Tilia 3 Silver



Date of Testing: April 2002

Author: Leo Fung - yohifi.com - Hong Kong

The best driver in the world coupled with enclosure like making violin, the result is a product of “Extreme Sensation” having the highest real resemblance and notes beauty. Tilia is the cream of design of another type.

In the past few years, a lot of friends asked me why I gave up my set of audio equipment.

From the very first few years of testing equipment, it helped created a lot of seduction to me which made me fell into traps one after the other though I got enjoyment out of it. Today, I have trained myself to be immune from having the desire to own them. The main reason is that more and more questions cropped up one after the other but these questions could not be resolved by traditional method of review.

Finally, I set up my own magazine then there came the “Rendezvous” testing method. From then on, I had 10 times more opportunity to test equipment.

From “Rendezvous”, I found that matching of equipment is the answer and from different matching I could understand each of the equipment better. However, the better I understand the more I see through!

Although perfect matching is one of the most important steps, high quality equipment certainly has upper hands. Therefore, when I come across value for money equipment, I feel especially delighted and am eager to introduce to you.

“The highest grade” composition usually costs more than HK$1 Million but not many could afford. If you had experienced such state of perfection but in reality you had to downgrade to make compromise, this is not always satisfying.

From testing, I find another direction. The choice of music for every one is almost the same but when comes to the most loved music there is conspicuous difference, such as classical, jazz, opera, pop, old recordings, rock, hi-vi…

If the composition could reproduce every type of music to the highest quality, the spending should be astronomical. Besides, it is virtually impossible to find such system and I have never come across one. Give up the hopeless “all rounder” and in search of perfection along one type of music, I have a small number of choice and my choice is “Extreme Sensation”.

My original target was Lowther. I had heard Lowther or similar idea drivers. The sound qualities were very different. There were only 2 or 3 examples which impressed me and made me decided to make a cabinet on my own one day.

Frankly speaking, I was not inclined to taking the challenge of making cabinet. I only want to have a set of “Extreme Sensation” system to listen to my best music type.

Besides, I have heard the best Lowther and yet the bass is a bit thin which thereby constrained my choice of software.

About 10 days ago, I came across a new target by chance. It is the Ocellia. In my article “First Met Ocellia”, you have already had a rough idea. Here, you can read the review of the Tilia.

The contents of interview “First Met Ocellia” have stated in brief the method of making the Tilia.

Under the arrangement of fate, the two met. One is the famous driver producer PHY who has been highly regarded by connoisseur. PHY is just another Petrus of red wine. Both are regarded as the best in the world.

The cabinet of Samuel Furon was made by “ancient” method called “Thin Wall Speakers”. Simply speaking, it made us of the vibration but the high damping modern method. The principal is similar to the enclosure of wood made musical instrument such as Violin or Guitar. Tilia has the “F-Hole” of Violin but installed at the bottom of the cabinet. On general application, such “F-Hole” has to be opened. If the listening environment has too much bass reflection, this air hole could be closed.

The cabinet of the Tilia is made of spruce of thickness about 4mm. However, in order to support the weight of the driver, the front panel is much thicker. Furon has made 25 attempts to master the gist of installing installing PHY driver in the sound box so that the cabinet could reproduce the harmonic beauty like violin.

It appears to be simple but it is extremely difficult to make. Each pair has to be tuned many times to reach perfection. It needs perfection to make this type of cabinet otherwise it will affect the clarity of the sound.

As thin wall has to bear tremendous sound pressure from inside, the frame has to be made by “Beech” wood. This is the same material as used in the handle of a violin. The cabinet is varnished one layer after the other which is the same method used in production of a violin. In other words, after the seeping of this “live” varnish inside the holes of the wood, the sound would be better.

Tilia is fundamentally a musical instrument!

For the Tilia, I borrowed 13.5B MkII/MG20 of Graff to do the amplification.

The main improvement to the 13.5B MkII is that higher quality rectifier is employed and thus it is quieter as a result. For high efficiency speakers such improvement is positive. MG20 is of single end parallel design. It is of OTL and OCL design which reveal fully the characteristics of 6C33 tube.

After the connection of the system and run in, the “good dream” and the “bad dream” then began.

This time the number of software tested reached a record high, totalling 50! You may feel strange but when you read further you will understand.

“Sensation” is difficult to describe by words. However, the characteristics of the Tilia is extreme sensation. Before I started to write for the next paragraph, I could not proceed to write further for a number of times, rolled the draft script and threw it into the bin as I felt the words used could not express fully. I finally decided to write while listening to each record reproduced by the Tilia so that you can understand the virtues and shortcomings, the uniqueness and its limitations.

The test record used include “Naum” to test the balance, naturalness, purity, dynamic range. The high exceeds 20KHz and the bass reaches 40 Hz. The bass is similar to many floor standing speakers. In other words, it exceeds the Lowther completely. Besides, residual sound disappears gradually but not delay with strong sense of presence at the scene.

It is very suitable for reproducing “Carol Kidd” records. On playing the song “When I dream” the Tilia’s interpretation injected the sadness, feelings and sorrow Kidd’s voice. The replay of this record has rekindled the bottle of our heart. Needless to say, the guitar sound is so real that arouses your imagination.

There was an episode on listening to Carol Kidd. Before that, the positioning of the speakers was more or less in place. However, after a few minutes, we found that the focus was not stable. I did not believe this was the characteristic of the Tilia. We repositioned the speakers and in the process we discovered the gist for positioning the Tilia.

The space at the back and at side of the Tilia directly affects the bass reproduction. It seems that on different environment, the distance for the space is different. The air hole is like a door for breathing rather than bass reflex. In effect, it is just another “Semi Open Baffle” design. “Air” escapes from the sides and 5 x 10 rear. This “Air” is in fact music signal.

Finding the best position is much easier than many large floor standing speakers. Place the speakers 2 feet away from the back wall then move the speakers by 2 to 3 inches forward to hear the bass such as from the cello. It can quickly find out the point having the most transparent bass. Then move the speakers to the right or left to find the even more transparent point.

The PHY 21cm (8”) driver has band width of 40Hz to 20KHz! The tweeter is placed about 1 inch behind the front panel. Therefore, the angle for dispersion is very small. If the room is rather big and the placement of the speakers is rather wide in relation to the seat, the super high will be directly blocked. If that be the case, the speakers have to be toe-in. The angle depends very much on the level of direct super high you want to hear. The allowance is free. In my case, the Tilias were toe in for 14 degrees.

There is no cross-over inside the speaker. The PHY 8” is driven full range, the super high only has a limiter to supplement the point where the 8” started to roll off. It can reach in excess of 30KHz.

In other words, the Tilia has a build in super high co-axial speaker.

No wonder the placement of the speakers for focusing is so demanding – a bit more or a bit less would create the phenomenon of phase shifting.

On listening and repositioning, the sound quality escalates with more realism. However, there is one phenomenon which is very different from other speakers in general.

The shape of Kidd’s lips is like about 3” wide and you cannot place to speakers to reproduce half an inch or or half an inch less. This may be because of the 8” full range.

From Hifi point of view, this may be a discount. From the angle of realism, shape of lip, size of singer and instrument, it is more real and the focus is very stable with strong stereo effects. However, such qualities depend very much on the quality of recordings! This new discovery stunned me and could only be confirmed after various testing. You will understand when you read on.

The record “Rhapsodies” brings us incomparable delight. Tilia could make grandiose music reproduction. On the cut where there were a lot of bass instruments playing together you could really feel that thousand of horses were running with sharp focus of instruments in front of your eyes. However, the thin mid range of this recording alerted me. Is the Tilia has special demand on the phasing of recordings?

Listening to “Hotel California” is another surprise. This combination could even reproduce rock music and the quality of vocal and musical instruments are real with high density and smoothness. The only shortcoming is the Kick Drum at 40Hz is a bit thin. The shouting and crying of the audience really catch my attention. They are so real with superb spatial effect. It has the virtue of coaxial having super highs but without its shortcomings in that at 20Hz the sound will not decrease.

On playing Cantate Domino from Proprious, it stunned me. The goodness of the vocal and spatial effects is within my expectation. I could not image that the bass from the organ was so impressive which came out layer by layer.

On playing “Rossini”, it brings to even more high level. It was very well balanced and the sound quality almost comes to perfection. Firstly, the sound of instrument cabinet is even more obvious and like real. Secondly, the beauty of harmonic. The Ocellia is the best for listening strings in this world.

I did not have much expectation for the record “Orak” but the result was still satisfying. Frankly speaking, for speakers of similar size and price, the Tilia is only so and so from rock music reproduction but still acceptable.

Up to this point, the conclusion is that for strings, vocal, chamber music, it has the highest performance with rare sensation.

On listening to large orchestra, it is an extra surprise and thus pushes the value of the Tilia. Listening to jazz rock, it is acceptable but not ideal.

On the next stage of testing, one member of the panel chose a record for replay. The problem came. The sound of the kids was very strange. The possibility may be due to the “Reverb” of recording.

I recasted my mind back. Except Hotel California and Orak, the other recordings were single point recordings and most of the ambience was the real sound recorded at the scene. But why Hotel California was easy to the ears and a bit confusing with the Orak?

Then I tested ten odd records of different methods of recordings. Half of which were my own recordings. Several possibilities came to my mind but I need to experiment and prove them. After experiments, we could almost come to the same conclusion.

The phasing of the Tilia is very exact. If there is problem with the phasing of the recordings, Tilia will expose it frankly with no compromise. If the phasing of the recording is very exact, the focus is very sharp. If phasing has problem the focus will keep on changing and even the focus will change large. Therefore, on listening to Eagles, Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms and most recordings of Verve, there will not be many problems with the quality of sound and sometimes bring surprises.

The most influential is the “Reverb”. The cabinet of the Tilia is able to create decay. On listening to at the scene recordings, the Tilia could help to reproduce the notes and decay with much wider space. Therefore, on listening to “Rhapsodies”, “Peter, Paul and Mary in Concert”, “Rachmaninoff A Window in Time”. “Scherazade” and mist RCA Living Stereo, they could reproduce above standard quality.

Perhaps you may not know some mixing engineers like to use 2 to 3 reverb machines to create “man made spatial effect” to bring excitement to the audience. Some may even use one type of reverb for the high and another type for the mid range. Reverb is the enemy of Tilia.

Tilia is really a “Mirror of the Evils”!

Would Ocellia products confine our scope of recordings?

This is a fact which I should make known to readers but the merits are more than the shortcomings (unless “mirror the evils” is wrong).

When you listen to natural recordings, it is so real that you may not be able to accept all at a time. When listening to high quality multi track recordings, it comes close to the above reactions.

Dynamic is not a problem to the Tilia after you listened to Brother in Arms as long as the quality of recording is high. It could reproduce faithfully outstandingly.

Tilia is an unprecedented “Mirror of the Evils”.