This year’s Audio Video Show is in the past, all the dust and emotions settled down finally. Well, almost. One room in particular, located somewhere on the ground floor of the Radisson Blu Sobieski hotel, simply wouldn’t let it go. That’s the place where Trenner&Friedl Taliesin speakers were showcased for the very first time and this report is all about that. Enjoy.
A journalist’s mailbox days prior to the Polish event is always busy, multiple invitations arrive. The usual stuff; various premieres, elections, interviews and so on. Yours truly gets himself familiarized with all of these, yet he’s picky. This is a necessity as time’s precious during those three special days of November. The event itself gets bigger and bigger, what can one do. To focus on several subjectively the most promising/important/friendly places is the way to go and to try to see as many things possible not before but afterwards, sounds like a solid plan. Here I’ll politely stop with journalistic warfare tactics and just add that Trenner&Friedl Taliesin floorstanders piqued my interest weeks earlier, were on my radar ever since and because of several quite understandable reasons.
Let me kick this writing off by stating that I thoroughly enjoy Trenner&Friedl speakers. Not too long ago, this manufacturer’s Sun monitors were reviewed and shortly past the HFK launch, Art model got its own publication. Both of these products performed boldly, lively, densely and in general in much grander fashion than their size would suggest, especially the former product. On top of that, Pharaoh and Osiris floorstanders I’ve heard numerous times during shows and in private setups. Not even once any of Austrian products underperformed. The quality is always there and someone obviously has to know his game to pull this off. And lastly, as a tasty cherry on top, majestic Isis floorstanders are the daily driver of my colleague Jacek, one of local audio journalists. His system is truly amazing, though in the context of its value it really should. People who witnessed what his Isis married to Reimyo, Robert Koda etc. does… they understand this already. Still, the bottom line is that the Austrian sound simply defends itself against competitors easily. Yes, at times a naysayer or two will argue that they’d like to have this or that served differently. That’s the audio playground in a nutshell. Though none disputes the fact that the focus on music and not individual sounds is the Austrian way.
Taliesin aka. Tally got my full attention long before the Polish event. I subconsciously knew that a room with these will be the very first one to visit and that’s what happened exactly. I was at the Radisson Blu Sobieski hotel as early as an hour and a half or so before the official gate opening. The place was quite empty. Some manufacturers/distributors were tidying up their locations, single service staff members cruised from one place to another and that was it. Without hesitation I went to the Taliesin place directly and two suspiciously relaxed Austrians welcomed me. Since we know and like each other, less than proper language kicked-in somewhat automatically and the atmosphere – as per usual with them – became jolly. Past several minutes of quite easygoing convo, the question about listening possibility was asked and ‘yay’ is what I’ve had heard in return. Conditions in there were perfect. Two gents aside, not a single soul was in sight. I was equipped with my own music and wasn’t afraid to use it. This turned out to be slightly problematic at first, yet Andreas Friedl dragged the laptop owner faster than I was able to finish yet another f*** word. Anders – Hegel’s main marketing man – sorted the issue and once this was was done, the vibe got even friendlier, causticity and bad language elevated significantly. Fun and games, fun and games. I won’t lie, I had a glorious time in the Austrian-Norvegian room also because of all three individuals in there.
… and then some!
Before we’ll get to the core part of this writing, there’s one observation I’d like to share with you. While conducting the event related journalistic duties, whether it’s Munich or Warsaw it matters not, from time to time I take joy in watching visitors’ reactions. Appallingly often something along those lines happens: two individuals get into a room, they stand for three minutes tops and shortly after one whispers to the other that the sound’s not right, it’s a no-go/waste of time/nothing special for no specific reason and that’s it, next they both leave and the proverbial curtain drops. I can understand that either something piques our curiosity in an instant and this pushes us to investigate further, or on the contrary. But time this short spent somewhere in a corner of a room is not valid to form any meaningful opinion. Such conditions can be and oftentimes are very deceiving. And to move along those lines, a great number of people actually visits all seven floors of the Radisson Blu Sobieski hotel under three hours or so. They obviously have to sprint through the place like if there was an award waiting for their effort at the finish line, located somewhere near one of several entrances to the building. And then, later on the very same day, one might find opinions of this very sort in the web: “This year, my good sir, nothing performed! Not a single room pleased me!”. Well, if not a slightest chance or attention was given in the first place, how should it? It’s not about lowering one’s expectations and praising everything in sight as is, these should always be high in this hobby, but to simply give yourself some time and not rush things that shouldn’t be rushed. Yes, music is one of those. At least that’s the way yours truly sees it.
To move slightly further along those lines, event conditions are far from perfect, they rarely work in favour of and not against exhibitors, that’s one thing. The second matter is that these people do this not for themselves but for us, the audience and at the same time it strikes me how easily people diss their effort. In case of individuals married with audio in a fashion similar to yours truly, every event is more of a social and business related meeting than anything else. Journos are a special breed of audio enthusiasts. But this aside, once the show’s off I do ask myself quite often this simple question: how many visitors would change their opinion about a given room if they’d thought about having their own music with them, waiting a bit for a decent seat and giving themselves more time than three minutes at most? Just a rough guesswork here, but my bet is that the majority of people. And why am I writing about this? Well, because many rooms were filled with great sound during this year’s Polish event. And when after the whole thing someone tells me that s/he had seen/heard everything, yet nothing delivered… you get the idea. Alright, my rant’s off, now let’s proceed to the tastier bits.
Austrian Trenner&Friedl Taliesin floorstanders were the obvious main dish, there’s no question about it. These giants boast with 100 kilograms of weight per speaker, 1,5 meters height and more than 0,5 meters width and depth. 92 dB sensitivity, four ohms of nominal impedance and €69’900 ask. Ouch! In any case, each of these Austrian monsters is loaded with 18″ woofer, 12″ concentric driver, 1,75″ compression tweeter and one AMT transducer. The last one improves imaging and boosts ambience. Subjectively I can only say that the product itself is visually marvelous and – objectively – finished to the highest standards. It looks like a huge pile of money, that’s for sure. All Austrian boxes are visually very vanilla, presumably also to have the so-called WAF properly high. Yet Tally is a different beast. It’s very plainly looking, true that, yet at the same time exceptionally elegant. This design turned out brilliantly if someone asks me. If I hadn’t known Andreas and Peter, I’d say that their latest product came to the show from Italy directly, even though not a single curvature it sports. Moving on, Tally sang along with Hegel’s TOTL products; H30 stereo power amp, P30 preamplifier, HD30 d/a converter and Mohican CD player. Japanese Hijiri cables were used as well, power supply I can’t recall and – since I was equipped with a pendrive – the music was played via some old Macbook. The room itself was acoustically treated via 2D and QRD diffusers by local Acoustic Manufacture. The former model, when placed behind and in-between speakers turns the outcome literally upside down. Such a product I use within my own four walls and I honestly think that it’s the best sound enhancer there is, maybe except of a thick carpet. And lastly, the Austrian-Norvegian team got things sorted with their neighbors. Each party was allowed to play music loudly for half an hour; when one place was on, the other remained almost silent. This smart play, dear readers, worked like a charm. People could listen to each setup undisturbed by any unpleasant effects.
Early on yours truly had a certain idea what to expect, yet no specifics. And truth be told, Hegel products didn’t quite fit Tally in my book. To make it perfectly clear, I honestly think that these Norvegian decks are very good and do what they should in their price range. Yet for this scribe, Hegel is a brand that fits to speakers of price tags in the lower five figures at most, simply because such setups are the usual suspects showcased in Munich or Warsaw. I see Hegel as a brand ‘good enough’, namely able to tick every checkbox as far as sound quality goes and honestly priced on top of that, yet not spectacular in any way. A jack of all trades yet master of none, as they say. Yet with Taliesin something completely different happened. I can’t say how much of an impact Norvegian products had on the outcome, but impressive things happened nonetheless and it’s probably high time to re-evaluate my opinion about this manufacturer. Time will tell.
Shortly past the initial audition, several things occurred to me. The very first one was how substantial the whole setup performed. It wasn’t neither glassy or piercing, nor dull and overly rounded. The balance between saturation and clarity was a spot-on. Radisson Blu Sobieski hotel is known for boomy rooms and big setups showcased at the PGE Narodowy stadium tend to sound nervously, itchy and shinier than they should. At least these are my observations, yet the point here is that Tally placed itself somewhere in-between and that’s very good.
At some point, Darek – local Trenner&Friedl distributor’s man – came into the room. There he was; listening, looking, admiring. Past short audition he said that the outcome was impressive for a pair of closed boxes. I nodded, the sound was grand, we both knew that, yet I wasn’t so sure about sealed enclosure. Tally emphasized not contour, agility and definition as far as LF goes. Although all that was heard, live tissue, richness and very generous downstairs reach were on the pedestal instead. Austrian speakers might look like a closed affair, yet in fact they aren’t and that’s what I’ve heard very clearly. The venting mechanism is actually not one but several horn and bass-reflex combos, a thing of rarity. In any case, the bass itself was very feisty, yet this happened in addition to texturing and, yes, richness. And the sound in the Austrian-Norvegian room wasn’t boomy at all, the sensation of both 18-inchers properly controlled was there all the time. And because of all low FR elements of quality and well-balanced, the outcome was very coherent and impressive.
The bass kept in check didn’t veil FR up above. Hence the coherence part described one paragraph up sticks to the whole audible range, not only lows. The midrange wasn’t elevated too, it didn’t dwarf the rest, not in the slightest. I can’t say, maybe there were people with such impressions, yet not this scribe after quite extensive audition of his well-known repertoire. And what about mid FR singled-out? Coherent, pleasant, well-sketched, clear yet not analytical… all these descriptive measures fit in here. The same thing I could write about top end as it was served with generous decay, finely differentiated and enjoyably lit-up when a specific track had to have it like so. My point here is that the high realm wasn’t sharp at all and having said this, I’m in 100% certain that the setup in front of me wasn’t able to butcher music in such a way.
Many people find separate FR parts’ descriptions very informational and that’s why the paragraph up above was delivered. But here’s the kicker: the whole setup in my eyes was exceptionally coherent, music oriented and of Trenner&Friedl sound philosophy in general. My point here is that not one or two individual aspects kept me constantly involved and focused, but the whole outcome instead. And having said that, huge, literally walls shattering, sophisticated and engaging image was one of many reasons why it happened. This wasn’t yet another display of audiophile, minimalist and analytical approach, my playlist didn’t allow this, but a roller coaster ride with full speed on and we’re talking about 100 square meters room here. Again, it’s not about transparency, detailing or agility on their own as all these were delivered altogether, but finely balanced outcome in general, the one that switches the analytical mindset off and allows one to simply enjoy the show. Tally’s sound was completely itchiness and exaggeration free and I quickly acknowledged that the setup in front of me is easily able to handle every music there is. Though here it’s worth to know that these speakers are merciless for badly recorded music. It wasn’t even about file quality but mastering itself. Some tracks were simply painful to listen to. Every dynamic contrast limitation was heard loud and clear and so were grain and lifeless, metallic tint. Top shelf doesn’t forgive such atrocities and something similar I experience in my cave on a daily basis, yet not to such a degree. But the best part is that not even for a second I thought that the setup in front of me was to blame in this regard. Not at all, a fair amount music content I had with me back then was the obvious culprit.
Several words about the soundstage itself are in order. Most of the time it wasn’t overgrown or spectacular in terms of sheer size, yet it was heard that a given track dictated this. Michael Goddard’s “Zefiro Torna” showed unrestricted scale and fantastically detailed and breathing recording environment itself, limited by walls only. But several minutes later, Julee Cruise with her “Floating” was an example of much more cameral, smaller, distant and dreamy approach, somewhat closed in-between both Austrian giants. My point here is that the difference between these two tracks in the space regard was staggering, yet Taliesin showed it very clearly, like it was no challenge at all. It’s not that I haven’t experienced this in the past because I had, numerous times in fact. Yet the bottom line here is that this was yet another box checked on Taliesin’s long list of virtues, that’s what I’m sayin’.
The most impressive playback was not based on my own music, but one niche band Andreas discovered – The Acid. Shortly past their Liminal LP landed in the Mohican CD player, things became very impressive. The sound Tally delivered back then was utterly spectacular and its LF made me sweat. Yes, this sensation I remember well even while writing this paragraph. One sits comfortably in a chair relaxed at first, listens, then suddenly his eyes start to shine in disbelief from one second to another and literally becomes wet because of bass response. Helluva efficient guts masseur it was. The outcome was smooth, squeaky clean and coherent, true that. Everything checked out. Yet the downstairs attack more felt than heard, utterly powerful and bold, yet at the same time swift and agile owned me. I left the room quite shocked and grinning from one ear to another. An audio feast of this sort is a very rare thing and usually when something similar happens, the intensity degree is nowhere near this high. And that, dear readers, is one of the key reasons why this material had to happen.
An enthusiast’s life ain’t easy. The more s/he gets familiarized with top shelf products, the more picky attitude is developed in the process, thus the more difficult it becomes to take unrestrained joy in listening to music and be truly excited about it. There’s a substantial difference between acknowledging as an objective journalist that a given product is good and having a blast with it purely as a subjective enthusiast.
In any case, early on I knew that the Taliesin experience will be good to say the least and basic sound characteristic assumptions checked out as well, most of ’em at least. Theoretically speaking I should be one surprise-proof journo then. The joke was on me nonetheless, simply because Tally turned out to be one shockingly good performer, in many ways unexpected. The joy I had in the Austrian-Norvegian room was nothing short but immense. It’s highly likely that if I could listen to music in other places yet in similar conditions, namely undisturbed, for at least an hour or so and from the hottest seat, more reports of this sort would’ve happened. It is what it is and what is… is marvelous Taliesin champ, which blew this scribe away. If only my listening place and funds would allow this beast… ‘Till next time!