AXPONA 2016: Teac has not lost their marbles


axponaIt seems some of the fun rooms at audio shows take on a bit of a buffet line quality, where a wide variety of gear is stretched out along the perimeter of the room so a visitor can experience the whole shebang of the line’s offerings, some on static display, some playing music live. Teac had a number of notable products displayed this way.  But what was really interesting was the small size of the components and the big sound.  Is Teac the ultimate provider of an office system?  Or was something else in play?

I think many of us are familiar with the excellent sounding UD-501 DACs which were an early DSD-capable DAC that sounded excellent, and had, in my opinion, quite impressive build quality for the size.

I was really impressed a few years ago with their demo at the Rocky Mountain show.  Most of these Teac products are “half-rack” component size, either half-size in-depth or width or both.  When you move the gain controls or flip a switch, the feel is quite solid.  Their diminutive integrated amps have beautiful “British style” analog meters.  Just gorgeous.  Solid metal cases with miniature loop handles complete the effect.

Pretty flexible features too.  Need a headphone jack?  No problem.  Teac’s jacks are TRS implementations that offer a variety of drive modes including balanced.  Need networking capability? Go with the NT-503 and get DLNA 1.5 and Home Media technology, both supporting high-resolution playback.

AXPONA coverage brought to you by Underwood HiFi, Exogal and Emerald Physics

Is Teac’s vaunted Esoteric technology trickling down into these smaller, more affordable products?  I think so based on what I heard.  The new UD-503 will handle 32 bit/384khz sampling rate files and 11.2Mhz native DSD playback.  Decoding is handled by the “Verita” AK4490 chip set.  There is a DSD up-conversion feature to enhance your existing CD library.  There are three FIR options and four types of DSD frequency cut-off. There are even special tip-toe style “pin-point” feet.  There is even an input for an external master clock!

This is not your father’s office system.

Discs were being played using the separate CD transport, the PD-501HR.  Using an “edge-hold” mechanism, the disc gets pulled into the thin slot which Teac claims is safer for the disc.  Teac is well-known for some the absolute best transports, and this sports a VAC5 mechanism, said to eliminate vibrations and disc reading errors.

The integrated amps are interesting as well.  The AX-501 puts out 120 watts per side using Class D technology from Abletec in a fully balanced analog design.  The aforementioned analog meters are dimmable and there is a high-quality headphone amplifier.

The system played on the S-300HR speakers, a monitor built on two coaxial arranged drivers.  Frequency range is 50hz to 50khz, allowing extra for high-resolution playback.

But I have saved the best for last.  Teac has introduced a drop-dead gorgeous turntable with a cultured marble plinth.  It was a nice mix of black and grey with some white specks.  I’m afraid my photos don’t do it full justice.  You have to see this piece in person.  Clear platter; S-shaped tonearm with anti-skate and counterweight control; DC server driven motor with belt drive; pure copper wiring by SEAC; gold-plated analog outs; and an included moving magnet ATAT-100E cartridge.  Of course, this being a Teac product, there is a 24/192 optical digital out for a DAC as well on a slightly more expensive model which adds all the digital conversion goodies.

The sound of this system was excellent.  While not extending to the low foundations, I found the overall sound very open and clear.  Quite nice sound-staging and loads of resolution.  The effect was apparent on both CDs and DSD files.  The overall effect was quite big in sound despite the compact dimensions of both components and speakers.  Office system?  Of course a solid choice there, however I think these small systems are so well done they will likely hold up well as a serious two channel system, particularly where there is a more modern decor and a need for the system to “blend into the room”.  Teac may be the the much more affordable “cousin” to the Esoteric line, but I suspect the engineers in both areas know what they are doing and are sharing knowledge.  Well done Teac.




About Lee Scoggins 118 Articles
A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Lee got interested in audio listening to his Dad’s system in the late 70s and he started making cassettes from LPs. By the early 80s he got swept up in the CD wave that was launching which led to a love of discs from Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs. Later while working on Wall Street in the 90s, Lee started working on blues, jazz and classical sessions for Chesky Records and learned record engineering by apprenticeship. Lee was involved in the first high resolution recordings which eventually became the DVD-Audio format. Lee now does recordings of small orchestras and string quartets in the Atlanta area. Lee's current system consists of Audio Research Reference electronics and Wilson Audio speakers.


Comments are closed.