they started to open up and sounded more transparent, less congested and more detailed. My thinking evolved from these are interesting to maybe I've got a winner here!
After taking awhile to just getting acclimated to their essence I concluded that they were warm, and engagingly musical, with no glaring negatives. OK, we're off to a good start with the Taylo Ref Monitors. They were pushing most of my right buttons - as I developed a general sense their personality - but I needed to throw some different scenarios at them to see if/how much more was possible.
Do they prefer tubes or solid state?
Now normally I am a tube guy but a few weeks before I got these speakers my long time reference amps (Kora Cosmos monoblocks) developed some trouble so that I had to borrow a solid-state Ayre amp from my friend Sam (to go long with a matching Ayre pre-amp that I already had on loan from him). And for the sake of complete disclosure...I have an Ayre phono section. So the listening began.
So what do they sound like?
To jump right in and give a kind of thumb-nail sketch the Taylo Ref Monitors lean to the "warm/relaxed/musical" camp rather than the "bright/detailed/analytical" side. Now, while my tastes usually tend towards the latter, I was quite satisfied with their overall balance. In fact, their relaxed yet detailed presentation had me taking real stock as to whether or not my regular reference speakers (Audio Physic Avanti's ....which I've lived with for the last 10 years) were too much into the "bright/detailed/analytical" camp. But that's another story for another time.
The point being that I found much to like with the Taylo Ref Monitors. What I think they give you, relative to a lot of the small speakers I've heard, is just enough bass so you won't feel too short changed in that area. And I think that the mix of quality vs. quantity of bass walks a nice balance. But, of course, depending upon your electronics, your mileage may vary. Overall, "balanced" seems to be a good, simplified descriptor for what they do. Their personality is not so strong that it insists you pay attention to their "sound." They're Dunkin' Donuts (on a good day!)......not Starbucks. They're team players. They allow the music to be the star!
Ok, so I like them ...but would you?
Let me try and help you figure out if my opinion on this is something that would help you sort thru your own loudspeaker "bucket-list" and push these towards the top of the pile. A few questions....First off, are you looking for a stand mounted speaker? How do you feel about sub-woofers? What's important to you musically? Keeping in mind that - IMHO - no speaker in or around this price range can do it all. My belief is that you have to narrow down your list of priorities to what you MUST have and then see what other - in the way of refinements - you can get into the mix.
So, now knowing something about the music that I like....what turns me on about a speaker? Probably first and foremost I need focused, detailed and dimensional images on a grand and focused soundstage and... very importantly... good dynamics (macro and micro)! Other attributes are valued with less importance are...x-ray-like transparency and tonal neutrality along with frequency extension. Noted, I am less demanding of these attributes than my need for good imaging, sound-staging and dynamics.
So sue me!!
When I get pulled in by a "system" I am uncontrollably tapping my toes and grooving deeply to what is - spatially and rhythmically - unfolding in front of me. The passage of time slows down and I am just lost in the music!! Audiophile imperfections get pushed to the back burner (at least for a while!).
The Taylo Ref Monitors did this for me in spades. And as friends of mine will tell ...I don't hand out that accolade without a fight.
Eventually, being a tube guy, I wanted to hear the Taylo Ref Monitors with some tubes; and wouldn't you know it I have a friend (Sam again!) that agreed to let me bring them to his house. This was good for a few reasons...1) he has the great Music Reference RM10 MKII stereo tube amplifier.... 2) his room is about the same size as mine, and... 3) he has a pair of ($3500) Proac D2's which I love; and, although more expensive than the Taylo's, make for a great contrast as they are just about the same size and efficiency (and are also a ported 2-way design).
For the sake of an overly simplified comparison I'd say the Proac leans towards the "bright/detailed/analytical" camp whereas the Taylo goes toward the "warm/relaxed/musical." Ok, nobody get alarmed, I'm not suggesting the Proac's are "too bright" or too "analytical" or not "musical" I'm just trying to give you an idea where these two speakers fall on the very wide-ranging spectrum of personalities. I was just trying to generalize so as to have a "simplified" way to characterize which camps these two products fall into.
Visceral! It needs to be visceral!!
Although the D2's had the home court advantage the Taylo Ref Monitors made an overall positive impression. The Proac's - for my money - are champs at sound staging and imaging. But, I always leave Sam's with the same internal dialogue running in my head "they're magical...but I wish they could play bigger and with more grunt and visceral-ness." And that is precisely the areas that the Taylo Ref Monitors can claim some advantage.
From the D2's the clarity and focus of images - up and down the frequency range - is among the best I've heard! BUT, the images are smaller. Almost jewel-like in size. Tonally, they are leaner which can, of course, make it more of a challenge when playing leaner, rougher sounding source material (like a lot of the older recordings I like). The stunning magnifying glass that they are is a personality trait that must be contended with!
The Taylo Ref Monitors, on the other hand, presents images that are bigger, rounder, not as sharply focused but will play louder with less strain and possess more visceral-ness! They are not as transparent or as quick sounding. All of which requires some soul searching to decide which is the more accurate reflection of YOUR tastes. And which "camp" does your electronics fall into?
So which one is better for you? Only you can answer that question with your own two ears, in your own room, with your own electronics and cables etc. I think that, for some people, the Taylo Ref Monitors could be the better choice. And, conveniently, they have a Try Before You Buy policy which can be pretty beneficial!
Where are you and where are you headed?
I asked you earlier how you felt about using a sub-woofer (and preferably two, at that!). Now let me come clean and reveal that I am a big fan of subwoofers. My usual set-up includes a pair of Vandersteen 2WQ's along with Audio Physic Avanti's in a room that's only 16' x 12'. And, as earlier stated, I tend towards the loud (but not crazy loud...as I do live in a condo). So, right off the bat, this is what the diminutive Taylo Ref Monitors had to deal with to win me over. I mentioned earlier that they played "big" and "pretty loud" for their size but frankly, I was pleasantly surprised by this and I started to think that I could actually live with these. (and I'm not easy to live with...wife reference again... she will be reading this!)
So, methodically back and forth (and back and forth, ad nauseam!) I played them with, and without the Vandersteen subs in the system. My admiration for the Taylo Ref Monitors grew further! Oh, don't get me wrong, the entire presentation got better with the subs in, but at a steep asking price. The headline, for me, was that IF I had to live without subs the Taylo Ref Monitors would be a very good choice at its size and price-point.
From my perspective, monitors and subs are probably the best way forward in a small to medium size room. They give you more flexibility so as to find the best location in your room. So, if your thinking just for the here and now, I believe the Taylo Ref Monitors offer much to like ...and you can stop right there.
But, if your thinking more long term I believe (from experience) that combining them with subs makes for a great, full-range, experience.
ed van winkle
Two-way design that includes a single 7" Seas magnesium woofer and Scanspeak Revelator tweeter.
Frequency: 44 H -20 kH
Sensitivity: 88 dB
Impedance: 8 Ohms
Crossover point 2 kH
Weight 35 lbs.
601 E 14th Street
Owensboro, KY 42303
Phone (270) 691-9500
Fax (270) 691-9600