T+A PA 3000 HV and MP 3000 HV

Swiss Sound for Less

Equipment report
Categories:
Integrated amplifiers,
Music servers and computer audio
|
Products:
T+A Elektroakustik MP3000 HV,
T+A Elektroakustik PA 3000 HV
T+A PA 3000 HV and MP 3000 HV

I’ve been testing these two flagship T+A components for longer than any other review equipment in memory—over a year now, on and off. One reason is that they are so fascinating; in some ways they’re downright unbelievable. Another is that they are so comprehensive (especially the MP3000 HV music player) that there are seemingly infinite modes to evaluate. Throughout this odyssey, T+A has been gracious, helpful, and patient. (I offer my profound thanks to them for indulging me for so long.)

During this extended evaluation period, my perspective on these two components has gone through several phases. It seems fitting to recount them to you, in the order they occurred, so that you can share my journey with these unusual and in many ways remarkable products.

Phase 1: Abject Lust
I’ve had the opportunity to test quite a lot of very expensive gear lately, but none of those has inspired more lust than the T+A HV series. To uncrate these components is to be smacked upside the head by their obvious top-drawer quality. They are weightier than you’d expect. Hoist one of these things and you know you’re getting something for your money. Then there are the aesthetics. These are ruggedly handsome pieces that instantly telegraph “we mean business.” Yet there are also stylishly extravagant touches, like the glass inset on top that lets you peek at the classy componentry within.

There are lust-worthy operational touches, too. Large informative screens with touch controls dominate the front panels. The PA3000 HV integrated amp’s screen includes very cool, cassette-deck-like power output meters. The screens are flanked by enormous, positive-action knobs that imbue the user with a sense of complete command.

The FD100 remote, which is included with the MP3000 but treats all HV units as an integrated whole, is the most tricked-out device of its kind that I know of. A two-way system, it not only governs every imaginable function, but also displays status information such as the  source selected, volume level, and album cover art. Although T+A also offers a nice tablet app, I never felt the need to use it. Meanwhile, HV units communicate with each other via an “H-Link” connection, making operations even simpler and more seamless.

Finally, lust springs from the no-compromise sonically-oriented features. Like two AC inputs—one for digital and one for analog—on the player. Want to tweak the digital sound to your liking? The music player’s DAC lets you select from four available filters. You can make your choice on the fly from the listening position using that incredibly resourceful remote. For its part, the integrated amp sports an oversized AC input socket, massive heatsinks, and dual sets of binding posts made of rhodium-plated solid brass.

And these are just the visible signs of serious sonic design. The spec sheets and technical details read like audio porn. For instance, as is the case with such benchmark brands as Soulution, CH Precision, and Spectral, the HV-series is ultra-wide bandwidth. T+A employs additional top-tier touches like highly-regulated power supplies and dual-mono, symmetrical, discrete, fully balanced, zero-global-feedback circuitry. But these products are far from copy-cats; T+A has gone in some bold new directions. Most notably, the “HV” in its model names indicates that these pieces run at an unusually high voltage. Whereas most solid-state amp electronics operate at about 100 volts internally, T+A gooses its HV units to a whopping 360 volts—roughly the range of tube gear. As in valve equipment, these voltages ensure that the amplification devices are working well within their operating parameters. Indeed, the HV models utilize only about 20 percent of their amplification transistors’ available range. This, in turn, greatly reduces non-linearities. The goal, says T+A, is to mate the naturalness of valves with the speed of solid-state.

With all these aesthetic, operational, and technological goodies, it’s impossible to meet these HV components and not fall at least superficially in love with them. I certainly did. Ah, but would the promise be fulfilled? The need to hear what these HV Series components sounded like was becoming urgent.

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