T+A MP 2000 R DAC/Network Client + PA 2000 R Integrated Amplifier
Device Type: DAC/Network Player/CD Player
Input: 2x Coax S/PDIF, 2x Toslink, 1x USB DAC, 2x USB storage, Ethernet, aptX Bluetooth, R2-Link
Output: Coax S/PDIF, analog RCA and XLR pairs
Dimensions: 8.2 × 46 × 40 cm / 3.2 × 18.1 × 15.8 inch
Weight: 8 kg / 17.6 lb
PA 2000 R Integrated Amplifier
Device Type: Integrated Amplifier
Input: 3x analog RCA, 3x XLR, Phono MM or MC (optional)
Output: RCA and XLR Pre Out, Headphone, R2-Link
Dimensions: 8.2 × 46 × 40 cm / 3.2 × 18.1 × 15.8 inch
Weight: 10.5 kg / 23.2 lbs
Availability: Authorized Dealers
Theory and Application (T+A)
0.5Hz – 300kHz. That's the stated frequency response for the T+A PA 2000 R integrated amp. Add < 0.001% total harmonic/intermodulation distortion and a 105/109dB signal to noise ratio (unweighted/A-weighted) and it appears as if T+A's theories have been applied rather successfully, on paper. The MP 2000 R DAC/Network Client's digital section boasts a 110db signal to noise ratio and we all know that less noise equals better resolution. More or less, on paper. When these two components are R-Link'd together and used to play music through your speakers of choice, theory and application need to add up to music appreciation. Of course T+A knows that and it sounds to me like they know it very well.
The R-Series has been around since 1992 (that's approximately forever in audio years), T+A has been around since 1978, and the company has gone about offering revisions throughout the intervening years when and if they feel a change delivers real improvements; meaning you won't see an "MKII" pop up a few months after you buy a new T+A component. I respect that, a lot. The new R-series of components came about largely due to advances made in the development of their flagship High Voltage (HV) series that have trickled down to inform and justify this new "R" revision.
The new MP 2000 R DAC/Network Client is also a headphone amp and CD player. The MP 2000 can play back music from network attached storage (24-bit/192kHz limit), from USB storage, via USB (up to 24-bit/384kHz and quad rate DSD) from your computer, via Coax S/PDIF (24-bit/192kHz) or Toslink (24-bit/96kHz), from the airwaves (DAB, FM, and aptX Bluetooth), and from spinning disc.
According to the company, all digital signal processing (DSP) is performed with 56-bit precision and the MP 2000 offers 4 selectable oversampling filters; Standard FIR, Impulse optimized filter, Bezier-interpolator plus IIR-filter, and pure Bezier interpolator. It's worth noting that since there's no such thing as a perfect digital reconstruction filter, apologies to theorists, and different filters sound, well, different, offering a choice is always user-friendly in my book. CD-quality data, including music played from disc, is upsampled to 352.8kHz. DSD recordings are sent through an entirely separate DAC section with no filtering or noise shaping while DSD 64's pesky high frequency noise is filtered in the analog domain.
My contact at T+A sent along some more information on their approach to DSD:
The T+A "true one-bit DSD converter" is in fact a proprietary true one-bit DSD converter of T+A design and manufacture. Many manufacturers with serious digital design experience have acknowledged the fact that it is impossible to make a single converter that is fully optimized for both DSD and PCM signal processing. T+A engineers agree completely, and this prompted a two year project to develop a true one-bit converter design that has the same quality and performance as T+A's dual-quadruple 32-bit PCM converters, which have been refined over many years of T+A digital product designs. The first product to include T+A's new one-bit DSD decoder design was T+A’s flagship HV series PDP3000. The newer and more modestly priced R series MP2000 has benefitted from this prior research and development, and is consequently one of very few current high quality digital converters with completely separate converter topologies for DSD and PCM signals, each fully optimized for the signal type it is designed to decode. We believe having separate fully-optimized DSD and PCM decoders in a single product represents a significant advancement in digital decoding, offering major performance advantages compared to products utilizing a single decoder for both types of signals.
One of the benefits of T+A's new one-bit DSD design is the capability to decode up to DSD 512 signals with optimum linearity and extremely low noise. We realize that there are few if any current DSD512 recordings commercially available, but we feel that this design pushes the limits of what can currently be done with DSD signal processing. The problems of file size when you reach DSD256 and above make it really unlikely to build a serious library of files at this level or higher——but we know that optimizing a converter for very accurate and linear response at such high DSD rates helps make the decoder extremely linear and accurate at lower DSD rates——a benefit for all listeners, even those with files of no greater than DSD64 or DSD128 size.
The MP 2000's front panel is nicely laid out and includes three buttons and a knob on the right side which are used for system configuration and basic navigation. The context sensitive front panel display can be set, using the included system remote, to show basic playback information (source, track, artist, album, track duration/progress) or extended data which adds the bitrate of the file being played. You can also adjust the display's brightness and mode (always on, temporary, or always off). I'm not going to go into all of the setup and playback options for the MP 2000 since that would be a book, T+A provides a book-sized manual, but suffice it to say that most everything you can of think of, you can do.
T+A has also developed their own free remote app for controlling network-based playback. I loaded the app onto my iPad mini and found it to be as good as most other remote apps like iPeng or PlugPlayer which is to say not as good as Roon. The T+A app also took a few seconds to load up my 800+ albums from my Synology NAS each time I opened the app or changed views (e.g. from Album to Artist). The app provides the standard views into your collection including Artist, Album, Composer, etc and most of my music showed up with its associated cover art. You also move between digital sources within the app, switching from network playback to Internet radio to CD with a tap of your finger. You can also move between multiple NAS devices if you have more than one library. If you opt to pair the MP 2000 with the matching T+A PA 2000 R integrated amp, and I'd imagine a lot people will want to which is one reason for this combo review, you can also control the volume level from the remote app.
The PA 2000 R integrated amplifier benefits from the company's flagship High Voltage series (HV) meaning the PA 2000 operates at higher voltages with very low negative feedback for reportedly increased linearity, "extremely broad" dynamic range, and "outstanding transient response" (check those specs). The company also feels this approach embues the PA 2000 with tube-like qualities (check your ears). The PA 2000 offers 100 Watts of output power into 8 Ohms, 200W into 4 Ohms, and 300W into 2 Ohms with plenty of current even for demanding speakers.
While the PA 2000's font panel includes most of the features you're likely to use, I mainly interacted with it through the included system remote. That said, there are two buttons of special interest hanging out on the unit's front panel: Tone and Flat. Pressing "Tone" brings up the ability to adjust channel balance, Loudness (on/off), adjust Bass and Treble (-6db, 0, +8db), Loudness Level (low, medium, high) to better suit your speakers, and Bass/Treble settings which allows you to set different tone values for the left and right channel (oh my). Pressing the Flat button by-passes the Tone settings.
T+A includes an R-Link cable, R-Link data is processed by an ARM processor inside both units, to connect the MP to the PA so that the system remote controls both including a single power button, which turns both components on or off. If you took the time to name your MA in the PA, its name shows up on the PA's display when selected as the source. I also used the supplied T+A XLR cables to leash the T+A's together. The PA 2000 drove the DeVore Fidelity Xs.
In terms of fit and finish, we're talking superb craftsmanship and build quality. From the brushed-by-hand hard-anodized finished all-aluminum case (black or silver), to the silicone-equipped footers, to the peak-a-boo circular window on top of each unit bearing the company's logo, everything about the R-Series feels solid and precise and lovely.
Theory, application, and appreciation. While the 91.5db DeVore X's present a relatively easy load (8.5 Ohms, 16 Ohms max, 7.3 Ohms min @ 26Hz) to the accompanying amplifier, there's no such thing as too much control when it comes to the amplifier/speaker relationship (unless you have some crazy peaky single driver speakers in which case you may find that a flabby tube amp makes them sound smoother ;-). I have to admit, with all of the technical sophistication embedded in these devices, I was expecting a somewhat cold, sterile sound. I know, silly me. While the T+A combo was clearly in control, exceptionally so, they also delivered sweet, crystal clear, delicate, powerful, nuanced music with just about the right amount of warmth, at least according to my ear/brain system.
Guitars glittered, strings sung sometimes sorrowfully, and machine-driven music had gobs of well-controlled, well-defined, oomph and slam. Yea, oomph and slam that starts and stops on a thin dime. Over a period of about a month, I played with the T+A gear, feeding the combo all kinds of music from all kinds of sources; CDs, NAS-based PCM, computer-based DSD, streamed Tidal HiFi from my iPhone via Bluetooth, and Internet radio. In terms of sound quality, I'd say that my order of preference was USB, then network, followed by CD, then everything else. In terms of enjoyment, I enjoyed them all. My human interface side preferred going USB from my MacBook as well since I used Roon on my iPad to control playback. Beyond Roon's slick interface, this also gave me in-app access to Tidal HiFi and I admit to being nearly addicted to this combo.
I recently purchased the Bob Ludwig remastered Trout Mask Replica CD (directly from Barfko Swill) so I was able to listen to the CD, then via Ethernet from the version on my NAS using the T+A remote app, then USB using my MacBook Pro/Roon to play back the same file from my NAS. Fun huh? (I only do these things because it's my job). USB seemed to offer a bit more bite, the network playback was a very close second and CD was an even closer third. The reason I find these exercises to be a bit silly is any owner of the MP 2000 can play through whichever method they like. This is not a test.
We all know that an interpolation filter makes stuff up and sticks new bits in between your actual musical signal, right? Of course this process is near perfect, more or less, on paper. In terms of the 4 PCM filters in the MP 2000, I preferred the Bezier-interpolator plus IIR-filter even though it has the longest name. Music sounded more plump and natural which is how I like mine cooked: The fact that different digital interpolation filters sound different being all the proof you need to disprove theory with practice. Some DAC makers choose to skip oversampling and interpolation altogether preferring a different set of trade-offs.
Then there's DSD as processed in the MP 2000, the "true 1-bit converter", which skips the conversion to multi-bit PCM found in many DSD DACs. Some will argue over the merits and trade-offs of DSD, as some will argue over filters, power supplies, and Picasso, but we know that the real proof of concept in hi-fi lies in the listening.
Listening to Cat Stevens Tea For The Tillerman in double rate DSD (from Acoustic Sounds) reintroduces us to that simple T+A(+A) equation. I've been listening to this album since the '70s through nearly every available format; LP, 8-track, cassette, and CD. While I still enjoy listening to the LP, this is a beautifully recorded record, the DSD version through the T+A stack brings me back to my original memories nearly unfettered. While my Ayre AX-5 Twenty and Auralic Vega add more body, warmth, and soul, the Ayre alone out-prices the T+A separates. The important thing to keep in mind is the T+A delivers the emotional content of what for me is an overplayed over time record. Clarity, nuance, detail, resolution and that spark of life that some audio components can deliver are delivered by the T+A combo.
Lastly but not leastly, I took the T+A amp out and put my Ayre AX-5 Twenty in. To my ears, the Ayre sounds more organic. I could go on but it would only serve to reinforce that more important observation. Whether or not the Ayre is worth $5K more than the PA 2000 is your call. And let's not forget the convenience factor the T+A combo offers in terms of remote control.
Tons of Appreciation
I very much enjoyed my time with the T+A combo. The PA 2000 R + MP 2000 R offered a musical presentation that is pretty well beyond any serious criticism coupled with a ton of options for music playback and plenty of power to drive any reasonably designed speaker. If you're looking to invest in a buy-it-once hi-fi that offers exceptional build quality combined with stunning sonics, think Theory and Application (and Appreciation).