T+A MP 2000 R MKII Multi-Source Player Review Page 3

System set up

For this review I used a Roon Labs Nucleus+ music server supplying the T+A 2000 R MKII via LAN, which in turn was feeding into a McIntosh C2600 tubed preamplifier via XLR. This was also using its balanced outputs to drive a pair of McIntosh MC611 mono blocs connected to Harbeth M40.1 loudspeakers. All analog and speaker cabling was a mix of TelluriumQ Black and Ultra Black. AC cabling was PS Audio throughout except for the MP 2000 which was TelluriumQ. Clean power was supplied to the T+A by a Shindo Mr.T Power Conditioner that only had digital sources connected to it per Matthew Rotunda’s advice. Digital cabling (Ethernet) for this review was Final Touch Audio.

Listening

Lucinda Chua is no stranger to musical experimentation, having been a member of FKA Twigs live band she seems to come by it naturally. Chua, a cellist, composer and singer-songwriter who hails form London, England seemed to preternaturally bend the strings of her cello on her debut EP Antidotes 1 (TIDAL, 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC) to create a haunting sonic landscape of uniquely sad timbre and tone thanks to discovering a method of playing through a delay pedal. The track “Somebody Who” opens with seemingly waterlogged keyboard notes that cycle through creating a slowly submerging feel as their weight sinks below Chua’s keening cello drags in with textured resin-on-bow detail just at the edge of every stroke. The MP 2000 clearly presents the delicate ‘smack’ of her lips parting before she begins singing as her voice rises above the string overdubs which seem to float in and out of the centre of the sound stage in the z-axis (depth) – disappearing like a car in the rearview mirror before coming at the listener again and again. The T+A managed to effortlessly convey not only the subtle intonations of Chua’s recorded voice being digitally-tweaked/manipulated and layered over her own, but also kept it as a clearly-delineated singularity on the stage as opposed to some amorphous mass floating above the abyss created by each (overdubbed) pass of the bow across the cello strings. Chua’s voice is small spatially and remains so within the structure of the mix, a difficult feat to maintain over such large scale string compositions in the background, but one that the MP 2000 handled deftly.

Creating dense post-rock soundscapes for the listener to unravel and decipher as their playback system allows is one of the many traits of early 2000s Radiohead that has always led me to liken listening to certain of their works to codebreaking. “Morning Bell” off their fourth album Kid A (TIDAL, 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC) continues this tradition with a textural wall of electronic and analog instrumentation that propels Thom Yorke’s wailing, vocodered lyrics ahead of it like he’s strapped to the front of a bullet train, yet still managing to compulsively beat his keyboard to death. The propulsive, programmed, staccato drumbeat courtesy of Philip Selway held me captive with its momentum and speed of attack on leading edges as each stick-strike of the drum sticks/machine crashed through my loudspeakers courtesy of the formidable bass grip of the MP 2000. This is a track that I’ve found can cause resonant-bleed issues through some gear because of the struggle to clearly demarcate independent instrument lines within the overall compressed sonic arc of the song. Musically, it’s a skeletal debris field held together with Yorke’s pulsing wails, a relentless bass guitar and gritty violin riffs; unwinding something this tight into an experience that is both musical and cleanly separates each sonic contribution is a nifty trick indeed and one that the T+A manages to do without harmonic smearing, timbral confusion or the sterility of resolution that some DAC/Players attempt to present as detail.

Nick Drake exited this mortal coil at 26 years of age, leaving behind three studio albums in four years that it is reported sold fewer than 4,000 copies before his death in late 1974. I got turned on to him in my early 20s by the new boyfriend of my ex-girlfriend at the time (we remained friends) and I continue to be grateful for the Drake introduction to this day. Pink Moon (Qobuz, 24-bit/96kHz FLAC) was his third and final studio album released in February 1972 and was put to tape with the sparse musings of just Drake on vocals, acoustic guitar and piano overdubs. Drake may not have been a commercial success while alive, but since passing, his work has earned considerable critical acknowledgement, not only from the music press, but as an influence from such contemporaries as Robert Smith and Peter Buck. Moon seems a stripped down, intimate portrait into what was left of his foundations after the walls he’d built up around himself had been knocked down by a continued struggle with depression. Playing this album several times through the MP 2000 brought about a renewed appreciation for the recorded space around Drake as his vocals and minor key strumming and plucking stood out in stark relief against the sonic blackness of the studio backdrop. Untangling dense musical passages is something to take note of in any digital or analog source, but parsing every subtlety of fingers sliding across strings or plied against fretboard without sonic distraction is another feat altogether. The T+A expressed Drake’s playing with deeply textured tonal clarity – timbral color blooms possessed weight, heft and convincing spatial representation of the guitar body and neck in his hands and cradled against his body – there was a sense of air pressure being displaced not only from the instrument being played, but being played against a living, breathing body. A substantial and real image on the sound stage between my Harbeths of Drake seated, playing, head bent over a closely positioned microphone.

The T+A MP 2000 R MKII not only proved to be a worthy communicator of music’s emotional language, but of all its complex timbral shadings and tonal delicacy too. Traits such as these are those which help set apart truly great bespoke digital-circuit designs from those more affordable off-the-shelf solutions. In my experience price point always factors into many of these equations, but at $9,000 USD, T+A has managed to instill the most worthy hallmarks (transients reproduced with speed, natural, defined timbre, pleasing tonal colorations and resolution without the sacrifice of warmth) into a component I would deem musical first and foremost. The T+A R series MP sits firmly between the rungs of entry-level high end and those more rarified offerings from both higher up the T+A company ladder and the likes of totaldac or dCS which I happen to have on hand. While the 2000 MKII did not manage to plumb between the lowest octaves with as much brute force/grip as the dCS Rossini or go as far with spectral decay on piano or brass/high-hat/cymbal notes as the totaldac d1-direct, I also had no expectations it would at less than the half the price of those designs.

T+A may be a newer, lesser-known brand on North American shores compared to its history on the continent, but that should be a fact to rejoice over. Having a company as dedicated and capable of producing recorded-event playback devices of such musicality, hyper-engineered construction, superlative technical specification and implementation is a win for anyone looking at upping their high-fidelity game to the next level.

Specifications

  • CD-Player: Formats – CD/DA, CD-R, CD-RW, CD Text. Frequency response + dynamic range: 2 Hz – 20 kHz/100 dB
  • Streaming client: Formats – MP3, WMA, AAC, OGG Vorbis, FLAC, WAV, AIFF, ALAC. Data rates: PCM 32-bit/192 kHz,16/24 Bit; MP3 up to 320 kBit, constant and variable Data rate
  • Features: Gapless Playback for MP3 (Lame), WAV, FLAC
  • T+A MusicNavigator App for iOS and Android
  • Standards: UPnP. AV Services: TIDAL, Deezer, Qobuz, Roon Ready (Subscription required)
  • Interfaces: LAN: Fast Ethernet 10/100 Base-T, WLAN: 802.11 b/g/n
  • Digital I/O: S/P-DIF digital inputs: two high-quality co-ax and two optical. TOS-Link; 32kSps; 44.1kSps; 48kSps; 88.2kSps;96kSps; 176.4kSps; 192kSps; 16/24-bit
  • USB (Device Mode) USB Class 2 mode; support for asynchronous data transfer PCM mode: 44.1kSps; 48kSps; 88.2kSps; 96kSps; 176.4kSps; 192kSps; 352.8kSps; 384kSps; 16/24/32-bit DSD mode: DSD64; DSD128; DSD256; DSD512
  • USB (Master Mode): two inputs (one×front panel, one×back panel), formats as Streaming Client formats.
  • Bluetooth: aptX Bluetooth Audio transmission protocol A2DP (Audio) AVRCP 1.4 (Control), MP3, SBC
  • Outputs: Analogue outputs high level (RCA) 2,2 Veff / 50 Ohms; Analogue outputs balanced (XLR) 4,4 Veff / 50 Ohms; Digital outputs one × coax, IEC 60958 (LPCM)
  • DAC: PCM – Double differential quadruple converter with four D/A converters per channel, 32-bit sigma-delta, 352.8kSps/384kSps. Up-sampling: Freely programmable signal processor with four selectable oversampling algorithms. FIR short, FIR long, Bezier/IIR, Bezier
  • DSD: Direct DSD signal path via T+A True one-bit converter: Frequency response PCM 44,1 kSps/2Hz – 20kHz; Frequency response PCM 48 kSps/DSD64 – 2Hz – 22kHz/2Hz – 44kHz; Frequency response PCM 96 kSps/DSD128 –2 Hz – 40 kHz / 2 Hz – 60 kHz; Frequency response PCM 192 kSps/DSD256 – 2 Hz – 80 kHz/2 Hz – 80 kHz; Frequency response PCM 384 kSps/DSD512 – 2 Hz – 100 kHz / 2 Hz – 100 kHz
  • Analog filter: Phase-linear filter with automatic bandwidth switching 60…120kHz (according to sample rate)
  • Total harmonic distortion< 0,001 per cent
  • Signal:noise ratio – 110 dB
  • Channel separation: 110 dB
  • Mains connection: 100 – 240 V, 50 – 60 Hz. Power consumption max. 40 Watts. ECO-Standby 0.4 Watt
  • Dimensions (H x W x D) 8.2 × 46 × 40 cm
  • Weight: 8 kg

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