Musicality is always where the rubber meets the road. This, the R-Series possesses in abundance. The sonic signature of the R-Series duo sat firmly in the camp of balance and control. Musical images were rooted in position and vocals were a model of stability. Symphony orchestras fanned out dimensionally from side-to-side and to the back of the hall. T+A doesn’t play fast and loose with tonal neutrality either, angling neither towards too much midrange bloom nor towards an accentuation of top-end detail.
Its most identifiable character trait was its wideband spectral response and dynamic extroversion. As I listened to selections from the CD of pianist Evgeny Kissin’s performance of Pictures at an Exhibition, the vivid dynamic window that the T+A gear opened onto this piece—from the most delicate, otherworldly pianissimo to the concussive conclusion at “The Great Gate of Kiev”—was breathtaking. Beyond sheer dynamics there existed fine gradations of timbre and touch from the player that further enriched the proceedings. I wasn’t just hearing the outpourings of the instrument but also the emotions of the performer.
Transients were, well, schnell. Singers like Rosanne Cash were captured with an immediacy that seemingly removed any distance or artifact between her voice and the microphone diaphragm—on her “Bells and Roses” track for instance. Similarly, during Harry Connick Jr.’s “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” there was a fly-on-the-wall level of intimacy between the listener, the singer, and the tenor sax accompaniment of Branford Marsalis. The resolution I perceived from these components fully illuminated these recordings in all their glory. Elevated resolution cuts both ways as well, so the T+A pair was also starkly revealing of poor source material or componentry. Mediocre tracks had no sugar coating; they were exposed in their entirety—warts and all.
The PA 2500 R delivered big, high-intensity wattage that never seemed to waver in responsiveness and extension regardless of the loads it faced. These included power-hungry speakers like the new TAD ME1 and the unique driver technology of the Manger (reviews forthcoming) and my own ATCSCM20SL compacts. Place the T+A in front of any of these speakers and it immediately got them up and dancing. Low-frequency response tightened, and notes held their pitch well into their resonant decay. Instruments like kettle drums, electric bass guitars, and kick-drums pressurized the room enough to clear the sinuses. The PA 2500’s treble range was buoyant with air and extension even as it conveyed a slightly cooler temperament, at least compared with tubes. But there was no etch or anything amounting to transistoritis—an issue with an earlier solid-state generation that still lives on in subtler ways.
Returning to the MP 2000 R, CD playback was superb. Tracks like “Autumn Leaves” from the Manhattan Jazz Quintet not only conveyed naturalistic low-level piano timbres and texture and ripe acoustic bass resonance, but also packed solo trumpet explosions that had me leaping for the volume control. It was a stinging rebuke to high-resolution advocates, whose knee-jerk reaction is to berate anything Red Book. Speaking of hi-res, Malcom Arnold’s Sussex Overture, (24-bit/176.4kHz HRx from Reference Recordings) was densely colorful, responsive, and texture-laden. The MP 2000 R shares the opulence in the upper mids and treble of my reference player the Lumin S1, although the sense of soundstage dimension is not quite as immersive. Still and all, considering that the MP 2000 R also includes a great CD transport, this could be the go-to winner for computer-animated audiophiles with large disc collections.
Perhaps the most unexpected surprise was that I found the phonostage to be a real contender rather than the second-string bench-warmer it might have been. It resides in Input 3 and was configured at the factory for my Sumiko Palo Santos Presentation moving-coil. Indeed, this is what can be so exasperating about the digital vs. analog debate. Listen to a very good PCM or DSD recording and some of the recent vinyl remasterings and most of us can find elements that make either approach musically and sonically valid. And then I placed the Mobile Fidelity One-Step remastering of the Bill Evans Trio Sunday at the Village Vanguard and suddenly all bets were off. Heads nodded knowingly. The players were performing in my room for goodness’ sake, occupying physical space. With the harmonics of their instruments swirling through the venue, suddenly it was an evening in 1961. Conclusion: a phono option that’s a no-brainer for the analog maven.
During my factory tour I developed a great admiration for the efforts of the T+A staff and the top-notch gear they were producing. I was certainly prepared to like the R-Series but really no more than any review subject that comes my way—in that sense I’m always an optimist. However, the PA 2500 R and MP 2000 R exceeded my expectations by a wide margin. Even though they can be purchased individually, I consider them an inseparable partnership, completing each other’s thoughts like identical twins would. In other words, wunderbar!
Specs & Pricing
PA 2500 R
Power output: 140Wpc into 8 ohms (280Wpc into 4 ohms, 560Wpc into 2 ohms)
Inputs: Analog, four RCA (optional phono), one XLR; Digital, three coax, three optical, USB, iPod USB
Outputs: Analog, one pre, (2) subwoofer
Dimensions: 18.1" x 6.49" x 15.9"
Weight: 32 lbs.
MP 2000 R MKII
Formats: Compact Disc: CD/DA, CD-R, CD-RW, CD-Text; Streaming Client: MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC, OGG-Vorbis, FLAC (192 / 32 over LAN) and WAV (192 / 32 over LAN), AIFF (192 / 32 over LAN), ALAC (96/24 over LAN)
Inputs: Two coaxial and two optical, USB-A and B, LAN, R2 link (2)
Outputs: One RCA & one balanced XLR
Dimensions: 18.1" x 3.2" x 15.7"
T+A elektroakustik GmbH