Tidal for Bugatti Royale

The Tidal x Bugatti Royale, at first blush, may appear to be a loudspeaker, but I’m here to tell you, it is anything but a loudspeaker. To my best understanding, a loudspeaker is a device with transducers that reproduces recorded sound in an acoustic space, and near as I can tell, the Tidal Bugatti Royale really has next to nothing in common with most devices that do this. Much in the same way that a Chiron isn’t sufficiently described by calling it just a car, the Tidal for Bugatti system exceeds the assumptions that come along with its categorization. Yes, it happens to be a loudspeaker, but that doesn’t describe all that it is. 

Words and Photos by Grover Neville

Tidal for Bugatti Royale

The Munich Experience

To set the stage, I’ve been in Munich for a few days, having already spent several days wandering the halls of the excellent Munchen Deutsches Museum and enjoying a tour of the BMW Welt and distinctly quirky-cool BMW Classic Workshop tour–stay tuned for the report on that one–suffice it to say, it’s very much worth doing. I’ve also had my share of some excellent Bavarian food and drink and popped my head into MotorWorld across the street from the MOC. Needless to say, I’m feeling fairly sure that Munich Hi-End 2024, while exciting, will be the least experientially stunning part of the trip. It’s an audio show; I’ve seen nearly 12 years of them at this point, and while gear makes impressions, it’s hard to be truly impressed these days. 

A Lifetime of Audio Expertise

Further hindering my ability to be blown away by show systems is a 20 year history as a musician, audiophile, and audio engineer – I’ve spent time at Remote Control, Skywalker Ranch, Dolby Studios, and countless other top recording and mastering studios. I live in LA and have owned more studio and hi-fi systems than I can count. I learned to mix classical music from Telarc and Aspen alumns. I say all this not to be self-aggrandizing but to illustrate a history and passion for this audiophile business. I like it, I know it intimately, and I’ve gotten close enough to scratch, sniff, and separate the boys from the men, so to speak. 

Tidal for Bugatti Royale

A Paradigm Shift in Audio

Nothing in all my years as a student of sound prepared me for the Tidal Bugatti Royale. Jӧrn Janczack, the founder of Tidal, welcomed me warmly into the room and simply handed me an iPad and told me, “play whatever you like.” No long spiel, no carefully curated set of demo tracks–simply an invitation to listen to music. In a sense, this is what the Royale’s are all about: an invitation to listen. 

If I can attempt to describe what I heard, the sound of the Tidal Bugatti Royale’s is the sound of so much nothing. On hearing the first notes of one of my favorite tracks, I was greeted not by any sort of audiophile revelation or sonic spectacular, but rather by the complete absence of any auditory cues that speakers were playing in a room. The Royale’s quite simply sounded like they were not there, and instead that music was emanating from thin air. Strain and try as I might, even with all the years of listening experience and conservatory ear training, I could detect no real hint whatsoever of any coloration or aberration in the sound. 

Tidal for Bugatti Royale

Expectations Shattered

I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m gushing too much, but the experience foundationally shook a long held belief of mine: everything has a sound. Maybe there was some slight fractional smoothness, but in every way, the Tidal Bugatti Royale fulfills that aspirational experience those of us in audio playback talk about but really never experience more than once–the total immersion of that first exhilarating listen when we realize how good music can sound. And much like the first high of any experience, rarely does the rollercoaster peak there again. 

Well, I’m here today, eating my words. The Tidal Bugatti Royale, near as I can tell, really has no sound. Tidal’s slogan “We Build Emotions” rings true, and the result feels less like a loudspeaker in a room and more like an experience engine with music as its mode of transmission. Not the Dolby Room, not Skywalker Ranch, or any of the astonishing sounding studios or hi-fi systems I’ve heard from Berlin to Buenos Aires, Beverly Hills to Bow, have ever managed to get me to so fully turn off my brain.

Tidal for Bugatti Royale

The Search is Over

The Bugatti and Tidal names are synonymous with creations that surpass their categories, objects that exceed the limitations of form to deliver something else. More than just a car, more than just a loudspeaker. I’m still digesting and conceptualizing exactly what that second part means, but I can say one thing with certainty. There are two worlds: before Tidal for Bugatti and after. Hearing is believing. 

Tidal for Bugatti Royale

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