TEAC LS H255-MA

12/16/2021

Author: Karsten Hein

Category: Gear & Review

Tag(s): Loudspeakers

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My explorations into the TEAC LS H255-MA bookshelf speakers was purely coincidental. A friend of ours had left them at our house having heard about my interest in audio gear. Puzzled about how to put them to good use, I decided to pass them on to a work colleague of mine who was looking into setting up his own system. The thought of passing them on came easy to me, as I had never considered them to be candidates for an audiophile listening session. When they had first arrived at our house, I had done some quick research and found out that they had originally been sold with TEAC’s CR-H240 DAB compact-HiFi system, which was known for decent entry-level performance. I could not find any indication of the H255s having being sold separately — usually not an indication of serious speakers.

The CR-H240 DAB was a combined unit with a CD drive and radio unit built into a single compact receiver. The trouble with such all-in-ones, especially at this price point, was that many concessions to sound quality had to be made on multiple levels: from the vibrations of the CD drive to the performance of the DAC, from the circuit board layout and the single power supply, right to the smallish amplifier to power the loudspeakers. In such a scenario, even the best of speakers would perform poorly and — consequently — only low-cost choices could be made in terms of speaker design. And yet, the H225s offered a robust front plate of low-resonance materials, a real wooden cabinet (made and assembled in China), a relatively large for their size 2.5 cm soft-dome tweeter, and what looked like a kevlar midrange/bass driver. After some tweaking, the sturdy screw-down binding posts on their backs were even able to take hollow banana plugs or large spades, just as one would find on far more pricy designs.

A knock on the cabinet revealed that this was still capable of some warm and woody sounding resonances, similar to the body of a guitar. That the H225s were rear-ported only highlighted this quality and made me wonder, if this type of cabinet was going to be an asset or a liability to them. Most modern manufacturers try to eliminate all cabinet resonances through MDF or HDF and strong inner bracing. Either way, nothing about the chosen materials gave away that these speakers had been carelessly designed. I therefore decided that I would hook them up to our upstairs system, which I had just fitted with an all-new Audioplan PowerCord S to very good results. I wanted my colleague to listen to the speakers perform at their best, before handing them over to him, and, quite naturally, I was also curious of what would become of my own mixed impression of the H225s.

They almost had to fall behind when compared with our speaker legends from the past, such as ATD’s Pata Acustica or the Tannoy XT8F towers. The only questions was: How much exactly? I was half expecting to have a good laugh at their miserable performance. But, we can never be sure of the performance of HiFi equipment, unless we have auditioned it ourselves and witnessed it play our favourite tunes with our own ears. In my test setup, the H225s were running on Belden 9497 cables and hooked up to our Hafler XL280 power amplifier. This in turn was powered by our Dynaco PAS-4 tube preamp fed through Audioplan’s PowerCord S. All interconnects used were of the solid-core silver type. The Audioplan cord had recently brought a sense of dimension and urgency to our system that proved to be a priceless upgrade from what we previously heard. I was therefore looking forward to learning how much of this quality would remain.

I tested the H225s with three CD albums: Diana Krall’s “Turn up the quiet”, Jörg Hegemann’s “Foot Tappin’ Boogie”, and Helge Lien’s “10”. All three albums offer outstanding recordings throughout, with excellent timbre, rhythm, and dynamics. I began with Helge Lien’s album and was surprised by the width, depth, and dimension that the H225s were capable of. Placed on our homemade MDF stands and cushioned on felt pads at about 60cm from the front wall, they immediately sounded much larger than their actual size. There was bass in abundance, much more than I had heard on the closed Pata Acustica. On the H225s the bass lines were not as well-contoured, of course. And yet, bass seemed natural and blended in well with the music. Metallic sounds from the drum-set were presented in a real and life-like fashion. Instrument separation and stage depth were still in tact, more so than on the Pata, showing the effects of the Audioplan cord even through these entry-level speakers.

On Diana Krall’s album, the impression of natural instrument colours and space remained largely the same. However, the concessions to price and size did shine through in the critical midrange discipline of female vocals. Diana’s voice was not fully in balance showing a bit of crisp harshness around the top-end that would take a little getting used to, especially coming from a more pricy system. Sibilants were a bit forceful and the natural timbre suffered a bit. Once again, I was taken in by the sense of dimension and presence that these smallish bookshelves were capable of. Just to think that these were all beautiful traits that the H225s had never received credit for, simply because their usual play friends were unable to highlight or even grasp their full potential. It was the sad old tale of a huge talent hanging out with the wrong crowd.

The TEAC LS H255-MA are solid entry-level speakers that will perform at near audiophile level when driven with powerful and precise electronics. As rear-ported speakers, they will need space to breathe and will sound convincing when placed on stands with their front plate at a minimum of 50cm distance from the front wall. The TEAC engineers deserve some credit for outperforming any Sonos and similar convenience products by a long stretch, if given proper amplification and source signal. To my colleague, I recommended that he should purchase a nice tube amp for them, as this would continue to make them sound large with great flow and musicality.

And this brings me to perhaps the most important lesson to be learnt from the H255s: the role of the source in the equation that is called music. From now on, whenever there is a debate on what is more important - the source or the speakers - my answer will be: “The source!” After all, many of today’s speakers are able to follow the source signal quite faithfully, often making differences in performance secondary and a matter of personal taste. It has often been stated that speakers cannot play correctly what the source gets wrong in the first place, and, listening to the TEACs perform on our system, has made this clearer to me than ever before.

TEAC Company History

The Japanese company that became known as TEAC had two original sources with separate founding dates: First, there was the Tokyo Television Acoustic Company, founded in August 1953 and, second, the Tokyo Electro-Acoustic Company, which was founded in 1956 and provided its name following the merger. TEAC is also the story of two brothers: Katsuma Tani, who was an engineer in aviation and aeronautics and employed by the first company, and Tomoma Tani who joined his brother in the creation of the second company in an effort to improve reel-to-reel and cassette recorders. Both brothers' ingenuity helped the company to establish a solid reputation for HighEnd reel-to-reels, cassette decks, turntables, and CD players during the 1970s and 80s. In 2013, Gibson took over the company but was forced to sell again during its bankruptcy in 2018. The TEAC company has continued to manufacture products in three categories: computer peripheral devices, professional audio products (with their brands TEAC and TASCAM), and information products that are used for in-flight entertainment, monitoring, etc.

Also see: TEAC LS-H255-MA audio demo

Specifications

  • Speaker type: 2-way, rear-ported
  • Frequency response: 60 Hz—22,000 kHz
  • Power handling: 50 W RMS
  • Impedance: 6 Ω
  • Sensitivity: 86 dB
  • Mid-range / Bass driver: 1x 130 mm meshed cone
  • Tweeter: 1x 25 mm, soft-dome
  • Finish: maple
  • Dimensions: 170 x 270 x 235 mm
  • Weight: 3.7 kg
  • Year: 2007