My T+A Series 200 demonstration stock arrived with me a couple of months ago and I’ve been quietly putting it through its paces since then. I’ve shown it off to a few customers who’ve all been taken by surprise by what they have heard, small boxes shouldn’t sound this good to paraphrase a couple of customers I know well!
Series 200 is T+A’s entry level range of products, their flagship HV Series will be following on in due course.
Series 200 features 5 products, there is the MP 200 Multi-Source Player (£3990), the DAC 200 (£4990) which is a DAC and Pre-amp and the A 200 Stereo Power Amplifier (£3490), the other 2 items to complete the line up are the HA200 which is a headphone amplifier and the M200 Mono Power Amplifier which was just announced last week.
With a streamlined compact 3/4 width design Series 200 is visually very attractive, it is solidly built and the fit and finish is absolutely first class as well. The VU meters on the DAC 200 give it a bit of retro look and the 3 components together as a system looks great.
There is obviously nothing stopping somebody using just one component from the Series 200 and adding it in their existing system, such as the MP 200 connected to a DAC for example. But in many ways it is best thought of a complete system solution – there is no right and wrong way with this thinking though. An existing Melco owner could possibly forego the MP 200 but add a DAC 200 and A200 to create a superb 3 box system.
MP 200 Multi Source Player
The MP 200 is the source component from within Series 200 and it covers a lot of ground.
It offers CD playback via a slot loading mechanism, Bluetooth connectivity and a USB connection on both the front and rear to allow for playback from files stored a USB stick. It also has Radio playback with Internet Radio, FM and DAB+ broadcasts catered for, along with 2 x SPDIF RCA inputs and 1 x Toslink Optical input for connecting any existing equipment into it, so there is no shortage of options.
It terms of a network connection the MP 200 has both Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity, as ever with networks a hard wired connection is preferred for both stability and performance. I’ve used both and to be fair the Wi-Fi did work very well, but I would always advocate using an ethernet cable if possible.
Once connected to your network the MP 200’s streaming platform offers plenty of options. Using the T+A MusicNavigator app you can stream Qobuz, Tidal and Deezer, plus Internet Radio. It can also see UPNP servers, so if you have music stored on a Melco, a NAS drive, or music stored on the shared folder of a computer you can play back this as well. The MusicNavigator app is available on both iOS and Android and is very intuitive to use, when you select a source via the app (Internet Radio for example) the MP 200 instantly switches to the correct input.
The MP 200 is also a Roon Ready Endpoint so providing you have something running Roon Core (like a Nucleus) it gives you access to the superb Roon ecosystem, it sounds fantastic and is very easy to use. Roon certainly makes discovering new music very simple and as an interface and experience Roon is pretty tough to beat.
In terms of connecting the MP 200 to an existing DAC it has a RCA SPDIF digital output, but if you are connecting to the DAC 200 the audio is sent via an ethernet cable, this connection routes all audio from the MP 200 into the DAC 200 regardless of the source being played.
There is also an USB connection between the MP 200 and DAC 200 for control and system communications which gives the devices some useful automation functionality. For example, it doesn’t matter what input the MP 200 or DAC 200 is on, if you press play within Roon, both devices instantly change to the correct input and music starts playing. Useful for the technophobe or partners who are often put off by devices that can be overly complicated to operate, not so here!
In performance terms the MP 200 sounds superb, connected to the DAC 200 and looking at both the feature set and price point of the MP 200 there is very little to criticise in reality. The performance is engaging and tonally it is very neutral and natural, there is no shortage of detail but the sound is never fatiguing or forward and spending some time spinning CD’s and streaming Qobuz has been a very enjoyable experience (both via Roon and directly via the T+A app).
For someone who wants to both stream but still play CD from time to time and do so without compromise the MP200 is a great option, never mind all of the other things it can do such as Radio and Bluetooth.
DAC 200 D/A Converter / Preamplifier
The DAC 200 is essentially the beating heart of Series 200, being both a DAC and Preamplifier in one box it offers both extensive connectivity and configuration options and is priced at £4990.00, as with all Series 200 components it is available in both black and silver.
The DAC 200 has 7 digital inputs, 2 x RCA, 2 x Optical, 1 x AES/EBU, 1 x BNC and 1 x USB B
The DAC 200 offers no onboard streaming, it is reliant on either the MP 200 on another streaming device being connected to it.
There is 1 analogue RC A input so you can connect a phono stage or another analogue based source, there are both RCA and XLR outputs and you have the option to fix the output of the DAC 200 if using it with an integrated amplifier or an existing preamplifier. There is a headphone socket on the front panel as well.
One option T+A offer with the DAC 200 is an HDMI board, this offers 2 HDMI inputs and a single HDMI output (with ARC) so if being used in the same room as a television it is very easy to integrate everything into 1 system. I have used the DAC 200 with both a Sky Q box and a PS5 and it works exactly as intended, ARC works flawlessly when using the various on-board TV apps such as Disney+ and Netflix. For many the HDMI option won’t be relevant but those that have a TV in the same room as their audio system with a couple of HDMI sources it’s an option to consider to integrate everything together, the HDMI board is priced at £380.00.
For most users of the DAC 200 the USB input (labelled USB IN on the image below) is probably going to be the most popular method of connection, be it from a Windows PC, Mac, Melco, Innous or an Aurender. With a Windows PC and an appropriate driver installed the DAC 200 will support up to DSD 1024, with PCM material USB supports up to 32 bit 768. PCM and DSD signals are treated completely separately with their own dedicated converters to maintain performance and to avoid any form of interference, PCM signals are passed through a dedicated quadruple converter and a true 1-bit converter is used for DSD signals.
To further optimise performance T+A have used a number of ultra fast digital isolators from Silicon Labs which are used to galvanically isolate the delicate analogue and digital section from one another. Since it is vital to maintain this separation through the entire signal chain, the mains sections for the analogue and digital signal paths are also completely separated galvanically.
T+A also provide a number of filter options on the DAC 200 so you can fine tune the performance to your tastes, there are 4 upsampling filters available to choose from. There are 2 FIR filters and 2 BEZ filters
FIR 1 – Extremely linear response
FIR 2 – Improved peak handling
BEZ 1 – More rounded and analogue like
BEZ 2 – More dynamic, better accurate timing
If your external source is already providing the upsampling for you (like a PC running HQ Player) there are 2 NOS options available as well, which works in conjunction with a 60 kHz low pass filter setting (that can be set on or off)
As ever with filters there is no right or wrong, they offer some subtle adjustability to fine tune performance based on your system and taste, for my listening I preferred the BEZ 2 filter with the low pass filter turned off.
The 2 VU meters on the front of the DAC 200 can be configured to display a number of different parameters, such as output level, input level, temperature and stream quality. Set to monitor temperature for example the left VU meter displays the temperature inside the case and the right VU meter displays the temperature of the output stages. These are not obviously critical to operation but they do give the DAC 200 a distinct look which I really like.
A 200 Stereo Power Amplifier
To complete the demo system we have the A 200 Stereo Power Amplifier, priced at £3490 the A 200 delivers 125 watts per channel into 8ohm doubling to 250 watts into 4ohms. For listening and testing I’ve been using a pair of Boenicke W5 SE loudspeakers. With sensitivity rated at 83-85db they are certainly are not the easiest speaker to drive. The A 200 had no issue and could drive them quite easily, there was no shortage of drive and dynamics at low volume and as the volume increased you simply get more of everything and as you push it the presentation doesn’t harden up or become strident, it remains focussed, confident, natural and controlled regardless of the volume level.
There is no shortage of bass weight and extension either, the Boenicke are not the largest speakers (quite the opposite in reality), the room I was using to test the system is around 4m square with 2.7m high ceiling and I never once felt like there was a lack of bass or scale, the A 200 controlled the Boenicke incredibly well.
In terms of connectivity the A 200 has both XLR and RCA inputs, there is also a pair of XLR outputs should you wish to daisy chain another A 200 for bi-amping a suitable pair of loudspeakers.
There are 2 sets of speaker outputs and a comms link for use with the DAC 200 which essentially allows the A 200 to power on and off with the rest of the system.
The A 200 utilises the very latest generation of Class D output stage and incorporates some of the circuit technology that T+A use in their flagship HV series. Older digital designs could often sound cold and rather digital in terms of presentation, but no so with the A200, the output stages incorporate technology designed by the Danish company – PURIFI Eigentakt™ who are arguably the leading company in the world for Class D output stages
There is a button on the front panel which allows you to adjust the damping factor of the A 200, it can be set to high or low. As with the filter settings there is no right or setting for the damping, it is dependent on your system, speakers and most importantly what you prefer. The difference between the 2 settings is audible, but isn’t jaw on floor dramatic. Low is more rounded and warmer and high is cleaner and a little more analytical sounding.
Comparing the 2 modes across a variety of music (The Black Keys, Shabaka Hutchings, Miles Davis, Max Richter, Leonard Cohen and Rammstein to name just a few) you could easily detect the differences, to my tastes I preferred the high setting, but I could imagine some people either preferring low or simply changing it depending on the the music they are listening to.
When a DAC 200 and A 200 are used together and a comms cable is installed between them the damping can easily be adjusted via the remote control which makes for quick adjustment if needed.
I used the MP200, DAC200 and A200 all together as a complete system along with a pair of Boenicke W5 SE loudspeakers.
I also connected a Melco N50 directly into the DAC 200 via USB and played back files that are stored on the N50’s Solid State Drive.
Series 200 was designed to be used as a system and as a 3 box solution it is incredibly strong and offers truly superb performance and I certainly have enjoyed using it over the past few weeks. Roon and CD, combined with streaming Qobuz directly via the T+A Music Navigator App were my sources of choice.
As a system the performance is transparent, precise, insightful and articulate, depending on your taste a few changes to the various filter options and settings you can introduce an element of warmth and roundness. It is a tonal shift or change as opposed to a change for better or worse and will depend on speakers, the listener and the room.
The MP 200 is incredibly strong as a source component, it ticks lots of boxes – CD playback, Streaming, Roon Endpoint, Bluetooth, FM, DAB and Internet Radio and it does them all very well. I am certainly finding that CD as a format is having something of a renaissance and having a single source that offers both CD and streaming together is a great combination. Being a Roon Endpoint is a brilliant addition as well, it really can change the way you listen to music and discover new artists and bands.
I must stress the addition of the Melco N50 connected directly to the DAC200 via USB brought great benefits to overall performance and I can see a Melco along with the DAC 200 and A 200 being a very popular combination. In pure performance terms playing from the Melco SSD plays music with much greater confidence with more resolution, more neutrality and greater dynamics, it was very impressive, the N50 is priced at £4999.00. As good as the MP 200 is the N50 certainly elevated the system up to another level. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise to be fair, playing music stored locally a drive based system will always outperform any form of online streaming.
The DAC 200 offers excellent performance regardless of the source and input, the optional HDMI board makes sense to those who have a TV in the same as their system and I can see it sitting quite happily as a standalone DAC. It is very intuitive in terms of operation and has flexibility to fine tune performance to suit the listeners preferences.
The A 200 is the most unassuming product in the range in a way, connect your speakers to it and turn it on and simply does its thing, it works brilliantly as a standalone power amplifier as well as being part of the Series 200 system. It has more than enough power to drive and control most loudspeakers, It offers a very precise and clean presentation and as with the other 200 Series products it offer superb build quality and fit and finish.
I must say I’m delighted to have T+A as a brand in my portfolio, Series 200 offers superb value for money, either when used individually or as part of a complete system. They certainly have the ability to ruffle the feathers of a lot of other competing brands at similar price points and beyond and the HV Series (incoming soon) takes that up several notches!
As always home demonstrations and home trials are no issue at all and part exchange is always welcome if you need to trade something in to make the numbers work.
If you have any questions regarding Series 200 please don’t hesitate to get in touch