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Equipment Review

September 2000

Taddeo Digital Antidote Two

by Marc Mickelson


My brush with the Ortho Spectrum AR-2000 Analogue Reconstructor, an active device that connects to the analog outputs of a CD player and then the inputs of a preamp to improve digital sound, made me interested in hearing the Taddeo Digital Antidote Two that Jon Gale and Jeff Fritz evaluated a few months ago. This follow-up was made easier by Tony Taddeo's desire (as expressed to me and then reprinted in his response to the original review) for "someone with an 'in shape' musical ear" to hear the Antidote Two. Well, I must be that person because I received the unit from Jon after he had finished his review. I'll have to negotiate some extra pay for my super powers!

The Taddeo Digital Antidote Two also works between digital gear and preamp, but unlike the Ortho Spectrum AR-2000, the sturdy, all-black Antidote Two has no on/off switch or balanced inputs and outputs. Other than these two physical differences, the two units function identically, which is not to say that the two propose to do the same thing to the analog-from-digital signal. I'll leave the discussion of this to the original reviews.

With the Antidote Two in my system, I heard a repeatable, recognizable "effect" with every disc, every time. With the Antidote Two, the music is more resolved and natural-sounding at the same time, which is audiophile gold. Large and small details emerge from the background at their own pace, seemingly more the pace of live music. Thus, there is a bit more verisimilitude to the sound produced, which, I would reason, is on the recordings I played to begin with. How this is brought out by the line-level Antidote Two and its additional circuitry and signal path, which very well could degrade the sound, is a conundrum to my monophonic mind, however.

Because the Antidote Two, like the Ortho Spectrum AR-2000, doesn't obviously shift tonality or otherwise modify the intrinsic quality of any specific sonic parameter, its contribution can be hard to detect -- at least when the unit is first inserted. Remove it, however, after some close listening and somehow the music seems a little less involving. It's almost imperceptible, more a reaction I felt than the product of any large-scale change I noticed. And yet it's there.

For most of us, then, the worth of the Antidote Two will center around the magnitude of the effect. Jon and Jeff used words like "slight" and "subtle," and I can't disagree with them. Once again, the Antidote Two does not rearranged the sonics that you've worked so hard to effect in your system, and this is a very good thing. Who would buy an add-on component like the Antidote Two that severely alters what your diligently built system was created to do? However, I would add the word "meaningful" to the mix because I liked more the sound of the various DACs and CD players (Bel Canto DAC1, Mark Levinson No.39, and briefly the Perpetual Technologies P-1A/P-3A combination) with which I used the Antidote Two. In the end, I enjoyed my entire system more, which is not to say that it wasn't enjoyable without the Antidote Two in use, but that I wanted the Antidote Two in my system.

Perhaps Taddeo's greatest claim for the Antidote Two is that it will make CDs sound like 24/96 DVDs. The basis for this claim is in the phase shift the Antidote Two claims to correct, making the 16/44.1 analog signal measure more like that of a DAC or player decoding 24/96 software. I was able to test this directly with identical sampler discs from Classic Records, one a 16/44.1 CD and the other a 24/96 DVD, and I can say that the software itself still makes a bigger difference. The way details are portrayed, as sounding less indistinct if they are lower in volume, and in the ability to increase loudness and not suffer with the kind of glare and hardness that digital is known for, are both elements of 24/96 reproduction that the Antidote Two cannot equal. However, I think the worth of Taddeo's claim is a matter of degree. In helping the music sound more resolved and natural at the same time, the Antidote Two does offer some of the enhancements of 24/96 DVDs.

One other issue that needs to be addressed is how the Taddeo Antidote Two compares to the Ortho Spectrum AR-2000. The two are neck and neck, neither hurting your system but ultimately making digital sound more pleasing and thus involving, at least for me. Doug Schneider says much more about the AR-2000, to which I would now add that you can't go too wrong with it or the Antidote Two. However, as I indicated in my sidebar to Doug's original review of the Ortho Spectrum unit, the $1250 cost of the AR-2000 means most of us will have to budget for it, its price being almost as much, for instance, as that of the Bel Canto DAC1 alone. The Antidote Two is less expensive, $995, but still not dirt cheap. Thus, audition either before you put down your money -- and perhaps hear a more costly DAC or CD player too, just for comparison. If I had to pick one or the other, I would probably choose the Taddeo Digital Antidote Two because of its lower price --that is, unless I needed XLR inputs and outputs, in which case I would look at the Ortho Spectrum AR-2000. The system I have assembled now -- Lamm electronics, Wilson WATT/Puppy 6 speakers, Mark Levinson No.39 CD player, TARA Labs cabling, Shunyata Research power cords -- retails for over $70k, and the Antidote Two is right at home.

In the end, if you have a digital rig you're happy with, the Taddeo Digital Antidote Two is a worthwhile audition. It didn't rock my world, but it did make the music in it more pleasurable and involving.

...Marc Mickelson

Taddeo Digital Antidote Two
$995 USD.
Warranty: Two years parts and labor.

Taddeo Loudspeaker Company
2604 Elmwood Ave., Suite 105
Rochester, NY 14618
Phone: (716) 473-9076
Fax: (716) 244-4106

Website: www.taddeo-loudspeaker.com

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