The 2001 Products of the Year Amplification Component
TacT RCS 2.0 digital equalizer/preamplifier (review) ($2950-$4248; reviewed by Kalman Rubinson, Vol.24 No.9, September 2001)
Runners-Up (in alphabetical order):
Balanced Audio Technology VK-40 preamplifier ($4000; reviewed by Robert Deutsch, Vol.24 No.7, July 2001)
Classé CAM 350 monoblock power amplifier (review) ($7000/pair; reviewed by Brian Damkroger, Vol.24 No.1, January 2001)
Conrad-Johnson Premier 17LS preamplifier (review) ($4495; reviewed by Brian Damkroger, Vol.24 No.5, May 2001)
Creek 5350SE integrated amplifier (review) ($1500; reviewed by Robert J. Reina & Sam Tellig, Vol.24 Nos.3 & 4, March & April 2001)
Hovland HP-100 preamplifier (review) ($6495; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.23 No.11, November 2000)
Magnum Dynalab MD 208 receiver (review) ($2975; reviewed by Chip Stern & Larry Greenhill, Vol.24 Nos.1 & 3, January & March 2001)
Simaudio Moon W5 power amplifier (review) ($4995; reviewed by Kalman Rubinson, Vol.22 No.3 & Vol.24 No.5, March 1999 & May 2001)
The 2001 Amplification Component of the Year was one of only two categories whose award was not shared between two or more worthy products. All Stereophile reviewers thought the TacT RCS 2.0 digital equalizer-preamplifier deserved the prize. As KR explained, this two-channel, DSP-based room-correction system and digital preamplifier measures how the system and room together reproduce test signals, determines the differences in the frequency and time domains between the original test signals and the measured ones for each speaker independently, and finally, develops and applies a corrective algorithm to the test and music signals that compensates for the changes wrought by hardware and acoustics. The software comes with a steep learning curve, warned KR, but then the fine-tuning begins. Unhappily, there's no way to check your tweaked curve against the one suggested by the TacT, but KR wasn't born yesterday—he used the ETF system and the Sencore SoundPro Audio Analyzer to verify system and room responses. ETF revealed that some of the TacT-corrected responses had more energy in the highs and less in the lows than expected. "Nonetheless, the flexibility of the RCS system permitted me to create the response I needed."
This all resulted in better transient response, eliminated the jaggy low-end room response from actual room dimensions, and corrected amplitude imbalances between the channels created by asymmetric distribution of absorbent and reflective materials. The RCS also adjusts the direct arrival times from the speakers to be exactly the same. "Subjectively, the result was my perception of vastly improved resolution of detail across the spectrum." Simply put, the TacT permitted KR to hear the low-level ambience cues of the original performance sites. "The longer I lived with the TacT Audio RCS 2.0, the more I was convinced that it brought me much closer to the sound of live music, and that room correction should be a mandatory part of any serious audio system. In the future, it will be."