The Tetra 120U is a small, relatively inexpensive speaker that was
designed for home theater, but it's so good that many clients purchase
it for their two-channel systems, often replacing much larger, more
expensive speakers. The Tetra 120U sells for $1800/pair ($900 each). The
120U is Tetra's first truly universal speaker, one that delivers great
sound on any type of music or soundtrack. It can be used in two-channel
or for a surround system. You may use the 120U for just the rears, for
the fronts and rears (perhaps with a Tetra 505C center) or for every
speaker in a 5.1, 6.1, or 7.1 configuration.
Tetra 120U with and without Grille
Tetra Speakers, Inc. is an Ottawa, Canada-based company with long
roots in the music industry. They have been designing and manufacturing
speakers for the past twelve years, and the President / Designer worked
in the audio industry for many years before that. Although Tetra has
spent very little money on marketing over the years, they have managed
to get their name in every major audio publication and web site with
many positive reviews, awards, and other accolades. The Tetra 120U won
the Audiophilia Best of Show award. It is also our choice for the best
speaker for the money of every speaker in every line we sell (which is
several hundred). In fact, it's the best speaker we've ever heard for
the money, and we're not the only ones who think so...
Musicians Who Have Fallen for Tetra
Over the years a number of professional musicians, producers, and
recording and mastering engineers have fallen in love with the Tetra
sound. The reason they all give? Because it really sounds like music.
When Benny Golson first heard the Tetra 506 speakers he was literally
jumping up and down exclaiming, "I've played with Coltrane hundreds of
times, and that is what he sounds like! THAT is what he sounds like!"
Herbie Hancock fell in love with Tetra speakers several years ago and
has a complete 7.1 Tetra setup in his home theater and a 5.1 setup in
his recording studio. He recently upgraded his recording studio from the
506 mains to the new flagship 606 mains. He used the 506s in his studio
for the making of his Possibilities CD, and he has donated that speaker
back to us to help raise money for cystic fibrosis research. (If you are
interested in purchasing this unique, signed pair of speakers, see our
web site for more information.)
Ron Carter also purchased the 506s and recently upgraded to the new
($33.3K) 606 speakers. When Ron-the most recorded bass player of all
time, with over 2500 albums and CDs to his credit-first heard these
speakers in his home, he remarked not only on the sound of the speakers,
but how well they reproduced the hall he recorded in. He couldn't
believe that they reproduced not only the instruments but everything
that was going on in the room so perfectly. He was astonished.
"All Tetra speakers are voiced by ear with great care and with no
rush to market. The Tetra 120U, for example, took over two years to
Other musicians with Tetra speakers include Keith Richards, Wynton
Marsalis, Robert Silverman, Buster Williams, Lenny White, DD Jackson,
Dave Holland, and many others.
On September 9 of this year we produced a jazz benefit concert
featuring Buster Williams, Kenny Barron, and Lenny White (watch for the
CD soon on our web site). Buster had already bought a pair of the Tetra
120U speakers before the concert. He brought Kenny and Lenny to our
store to hear them, and they were wowed by them. We also listened to
many other speakers varying greatly in price (we have speakers on the
floor that range from under $200 up to $70,000). Lenny came back into
the area for a gig two weeks later and found his way back to our store
to purchase a pair. Kenny is flying us out to NY to dress his whole
studio with the Tetra sound.
Why do all of these people get so excited over Tetra's modest little
All Tetra speakers are voiced by ear with great care and with no rush
to market. The Tetra 120U, for example, took over two years to perfect.
We had the privilege of hearing many of the prototypes, and along the
way we would say, "That sounds great!" And Tetra would say, "Nope. We
can do better." And they did.
Tetra uses the best-quality drivers and other parts, and they pay
lots of money for them. Most speaker manufacturers (including the most
famous and best marketed) have gone to China to get inexpensive drivers
to improve their profit margins. Tetra refuses to do that. And it shows
in the quality of their products.
The 120U uses high-quality, fully-shielded drivers from SEAS and
Morel, chosen for their neutral tonal balance, excellent dynamics, and
compact size. Specifically, these speakers each sport a 1" Morel
soft-dome tweeter and a 5" SEAS polyproylene woofer. Internally you'll
find Cardas and Litz wiring and an ultra-high-quality capacitor on the
tweeter. The design is deceptively simple, but the result is stunning.
The enclosure design on the 120U minimizes internal standing wave
colorations, resulting in a startling lifelike soundstage projected well
out into the room. The 120U's trademark sloping front baffle is an
essential part of this design.
Standing waves are out-of-phase acoustic energy that builds up at
high signal pressure levels behind the drivers as they work. Unless
controlled, they can interfere with the forward-radiating sound. The
result may be muddy, distorted, bright, grainy, or all of the above.
That's why you find so much stuffing in some box speakers. But Tetra
goes the extra mile in design for the ultimate in pitch, clarity,
definition, and soundstage.
In the end, it all comes down to the music. And there's a reason I
dropped all those names early on in the article. Musicians love these
speakers. Why? Because they spend their lives performing, and they know
what live music sounds like. And when they hear it reproduced on an
audio system, they get excited.
We have a few tracks we love to play for people on these speakers.
"Money," by Pink Floyd, really shows them off well. As does "Little
Waltz" by Ron Carter on his Piccolo CD (a great track that everyone
should know, this track demonstrates not only the remarkable bass on
these speakers, but the wonderful warmth and sensitivity of
microdynamics these speakers produce). Of course the best test music is
the one you've heard a hundred times already. People are always amazed
at how much they hear that they never heard before.
The Tetra 120U is available in Natural Cherry, Red Cherry, Black,
White, and Silver. Other colors (including custom paint) are available
by request at additional cost.
Where to Buy
Audio High is the only nationally authorized Tetra dealer. However,
there are many excellent Tetra dealers in other areas of the US and
Canada. Ask your local dealer if they sell Tetra speakers, and if not,
you may purchase directly from us.
is Audio High's resident audiophile and home theater expert. Before
founding Audio High, he was involved with a number of technology
companies in the Bay Area. For seven years, he was a development manager
at Apple Computer, overseeing three groups concurrently. During his
tenure at Apple, he wrote and published a programming book; wrote the
telecommunications code that sent the first e-mail from space and
supported the astronauts during that mission; and re-architected America
Online to support other languages, cultures, and writing systems. In
addition, he co-designed the telecommunications language used by AOL,
Apple, CompuServe, GE, and others; and designed the Unicode compression
algorithm used by Apple and AOL. He also designed the user interfaces
for several Apple products, wrote a suite of online content publishing
tools, and was the technical editor for numerous publications. He is
currently the Editor-in-Chief of On Sound and Music, an online journal
for professionals in the music industry and music enthusiasts.