This article is a look at the T+A DAC 200 which is part of the 200 Series of components that includes the MP 200 streaming music and CD player, the A 200 stereo power amplifier and the previously reviewed HA 200 headphone amplifier. Of course, there is also a monoblock, the M 200, if you do want crazy amounts of (un)necessary power.
The MP 200, A 200, and the DAC 200 have been at HF&MS for several months over the summer period to great effect with the T+A DAC 200 taking centre stage with the arrival of the stunning, Best of 2023, Hylixa loudspeakers by Node Audio. A higher-class source was required at this point and the T+A DAC 200 was perfect for the task.
The T+A DAC 200 features an in-house DAC solution that focuses on jitter treatment, path separation of both PCM and DSD sources and then a unique DAC treatment comprising eight (four per channel) 32-bit Burr-Brown converters. This treatment compensates for any source non-linearities. This quadruple stack of Burr Brown DAC chips is not unlike the arrangement in the iFi Pro iDSD, a long-term reference favourite here at HF&MS.
Importantly this is just a DAC, with no streaming or other functionality, you’ll need an alternative streamer or the MP 200 for that. Equally importantly, the DAC 200 has preamplifier volume control meaning its interaction with balanced output to a power amplifier, like the T+A A 200, is as clean as it gets.
The T+A DAC 200 has separate digital and analogue treatments inside with a Class A pre-amplifier section.
On the input side, the T+A DAC 200 is packed with options including 2 x S/PDIF RCA input, 2 optical TOSLink inputs, an AES/EBU input and a single BNC input as well as USB-B in. Additionally, there are two HDMI inputs with an Audio Return Channel (ARC) for HDMI signal pass-through if the optional HDMI board is fitted. There is an RCA analogue input as well.
The 200 series can be interlinked with a SYS input arrangement (cables provided) from the Music Player to the Power Amplifier so you can control everything, including power control, from the single remote control.
In the DAC section, there are the four familiar selectable oversampling algorithms, called FIR short, FIR long, Bezier/IIR, Bezier as well as NOS (non-oversampling).
Outputs include Balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA outputs to the rear. There is a headphone output at the front that is a balanced 4.4mm Pentaconn headphone output. It takes it output from a separate high-performance headphone amplifier in the DAC 200.
The quoted frequency response (+ 0 / − 3 dB) is an incredible 0.1 Hz – 200 kHz.
The VU Meters can display the output, input level, temperature, or signal quality as selected in the comprehensive menu system. You can, apparently, change the background colour of the VU Meter by bleeding out red, blue or green from the spectrum, I have preferred white and did not realise you could change the colours whilst it was here. Finally, in the menu system, you can choose to have the preamplifier output fixed or variable line out.
In my view, the build quality is second to none…
The T+A DAC 200 has a retro-German lilt, solid but it is very good-looking indeed in a postmodern way. In my view, the build quality is second to none, I really mean that and there is no hint of corner-cutting or holding back on any aspect of the materials. The unit is heavy, the buttons are very satisfying, and the highlight is the back-lit VU Meters to the top left corner. There is a classy remote control that is in keeping with the high-quality styling here.
The midi style of this unit has the following dimensions: (H × W× D), 10 × 32 × 34 cm or 4 x 12.6 x 13.4 inches and it weighs in at 6.2kg or 13.7 lbs. The 200 series is available in an anodised aluminium silver or black.
T+A DAC 200 Price – £5,400 or £5,780 with the HDMI board fitted.
I have been using the T+A DAC 200 variously with either the Moor Amps preamplifier and Angel 6 power amplifier or the Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista Power amplifier. In any higher-end configuration, this is the DAC for the job. For much of the critical listening, we’ve had the Node Audio Hylixa loudspeakers or the Kudos Titan 505 loudspeakers.
The T+A DAC 200 has acted as a hub for HF&MS over the summer period with various CD transports, and streamers being pressed into service as well as the MP 200 as a source.
MP 200 & A 200
Engaging the 200 Series in a stack with a pair of excellent stand-mounted ELAC Carinas the system as a whole is extremely coherent indeed. The Carinas are agile and punch miles above their paltry price point and the 200 Series pushes them all the way. In overall terms, I do not enjoy the T+A streaming platform in the MP 200 as much as I do the BluOS platform, for example, but it is perfectly adequate for the job, once you get used to it.
A brief hour or so with a pair of Kudos Titan 505 standmounted loudspeakers offers much more in the way of compatibility to the 200 Series setup and the scale on offer from the A 200 power amplifier and the Titans is very appealing indeed. More proof, if needed, on how terrific and flexible the 505s are with a decent power amplifier shove.
The Stereo A 200 offers a claimed 2 x 125W/channel that features the T+A high-frequency sine wave power supply from their HV-Preamplifiers and the ‘PURIFI Eigentakt’ output stage.
T+A DAC 200
Having stumbled around with the T+A software for a few weeks I realised the ace in the 200 Series pack was undoubtedly the DAC 200 and it was on this basis it formed the backbone of my summer listening, ably taking over from the reference iFi Pro iDSD here at HF&MS for a few months. Indeed, the DAC 200 proved to be such a wonderfully detailed and wide-open partner to the Hylixa, it was a real wrench to box it up again.
One of the key learning points from the DAC 200 was that it can cope with just about any source and make it great. Extended listening with the MP 200, the Bluesound Node X or the Eversolo DMP-A6 as streamers resulted in nothing but joy. After many hours of switching between differing streamers (made easier by the myriad of inputs with the DAC 200), it was fairly evident to me that the DAC 200 was doing much of the heavy lifting and there was little to choose between the streaming options available to me, as evidenced in our Streaming YouTube video.
Meze Audio 109 Pro headphones
The headphone output to the Meze Audio 109 Pros is excellent. The DAC 200 has preamplifier volume control both out and to the headphone output. Ideally, you’d have the amazing HA 200 for your headphones, and this offers the full range of jack outputs but the 4.4mm Pentaconn output with an adaptor is perfectly acceptable for the 109s.
The Pentaconn output is nice and with the balanced Sendy Audio Apollo headphones too. These are very pleasant headphones that grow on you over time, without a doubt.
Overall, then, the headphone output is good enough but it is not an HA 200 platform by any means, but it is a very nice section.
…this DAC is an outstanding piece of equipment.
The midi style of this unit hints at diminutive performance but this T+A DAC 200 is anything but diminutive in presentation. This is a DAC for the ages, without question. As a DAC platform for multiple sources, it is excellent, and the uncompromised range of inputs is the unique factor here.
In my view, the headphone output here could probably be omitted in favour of an even more competitive price point as this DAC is an outstanding piece of equipment. I do, however, understand why it is here and it is a fine performer but… If you do need a high-end headphone solution, I would suggest you look no further than the complementary HA 200 and feed the DAC output into this module. Of course, I would also suggest, therefore, that the HA 200 does not need the DAC platform it has but these are different conversations.
It is quite hard to think how else T+A could have done any better here, this is such a strong performer, and the no-compromise quality is evident here. If this is your budget, buy only one DAC in your life, this could be it.
Comprehensive input variety
Number of inputs
Full details are on the company’s site.