Raidho TD4.2 Floorstanding Loudspeakers
I admit it. The pair of TD4.2 speakers that have taken residence in my listening room are the best speakers I have ever had the pleasure of auditioning. They are also the most massive, most substantial, and at $122,000 to $142,000 a pair, the most expensive.
It was a bit of a humbling experience unpacking these speakers. This is because getting them out of their crates and into the listening room required hired help - there was no way I could move these speakers into the listening room upstairs by myself. Usually, when assigned the task of moving large speakers, I would enlist a friend or two to help me out, but in this case, if I attempted to move them as I did with other large speakers, there would be no way I could get them into my listening room without damaging the mirror-like, gorgeous walnut finish of this review pair. And so, I had to hire professionals to the job.
Once they were in my dedicated listening room, they presented themselves as a magnificent pair of speakers, as their five-and-a-half foot-tall cabinets made a statement before they were even connected. I have read somewhere someone claiming that these speakers have a "small footprint," which surprised me. Since the speakers are only about eight inches wide, I suppose that might make sense to someone. Yet their cabinets extend rearwards almost two feet and are even a bit deeper as they reach towards the ceiling.
When looking at the front of the speaker's cabinet, the front baffle is a bit concave, making the top and bottom of the front of the cabinet a bit closer to the listening position. The drivers are arranged with the tweeter at the center, with one midrange and two bass drivers above and below it.
Bear with me while I discuss more of these speakers' technical details. For the non-audiophile, or those less interested in these types of details, I give you my permission to skip this section and join us back in a few paragraphs. I find this next part very interesting, and can't imagine anyone skipping past it!
Although my description above about the tweeter is correct, I was later told that it was in the TD4.8 where was first used in its current form. So, there is no difference in the tweeter used in all of Raidho's TD line – it is compared to the old D series where the big change had happened. Regardless, this tweeter was a perfect match for the TD4.2 I am reviewing.
The woofer in the TD4.2 is an improved version of the Raidho D4.1 woofer. Raidho tweaked its magnet system, adding new edge-wound voice coils, copper rings, and a new, softer spider. By doing this, they were able to lower the total Q of the drivers (the lower the Q, the better a speaker's dampening), while at the same time, doubling the BL product (the BL product refers to the strength of the overall magnet system which also includes the field strength generated by the voice coil). By using high-impedance voice coils, Raidho was able to connect all 4 of the speaker's woofers in parallel, letting each driver "see" the amplifier's signal directly, which enabled them to have much more control.
All the driver cones in the TD4.2 are their new "Tantalum-Diamond" type, which further improves the driver's sonic behavior, softening the break-up nodes that occur above 13kHz. I was after they had all the drivers in place is when they began to re-examine the speaker's enclosure because, among other things, they wanted the new woofers to have the optimal acoustical environment. This meant that everything inside the cabinet had to be reworked to create the optimal airflow, but at the same time minimizing resonances.
That's also when they changed the speaker from having a vented system to a ported one, which resulted in the speaker having a "perfect" impulse optimized system, as well as an improved low-frequency response (-3dB at 25Hz). All these improvements could have been for naught if the crossover didn't let all these improvements, in Peter's words, "sing together." Therefore, they completely re-designed the speaker's crossover. The crossover of the TD2.4 was made to phase align all the speaker's drivers perfectly, at all frequencies. The crossover also induces the impulse response of the speakers to be 100% aligned at all frequencies.
The crossover point is placed where both drivers have their lowest distortion point, and it makes the two drivers "meet" with a very soft slope. This makes it so the crossover point is inaudible. But once they have crossed, this slope grows very steeply (it's a fourth-order crossover). This "steeped slope" technique means that both crossover types are the best one can use.
Peter added that the TD4.2's first order filter blends with the drivers seamlessly, yet it doesn't filter out the band distortion very well. The 4th order filter removes the out-of-band distortion extremely effectively but makes the drivers blend poorly. Raidho's new crossover was designed to be able to use the best qualities from each type of crossover, which was not an easy task. Still, the amount of time that they spent on auditioning every detail in this speaker in Raidho's listening room was worth it. Peter told me that Raidho was very proud of the results because the speaker ended up not only being impulse correct but also has perfect phase response, which made it so it had very low levels of distortion.
My computer-based music server dominated the system's digital front-end. Its USB output connected to the overachieving EMM Labs DA2 digital-to-analog converter. the DAC's coax input was attached to an Oppo UDP-203 Blu-Ray player that was able to handle any five-inch silver disc I put in its draw, but used mostly for SACDs as all the CDs in my collection are ripped to hard-drives that feed the music-server.
All the gear was situated on an Arcici Suspense equipment rack. The system's front-end gear, including the preamps, and DAC were powered by a Goal Zero Yeti 400 battery power supply, the improvements in their sound when using a battery was greatly improved compared to when plugged into the listening room's dedicated AC power, even when using a power conditioner. During the day, I connected the Pass Labs power amp to a Yeti 1000 battery power supply, but at night it sounded better when I would connect its power cord to one of the two dedicated power lines that ran straight to our home's circuit panel in the basement.
The interconnects, speaker, and power cable in this system were made by Kimber Kable, which I reviewed at the end of last year, and included their Carbon 8 interconnects, Carbon 18 XL speaker cables, and Ascent power cables. The room is acoustically treated and has shelves filled with LPs on most of its walls.
Before they arrived, I read Greg Weaver's account of these speakers in his AXPONA 2019 report in Enjoy the Music.com, where he said that the Raidho TD4.2 "delivered everything we threw at it within an overwhelming neutral, hauntingly natural, and still remarkably transparent manner. This system offered frighteningly realistic texture to voices, with a sense of both space and body that was chillingly credible, with instruments recreated in remarkably realistic size, texture, and tone…it created a sense of dynamism you would not necessarily expect at first encounter. Microdynamics expressiveness was stellar, approaching the best I've yet heard".
I believe everything that Raidho says about these speakers in their literature and everything that Raidho's Peter Bøgh Jensen told me. This is because, after the short break-in period, these speakers proceeded to reveal to me everything that was on each recording in the most powerful, accurate, and emotionally charged musical way possible. At least in a way that was the best I've ever heard in my listening room. To say I was "blown away" is an immeasurable understatement.
I've auditioned many different large speakers previous to the Raidho TD4.2's arrival. My reference speakers, although not in the price range of this Raidho, are a pair of electrostatic monoliths that are almost as tall as the Raidho speakers. But the internal volume of the Raidho's is much, much larger. That's all I'll say in regards to any other speakers that have previously been in my listening room. The Raidho TD4.2 is a superior speaker in every way.
When listening to my favorite albums, and some new arrivals, the TD4.2 would present each artist's music as if it were a painting, brushing broad strokes to present to me the vast soundstage that the Raidho's generated. In the speaker's literature, it says that these speakers would "disappear." I'm quite accustomed to manufacturer's hyperbole in advertising, but really, a five-and-a-half-foot tall, 150-pound, seven driver pair of speakers disappearing? To my surprise, with the right recording, these huge speakers did disappear into my listening room. I would close my eyes, and often these rather large speakers' location was barely noticeable. They would disappear, even though I was sitting relatively close to the speakers' front baffles.
Very often, I would close my eyes as the music was playing, and I could hear instruments and voices emanating from a much wider vista than the actual distance between the two speakers. With the best recordings and many other records that I wouldn't consider "best", music would fill the front of my listening room, and also give me the feeling I was being enveloped in the music, as it often does in a live setting. The speakers' soundstage would start from perpendicular to my listening seat, to way behind the speakers and as taller than the 8' ceiling. I love it when I'd be listening to a record and a sound such as a tambourine or sometimes a voice would come from very far to the left or right of my listening seat, causing my head to whip around to see where this sound originated.
The Fifth Symphony with Solti conducting the Chicago SO is often on my turntable, even when I'm not reviewing a component or speakers, as this symphony's complex orchestration makes it akin to reading a novel. And the very large orchestra Mahler uses makes it so much easier not only to judge a component I'm reviewing, but at the same time, let me revel in Mahler's mighty, inventive, multifaceted symphony.
Playing the Fifth Symphony, hearing it with the Raidho TD4.2 speakers in my reference system was the first time I ever heard such explosive dynamics embedded in this recording. The macro-dynamics were terrific, as the difference in absolute volume between the quietest sections and the orchestra playing full-force when entering would often knock me out of my listening seat. The micro-dynamics of these speakers would also knock me over but in a much different way. When I would read my listening notes, they would sometimes make little sense, as I could not tell whether I'd be referring to the speakers' micro-dynamics or the way they could separate instruments and voices that were playing simultaneously and at the same volume. It didn't matter if two or more instruments and voices were located very close to each other in the soundstage, it wouldn't matter.
After reading through my listening notes, and after listening to many different recordings through the Raidho TD4.2, I realized that I often wasn't writing about how the speakers sounded, but how the recordings sounded. These were very, very transparent speakers. I also realized that I often exaggerated. I was thrilled to have these speakers in my system, as I never heard my favorite records reproduced in this manner. I would write descriptive terms such as "fantastic," "amazing," "exquisite', 'superb," and "outstanding" to describe what I was hearing. I thought to myself that these words wouldn't be helpful to readers of this review, as I was attempting to describe the sound of these speakers, not how they made me feel!
Reproducing a recording of an orchestra playing in a hall, without an audience, on a stage, with a fifty-foot wide proscenium, cannot be reproduced without sounding like a recording, regardless of the system or type of speakers. But with the Raidho TD4.2, this didn't matter. Listening to this album was as much as a thrill as hearing it live because the Raidho TD4.2 is thrilling to listen to, period. But like no other time, I could hear way Solti conducted the symphony and made it his own. He has a way of powering his way through a piece when it was called for, and so when the array of tympani was struck with great force, it would vibrate my entire body. This wasn't only because of the low frequencies being reproduced, but all of the frequencies that were coming from the system.
These speakers could play as loud as I wanted them to without any hint of distortion. Increasing the volume to what I thought was a realistic level when playing this Mahler symphony was no problem at all for these speakers. And I had quite a thrilling listening session when I played this symphony from beginning to end. One of the many reasons this was so was due to many factors. But one thing that stands out is the fact that if one has ever heard "real" instruments up close, they are very, very loud. And what I sensed when listening to this pair of the Raidho TD4.2 is that I could hear the distance the microphones were from the musicians. But this wasn't distracting at all, in fact, I never thought about it because the music was front and center in my mind. Even so, when the orchestra was playing at the fff volume that Maestro Solti demanded, these instruments were played LOUDLY when being recorded, as in real life. The efficiency of these speakers also made it so my amplifier never went into overdrive no matter how loud I played it. I would reach my limit before the equipment did.
One of the good sounding records that we used to test speakers that were out of our price range, and still sounds good enough to use to audition all types of equipment now is Humble Pie's Performance: Rockin' The Fillmore. Former Faces vocalist Steve Marriott formed Humble Pie in 1968 with bassist and vocalist Greg Ridley, guitarist and vocalist Peter Frampton, and drummer Jerry Shirley. Their debut single "Natural Born Bugie" became a hit in the UK singles chart. By 1971, when this double album was released, they were a hard-rock powerhouse. Performance… Rockin' The Fillmore was recorded live by none other than engineer Eddie Kramer.
This album has remained one of my favorites since I was a kid. Lucky for me, Classic Records released a 200-gram audiophile pressing in 2002. The album begins with the explosive "Four Day Creep," its studio version appearing on their Rock On studio album release the same year. The band's two Gibson "Les Paul" model guitars played through Marshall amplifiers with their volume on maximum has a very distinct sound. On this album, it is used to full effect, and I felt privileged to hear the Raidho TD4.2 reproduce this sound better than I've ever heard it.
I'm not going to deny that the amount of compression added to the recording during the mix-down is high, but it was also probably pretty high on the mixing console at the show before it got to the amps that powered the hall's PA system. There still is a considerable amount of macro- and micro-dynamics to enjoy on the recording. Plus, the pounding drum kit locked in with Greg Ridley's Fender bass brings out the best in everything, and there were so many elements added to these traits that captured the gestalt of the sound one hears at a rock show. All this made me feel privileged to hear it played back through a much better system than those who heard it in the studio when they were mixing the album.
The bass of the Raidho TD4.2 reaches down to 25Hz, which is quite deep, especially given that the woofers have a diameter of 5". This is amazing, and so I would assume that the cabinet volume and the design of the cabinet's interior aids in producing the lowest frequencies. I would also assume that if the cabinet volume and its design are helping produce this bass, that it would sound wooly, that is, ill-defined, with an inadequate transient response. The bass that I heard coming from these speakers is the exact opposite of that. Calling the bass of the TD2.4 "tight," pitch specific, and most of all, very musical sounding would undervalue what I heard. Even so, adding a pair of SVSound SB-16 Ultra subwoofers were able to bring the frequency response down to 16Hz, which filled in some of the sub-sonic frequencies of some of the deepest sounding instruments, especially when listening to electronic music, such as my favorite Kraftwerk albums.
Having bass go deeper than human hearing is advantageous in several ways. Without getting into discussions of whether or not the TD2.4, with a low-frequency response of 25Hz, lower than the frequency that most every instrument can produce, or even if a mid-sized listening room can also produce these low sound waves, my experience has been that the types of music, I listen to sounds better with speakers that have deep-bass prowess. The Raidho TD4.2 has deep bass reproducing prowess, and adding subwoofers to produce even deeper bass makes them sound even better, not only in the deep bass but in other sonic areas, such as the dimension and characteristics of the speakers' soundstage. Please understand that the subwoofers added nuance to the sound, as were not necessary when playing back most recordings. I only added the subwoofers near the end of my audition period.
The greatest thing that the Raidho TD4.2 was able to perform was that it somehow was able to "know" what instrument it was reproducing. Other than synthesizer tones, of course, the TD4.2 had an uncanny way of coming the closest to mimicking the sound of reality as I've ever heard other than huge electrostatic speakers. But the Raidho's were able to play much louder than any electrostatic loudspeaker I've ever heard, at the same time they seemed to have a transient speed that was as good as any electrostatic speaker I've ever heard.
And so, when I cranked the Humble Pie live album, I was able to enjoy this album as never before, which is saying lots since I've been listening to this album all my adult life. The authenticity that Steve Marriot's voice possessed had an almost creepy reality to it, even better sounding than if I was hearing a live mic feed coming from outstanding monitor speakers in the mobile recording studio's bus.
Even though I only used musical examples using analog, I listened to many different formats through the Raidho TD423 including plenty of high-resolution digital, including physical SACDs and DSD files through the music server, which is tweaked to the max. Unlike many of my peers, rather than using a Mac, I use a PC, a very high-powered gaming computer, but without any high-tech video boards. This trouble-free system is set to run both Foobar 2000 and JRiver Media players. Sonically, the Raidho TD4.2 was able to deal with anything I played through them, always maximizing the musicality. I prefer analog playback, it edges out digital when it comes to mimicking reality. But I have nothing against digital playback, listening to many different selections during the audition period.
One of these digital selections was a DSD file of the album Ballads by John Coltrane. This is a classic 1963 release originally on Impulse Records recorded by engineer Rudy Van Gelder in his New Jersey studio. Many have been telling me lately that they are turned off by the hard panning that Van Gelder used, thus ending up with instruments coming out of either the left or right speaker. Rather than purist stereo, this technique is more like 2-channel mono than stereo. I don't mind this sound at all. Having the instruments reproduced like this adds solidity to the sound of an instrument, making the instrument enter my listening room, creating a "wow" factor that can outperform "regular" stereo.
The personnel on this album is typical of this period of Coltrane, with Jimmy Garrison on bass, Elvin Jones on drums, and McCoy Tyner on piano. They recorded the session unrehearsed other than spending a half-hour running through each song before hitting record, using store-bought sheet music. This album is controversial because it bucked the trend of Coltrane stretching out, instead he is accused of playing "mellow" types of music that he wasn't normally associated with, that is, straight-ahead versions of cover-tunes.
Yet, on this album, his sax sounds radiant, otherworldly. And through a good system, it could serve as a demo disc. And through the Raidho TD4.2 instead of lulling me to sleep, my mind would lean forward, attempting to take a closer sonic look at the proceedings. Every instrument in the band sounded uber-realistic, and at the same time, I'll admit that it was not only a showcase for the musicians but also a showcase for the equipment in my listening room, most of all the Raidho TD4.2. There was an almost indescribable something that seemed to be lost with any other speaker I've ever heard this album played through, these living, breathing human beings playing their chosen instruments as if they were their voices.
It was almost as though I could hear each of them listening to each other. When they were playing the theme of the tune, there were these nanosecond pauses between one instrument playing a note, and the note that the other musician played. Each note they played faded into the ether, the space between the notes taking advantage of the speaker's transparency to both the recording and the original event. I didn't feel like a fly on the wall during the session, I felt as if the session had come to me.
When listening to the Raidho TD4.2 when my preamplifier's volume was set anywhere near "loud," I often became emotionally overwhelmed. Although I didn't have to listen to these speakers this loudly to enjoy them, when I did this when playing familiar music that I liked, it was a thrilling experience. These speakers brought out the meaning of the music better than any speaker I've ever had in my listening room. I heard new instruments, voices, and sounds in musical selections that I've listened to hundreds, maybe thousands of times. These speakers were not overly detailed; it is just that one might not be accustomed to hearing this much detail from their favorite recordings presented so seductively. As good music should sound. The Raidho TD4.2 speakers are beyond excellent.
If one considers purchasing the Raidho TD4.2, I hope that this potential owner first donates money to a worthy cause. If a worthy cause cannot be decided upon, I would be glad to assist in choosing one for them. Other than this caveat of donating to help those who are less fortunate, I have no reservations in recommending the Raidho TD4.2. If I could make it happen, these speakers would be my new reference. I also hope the potential owner already has in their system or can assemble components worthy enough to feed a signal to these speakers. The Raidho TD4.2 is a musical investment that I cannot recommend highly enough.