Pro Audio Design (PAD) is a Boston-based group of audio distribution companies which has been appointed the exclusive distributor of Japanese loudspeaker brand TAD Laboratories for the US and Canada. Company president Dave Malekpour has been working with TAD for almost 30 years and while his roots lie in pro audio and studio specification, this partnership sees him bringing this experience into the hi-fi market.
The PAD group of companies also encompasses Jocavi Acoustic Treatments and Studio Float Sound Isolation systems, which Malekpour also plans to bring to the hi-fi market, using his knowledge of listening environment design, room acoustics and speaker tuning. We caught up with him and asked him a few questions about where he comes from and what had prompted this move into the world of domestic audio
Can you tell me something about your background and what you do at Pro Audio Design?
I have been designing recording studios since late ‘80s from equipment and installation to acoustics with a focus on the top end of the market. My background is as a musician, audio engineer and music lover since I was a child. My goal has always been to improve music and the listening experience both at the production level and for the listeners.
My role as President and CEO is primarily based around creating our vision and direction as well as relationship development at all levels. We are involved with design projects which I lead from creative end as well as overseeing our sales and marketing teams. I also work with clients, vendor partners and our team to bring about the vision of high quality sound and care to match.
I see that you have companies that specialise in studio construction and treatment, how has this market survived the home studio boom and the ease with which music can be produced with Pro Tools and a midi interface?
We have been fortunate to be able to scale our focus both to the high end of the market working with clients like Roc Nation and Top Dawg Entertainment for full scale projects, as well as individual home recordists. We use advanced predictive modeling to understand the acoustics of a room from a bedroom up to a complete multi room facility. We have identified the acoustic properties of the products we install, and can adjust the rooms performance with the treatments to provide accurate playback and capture spaces. This applies to a listening room or control room though those two experiences are different, designing for them is the same. We have to understand what the client needs, and the budget to accomplish the project. Balancing those two elements is often the challenge but we have a lot of products at varying costs to help us create really great spaces at almost any reasonable budget. That said we are focused at the upper end users in the markets we serve.
In a home studio, you still need to be accurate and have good listening room to judge the music you are creating. So we focus on helping clients create the space to do that. Surprisingly there are a lot of pro level studios in homes today for the exact reason you mention. The gear has become much more powerful and much lower costs. But so has building a good sounding space, especially when we model it, and know what we need to address, or take away in order to get a nicely balanced musical space.
I see that your company has been using TAD drivers in your own monitors for many years, what is it about them that you like?
I started building the Augspurger monitors with TAD components in about 1998, when I read that TAD made the best compression driver in the world. And when I got them, and put into the wooden horn it was immediately evident. Then hearing the tonal detail and definition from a 15” woofer which offered more expression and output than other drivers at the time, we fell in love. From there we have grown to become one of the top users of TAD components in the world. I believe that is why we ended up being asked to take on distribution here. I have been a passionate user and believer in the product from a first hand experience creating speakers with them.
TAD have a no compromise approach and do not build to a price, they are aiming to create the very best components which is also carried over into the hi-fi systems. To have true and accurate response and performance so you can hear the music as the artist and producer intended.
Given that PAD’s expertise is in pro audio what inspired you to dive into the over populated waters of the home audio market, are you crazy?
Well, yes, I may be a bit crazy but it’s my passion for good sound and love for music that motivates me to focus on the listeners experience. For the last 35 years I have focused on the recording and production side, but I want to close the circle and help listeners experience the very best sound of the music they love. The very first thing I ever wanted to own in life was a stereo, and I ended up building one with my step dad who was an electrical engineer and physicist. I could not afford to get the stereo of my dreams as a kid which was a Phase Linear, SAE and Advent large speaker system. So we built it. I think it’s now fitting to end up with one of the worlds best hi-fi brands to bring to the our market.
TAD is not a well established brand in the UK, Japanese speakers have always been a hard sell because they are expensive and have a sound that is very different to British speakers. How well regarded are they in the US and will speakers made for relatively small Japanese rooms work in American homes?
While there are some very nice bespoke British hi-fi brands, what sets TAD apart is the sound and engineering behind the product. The high end markets are often swayed by advertisements and marketing and the Japanese are not generally the best in that regard as they believe the product should make the sale, not sales pitches. Here in the US, we do love marketing and ads, and customers need to see and hear products to believe them, but it always starts with marketing. We have only begun but at the recent Capital Audio Fest we had many people coming back over and over and commenting on the sound being one of the top, in a building filled with speakers. And for me I believe that is because the sound of the system is very expressive and allows the emotional connection we all seek in music to come thru in a very natural way. The high end market in the US and Canada may be one of the biggest in the world but it’s still a small market by its price range and esoteric pursuit. We aim to cater to listeners who can afford to have the very best in their listening room. There is so much technically advanced engineering behind the products but its the sound that makes them so good.
Does TAD remain a subsidiary of the once great audio brand Pioneer?
Yes, TAD Labs is a wholly owned subsidiary of Pioneer Electronics and enjoys full support and manufacturing plants to create the very best of their brand. TAD has always focused on developing high end technology as part of the Pioneer family, and some of that DNA goes into Pioneer products.
Which TAD products do you have the greatest hopes for/do you think will appeal to the audiophile audience and why?
There is nothing like the TAD Reference line for no compromise listening when price is no object. However, with the Evolution line, you get the same quality of sound in a far more affordable range, The new Evolution 2 (E-2, below) takes advantage of a lot of the driver technology in a floorstanding speaker with a $20,000 USD price, I think this will be a big seller here, it’s already getting high accolades and sales in Europe and Asia following the launch late last year. Its very good sounding and I think compares to speakers costing two to three times more. It also has the very natural extended top end and deep low end for a speaker in this price class. Evolution 1TX is also quite stunning at $30,000 and I believe these two models will be our best sellers as they are really captivating to listen to.
What are the strengths of TAD compared to the high end competition?
TAD’s drivers are the heart of the speaker systems with vapor transfer Beryllium tweeters offering extended performance on some models past 60,000 kHz. The low and mid drivers also have detail and expression not found in other components. The engineering of the cabinets has also been exceptional with zero resonance in many models, this translates to more accurate performance in any space. Many companies have to source components but at TAD they create them from their vision of quality and performance and build them in combination with the cabinets and electronics to complete a system to very high standards.
Does your studio work mean you get to hear stuff as it’s being made, and have you heard anything particularly good of late that you can recommend to our readers?
I am often privy to behind the scenes music being produced of all kinds, and while I am a rock guitar player at heart I have heard some amazing performances from hip hop and pop to jazz and classical. There is so much good music being made today but some of my favorite moments have been in the studio we created for Aerosmith watching them cut tracks, and when we did Jay-Z’s studio and got to watch him lay down vocals, and being with Snoop in the studio we helped create and vibing to his music!