T+A DAC 8 & AMP 8 Review

T+A DAC 8 & AMP 8 Review


Without wishing to repeat myself, which I am about to do, I have had nothing but good experiences with T+A, the DAC 8 and AMP 8 uphold this view.  The R series, which I was fortunate enough to have for several weeks recently, was outstanding, pricey but outstanding.    Their Criterion speakers, the TCD 310s, I had for a long while last year and they were fabulous performers.  The V Series (valves everywhere) and HV Series were seriously beautiful and even the Cala streaming amplifier is a blockbuster.  And I haven’t even mentioned the all-in-one Music Receiver which is currently being upgraded as we speak as the E Series.  So the chance to spend time with more T+A equipment is not to be turned down as their product portfolio expands to compete with the likes of Naim and other prolific audio houses.  It is a wonder why T+A are not pushing against the market share of the likes of Naim, Audiolab and Arcam, especially with a German flag, but I suspect that price and brand presence is part of the issue.

The T+A DAC 8 and AMP 8 are a pair, like siblings they belong together, I’ll discuss them broadly in tandem.

The DAC 8 is a very flexible performer in all respects, it is effectively a digital pre amplifier

DAC 8 & AMP 8 Design

The T+A DAC 8 is simply a beautifully designed, compact, multi digital interface with DSD capability up to the highest standard.  Constructed in Aluminium it is smooth to the touch and easy on the ears.  It has a full suite of digital inputs, including four SP/DIF inputs, a BNC (Coax to me) input, USB B input and an optical input.  There is a single balanced input as well, for good measure.  It pairs seamlessly with the AMP 8, with a wired interface between them they communicate settings and standby as needed.   You can interconnect them through balanced cables or standard Phono leads, I am using Atlas Macros interconnects for my best possible connections.   Being a digital interface the DAC 8 is solely focussed on digital sources.  It features a fixed or variable line out which is interesting because it allows you to control the volume, from the remote or the front of the box.  So I have used the DAC 8 as a DAC with a fixed output to the Rega Elicit R, at the expense of the AMP 8, and then variable to the AMP 8, for full T+A control.  The DAC 8 is a very flexible performer in all respects, it is effectively a digital pre amplifier.   The other design feature to note is the DAC 8 has a 6.35mm headphone socket which is excellent news because you’ll be able to plug in your best headphones and listen with volume control.  I have not been able to source the headphone amplifiers capabilities, oddly, but it performs very well indeed with higher impedance ‘cans’.

DAC 8 Specifications from T+A

DAC 8

The back of the DAC 8

  • D/A converter – 32-Bit, 384 kHz Sigma Delta, 8-times oversampling, double-mono-quadruple
  • Analogue filter – 3rd order phase linear Bessel filter, switchable 60 kHz or 120 kHz
  • Frequency response – 2 Hz – 20 / 22 kHz  (44.1 / 48.0 kSps) 2 Hz – 40 kHz  (88.2 / 96.0 kSps) 2 Hz – 80 kHz  (176.4 / 192.0 kSps)
  • Total harmonic distortion < 0,001 %
  • Signal noise (A) 116 dB
  • Channel separation 110 dB
  • Analogue outputs – coaxial (Cinch) 2,5 Veff / 22 Ohm fixed. 0 … 2,5 Veff variable, Symmetrical (XLR) 5,0 Veff / 22 Ohm fixed. 0 … 5,0 Veff variable
  • Digital output – 1 x coax, IEC 60958 (CDDA/LPCM)
  • Digital inputs – SP/DIF (16 – 24 Bit): 4 x co-ax, 1 x BNC, 1 x AES/EBU up to 192/24, 1 x TOS-Link up to 96/24 1 x USB with USB Audio Class 1 (USB full Speed) up to 96/24, adaptive mode and USB Audio Class 2 (USB high Speed) up to 192/24 asynchronous mode*
  • Accessories – F8 remote control handset included, asynchronous drivers for Windows XP, Windows 7 and MAC OS
  • Mains connection – Wide-band mains section, 100 – 240 V, 50 – 60 Hz
  • Dimensions (H x B x T) 9,5 x 27 x 27 cm
  • Weight – 4 kg
  • Finish – Case black aluminium 42, cover silver aluminium 43
  • * Driver for Windows XP, Windows 7 and MAC OS free of charge on T+A website for download. A suitable media player is necessary

AMP 8 Specifications

AMP 8

The back of the AMP 8

  • Nominal Input Sensitivity – High-level (RCA) 0,7 V / 10 kOhms, Balanced (XLR) 1,4 V / 5 kOhms
  • Output stage – Nominal output – 80 W per channel into 8 Ohms, 110 W per channel into 4 Ohms
  • Peak output – 110 W per channel into 8 Ohms, 130 W per channel 4 Ohms
  • Frequency response (+0/-3dB) 1 Hz – 200 kHz
  • Slew rate 60 V / us
  • Damping factor > 170
  • Signal to noise ratio > 103 dB / 110 dB
  • Channel separation 81 / 65 dB
  • Total harmonic distortion < 0,009 %
  • Reservoir capacity 33.000 uF
  • Mains 110-120 V or 220-240 V, 50 – 60 Hz 400 W
  • Standby < 0,2 W
  • Additional features – Trigger input for external switching on (+5 … 20 V) Automatic signal-controlled power on
  • Dimensions (H x W x D) 9,5 x 27 x 27 cm, 3.7 x 10.6 x 10.6 inch
  • Weight 7 kg, 15.4 lb
  • Finishes Case black aluminium schwarz 42, Cover silver aluminium 43
  • Technical modifications reserved!

DAC 8 & AMP 8 Quality

The quality of these two are of the highest order.  Beautifully designed and presented the connections at the back are gold plated and fit correctly.  Buttons and switches are neat on the DAC, there is nothing to press on the AMP 8.  The only slight let down is the remote which is not worthy of such equipment, this is a recurring problem I seem to recall with T+A.

DAC 8 & AMP 8 Performance

DAC 8 to Integrated Amplifier (Rega Elicit-R)DAC 8

I thought I would hook up my ageing Yamaha CD player to the DAC 8 to see how it improves.  With the power and drive of the Rega the DAC 8 is a worthy companion, presenting the music clearly through the fixed line out to the integrated amplifier.  The resolution of the DAC is very good indeed and the Rega Elicit R has great power.  My CD player is certainly vastly improved by the DAC, the soundstage for me is widened and is brighter.

DAC 8 to AMP 8

It was then time to hook up the AMP 8, with phono interconnects and the control link between the AMP 8 and the DAC 8, throw the AMP 8switch at the back of the DAC to variable.  Turn on the DAC and the Amp powers up, nicely.  Again the sound is powerful and strong, the AMP 8 is a formidable power unit, driving my B&W speakers with ease.  At this point my Yamaha CD packed up, so I had a bit of a problem.  I then decided to hook up my laptop and play some music with Tidal and other hi resolution music. Firstly, though, I needed to download the windows driver from the T+A website, this was simple and took five minutes at the most.  I have Windows 10 software.

I did however note that the AMP 8 has few inputs, meaning that when I switched from the Elicit R, the wide range of inputs was lost.  I may have had a better array of options if I had used balanced cables between the DAC and the AMP 8.  I could then have used the other unbalanced inputs for other sources such as the Rega P3 that I can’t wait to review, or my receiver (the Euros 2016 are on of course).

USB B, DSD

Performance using the USB B with the laptop is really really excellent.  With a DSD album, the sound is crystal clear.  Control, via the volume control at the front or using the remote is seamless.  Other 24 bit/192kHz hi resolution music reveals all the detail in the recordings.  My Beatles 24 bit FLAC recordings are gorgeous, wide, rhythmic and sonic.

Headphones

Yet again, I’ve ended up with one of these amazing DACs on my desktop with my hi res music collection to listen to the headphone amplifier section of this DAC 8.  It does not disappoint.   I’m playing music from my laptop using J River software with the DAC 8 and the excellent Oppo PM-2s with the Atlas Xeno cable upgrade.  I’ve listened to my usual selection of hi res files (24 bit and 48k and above, as well as the one DSD album I have!).

The DAC 8 is asynchronous, meaning it controls the clock progression of the digital file, rather than the source, in my case the laptop.  This is what you’re paying for, in my view.  There is a helpful little cog showing this state of play on the blue glowing display.

The performance from the DAC 8 into the headphones is very good, it is not a headphone amp so I would say I have heard better recently.  But the sound is superbly detailed, clear and rich.  I wouldn’t call it fast by any stretch but I have been very happy with the time spent on the ears.  No fatigue (or bleeding! (I’m kidding)).

It is really only with the headphones I can muck around effectively with the DAC oversampling system which allows the user to choose the sampling mode of the DAC.  There are four settings with differing  interpolating characteristics.  It is pretty hard to tell them apart in my view but I prefer the Bezier 1 choice; technically T+A  says it has a more resonant note (echo) but I just like it, and the light on the front is blue, so everything glows nicely.  Probably Bezier 2 is the audiophile choice but it is pretty marginal I think.

Overall Thoughts

I feel the DAC 8 is an excellent piece of equipment.  I would describe it as detailed and rhythmic, not straining at any point for power or pace, whether with the AMP 8 or headphones.  I am very happy with the dynamics, or range, delivered by this pair in particular.  Once again, with T+A, there is the issue of price and with the DAC 8 retailing at north of £2,250 and the AMP 8 retailing around £1,600, this is a formidable outlay, you are probably buying them in a pair.  This means you really must listen first with your preferred speakers, but you can be guaranteed you are getting the very best sound for your money.

Love

Dynamic sound

Rhythm

Effortless delivery

Compact design

Like

DAC 8 Display

Proper headphone treatment

Pre-amp in the DAC

Wish

T+A would turn their thoughts to a decent remote

There was a matching streamer

 

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