In an era when powered near-field monitors have become commonplace, Truth Audio demonstrates its faith in your discretion in amplifiers by introducing the passive TA-1P. For professional as well as project studios, the TA-1P provides high-quality near-field monitoring at an affordable price.
The TA-1P designers spent more than two years tweaking crossovers and auditioning components. Although a lot of test equipment was employed during the development of the TA-1P, the ultimate criteria used to finesse the monitors were the designers' ears. Production did not begin until the designers were convinced that the TA-1P was accurate and reliable and could produce great mixes that translate well on other playback systems.
WHEN MORE REALLY IS MORE
The first thing you will notice about the TA-1P is that it has two 5-inch woofers instead of the single driver commonly found in near-field monitors. Although they are small speakers, the sound emanating from the cabinet is anything but small. The dual drivers produce a solid low end, due in part to a well-constructed rear-ported cabinet.
I began my listening tests using a pair of TA-1Ps in my downtown office studio. The room is set up primarily for MIDI production and is not treated acoustically for mixing; the studio has plenty of reflective surfaces, including the vocal booth, windows, outboard equipment, keyboards, and a mixer. I consider it a good real-world test facility for the TA-1Ps.
While listening to a few familiar CDs with two of my associates, my first impressions of the TA-1Ps were a bump in the low midrange and a slightly veiled but not awkward top end; the speakers sounded full, with an extended low end. Material I knew was recorded and mixed well sounded great on the TA-1Ps. However, the flaws of some overly processed pop recordings were very obvious. I also perceived a throaty character in some recordings, which I attributed to the presence in the low midrange.
One of my associates agreed that the TA-1Ps' low-end presence was outstanding. He also immediately liked the fact that the monitors sustained an even frequency response at practically all volume levels. I agree; even at low listening levels, the TA-1Ps maintain a solid low end — almost (but not quite) as if there were a subwoofer in the signal path.
The excellent imaging in the sweet spot was apparent to everyone in the room; however, the off-axis response was notably inferior to the sweet spot.
Truth Audio loosely recommends placing the TA-1Ps horizontally, but I also received good results with them set up vertically with the tweeters to the outside. The vertical setup yielded virtually the same results in terms of imaging, frequency response, and overall character.
I left the TA-1Ps set up at the office for several weeks, during which I sequenced various MIDI-based projects. If you've spent long hours wrestling MIDI tracks into submission, you know how much more difficult it can be to work with monitors that fatigue the ears. The TA-1Ps, however, are monitors you can work on for hours at a time without feeling burned out.
TRUTH WITHSTANDS SCRUTINY
I also brought the TA-1Ps to my personal studio, which is set up for critical recording and mixing. Because I enjoyed having the TA-1Ps in my office, I was eager to hear how they would sound in a different listening environment. In my studio, I placed the TA-1Ps beside several of my favorite monitors.
I again began by listening to familiar CDs. Most of my initial impressions were confirmed; there was still a small rise in the low-end frequency response. However, the frequency response remained consistent at almost any volume level. The imaging was great in the sweet spot — even better than at my office.
The top end of the TA-1P's frequency response is not exaggerated, so you may think that it sounds somewhat veiled in the high frequencies. I'm not fond of high frequencies that take your head off, so the neutral characteristics of the TA-1Ps will appeal to musicians looking for an accurate set of monitors. If you have balance or frequency problems in your mix, the TA-1Ps will let you know.
The true test of a monitor is in the mixing. A number of current, popular near-field monitor brands make nearly anything sound good, but those speakers are practically useless for critical decision making. The TA-1Ps weren't designed to be hi-fi speakers that flatter your audio; they were built to reveal what's really happening in a mix.
With accuracy as my priority, I started remixing cuts from various recent projects. One was a big-band project cut in Los Angeles with a top-call group of players. We had originally tracked the project to analog 24-track on a Studer machine with Dolby SR at 15 IPS. After the sessions, we spent a day creating stem mixes in Pro Tools, and I imported the stems into Digital Performer for remixing.
The performances on tape sounded great, but listening to the stems on the TA-1Ps revealed subtle flaws. Most notably, the lowest lows were missing from the drum submix, and saxes and trumpets had too much energy buildup in the upper midrange, without enough “air” on top. (In defense of the engineer who mixed the stems, those particular submixes were not destined for CD release but for playback over a theater sound system, which requires different treatment.) Concerned that the dulled high frequencies were a result of the TA-1Ps, I immediately checked the stems on my other monitor sets, which confirmed that the submixes had an overall moderate upper-midrange buildup due to EQ and filtering. Knowing that the CD mix would come from the original 24-track masters, I moved on to another project.
THE ULTIMATE DEMO TEST
Have you ever had a song demo that wouldn't die? I'm currently on the third version and ninth mix of one such song. I generally don't overdo demos, but this one has yet to be roped in properly. The first version's arrangement is still my favorite, but I have yet to nail the mix, so I had been looking to reevaluate it on different speakers. Sure enough, after the first listen through the TA-1Ps, my notes read: a dead spot in the bass frequencies; too much 2 kHz on the piano patch; the guitar line in the second verse is buried; too much bus compression from the bridge to the end — the list went on and on.
TA-1P Specifications Inputs(1) combination screw-mount/banana plugHigh-Frequency Driver(1) 1" cloth dome, dynamicLow-Frequency Driver(2) 5" polycone woofersImpedance4• nominal; 3.2• minimumPeak Output160WFrequency Response48 Hz-20 kHz (±3 dB)Dimensions14" (W) × 10" (H) × 10" (D)Weight21 lbs. (per cabinet)
I listened to the same mix once more through my other monitors, and I heard the same problems. For some reason, though, I hadn't heard them when I mixed it two months ago. This method isn't exactly a scientific way to compare monitors, but the point is worth making: if I had been monitoring on the TA-1Ps, I could have fixed some of the problems in my original mix.
ALL THINGS BEING EVEN
There was still the nagging boost in what I estimated to be the 200 to 500 Hz range, which made some things sound a little thick. The top end seemed balanced when I sat in the sweet spot but dropped off noticeably when I was off axis. Although the TA-1Ps have a pretty good “other room” sound to them — for example, when you're down the hall or in the next room — I consistently caught myself leaning into the sweet spot when I was in the same room as the monitors.
Nonetheless, practically every mix I created with the TA-1Ps translated well on other playback systems. The TA-1Ps are almost completely neutral from top to bottom. The small bump in the lower midrange actually prevented me from creating mixes that sounded muddy on other systems.
The tame high end on the TA-1Ps didn't artificially gloss the high frequencies; if a particular track was dull, I could hear it. That resulted in tracks that had a clear top end bright enough to cut through but not so bright as to be harsh.
Knowing I can work long hours and create good mixes on the TA-1Ps, I consider these monitors to be both an asset and a bargain. Although I believe in multiple monitoring setups for critical mixing, I would have no problem working with the TA-1Ps alone. The designers have hit their mark: the TA-1Ps reveal the truth in your mixes without tiring your ears in the process.
Producer and keyboardist Rob Shrock is the music director for Burt Bacharach and has worked with a Who's Who of top artists. He is on the Board of Governors for the Texas Chapter of NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences).
$999 per pair
RATING PRODUCTS FROM 1 TO 5
PROS: Excellent imaging. Accurate frequency response. Not fatiguing to the ears after long monitoring sessions. Mixes translate well to other speaker systems.
CONS: Slight boost in the lower midrange.