T+A MP 1260 R DAC/Network Client

Device Type: Network Audio Player/Streamer
Input: (2) S/PDIF (Coax, TosLink), 10/100 Ethernet, (1) USB Mass storage/HDD (only FAT16 and FAT32 file systems are supported), (1) USB iPod, WLAN antenna, RS232 (for home automation connection), RC-IN (T+A RC control interface), R Link (control input/output for T+A R Link systems), IEC inlet, FM Antenna.
Output: (1) pair RCA, (1) S/PDIF Coax
Dimensions: 14 H x 44 W x 39cm D (5.5 H x 17.6 W x 15.5" D)
Weight: 12 kg (26.6 lbs)
User Manual: download
Availability: through Authorized Dealers
Price: $4,200.00
Website: www.taelektroakustik.de

Theory
T+A stands for "Theory And Application" and it also stands for a company that's over 30 years old (founded 1978 in Herford, Eastern Westphalia, Germany). T+A has a complete line of products that includes nearly every piece of the hi-fi puzzle—speakers, amplifiers (tube and SS), preamplifiers (tube and SS), integrated amplifiers, receivers, network players/streamers, all-in-one devices, CD/SACD/DVD players, turntables, and more. T+A has over 180 dealers in their native Germany alone and my only question is, why don't we know more about them in the USA?

As you can see from that list of inputs, there are a number of connections for connecting T+A components together so you can control your system with one remote. The MP 1260 R DAC/Network Client is from their "R-Series", which includes the P 1260 R Pre-Amplifier, A 1560 Power Amplifier, PA 1260 R Integrated Amplifier, R 1260 R Receiver, CD 1260 R CD Player, SACD 1260 R CD-SACD Player, SADV 1250R V60 DVD-SACD-Player, and the G 1260 R Turntable. Yes they all match and to my eyes that's a good thing. The R-Series has been around since 1999 which is forever in hi-fi years.

My guess as to why we don't know and hear more about T+A in the USA is they've been very busy in their local markets, namely Germany and the rest of the EU. I'd also suggest that the hi-fi system approach, or sometimes referred to as a lifestyle, is more popular there than here. Now that's not a judgement one way or another but what is a judgement is we'd all be better off with music playing throughout our homes, i.e incorporating music into our life and style, and as with any experience we will be well rewarded for paying attention to the quality of that experience.

a peek through the "Ultra Wide Bandwidth" peek-a-boo window

So what does a DAC/Network Client do? If you've been following our reviews and NAS Series, you already have a very good idea and if you haven't don't worry because I'm about to tell you. But before we dive inside let's take a look at the outside—the 1260 R's "covers, side cheeks and front panels are manufactured from pure aluminium" and includes a peek-a-boo window up top so you can peer into its insides which I think is a nice touch. The fit n finish are to my eyes first rate. If you tap on the MR 1260 R's cheeks it sounds solid as opposed to those components that clank like L. Frank Baum's Tin Man.

Rear Panel Inputs
The T+A MP 1260 R has a 10/100 Ethernet input as well as an included Wi-Fi antenna that screws into the Wi-Fi port providing built-in Wi-Fi capabilities which is how the 1260 get's the "Network" in its name. There are two S/PDIF inputs (Coax - 32-bit/192kHz and Toslink - 32-bit/96kHz), two USB inputs one for iOS devices and one for connecting a Hard Disk Drive (there's no USB DAC input). The Ethernet and USB disk inputs can play back up to 32/196 WAV and FLAC files. That RC IN is for connecting the included remote control receiver without which the remote won't work. There are also a pair of "R Link" connections (input/output) for use with other T+A devices as well as an RS232 to connect a T+A R-System with a home automation system.

if you're concerned that that overhang may make it difficult to perform connections, I did not experience any issues and you worry too much

Rear Panel Outputs
There are pair of RCAs to connect to your hi-fi and a Coax Toslink output to connect to an outboard DAC if you so desire although I can't imagine why you would want to. That's it on the out.

Front Panel Functions
There are no inputs on the front of the MP 1260 R but there are a number of push buttons and a roughly 3" x 1 1/2" text-only display. No, no tiny cover art. Front panel functions include power, source selection, system configuration, navigation, playback, happy and sad faces to add or remove favorites, display options, filter selection, and more. You can fully operate the MP 1260 R from the front panel but as Bartleby, the Scrivener said, I'd rather not.

Compatibility
The T+A MR 1260 R can play MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC, OGG-Vorbis, and WAV files via the streaming client and USB inputs. If you use one of the digital inputs, you can play any file format you like. I streamed AIFF and ALAC files from my MacBook Pro via Toslink (and they sounded lovely).

There's Got Be An App For That
In my opinion, there's got to be an app for every Streamer/Network Client. I've been told by Jim Shannon, Export Sales Manager for T+A, that one is literally in the works. In the mean time, I made due with a combination of the T+A FM100 remote, the front panel controls, and the trusty Twonky Mobile app for browsing and playing back the music files stored on my NAS.

The T+A MP 1260 R's menu system is of the List variety. When you power up, the MP 1260 R will either start playing the last radio station (internet or terrestrial) you were listening to when you shut down or if you weren't listening to radio when you shut down, it will default to the last input selection you were using. If you were listening to one of the Streaming Clients (SCL), the display shows a list of all of your streaming client options which in my case included—Internet Radio, My Book Live - Twonky (my NAS), and depending on what else was powered on and connected the list would also include my iPhone, MacBook Pro which has Twonky Server loaded for just this very reason, and USB when I had my LaCie HDD connected to the MP 1260 R's USB input. It also offers up a "Favorites" option which gets you easy access to your...favorites.

Perhaps counter-intuitively for some, there are three other input choices including "Radio", "D1" and "D2" those last two corresponding to the 1260's digital inputs. And I say counter-intuitively because these inputs also "stream", at least from my perspective.

the remote reminds you that T+A offers other components

When you want to play one of your streaming clients, you can use the remote or front panel buttons to scroll up/down through the list of choices, press the Right button to select a source and view the next set of options. While this is all pretty straight forward and intuitive, it's also a pain if you're trying to navigate through hundreds or thousands of Albums or Internet Radio Stations. There is an alpha-search function through the remote offering another option for getting to stuff faster than depressing the up or down arrow and waiting and watching the choices scroll by, slowly. For me, I never used the alpha-search preferring instead the Twonky Mobile app. Have I beat this subject over the head enough?

another remote option is the T+A FD100 Bi-Directional remote ($600) which includes a TFT screen for displaying album cover art, metadata and more

Until the T+A remote app is ready assuming it'll be a good one, I'd recommend Twonky Mobile for navigating your music library and the browser-based vTuner service to browse and select your favorites (once you do so they show up under your favorites on the MR 1260 R). Of course there's another input option which is to connect to the MP 1260 R through one its digital inputs. I used the Toslink out from my MacBook Pro and when so connected (D2 input), iTunes with Pure Music was my preferred player. I know I've said it before but it's worth repeating—the free Remote app for iTunes is a damn user-friendly app.

For FM Radio users, you're left with the front panel or remote but seeing as there aren't 10,000 stations to navigate to/through as there on the vTuner service, this is not as large an inconvenience. Especially once you save your favorites which is simply a matter of pressing and holding the smiley-face button on the front panel or the F1/F2 buttons on the remote.

Sound Shaping
The MP 1260 R also contains "8-times oversampling by 56-bit digital signal processor with four different oversampling algorithms". These algorithms/digital filters include: Filter 1 (Standard FIR filter), Filter 2 (Impulse optimized filter), Filer 3 (Bezier interpolar plus IR filter), and Filer 4 (pure Bezier interpolator). I'm going to include T+A's descriptions for these filters because I appreciate their candid approach:

Filter 1 (Standard FIR filter)
The long FIR filter is the standard oversampling process in digital technology, offering extremely linear frequency response, very high damping, linear phase characteristics and constant group delays. The disadvantage is the pre- and post-echoes which are added to the signal. These „time domain errors“ tend to affect the music signal’s dynamics, precision and naturalness, and reduce spatial orientation.

Filter 2 (Impulse optimised filter)
By shortening the filter length (lower number of filter coefficients) the time domain errors are reduced resulting in a better impulse response (less filter ‚ringing‘) Acoustically such a shorter filter will have a slightly less accurate frequency response but higher dynamics and better imaging.

Filter 3 (Bezier interpolator plus IIR filter) In this process an ideal Bezier interpolator is combined with what is known as an IIR filter. This eliminates the problematic pre-echo of the FIR method. This process produces highly „analogue“ system characteristics, with a sound quality and measured performance similar to those of good analogue disc players.

Filter 4 (pure Bezier interpolator)
This process delivers a perfect reconstruction of the original music signal. It exhibits no pre- or post-echoes of any kind, and does not add coloration or timing errors to the original signal. In sonic terms this method offers an impressive blend of naturalness, good dynamics and accuracy.

The MP 1260 R's DAC section specs read as follows, "double dual differential mode, two Sigma-Delta converters with 352.8/384 kHz / 32 bit". What you'll also learn if you read the manual is the 1260 R upsamples all incoming data to 352.8 or 384 depending on the original sample rate. For example 352.8 > 176.4 > 88.2 > 44.1 and 384 > 96 > 48 (looks like upsampling dislikes complicated math as much as I do). This is not an option, its how the 1260 R gets things done.

"Ultra Wide Bandwidth"
I had an email exchange with Jim Shannon as well as a phone conversation or two, Jim was the guy who was kind enough to answer my stupid user question (see below), and he shared some background information on T+A I thought worth sharing with you:

In fact, T+A is one of very few companies in high end that has been able to create fully linear and accurate analog output stages that are essentially flat in frequency response from .5Hz to approximately 400kHz. T+A has long believed that completely accurate and linear response to very high frequencies ensures more linear and accurate time and phase response within the critical audio bandpass. While it is far more expensive and challenging to create circuit designs that are extremely stable and linear throughout such a broad bandwidth, we believe that the superior resolution, more accurate phase and time rendition, and harmonically more accurate musical performance is worth the extra time and costs involved in designing such wide-bandwidth components.
It's also worth noting that the claimed frequency response for the MR 1260 R is 2Hz - 44kHz.

A Word about Wi-Fi
I generally do not consider Wi-Fi a viable option for quality music playback. Which is one reason I've run an Ethernet cable from my router to my office/listening room. Of course you can get Wi-Fi to work especially with lower bit rate Internet Radio, and you may even get it to play back CD-quality or better material without dropouts but there's no way I or anyone else can guarantee that W-Fi will work in any and every scenario. There are simply too many variables including but not limited to the strength of your Wi-Fi network, the amount of traffic on it, and the amount of interference from other sources. All this to say while the T+A MR 1260 R's WLAN connection worked just fine, I spent all of my seriously fun listening time listening through wires.

While we're talking wires and wireless, I also tried the MP 1260 R's FM tuner and through the few stations I can pull in it sounded very compelling. However for me to get more serious about FM listening, I'd have to get more serious about reception which means an antennae and here's an instance where newer technology has clearly triumphed in my home. I prefer using the Internet for my radio play since I can still listen to local favorites like WFMU and WPRB while also having access to 10,000 or so other choices from around the globe at the touch of a remote.

Playing With The T+A
Getting connected and familiar with how to get what we want to play when we want to play it with the MR 1260 R was a matter of minutes for me with the exception of a stupid user problem—I could not figure out how to enter lowercase letters and I needed to enter lowercase letters because the passphrase for my Wi-Fi network is case sensitive. Even though it tells you how to enter lowercase letters in the manual. On a similar note, my iPhone's Map app has saved me from following my keen sense of direction (i.e. going the wrong way) or the excruciating humiliation of asking for directions. Unfortunately there's no iPhone app (yet) to compensate for not reading the manual.

With this class of device, you can get bogged down in functionality. The what and how can lead you down the road of many details in upper and lower case leaving the reviewer in the thankless position of nearly re-typing the user manual. But take my word for it, getting ones hands on something makes things much easier than reading or writing about it and getting your ears to hear what a piece of hi-fi gear does in your system makes things as plain as day. Here, the T+A MR 1260 R does not only not disappoint, it shines.

Let's not bandy about or beat around the bush—the MP 1260 R sounds tight, deep, airy, resolute, delicate and for the most part it sounds right. I did not find any edginess that plagues some lesser DACs and Network Devices and by lesser I'm talking about price and perceived sound quality. I also did not hear any bloat or overblown bass, no wooly edges, and no muddy midrange. If anything, the T+A MR 1260 R can sound ever so slightly tipped toward the cooler and analytic side of things. Guys that I know (and respect) who enjoy 78s, massive horns with tiny drivers and FM broadcasts played back through vintage tuners all rarer than hockey-playing hen's teeth might call this same thing 'thin'.

But let's be clear, I do not view this as a criticism. Rather its more of a commentary on the chosen voicing. This is where the rubber meets the road in terms of the usefulness of reading about what a piece of hi-fi gear sounds like. The issues are not only how you will react to the 1260 R's voice, but also how it will sound in your system. Which is why I include my system information at the end of every review and why I try to be careful about what I say about how something sounds. Within my context, the T+A MR 1260 R sounds like a very well-engineered and voiced piece of hi-fi gear that gets out of the way and lets the source material do its thing.

The MR 1260 R also excels with good sounding sources. The better they are the better they'll sound. While this seems obvious it's not always the case and the inverse here is also true - the worse sounding the source, the worse sounding the output. Internet radio streaming bit rates can vary from sub-sub-optimum 16k all the way up to 752k. With crappier sources the cool analytic nature of the MP 1260 R tends to let you hear why lossy formats truly suck. I found the farther I moved away from Filter #4's "perfect reconstruction of the original music signal", the better crappy sources sounded and I ended up settling mainly for Filter #2 for most Internet Radio striking a happy balance between my musical interests and sound quality.

For better sounding sources including Ethernet-based music served from my NAS as well as USB disk and MacBook Pro via Toslink, the T+A delivers a clean, clear and punchy performance seemingly hindered only by your music and mood. While I preferred Filter #3 for most of my listening, you may very well prefer #4. Or #2. Or all of the above. The main point to take away is you can subtly alter the sound of the T+A MR 1260 R to suit your source and situation.

If we couple how it sounds with its features and various points of musical entry, I'd say that MP 1260 R owners could very well be a musically satisfied lot. And if things like build quality and touch and feel matter to you, to whatever degree, I would also say the T+A MR 1260 R can delight your other senses as well. Some of you may be thinking something like, "well it should for that price" and yes, the MP 1260 R's price may cause some to pause or pass altogether which is the case with most things that fall into the luxury item category as all hi-fi does more and less. Price and value are to my mind another area of our audio hobby that falls into the subjective camp so you typically won't hear me commenting about either.

There's certainly also the potential appeal of a T+A matched system approach and my guess is this preference is much more prevalent in T+A's native Germany and the rest of the EU. Here in the USA hi-fi buyers, at least in my experience, like to mix and match. System buying takes all of the fussing out of it. Oh, I meant fun.

+ Application
Without the forthcoming T+A remote app, the MP 1260 R's user interface - a combination of remote, front panel controls and open source third party apps like Twonky Mobile - is less than ideal. It's also worth noting that something like the Squeezebox Touch ($299.99) or Pioneer N-50 ($699.00) offer similar functionality (minus the FM tuner), include a display that shows album cover art (be it ever so small), and each come with a custom app. However they do not look like the T+A MR 1260 R nor do they sound like the T+A MR 1260 R. But you probably saw that coming.

Whether or not all of this adds up to a strong buy or not is ultimately and obviously up to you. The T+A has a lot going for it in terms of features, fit and finish. But let's not lose site of what's most important about any piece of hi-fi gear and that's its way with music. And I find the T+A MR 1260 R's way with music rock solid and satisfying.



Associated Equipment

Also on hand and in use during the MP 1260 R review: Pioneer N-50, Musical Fidelity M1 CLiC, Logitech Squeezebox Touch, and the Resonessence Labs Invicta DAC

COMMENTS
kavon yarrum's picture

ML:

Thanks for write up. I have long been intrigued by T&A's components.

Is there any way you can tell us how it compares, strictly sound wise to the Touch, when the Touch is connected to an external DAC.

I know the the T&A will slaugher the Touch based on the Touch's analog outputs. 

As a personal aside, I have felt the Touch has not been take seriously due to its low price point, and lack of audiophile touchstones, like thick front panels, etc.

I use mine with an external power supply.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

Is there any way you can tell us how it compares, strictly sound wise to the Touch, when the Touch is connected to an external DAC.

The wise guy in me wants to say - it depends on the DAC.

But I think I know what you're getting at - namely is it possible to get the best of both worlds: the networking/software/interface of the SBT with the sound quality of the T+A.

My answer is I don’t know. In theory I don't see why not but in practice we're dealing with so many variables it's difficult to say without actually trying. Which means its also difficult to say how much the SBT w/external DAC approach will end up costing to get you close to the sound of the T+A.
 

kavon yarrum's picture

ML, very well put answer, and yest that is what I was getting at. As nice as something like the T&A is, and it IS nice, do we need the fancy face plate, the buttons, and all the other peripheral features. Some would say yes.

I agree with you that there are many variables. 

I run two SBT's, one with a $2500 DAC, and one with a $400 DAC and I get superb results with both. By superb results I mean that a FLAC file streamed via Ethernet is indistinguishable from the same track played back on a high quality transport.

It is true I have all my ducks lined up too..Gigiabit router, high quality ethernet cables, and an up to date MAC with 3 drives attached, which feed both my players.

I know it would be a pain, but one thing you could do if you are curious you could run an optical cable (IMO, the best way to connect an SBT) into the T&A and see what the results are.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

I know it would be a pain, but one thing you could do if you are curious you could run an optical cable (IMO, the best way to connect an SBT) into the T&A and see what the results are.

...the T+A is all boxed up and ready for return. When I get to focusing on the SBT, I will certainly try it with some outboard DACs.

kavon yarrum's picture

Another thing that ocurred to me is the use of Twonky. As you mentioned, it is not perfect.

I think one of the big strengths of Squeezebox is that Squeezecenter/Squeezeserver/Logitech Media Server has always worked rather well.

I knew absolutely zero about networking and I got my first SB up an running in 5 minutes.

I have even read that Naim sometimes has issues with their streamers, but I have also heard reports that they sound amazing.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

I found the combination of front panel controls, remote and Twonky to be a less than ideal solution. Twonky Mobile in and of itself for navigating and playing files from a NAS works just fine. But you obviously cannot control any other functions of the T+A with it. I'm looking forward to seeing the T+A app.

In terms of the networking aspect of the T+A, it was a snap not counting my stupid user Wi-Fi issue that could have easily been avoided if I’d just read the manual.
 

kavon yarrum's picture

Thank you for clarification. 

I am a bit surprised there is no app currently, especially from such a well established company like T&A.

I use my iPod Touch to control both my Squeezeboxes and works like a charm, but I fully admit Logitech's strength is generally on the sofware side. I happen to like the cataloging and file retrieval features. 

Having all this stuff in rotation must be pretty amazing.

kavon yarrum's picture

Hi Michael:

Please forgive me, I know this is a review thread for the T&A. But there is huge news on the SBT front.

A new free app has been released that allows the SBT to:

-Out put native 176.4 and 192 khz FLAC on SPDIF..OR USB 1.0/2.0

-Turn off the analog outputs wihtout disabling any other functions

All with the installation of a simple app. No firmware hack needed.

Please see here:

http://www.audioasylum.com/cgi/vt.mpl?f=pcaudio&m=107035

I tried it this morning and it works flawlessly.  I am blown away.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

I was reading comments on 'Triode's' Enhanced Digital Output app this morning and just worked up the post (posted). Big news, indeed.

kavon yarrum's picture

think alike!. Thanks for posting it..I think many will be very thankful.

SightAndSound's picture

Thanks for the great write up about the T+A system. 

You asked why there isn't more awareness of the brand in the USA - well, we are an audio dealer in Atlanta that has T+A and other high performing audio brands. 

We aspire to have the best in audio equipment and we absolutely agree that the T+A is the system to choose when incorporating music into our lives and our homes. 

Our gallery, http://www.sightandsoundgallery.com/audio.php

dmawhinney's picture

A great read ML. Thanks.

The dealer that just installed my Sashas brought along a Linn Majik DS-1 as his source. I was intrigued and am totally lost when it comes to what hardware is available to accomplish this red book and "Hi-Res" file storage/playback of music files. Is the T+A DAC/Network Client equivalent to the Linn? Have other manufacturers come to the market with their versions? Do you think the one box solution will flourish or will we see file handling separate from DAC?

Having just spent a bunch (for me) on new speakers and amps, it may be some time before I'm jumping into music networks/streamers/DACs as a hi-end source for my two channel listening. There appears to be a lot of ways to get this done right now without much in the way of a standard approach.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

You raise a very interesting question and one that comes up often. I really should put together a post on this subject but in the meantime I've addressed this general topic in the forum.

But to answer your question directly, the T+A is equivalent to the Linn Majik DS-1 in terms of its networking/streaming capabilities. The Linn is also an integrated amp, the T+A is just a streamer so it needs to connect to a preamp/amp or integrated amp.

If you'd like a specific recommendation, shoot me an email (michael.lavorgna@audiostream.com). I'd be happy to get into more details and options.

And congratulations on your Sashas! Enjoy!

sfjain's picture

How does this thing cost so much and not have Balanced outputs?

Sam

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