Review: Tube Audio Design Hibachi Monoblocks TAD 125 Amplifier

Category: Amplifiers

I wish to first say that I have no financial, personal or other connection with Tube Audio Design. I was looking for a DAC and saw these monoblocks offered up for $500 plus 45$ shipping; so I said "what the heck, I should try them". I put them on the described system in my exercise room. I absolutely feel compelled to write this review after about 5 hours of listening!

My musical tastes are Jazz (75%), New Age (5%), Classical (15%), and R & B (5%). The sonic virtues I value most are imaging, clarity, and other auditory cues that tell your brain that you are listening to real music. Space and depth along with accurate tone colors are very important in making these things happen. I like detail - within the context of something that sounds like real music. A huge turn-off is the faux digital/solid state hyperetched detail that is harsh - even if only intermittiently - that is presented in a dry, overly analytical manner.

The monblocks replaced a modified Accurus 250 wpc amp that had some power supply mods as well as Bybee filters installed on the power supply and lines. This was a relatively cheap but nice performing amplifier that punches above its price point. Well how about the sound of the TAD 125's ? This is where the fun starts.

Throughout my audiophile career that spans multiple decades beginning as I was leaving high school, I have always coveted audio equipment that gave a huge bang for the buck. I have NO interest in "cost is not a consideration" equipment. Even now that I can afford to buy pretty much what I want I refuse to do so. I guess it is all relative though because I have about 25K or so in my reference system counting the equipment, modifications, and tweaks. Well, back to the TAD-125 monoblock amplifiers.

I have now listend 5 to 6 hours since installing them. The Spicas had not been played for about 8 or 9 months. So, the immediate sound was a little uninteresting and not real dynamic. However, after a few hours of playing some Ellis Marsalis/Irvin Mayfield and one of my digital compilation discs, the sound opened up. It was officially ON. The sound is fast and agile, dynamic and punchy, as well as fairly detailed with slightly rounded leading note edges. There is nice instrument separation and tone colors are vivid and, to my ears, accurate. Forget about the price of these monoblocks when listening to them and just trust your ears. The Spicas have never sounded better - even when I drove them with a highly regarded Music Reference tube amplifier they did not sound better.

I am not blathering on that these are perfect cause they are not. They have plenty of detail but may not be the last word in detail. And, for sure, those who have grown accustomed to the digital/solid state hyper-etched distortion that passes as phony detail will not like these amps. The detail continues to incrementally increase and, within the context of something that sounds like real music, the detail is fine. The Spicas don't go real low and are also rolled off at the upper frequencies so they may not be the best test for these amps; however, I will say that in all my years of driving them with a variety of amplifiers, some very highly regarded, the Spicas have never sounded better. Very surpisingly, the low end is taut and satisfying; most solid state amps make the Spicas sound thin and without a solid, low end foundation under the music. When my new Emerald Physic CS 3's come in perhaps that will allow for a better assessment of their upper frequency response as well as of their low end performance. Finally, if you like spending lots of money of gear you will likely avoid these amplifiers cause they don't cost a lot - even when they are not on sale.

I am sure as they break in I will have further thoughts about their performance. I may not be able to stand it if they get any better. I LOVE finding budget equipment that sounds GREAT. These monblocks join the old Parasound solid state preamp that I paid less than 200 dollars for years ago as two of the best sounding, low-cost pieces of equipment that I have ever owned. The Hibachi TAD-125 monblocks are no-brainers. They do as good a job as splitting the difference between solid state and tubes as anything I have heard. I don't think they have a "golden tube glow" at all but they have that distinctly tube amp smoothing/rounding of the note edges with all of the snap, vitality, and speed of solid state. I can see how some might call them tube-like; this is not an inaccurate characterization but not the one I think best represents what they do.

These are excellent amplifiers that are "insanely good" for the money. At multiples of the price I paid for them they would still be excellent amplifiers. I don't know how long the sale on these amplifiers is going on, however, if you are looking for high quality amplification that gives you the best of solid state and tubes, these amplfiers just might be the ones for you. I am not suggesting that five hundred bucks is not real money because it is. Yet, I know of nowhere on the planet where you can get this type of amplification for so little money. You can bet though that someone replying to this thread will tell me where I can find it, lol........

Associated gear
VH 4 powercords, LAT international interconnects (top of line), Dakiom line level stabliziers (coming out of back of CD player), Cambridge 640 C CD player, Tritium line-level tripphazer, EAR 834L tube preamplifier, and Translucent Audio 8 foot speaker cable (company now defunct)

Similar products
Accurus, Arcam, Music Reference, Coda, Audio Van Alstine amplifiers.
128x128Ag insider logo xs@2xjaymark
after some initial time listening to the tads i can say without doubt these amps can really sort through and deliver the music and represent a steal for their going price.

everything i throw at them sounds very "musical". There is a natural ease to the sound of these amps.

the only exception so far is an mp3 download of "ravers in the uk" by manion, a loud recording played at higher spl resulted in some audible strain . the amp got a tad warm during this, but i suspect that the reason was more that this was just too much for the little triangle monitors more so than the amp running out of steam.

also my stax headphones have never sounded better! My audio unaware wife even commented how lush they sounded when I forced her to listen.

The vibrance in the midrange reminds me of a very fine and expensive Solos/Boulder/Avalon system I heard once, tight and clean like SS but with a vibrancy that one might tend to associate more with tubes.

very impressive and a fantastic bargain no doubt!
I own a pair too.

Don't know how, don't know why...but they do sound extremely good for any price. They easily replaced a pair of 400watt Xindak mono-blocks in my system driving my Dynaudio nearly 1/4th the price.
I don't use the term lightly. In fact, I don't recall ever using the term... as most of us are far too aware that while initial impressions may bring about such a strong emotional reaction, given time products tend to tip off the exalted alter.

These TAD Hibachi monos (which I purchased new for a VERY cheap price) are still dishing out major portions of fun and satisfaction.

I (as most of you) have tried many different expensive, "highly rated" amps over the years. Of all these amps, only two were what I considered "winners" over the long haul. A set of "Don Allen" 45 monos (2wpc) and these stupidly inexpensive TAD Hibachi monos.

I suppose if I weren't already semi-retired, I'd certainly be fired for never showing up to work as I'd be "stuck" in the listening chair enthralled with the MUSIC!

How a solid state amp (especially monos priced at 1/6th of what I've dished out for an interconnect cable in the past) can dish out so much "rightness," I don't know.

Tonally, it's on the warm side. Sounds a bit like an older Conrad Johnson tube amp I had, except MUCH clearer, "faster," and more accurate.

As a few others have commented, perhaps there may be a small amount of detail missing, however I could still hear all the glass "clinks," coughs, etc. on live recordings, fingers on the strings, sound of lips parting just before a singer begins, etc. I'm sure all of us have had amplifiers which amazed us with the detail - at first - then ended up like many others before, irritating us with the hyped detail. As we know, it's a VERY thin line amps, sources, speakers, etc. must walk. And it's that "line" in which the Hibachi's walk so well.

There comes a time in many of our "audiophile journeys" where we end up with VERY expensive gear, only to be "let down" as they didn't, perhaps, provide the joy in which we were sure they would. My journey has brought me full circle back to "real components" (relatively affordable).

If you're in the market (or even if your NOT in the market) for an amplifier, you should try these. The price is so insignificant in relation to what you get that it's almost embarrassing. Heck, at this price present these (instead of an apple pie) to those neighbors who've just moved in. These are WINNERS. KEEPERS for sure!

All of the above gushing, and I'm in NO WAY affiliated with the company nor Paul himself (whom I've never even met).
Based on all the positive review I bought a pair of the Hibachi monoblocks
Few weeks ago and paired it with a mingda mc7 with response audio mods and really sounds so good compare to the primaluna amp I was using to drive a pair of Felton speakers.Eventhough my speakers are 96db eff. I always felt I am missing something until I hooked the Hibachi and Voila now I discovered the sound I was looking for in my small listening room
having these for several years now with 0 problems as i posted before,i am still very happy with tad 125s.I am glad other audiogoners have discovered these, hard to beat for the money,great sound,no worries.I know there are better amps out there but in these times,grab a pair and do not look back.I have tubes,soid state,and now these.I run them with a JM peach through modified Chorus 2's and 1's and have no desire to upgrade.The chorus 2's are run by primaluna dialogue 2,the 1's are run by the hibachi monos,stacked with the chours 2's turn upside down,,great sound for not alot of version of big bose cubes.:)......cheers