by David Aspinall
The Tetra Listening Instruments’ 105 loudspeaker emerged at the 2000 Toronto Inner Ear Show as the Bullit. It is a sealed, 4 ½” two way stand mounted or bookshelf speaker. The 105 is little in stature and rather invisible in action, but manages somehow to fill the whole room with sound. The Tetra people give us some technical reasons why the 105 is so effective in its modest way: Cardas copper connectors, SEAS drivers, hard-wiring point-to-point, coils of Hepta-Litz, Cardas wiring with silver solder, and Solen polypropylene caps. All of which means that Tetra has, for its smallest model, sustained the standard set for its larger and more imposing loudspeaker brethren, the 205, 406, and 606.
The 105 cabinet is custom designed to eliminate internal standing waves. My few weeks of listening to the Tetra 105 brought a consistent experience: the sense of hearing recordings, whether CD or LP, again for the first time. Clarity and projection from top to bottom of the frequency spectrum, an alive space both between and behind the speakers, a dynamism which belies the source (the speakers are a mere 12 pounds).
One CD the 105 shows off well is the Kees Bakels/Naxos version of Vaughan Williams’ Sinfonia Antartica (Symphony no.7), one of the composer’s most neglected works (its provenance as a film score being the chief reason). The icy cold seems palpable and the white and blue vastnesses infinite in this version, a rendering that makes even the famous Boult and Previn versions retirable (though ’send them out to pasture’ is hardly the right analogy with this music). The bass on this CD has become quite famous for its clarity and depth (way, way down, in fact). Through the 105, there was no deep bass to be found, but its 55Hz low frequency was exhausted to excellent effect — what bass was there sounded clean and clear and delivered quite a punch (stands were helpful in this regard). Conversely, the high violins and piccolo led my ears to pristine highs, quite a reverse from so many bookshelf efforts. Some chesty Diana Krall vocal jazz highlighted a lovely and truthful midrange — the entire range of the 105 was well balanced within its frequency limitations.
Another big winner: the great Alfred Newman soundtrack How the West Was Won. This vintage (1962) stereo recording, though originally released by the less-than-audiophile MGM label, always has seemed a good test for new systems, what with its wonderful range of timbres and dynamics, all the way from solo voice with guitar, harmonica and banjo, small group vocals, hoedown and mariachi bands, to full orchestra with chorus. The images, with the 105, have more rounded definition in space, the mid and low frequencies more solidity as well. Even the recording’s one problem, a certain roughness in the massed strings (sometimes brass too) noticeable on most systems, seemed tamed if not entirely eradicated. I was particularly impressed by the evenness of reproduction in this recording, covering the entire tonal spectrum, and losing nothing either in dynamic range nor atmosphere. I was struck as never before by the richness of Newman’s string writing (with brass attacks) in the track River Pirates, which wasn’t even included complete in the original soundtrack LP, but as faithfully restored by Rhino reveals the extraordinary fecundity of the composer’s invention, with suspense, action and emotional resonance all there in its 9:15 span. Indeed, a different kind of gain from the Vaughan Williams limitless, frigid spaces - here, the close up studio sound (with no loss in stage width) is excitingly rendered in 3D perspective. Buy this 2-CD set if you want to hear America in the swagger and sweetness of its too brief summer.
When faced with the task of familiar sonic pleasures, our test model did not disappoint. The Rachmaninov/Reiner Isle of the Dead (RCA 09026-61250-2) has sounded at least wonderful on virtually any setup I’ve tried. That said, the depth perspective and ambient space between instruments and sections, always outstanding on this recording, seemed even more finely sculpted in sonic space than I’ve grown used to.
An LP test for the 105. David Oistrakh performing the Chausson Poeme on Victrola (with Saint-Saens, Leclair and Locatelli for hors d’oeuvres). This is one of the controversial RCA’s, with the buzz about Oistrakh’s violin not in focus. On no one’s list of the great RCAs, but immensely pleasing in this turn on the table. No irregularities noted, but I’m reminded once again, as if I needed to be, how great Oistrakh really was, and how rich his tone, how sure his intonation and phrasing right across the repertoire from Bach to Prokofiev and Shostakovich. The ultimate tribute to the 105 - I want to play all my old battered LPs, and before going to bed at that.
Well, I guess you’ve gathered that I could wish for more time to make notes on the 105’s performance, but a few weeks’ exposure has convinced me these little dynamos (100 watts) are a bargain at less than two grand. The cabinets, by the way, come in satin black, gloss black or a designer mix of copper cabinet and cherry baffle.
Manufactured by Tetra Listening Instruments
3059 Carling Ave. Unit WR Ottawa, ON K2B 7K4
613.226.3550 | 866.626.0030 (North America) | firstname.lastname@example.org
Price: CDN$1750.00 (in satin black)
Source of review sample: Manufacturer loan
MODEL 4.5″ Two-Way
DIMENSIONS (H*W*D) 13″h 5 7/8″w 9″d
FREQ. RESPONSE 55Hz-20Khz
WEIGHT 12 lbs.