T+A elektroakustik of Germany represents one of the most successful and technologically innovative manufacturers of electronics and loudspeakers in Europe. Staffed by top-notch engineers including specific teams for DSP and software development, and with the critically lauded flagship HV Series under its belt, T+A continues to see its fortunes rising in North America and in global markets. Its official title is Theory + Application—a moniker that doesn’t exactly fall trippingly from the tongue, hence the unforgettable acronym T+A. To paraphrase the J.M. Smucker slogan, “With a name like T+A, it has to be good.” Fortunately it is much more than “good.” Theory and application may be what goes into every T+A component but what comes out is some serious and faithful music reproduction.
The PA 2500 R integrated amplifier and MP 2000 R MKII media player are the heart of T+A’s new R-Series, the price/performance sweetspot in its catalog, nesting between the entry-level E Series and the superb flagship HV Series (featured in Issues 260, 268). In an historical footnote, R was also the first series in the company’s product line.
There are two integrated amps in the R-Series. The 100Wpc PA 2000 R is the more conventional in appearance. The PA 2500 R under review here is the highboy integrated amp, twice as tall and equipped with more power and connectivity. T+A states that the basic circuit layout is identical to that of the PA 2000; however, the PA 2500’s shielded, non-magnetic, machined aluminum chassis accommodates two of T+A’s new high-performance mains power supply units, with appropriately larger heat sinking. It delivers more than 140Wpc into 8 ohms, doubling into 4 ohms.
The amplifier design is a dual mono, fully balanced Class AB configuration, with a hefty Class A bias for the first 20–25 watts. Its high-voltage design stems from the HV Series, where all active gain stages are powered by very high voltage power-supply rails. Says T+A, “This allows each component to operate in a much smaller, more linear, and low distortion portion of its total transfer function.” This results in discrete amp circuits that perform more like valves than typical solid-state designs.
Premium internals abound in the R-Series, among them low-loss mica capacitors with silver electrodes, zero-induction resistors, precision low-noise audio resistors, and nickel-free gold- or rhodium-plated terminals specially manufactured for T+A. The company only uses relays—the relay-switched resistor-network volume control, for example—which are more costly than semiconductors but are freer from noise and distortion. Many of these components were developed for military applications, and therefore fulfill exacting requirements in quality and durability.
All the circuitry for controlling the machines is recessed into the solid aluminum faceplate, where the shielding effect is outstanding. In fact you won’t find a lot of plastic on T+A components. The company makes a conscious effort to avoid its use, particularly PVC. Metal is more easily recycled, and offers superior shielding for delicate circuitry.
R-Series style reveals cues both classic and contemporary. “Classic” certainly describes the top-panel porthole, which looks onto the impeccably laid out interior—a nostalgic visual that ’56 T-Bird fanciers will fawn over. Clean and authoritative and tactile, the front panel sports a bright, dimmable screen (VFD) and an aluminum rotary knob which controls volume level, and with a long push brings up the balance control. The display uses software that scales the fonts for easy viewing from a distance. It will also assist in navigating the panoply of on-screen menu functions. In addition, there’s a sophisticated adjustable loudness control that can be contoured for loud and soft listening based on speaker sensitivity and room size, plus basic bass/treble tone controls. (These can be fully bypassed.) In all, it conveys the sense of a well-oiled machine, the same “wheels and gears” nod to the past that makes mechanical media like LP playback so satisfying. Another in-house development is a new, fast data bus for data exchange between T+A components, which makes it possible to seamlessly control an entire system. For example, after adding the MP 2000 R, I could control both components with a single F 100 remote control handset or by using the T+A app for iOS (or Android). Plus there’s a headphone jack that automatically engages when headphones are connected. There are two phonostage options ($900) for the R-Series, mm or mc, which are pre-installed at the factory where they are adjusted according to the sensitivity, capacitance (mm) and impedance (mc) of the owner’s cartridge.