If you’ve ever spent any reasonable amount of time with me, either on the phone or in person, you will have no doubt detected to some degree my profound love of Tidal Audio. Back up a moment though because I actually have tremendous passion for all the brands and products I sell. I hand pick pretty much every item in my shop window right to the level of the range of a particular product of a particular manufacturer. If something is a dud in the range or does not quite mate with the Lotus way of system building then I won’t stock it or offer it up to you the customer. When I look around my demo room, if you were there with me you might occasionally catch me pulling a subtle half smile. I am genuinely so proud and excited to sell all the things I do and I love sharing all their power and ability with unsuspecting customers.

Tidal Audio though from Koln ? Well it’s impossible and also somewhat unfair really to call an out and out favourite make but certainly I can safely say that there isn’t any brand or marque that I love more ! Back in 2016 this German purveyor of state of the art Audio equipment wasn’t just another pre-existing highend brand flaunted at one of the many UK distributors, ready to lift its skirt at all and any dealer under the sun who had some loose change to throw around. Rather, it was the modest unostentatious company whose equipment I had secretly salivated over and desired year after year at the Munich Highend show, consistently exhibited in a room that was always comfortably in the top 2 or 3 sonically year after year. It was the brand that made the sound that seemed genuinely different from anything I had ever heard and it was the company who created things that possessed a level of craftsmanship and implausible beauty that was more akin to a Leica camera, a Patek watch or an aircooled 911 than a glitzy box of audio equipment. Back in those days, bringing Tidal to the UK was most definitely the difficult option for me; it required a lot of time, money and negotiation but I always said right back in 2011 that I only wanted to do Lotus if I could do it for liberated pleasure and enjoyment and run it the way I wanted, selling and working with the things that I truly loved and admired.

So here we are four years on. My museum page will show you just some of the many Tidal systems we have built in that time and the devotion and love of this brand grows further and wider with each passing year. For most, a full Tidal system is a true end point and there is simply no need anymore to head scratch, demo, select or even ponder the endless minefield of the industry. Despite this inherited devotion though, Tidal do not rest on their laurels and like any bespoke manufacturer driven by passion and love, when they make discoveries and unwrap new technologies, they are duty bound to implement these into their products as quickly as possible. Whilst it might seem unhelpful that certain products are superseded or evolved into mk2 versions sometimes earlier than anticipated, this is none other than a reflection of the designer’s commitment and dedication to being the best and delivering the best product they can to the customer. Whereas other manufacturers might over flex the muscles of commercialism, using these advancements to spawn new derivations along a carefully calculated forward timeline and thereby populate new price points and territory in the marketplace, companies like Tidal and Vitus simply improve what they have and make it available to the customer as quickly as possible.

New for 2020 then, there are no less than 4 new electronics products for Tidal. Firstly the Camira DAC has been evolved into a 2020 version. This involves a whole new mainboard, power supply and a completely new array of innards and a commensurate £10,000 price rise. It is very large sonic leap as you would expect but in an arena where the very best Digital sources can hit 6 figures in asking price, even at the new price of £36,000 we feel the new DAC is extremely generously priced.

Secondly, the Tidal Impulse stereo power amp is to be joined by the new Intra amplifier. Slimmer, cooler and just better again, with much DNA from the £120,000 Assoluta Monoblocks, the new Intra will be here very soon. No price rise there though. It is better but won’t cost you a penny more than the venerable Impulse. After the Intra there is a third product which we can’t say too much about yet but around Summer time we will see the release of something really quite exciting and newfangled from Tidal. It might just have something to do with streamed music though, more very soon !

So that just leaves the unit we’ve all known about for some time and which was paraded at last year’s Munich Highend show. The new Prisma is a fully balanced £36,000 linestage with integrated Phono stage. It features 3 XLR inputs, a pair of XLR outputs and one Phono MC XLR input. It has a “loop through” home theatre option for inputs 1,2 or 3, high and low Phono modes selected from the fascia (10db difference) and MC loading from 50-2000 Ohm in 12 separate positions conveniently selected by a rear mounted rotary switch. Clearly there is a large measure of newfangled know how under the casework. I will leave it to the various forthcoming reviews and Tidal’s own website to glimpse at some of these secrets but it’s obvious from the existence of the 3 box £68,250 Precensio that they have had to move mountains with extreme levels of ingenuity in order to fit a statement linestage such as this into just one slimline chassis. Indeed we are confident that the Intra will demonstrate similar ingenuity with its smaller footprint and cooler chassis.

For my first ever listening of the new Prisma I mostly used a full Tidal system. The Impulse power amp into a pair of Contriva floorstanders and also a set of Vimberg Mino. I used the first generation Tidal Camira DAC  as source, fed by either a Melco ZS streamer or the illustrious Taiko SGM Extreme, another “no holds barred” industry pinnacle. Wires were from Tidal and Tara Labs, mains cables all Tidal, mains distribution Shunyata. After initial thoughts and acclimatisation, I hooked up the 2020 Tidal Camira as well.

The Prisma is actually a difficult thing for me to write about.  Quite simply it pushes the envelope of what I have so far experienced up to this point in my all my Hifi adventures. Soundstage size, tonal and timbral accuracy, neutrality, invisibility. It has showed me things that I did not think possible and delivered a life and a vitality to the room which simply breaks new ground. Never before have I heard as much “thereness”.

It has produced an eerie feeling of unshakeable calm to the music, it can slow the entire musical landscape down by an startling degree, simultaneously bringing forth a level of organisation and comprehensibility which at times had me staring and grinning in disbelief. Performers, instruments, rhythms meld and lock together with a level of natural simplicity that is all new to me. It is almost like a new way of timing, as if everything that went before was actually in slight disarray

So in this way, I can’t really liken the Prisma to anything else I sell or anything else that has gone before apart from perhaps the Tidal Precensio. So I am afraid that this review is going to be fairly taciturn and succinct and conspicuously free from critique. I actually am unable to criticise the Prisma because until the day it is superseded in my demo room, probably in many years to come, I am going to sit here and struggle to refrain from gushing.

The Preos which has done so well in the UK always offered customers a world class Phono stage and DAC but even discounting those “extras” that exist inside the box, as just a standalone linestage I always felt that it had a level of performance to put it fair and square against any of the industries big hitters from Switzerland, the US, Asia etc. at £30,000 and beyond.  In my time with the Preos, watching the sorts of exotic Preamps and Linestages it has matched or usurped, I have always known it to be comfortably at the very top level. But honestly, the Preos is not even close to the new Prisma. The new preamp is a whole different thing, a whole dimension away. It has life and purity that the Preos only ever merely hints at. As audiophiles we are always talking about transparency, how we look through a window back to the source and the view gets clearer and clearer as one banishes noise and upgrades his system. With this Prisma though, there is now not even a pane of glass there in the window. Just a feeling of absolute clarity and a nagging sense that every system you heard before was actually a little distant and obscured by comparison.

We all probably know just how crucial the linestage is in a system, how influential it is on the architecture of the sound, the transparency of the system and indeed the power and dynamics of the system. Indeed, the dynamic ability of the watts in your power amp are ONLY ever as good as the bandwidth and performance of the linestage in front of them. Dynamics do not come from WATTS, they come from low noise and bandwidth through the system. To a large degree, they come from the linestage. So a linestage upgrade has always been one of the largest and most satisfying you can make and in this way the Prisma is a very easy component to fall in love with. And if you fire up the inbuilt phonostage and attach a good record player, then you’ll likely want to put a ring on its finger too. The Prisma’s MC input is pure, precise and incredibly well organised and that impression of total invisiblity of the electronics is fully retained. It feels like the grooves in the vinyl are directly wired into your inner ears. I obviously sell separate phonostages from other brands but let me tell you that we would need their very best offerings to match what you get inside this new Tidal, so easily the other side of £20,000.

It has been a good year so far for linestages. New in the UK this Easter was Allnic’s new flagship as well, the very exciting OTL/OCL 300B L10000. Whilst that particular linestage is some £8000 cheaper than the Prisma and cannot match the Tidal at its own game, it does have its own unique recipe of incredible ability which will make it equally compelling to some customers and I will be reviewing it in detail very soon as well. For now though, if one chases utter invisibility and purity, then the Prisma commands every last kilojoule of your attention. As I write, there is an ‘Absolute Sound’ review looming and I gather they summarise in a very similar fashion to me. Lotus will also soon receive the new 2020 Camira and Intra power amp and I will return to the 3 boxes as a whole and consider them in some depth as Tidal’s new 2020 one stop ultra Highend 3 box system. We cannot wait.