T+A stands for Theory + Application, this German company has done just that with its transmission line loudspeakers, electronics and mechanics since its foundation in 1978. The amplifier and record player in front of me, the first I’ve tried from the company, prove as much. The dual mono PA 2500 R amplifier is part of T+A’s R-series, a line with a history going back to 1992. But it’s only the name that’s old, the amplifier itself is all new. It incorporates an ARM processor to manage its functions, this integrates the amplifier in a multi-room situation and makes communication possible between R-devices over a dedicated link. The power supply is a high efficiency design that works at a much higher voltage than is normal with the solid state devices using something that the company calls HV technic. The idea is to enable a large voltage swing, as is found in tube amps but in this case using transistors to keep the reliability and life span much higher and longer. Tube amp enthusiasts know that the ‘ease’ of playing music with them has a lot to do with the high voltages used in those designs. Normally transistors and chips have a working voltage between 5 and 15 Volts and that can be a limitation. HV technic is one thing, but you need a good amplifier design to get results, but T+A know a thing or two about that. You may also notice the high build quality, the user friendly lay-out of the controls and the many in- and outputs. Perfection inside is revealed by the flawless operation and of course the sound quality, which we will come to later.
The PA 2500 R is specified to deliver 140 Watts per channel into eight Ohms and doubles its output into a halving of load to 280 Watts in four Ohms and a massive 2x560 Watt into two Ohms. Figures that indicate the power supply is extremely capable and put this amp among the most powerful integrated designs on the market. The PA 2500 R has many adjustable parameters that can be set with either the remote control or from the front panel. For instance source names, display brightness and information, energy saving mode, bi-wire option, pre-out on/off or pass through. The tone control is also adjustable for each channel to counter acoustic problems in the room. On the back panel three balanced and four unbalanced inputs are present and the pre-out is on both RCA and XLR sockets. A network port can be used for software upgrades and smart home applications. The double loudspeaker connections handle spades or banana plugs. On the top is a large acrylic plate with an enormous T+A logo on that gives you a glimpse of what goes on inside the amplifier.
I also got the G 2000 R turntable that is available with a Rega arm and Ortofon cartridge, but I got the version with a Clearaudio carbon arm and a Clearaudio MC-2 moving coil cartridge. Inside is a PH-G-10 R MC phono stage that’s fully adjustable with dipswitches for MC cartridges, it can be set for sensitivities between 15 and 650 Ohm and outputs from 100µV to over 2000µV. The phono stage is already factory set for the MC-2 and the cartridge is correctly mounted in the arm. All you have to do is screw the counterweight on the arm and balance it for the correct downforce. Next fill the bearing with supplied oil, lower the spindle into the bearing (which takes half an hour to drop all the way), put on the rubber belt and finally put on the platter. This record player is a dream to set up and use and use, push buttons on the front set RPM and power on. The straight arm is easy to position and lowers slowly straight down with the use of a hydraulic lift. No fiddling, no further adjustments, just play your music. A dust cover is supplied to protect the arm and the cartridge and T+A has cleverly put a small hole in the cover and a peg on the player so that the dust cover cannot move if you turn on the player by accident. It’s a nice detail that shows that this company knows what it’s doing. Inside the aluminium casing an MDF plinth carries the bearing, electronics and motor. The ‘vibration-free’ motor is DSP regulated, T+A claims that “Wow and flutter does not exist and even irregularities in the belt have no influence”. A record weight and sweep arm brush are optional extras.
The T+A devices were used in different settings. The smallest system uses a Bluesound Node as a source, and streams files into a NAD M51 DAC, that is connected over balanced cables to the PA 2500 R amplifier. Simply Audio loudspeaker cables run to a pair of Harbeth P3ESR speakers on TonTräger stands. The other setup uses a Metrum Acoustics Pavane DAC and PMC fact.12 loudspeakers, connected with Crystal Cable Speak Reference. Both setups make use of Van den Hul balanced cables between converter and amplifier.
In the beginning I used my small system around the T+A gear to feed the Harbeths with more than enough power, sometimes the VU meters showed a peak output of 100 Watt for each channel such is the low sensitivity of the speakers. On the T+A record player a 45RPM pressing of ‘Willow Weep For Me’ by Jacintha reveals that this record is a reference product for recording technique, it takes your breath away when a tenor saxophone starts on the left side, full of dynamics and with lifelike sound. In the middle between the loudspeakers, which virtually leave the room, remains the beautiful voice of Jacintha sounding warm and sexy. The deepest bass notes are restricted by the size of the loudspeakers, but when they are strong enough the T+A amps helps the Harbeth to produce lovely tight bass. It has real power and grip on the woofers. The record player with the Clearaudio arm and cartridge makes the music detailed largely because of the built-in phono stage, this is probably the quietest example I have ever used. More bass notes appear on the next track and when a vibraphone is added things start to sound really good. Looking up from my notes makes me realise how small the loudspeakers actually are and my brain needs a few moments to understand were the beautiful bass is coming from. No I have no subwoofer, who needs one when the music is so pure. The strongest point of the Harbeth is of course the midrange and the Clearaudio duo underlines this. Jacintha is one with the instruments, her voice is very natural sounding and every word she sings can be understood. The G 2000 R may not look like an exotic high end turntable with its straightforward appearance, but it sure is underneath. Many vinyl adepts think a turntable and arm needs a lot of tweakability to be able to deliver the magic of vinyl, this one shows that user friendly players can do the job just as well. Later on I used the turntable in combination with my Exposure amplifiers to great effect. T+A in combination with T+A makes a good marriage, but each component performs really well on its own with other brands. Before swapping to the Exposures I push the equipment to the limit with an old direct-to-disc recording made by Thelma Houston & Pressure Cooker for Sheffield Lab. The bone dry recording technique smashes into the room, rocks like hell and explodes with dynamics. Sheffield Lab was famous for its ability to capture dynamics and the T+A combo brings them out with gusto. It’s more proof that a decent source and a powerful high quality amplifier can push small loudspeakers to do remarkable things.
In my larger system I played French singer Angelina Wismes, who sings about the glory days of French poet and singer Barbara. This music needs the right atmosphere to sound right and communicate with the listener. With only a few Watts my PMC fact.12s come alive, music flows all over the place, the voice carried by instruments that are all within their own distinct place. It’s almost like the way you experience music in a small room during a private concert. Of course is this not only down to the T+A amplifier, all the other components help to build the complete scene, but the PA 2500 R is never a limiting factor. FLAC files from Kerstin Blodig also lead me down deep into her world. This Stockfish recording contains a bass lift (as usual with the label), which is very obvious on large transmission line speakers, luckily the T+A amplifier has a tight grip on the woofers. The bird whistles on almost every track are irritating, but ignore them and you can enjoy a lovely female voice and some easy listening style music. By contrast Valentina Toth playing Béla Bartók on solo piano is hard to reproduce, the dynamics of the instrument are reflected in the VU meters, although little more than 10 Watts are enough to fill the room with sound.
Play Misty for me
It does the same trick with the Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio on the Three Blind Mice label playing ‘Misty’. This very close miked recording has been the killer of many good but low powered amps. It’s strange to see that the drums and the bass only need about a Watt on average but the piano takes 50 or more on peaks. I really wonder how anyone can be happy with a small single ended triode amplifier on speakers this inefficient (does anyone use valves with PMC? - Ed). I need the power under the bonnet, preferably power like that produced by the PA 2500 R, a very capable amplifier for my needs. With a streamer you can jump from style to style ever so easily. Picking the duets of Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett swinging into the room with the great big band musicians behind them. You can imagine the brass instruments, the bass and the drums, meanwhile old man Bennett crawls against the extravagance Lady Gaga. There’s no reason to stick to one or two types of music, no matter what I throw at this amplifier the sound is subtle, loud, clean and always easy on the ear. Given the price this should indeed be the case, but remember, price and quality level do not always match. It shows that this company is still bringing theory and application together for the purpose great music reproduction and doing so with considerable skill.
In the PA 2500 R integrated amplifier and the G 2000 R record player T+A has created two components that combine solid build, flawless operation and exceptional sound quality. They made sure the amplifier is as flexible as possible, with the option to correct small, room acoustic related problems. The numerous inputs and the available output power make the amplifier a real all-rounder, one that proved capable with both large (costly) and small (more affordable) loudspeakers. The record player is very easy to install, there are no silly adjustments, put down the LP, lower the arm and enjoy the music. T+A seems to know how to push my ‘like’ button with products that are so well thought out. All of which makes it inevitable that T+A is never going to be the cheapest. These are examples of craftsmanship and German Grundlichkeit (thoroughness) that promise years of reliability, and for that there will always be a reward and a price.
PA 2500 R
Type: Solid-state, 2-channel integrated amplifier, headphone amplifier, optional phonostage
Analogue inputs: 4 single ended RCA, 3 balanced XLR, configurable for AV pass through on both connectors
Analogue outputs: Preamp out on RCA & XLR
Power Output: 140W/8 Ohms, 280W/4 Ohms, 560W/2 Ohms
Distortion: THD <0.02%
Dimensions (HxWxD): 165 x 460 x 405mm
G 2000 R
Type: Heavy chassis with resonance isolation
RPM: 33 1/3, 45 electronic switching
Tonearm/cartridge options: Rega/Ortofon 2M Bronze or Clearaudio Carbon/Clearaudio MC-2
Drive Mechanism: Belt
Speed Control: Crystal-controlled synchronous motor, DSP-controlled
optimisation of the motor coil voltage curve.
Platter Type: Pressure-cast aluminium with silicone rubber mat
Platter Weight: 3.8kg
Bearing Type: Hardened, polished steel shaft, close-tolerance plain brass bush
Plinth type: unsuspended
Dimensions (HxWxD): 160 x 460 x 380mm overall
T+A elektroakustik GmbH & Co. KG
T +49 (0)52 21 76 76 0
Kog Audio Ltd
T 0247 7220650