Me & my TDLs*

by Mark Higgins
TDL Electronics were one of the best manufacturers of transmission line speakers the UK has ever seen. Based in High Wycombe (Buckinghamshire), TDL produced both the cabinets and drivers for their considerable range of TL mad 'standard' loudspeakers.

I first got hooked on the TL sound when it became obvious it was time to replace my aging Mission speakers. There was one drawback with stand-mounted speakers,the bass,or lack of it! At the time floor standing speakers were very expensive and were thin on the ground, then What HI FI reviewed the TDL RTL 2, the speakers were given a rave review, the only criticism was a slightly reticent midrange.

Next I had to 'phone my hi-fi dealer to arrange a time to audition some speakers, price ranging from £200-£350. I duly took along my Cyrus amplifier and my Rega Planer turntable and we set up my prospective purchases. After four hours of listening to five different pairs of speakers it became clear which boxes would be going home with me that day. Well I got the speakers into my trusty 2CV and wendered my way home.When my wife first saw the speakers for the first time she thought they were a little large but not ugly, but when I fired up the system her face was a picture! "the bass !" she said, needless to say we spent the rest of our day listening to my not small record collection. I was very happy with this system for another three years but I needed to buy a CD-player as vinyl was in a serious decline, so off to the hi-fi shop to audition a player. The choice was narrowed down to only one survivor, Arcam Alpha 7. After getting the player home my CD collection began to grow and so did the number of people who came round for a listen!

In 1995 we were involved in a car crash, the company who insured the other driver decided to pay us compensation for the injuries we sustained from the accident. My lovely wife bought herself a new horse, for me? well,back to the hi-fi shop!  First thing I upgraded the Arcam 7 CD to an Alpha 8 SE, then I sold the trusty old cyrus, now nearly fourteen years old, to a friend, and I purchased an Alpha 8 integrated amp and an Alpha 8 power amp. I loaded up the jeep, got the gear home and set it all up. I bi-amped the speakers using the integrated for the tweeters and the power amp for the bass. Oh my God!! It was fantastic! Everything sounded so much better, but I still felt something was missing. One of the blokes who became a regular at my house was hankering after a pair of RTL 2's but TDL no longer produced them, I told him to scour the classifieds but he never found any second-hand. Finally I succumbed to his cash and I sold him my speakers for £200!!

So off to the hi-fi shop! I listened to five pairs of speakers and took three pairs home for an audition. Not one pair could give me the sound I was looking for. I found they had no bass but good top, no top and all bass. "Go up in price!" said my dealer. He was right, I was looking at spending £350-400, I was making a sideward movement instead of going up. In the demo that evening a guy was listening to a set-up costing about £3,000, much the same as mine cost. What blew me away was the taught, fast bass and superb sound staging, yes you've guessed it, the speakers were transmission lines! I asked if I could sit in on his demo. He was more than happy, even better he bought the set-up on my recommendation! I spoke to the guys in the shop and they said they could get me a pair of these speakers in two days so I arranged a demo.

Along I went on the Thursday evening with a dozen CD's for a demo.The shop stocks all my gear so I knew what the system would sound like. The speakers they had for me were Rega Ela and TDL Studio 1s. After one hour listening it was an easy choice, the TDLs. I got the gear home, set it up and spun some silver. When my wife came in she was horrified! "They are ugly!" she said! Well I must admit, Walnut in a predominantly oak room is not great, and the all black baffles plus the 'home made' looking bass drivers did not appeal to her aesthetic demeanour! It took me no less than three weeks to run the speakers in, I tried as hard as I could not to be in the same room when they were on, most of the time I left them playing drum and bass (jungle) while I was at work! Well, I love them, they took some real experimental positioning to get the soundstage right, I even drew up a room set-up program on my computer to get a perfect triangle! (sad man!)

I've had them for two years now, do I want to change them? Well, put it this way you try to take my TDL's away and I'll set the mother-in-law on you! What I've got is an awesome sounding system, it does all the right things at the right time, it plays all the music the way I want, you want 3D soundstaging? Its got it! I think I've finally found my hi-fi nirvana, I no longer feel the urge to spend all my hard-earned on more noise producing boxes, I'll tell you what though, I do like the look of that phono stage though...

* sadly TDL has closed its doors

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