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And that’s how I began this review. I’m admittedly not always rational and occasionally act on impulse. After unpacking the T+A system and placing it on the Base’a rack, I instantly got the message the engineers of the company wanted conveyed. This is a system with good looks, high user friendliness and comprehensive functionality. It was so elegant and well-mannered that the first evening I simply wanted to enjoy headphones. It was not about marking the amp down—this is what usually happens with headphones—but to sample what was promised. And so it happened. The sound from my Sennheiser HD800 was of surprisingly high fidelity without any histrionics but with high resolution and a large soundstage. Dynamics were somewhat subdued and I missed some midrange saturation but this would be the norm for any 2500zł+ external headphone amp. Here it’s thrown in for free to save an added expense.

It is worthwhile checking the headphone impedance as T+A specifies 50Ω or higher to leave out Grados (and certain Sennheiser modifications which alter the impedance). Using the T+A was like a fairytale or dream come to, intuitive and easy.  It was lovely to see CD meta data on display and to experiment with the filters and polarity reversal. Each of those changes effected a small sonic result which together accumulated into something bigger. The most pronounced effect came from the digital filters, then the analog cut-off at 60kHz or 100kHz, then absolute phase. With filter N°.2 , ‘wide’ mode and inverted polarity, this created a deeper fuller sound with higher palpability which generally still remained a type of clean and slightly distanced presentation.

Considering T+A, we must question what we want from our gear. That’s the basis for all friendships in hifi. These German machines veer towards transparency, attempting to disappear from our field of vision to not interfere. This is one of many different roads to Rome. We simply have to decide whether it is for us or not.

This school of sound is mostly shaped by the character of its treble and midrange. I’ve encountered it with McIntosh gear at 10 times the price. The amplitude domain over the audible bands seems as flat as a table or at least so it seems to me. The notion behind it is the hollow pipe through which the signal passes with the least amount of distortion. GIGO or garbage in, garbage out they say with computers. That’s exactly the case here. Vocals have squeakily clean timbres as do cymbals to lack the multi-layered saturation as for example an Ayon CD-7 with a tube amp would produce. But that’s life.

Such presentations afford big opportunities to shape the sound with appropriate loudspeakers, cabling and room acoustics. T+A plus Spendor will give us fullness and thoroughness. Harpia Acoustics or Monitor Audio speakers will create cubits of space and splendid separation. Vocals, although arguably not as vidid as elsewhere, have wonderful body. They are also dense though not as euphonic as other devices might render them.

Their naturalness derives not from coloration or slight accents but their lack. Certain Marantz and Denon component follow the same path but there it doesn’t translate into an increase of musical satisfaction because the sound becomes too dry. This German system does not. I would even propose that it sounds juicy just as we should expect from a system at its price. It is only the lack of coloration and the overall linearity that could confuse us into pegging the outcome otherwise when in fact it isn’t.

Dimensionality is very good and built around a clean treble. Soundstage size can be attributed to a very disciplined active bass that is springy and powerful. It is not artificially enhanced as I ascertained with the mono albums of Kelly Blue by Kay Starr and Movin’ Out by the Sony Rollins Quintet and Quartet. The double basses had the same proportions as I know them from my Luxman M-800A amplifier and the mighty Tenor 175S. For contrast I listened to occasionally very low synth bass on Bright Red with Laurie Anderson and it was even better.

There was fleshiness and tightness. The very lowest bass was just slightly less controlled to decay longer and not be as differentiated. But I listened to the T+A system mostly with the 95000zł/pr German Physics HRS 120 loudspeakers which are quite demanding in that aspect to require absolute control. Here it was clear that the Power Plant MkII is no titan. With less demanding loudspeakers it returned to normal but even there we could not talk about an absolute iron fist in the bass.