T+A’s PA1100 E is a bit of a Swiss army knife of an amplifier, one built for the modern digital world. It is part of their E Series range and is T+A’s entry level integrated amplifier, visually it is a rather understated design, it is very well screwed together and weighs in at a healthy 14kg, but thankfully it’s not a hernia inducing weight!
It has plenty of power on tap with 140 watts per channel into 8 ohms (rising to 250 watts into 4 ohms) so more than enough grunt to power and control a pair of loudspeakers properly, the amplification is Class D.
There are 4 pairs of line level RCA inputs, 1 pair of XLR inputs (which is shared with RCA input 1), there is 1 tape loop, a pair of RCA pre-outs, plus a front mounted 1/4 inch headphone socket, also and rather importantly in this modern digital age the PA1100 comes with a really well specified on-board DAC which offers superb performance and flexible connectivity.
The DAC has 2 Optical inputs, 2 RCA SPDIF inputs, 1 USB-B (for connecting to a computer, Melco or similar), plus it also has Bluetooth APT-X as well.
The USB input is likely to be the most commonly used connection and it supports PCM files up to 32 bit / 384kHz and DSD files up to DSD 256, the Optical and SPDIF inputs support 32 bit / 192 kHz. There are 2 PCM filter options you can select via the oversampling (OVS) button on the front panel or remote (there is also a filter for DSD files), these filters can be applied when music is played back via the Optical, SPDIF and USB inputs. These filters can make a subtle but worthwhile improvement to music depending on the file type.
To optimise performance of both the DAC and the amplifier itself T+A have kept the DAC completely separate to the analogue side of the amplifier, the power supply feeds dedicated voltage lines to the analogue and digital side of the amplifier.
The standard version of the PA1100 with the onboard DAC is priced at £4400, but things don’t stop with the DAC as there are 2 optional upgrades that can be specified that further expand upon the amplifiers flexibility.
The first option is a phono stage, which can be either Moving Magnet or Moving Coil (but not both) – this option is £405 and replaces RCA input 4, at this level of integrated amplifier many serious turntable users will potentially have an external phono stage to be fair, but the options exists and for those with a more modest (or occasional) turntable this optional phono stage is a great choice, it uses less cabling and keeps clutter to a minimum.
The second option is an HDMI board which offers 2 HDMI inputs and 1 output, incredibly useful if your system is in the same room as your TV and want to integrate everything together. The HDMI output also offers ARC (Audio Return Channel) – so if you are watching Netflix on your TV the sound from the TV is routed back to the PA1100 via the HDMI cable automatically.
The HDMI inputs supports PCM files up to 32 bit / 384kHz and DSD up to DSD 64, the HDMI board is priced at £400, my demo unit has the HDMI board and whilst for many this option may have no relevance I can think of a few customers where this flexibility would prove very useful.
Over the past few years pre/power amplifiers have fallen out of the favour and there has been a marked shift to high performing integrated amplifiers and the PA1100 fits the bill perfectly.
I’ve been running the PA1100 with a Melco N50 connected via USB and it makes for an incredibly compelling combination, it’s a relatively simple system, 2 boxes and a pair of loudspeakers (I’ve been using the new Epos ES14N – more to come on these another day!), the smaller N100 also works superbly with the PA1100 as well and creates an even more affordable ‘system’ where you simply need to add speakers and you are set.
Sonically the PA1100 paints a large expansive soundstage and the presentation is full, bold and there is plenty of weight, body and tone to the music, it sits just on the warmer, darker side of neutral and is really well balanced, it’s not lacking detail or drive in any way, but there is no artificial detail or aggressive stridency are at all.
As well as the great performance it’s good to to put together a system where you are not falling over too many boxes and tripping over too many cables! Depending on your system and what other equipment you may have to connect up the PA1100 essentially can act as the heart of a modern system and one which is fun and thoroughly enjoyable to listen to.
Demonstrations are welcome as is part exchange if you have an amplifier you would like to trade in, please get in touch for more information