Tonian Labs Classic 12.1 S Speakers
Ordered and purchased new from
Tony in 2013 and delivered in 2014.
Classic dark walnut finish
Nominal Impedance 16 ohm
Sensitivity 97 dB
Phy H30 LB 15 Sag full range
driver (12-inch driver)
If purchased new from Phy-HP $1,800
Tonian Labs TL-R2 ribbon
Thin walled speaker cabinets
Only driven with Atma-Sphere S-30
Tonian Labs UCDR feet which fit perfectly into holes on the speaker bottom (6 total - 3
per speaker) ($500 special order from Tony)
Height: 42 inches
Width: 14 ½ inches
Depth: 22 inches
Weight: 75 lbs. each
Tonian Labs original boxes and
I am not replacing these
speakers. I am parting out my system.
I was privileged to have a listen
in my home to the next level in speaker design from Tonian Labs this past
Memorial Day weekend. Well actually I had twenty-four hours with their model
Classic 12.1S. The speakers were on their way to a scheduled appointment but
Tony Minasian was kind enough to drop them off for me for a little while. And
let me tell you, it was like a hot, fast and furious date with a super model.
Yeah, like I know how that feels! You may recall my recent and very positive
review of the Tonian Labs
TL-D1. When I first contacted Tony about a possible review or
purchase, I was mainly interested in their designs with the French PHY drivers.
The TL-D1's sport an 8-inch Fostex driver along with a modified ribbon tweeter.
The Classic 12.1S employs a 12-inch PHY driver along with a Tonian modified
ribbon tweeter. The Classic 12.1S resembles the classic look of British
loudspeakers of the late 60's and 70's a la Spendor and Rogers. Add to the fact
that this particular pair was clad in a dark walnut and I had a pretty imposing
pair of speakers in my den. Believe me, The PHY driver is a thing of beauty
that inspires awe. With its solid ring of thick bronze and black drivers, they
look like they mean business and can deliver the musical goods.
And deliver they did. Since my
time with these speakers was limited, I got down to business. Again Tony
brought along his trusty amp, the 90's vintage Audiolab 8000a integrated. We
hooked up my sources to the 8000a and set up the Classic 12.1S's in just about
the same spot that my recently departed Dali Euphonia MS-4's used to stand. You
remember my Dali's. They were the ones the Tonian Labs TL-D1's ($1750) gave a
good thrashing to when I had them in for review. Tonian speakers take a few
hours to acclimatize themselves to the room and the Classic 12.1S pair was no
different. After a short while they went from kind of hard and sharp to
sounding a breath away from glorious.
First of all, the Classic 12.1S's
are very detailed and highly resolving speakers. Their ability to unravel
complex musical passages is second to none. But without and I stress without
any brightness, etch or glare whatsoever. In fact, these are one of the most
natural sounding speakers that I have heard. Being of the same family lineage
as the TL-D1's they are also fast as lighting when handling dynamics, dynamic
contrasts and shadings. Put the detail, speed, and that large degree of
natural, realistic and slightly warm sound together and you have a musical
speaker of the highest caliber. There is not a hi-fi sounding bone in these speaker’s
About a week before the Classic
12.1S's arrived, I was privileged to listen to a very expensive pair of
speakers (over $100,000 plus a pair) along with a very expensive and impressive
system to drive it. These speakers had incredible frequency extension, clarity
and a sound stage that one could literally walk into. Impressive as this
demonstration was, there was something missing. That something was musicality.
The Tonian Labs 12.1S speakers on the other hand have the magic quality of
musicality in huge spades. Yet they deliver all of the audiophile qualities to
satisfy any gear lover. Although the Classic 12.1S's might not have rock solid
bass to 15Hz, they convey the music's essence to a great degree. Yes, I could
have lived with them a little longer to get a better handle of their sound. One
thing that popped up in my audition was that in my system (I did change my
electronics) I detected that the 12.1S's were more revealing of upstream
electronics and wire and cables than the TL-D1's. Although we got great sound
from the 12.1S speakers with just a few minutes set up, one could only imagine
the possibilities with more set up time and gear.
When I reviewed the Tonian Labs
TL-D1 speakers, I thought to myself how much better could things get in this
kind of speaker design. Tony Minasian answered that question the day he dropped
off the Classic 12.1S speakers at my house. Tony Minasian has seemed to hit on
a magical formula of high efficiency, fantastic sonics and musicality with his
two-way designs. They leave not only high efficiency single driver speakers in
the dust but many other multi-way designs sounding lacking. In fact, since then
I have been agonizing as to which speaker to buy from this extraordinary
speaker company. Well tonight I placed my order for a pair of Tonian Labs
speakers. Tonian Labs does have a floor standing speaker with a smaller PHY
driver and a few other very interesting designs. If you are in the market for a
new pair of speakers, I urge you to have a listen to a pair of Tonian Labs
speakers. Before you do though, please drop your audiophile preconceptions at
the door and just bring your ears and that musical heart that got you started
in this hobby in the first place. I guarantee that you will save yourself a lot
of money and frustration.
These Tonian Labs PHY-based two-ways with ribbon tweeter
were the hammer. For a system in a real-sized rather than palatial room, this
was my favorite sound of show. Naturally, the Thorens gear didn't hurt one bit.
Too few speaker companies use Bernard Salabert's superior drive units
(Auditorium 23, Musical Affairs, Ocellia). If more did, the 'single-driver'
movement would get a serious and much-needed kick in the arse - forward.
To my ears, properly implemented PHY drivers do things—more important
things—their Lowther and Fostex equivalents don't. Given the scarcity of PHY
demonstrators, this state of affairs is unlikely to change, however. As with
Thorens, this remains a secret tip for the very few who trust their own ears
and don't mind traveling the extra mile to book an audition.