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.
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I thought the output of Hibachi is 180 watts into 8 ohms? Yours is only 80 watts?
Whoops, sorry about that. Yes, it's a standard Hibachi TTBOMK which specs at 180 w/ch into 8 ohm.

Having run various SS amps over the years in this rig from 80 watts on up to the 500w/ch BCs used currently, the performance I heard was pretty much in line with that advertised spec, I would say, and comparable also I would estimate with about an 80 watt/ch or so tube amp equivalent. On the grand scale of things, the Hibachis did extremely well and exceptionally well for what they cost me used, which was minimal.
I recently sold my set. I really enjoyed them, but they're a bit too large for me to keep around as a backup amp, and - for whatever reason - I get a kick out of tube rolling. If I had a bit more space, I don't think I'd have sold them. I'd bet they'd be the perfect summer amp for tube users.