T+A MP 3100 HV SACD player/streaming DAC Page 3

That list shows what the MP 3100 HV can do: The built-in transport plays CDs and SACDs. There's a Bluetooth receiver, which works well. You can directly connect USB storage media, from either the front panel connection mentioned above or the one on the back. All the usual digital inputs are included. There's over-the-air radio. And there are no fewer than seven options for data delivered over the network to the MP 3100 HV's streaming client.

USB is by far the most versatile connection; it's capable of PCM up to 32/384 (I corroborated up to 24/354.2, the highest-resolution PCM files I own), DSD-over-PCM (DoP) up to DSD128 (also corroborated)—and, with the aforementioned Windows 10 computer and proprietary driver, up to DSD512 natively, no DoP encoding required. (I corroborated this as well, with a borrowed computer.) MP3 and all the usual lossy formats are supported.

Playing discs is easy, except that you have to get up off the sofa. Touch the button decorated with the traditional disc/eject symbol, and the mechanism extends smoothly from the front glass panel. Put the disc in, push the button again to load, then press play (footnote 3).

To play music from a USB stick or drive, just plug it in, front panel or rear, and locate it in the T+A MusicNavigator app on your tablet; you can do it with just the remote, but I wouldn't want to access music that way. It works fine, and navigation is straightforward (with the app).

To set up subscription-streaming services, plug in an Ethernet cable and enter your registration information, username, and password. It's clumsy with the remote control—I never figured out how to type the @ symbol—but quite easy with the app.

Setting the source to "Internet Radio" calls up Airable (formerly Tune In), an Internet-radio aggregator. Users can browse or search thousands of stations of varying streaming quality and widely varying genre, including nearby stations. You can save favorite stations for easy access. "Podcasts" works the same way. If you have a Roon server somewhere in your system, there's no learning curve at all: Just plug a cable into the back of the MP 3100 HV, choose "RoonReady" as the source, and keep using Roon as you always have. But you may want to connect your Roon Server or endpoint to the MP 3100 HV with a USB cable instead of Ethernet, since, as previously noted, USB allows a wider range of data-format choices and higher PCM resolutions.


It's safe to say that, with a component as versatile as this one, few people will use all its capabilities, so it's desirable to hide the inputs you don't use, to optimize usability: Who wants to flip through a half-dozen inputs they never use? I don't use Deezer, and DAB radio doesn't exist in the United States, so those needed to go. I don't do podcasts. Right now I just need Ethernet, USB, and AES/EBU—so it was also desirable to remove all of these from my source list. This proved easy, using a combination of front-panel controls and the provided remote. It may also be possible from the Music Navigator app, but I never figured out how to do it that way.

It's probably just nostalgia, but I still get excited about FM tuners. I own a couple, including a nice vintage McIntosh in very good condition. Unfortunately, my tuners live in a closet, because I live on the ground floor of a 12-story building, surrounded by other tall buildings, and it's logistically and legally impossible for me to put an antenna outside. If I can't receive a station with an inside antenna, I can't receive it—period, end of story. Which means that, in the midst of what may be the best radio market on the continent, I can receive hardly any of that goodness in even marginally acceptable quality, with any tuner I've tried. So I'm forced to listen to even my favorite local stations—WKCR and WMFU—over the Internet. I really should give up my fascination with old-fashioned FM radio—or move out of New York City, or get an apartment on a high floor.

I tried the MP 3100 HV's FM radio tuner with a Fanfare FM-2 antenna. It took no time at all to set it up. But all I can say is that it works, and pretty well. I got stations. I didn't do a long-distance–reception shootout with my McIntosh; maybe some other time.

In this month's Record Reviews section, Jason Victor Serinus reviews a new album of Brahms songs sung by Irish tenor Robin Tritschler, with Graham Johnson on piano (Hyperion CDJ33129, 24/96 FLAC download). Jason assigns 4.5 stars for sonics—a very high score for Jason, who is a very critical listener.

I concur: It's a gorgeous recording. Via the T+A, I heard, within individual notes, a wide range of expressive inflections. The piano's lower register somehow got in my bones even when it wasn't especially loud. This was the kind of experience I often have at a live performance—back before New York City's live-performance venues were closed due to COVID-19—but only in the best cases, with an up-front seat, or at a performance in a small space.

On a recent 2L SACD—Skazki, a collection of piano music by Nikolai Medtner performed by Gunnar Sama (2L 156)—I found both the CD and SACD layers very pleasant musically, but they sounded quite different from each other. The DSD layer had more sparkle and clarity, and blacker backgrounds; the CD was muted in comparison, and slightly fuzzy, but was still a very pleasant listen, as if it had been recorded in a slightly less ideal acoustic (which it hadn't, obviously). The CD layer was creamy, while the SACD layer added sparkle to that creaminess, with a little more (realistic) leading-edge percussiveness. Reverberation tails were more extended on the DSD layer. Here again, once I'd dialed in the most realistic volume, that bone-deep piano, that geological bass. I found the SACD layer on this recording very real-sounding (but, interestingly, only after I moved my listening chair back a bit from its usual position). The more I listened to this album, the more I wanted to keep listening to this album.

On "Le Mal de Vivre," from Cecile McLorin Salvant's 2015 album, For One to Love (Mac Avenue MAC 1095, 24/88/2 Qobuz FLAC stream; I also listened on vinyl), Cecile was whispering in my ear, and the bass drum, although not loud, was physical.

"Escondido," from Early Reflections, by the Bennie Maupin Quartet (Cryptogramophone CG 137), is one of the best recordings I know for evaluating upper/midbass resolution. Maupin's bass clarinet, playing alone, sounds natural and expressive, with many small inflections of timbre in each sustained note. The test comes when bass and percussion enter, bass clarinet and upright bass playing in unison. On less-resolving systems, the sounds of the two instruments can be hard to differentiate, or impossible. Not so here. I cannot give all the credit to the T+A DAC—the other components in this system were doing their part—but I've never heard those two instruments as clearly differentiated as they were when I heard them just now. The instruments here were perfectly distinct.

In conclusion
Well-designed modern DACs tend to look similar on the test bench, with apparent variations in just a few areas: reconstruction filters (which in any case can usually be selected by the user) and in the level of the noise (usually well below what we'd expect to be audible). Distortion signatures vary some, too, but except on DACs made with vintage technologies, measured distortion is usually below what most research indicates is detectable. Looking at measurements, then, one would expect digital sources to sound very much the same.

Indeed, as I've commented before, they do tend to clump up, sonically, at least in my experience. And that's hardly a bad thing: It suggests that digital sources are converging on a certain sound—optimal sound, presumably. Perhaps clever designers will prove me wrong, but it seems clear enough to me that there are limits to what an honest digital player can achieve in terms of sonic quality and emotional impact—hard limits set by recording technique, the underlying technology, and our sensory and emotional limits. It would almost be concerning if well-made DACs sounded radically different from one another.

And yet: In the best digital sources I've heard, all that careful engineering yields—I'll just go ahead and write it—a certain magic. Magic via science: It's why I'm in this field. Treble tones glisten like light reflected from the facets of a diamond, and also seem especially relaxed—no digital glare (footnote 4). Bass, while not louder than with other digital sources, has more sturdiness and depth. These characteristics appear to be the cumulative result of attending to all the details. The T+A MP 3100 HV attends to those details and possesses those qualities.

Footnote 3: There's actually one more step, at least: You need to use the source-selector switch to select disc playback. And if it's a hybrid SACD, you select the playback layer before closing the drawer by touching the button labeled "I/II."

Footnote 4: This depends on the recording. No player can completely undo mistakes made in the recording studio.

T+A elektroakustik GmbH & Co.
T+A North America
(207) 251-8129

barrows's picture

With DACs like this T+A unit, which have a totally separate, discrete, conversion scheme for DSD playback, it would be desirable to see a set of measurements for DSD playback. Many audiophiles are using these types of DACs with playback software which allows all file formats to be oversampled to DSD 256 or 512 for playback, because many find that this approach to D/A conversion offers improved sonics over PCM conversion, especially with sophisticated computer based oversampling to DSD allowed by playback software like Roon, and HQPlayer.
I would suggest, that at this point in the development of discrete DSD DACs, not doing and publishing measurements for DSD playback is only telling half of the story, indeed it is not telling much of the story at all for those users whose intent is to only send the DAC DSD data. Please, please consider doing measurements for DSD playback in the future.

MhtLion's picture

I agree 100%.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

In the measurements section, Bezier IIR filter impulse response, Fig.3, looks like short minimum phase filter ...... However JA1's description of this filter sounds like a hybrid type of filter ....... JI preferred this same type of filter when reviewing the T+A DAC8 ...... JA2 also preferred this same short minimum phase filter :-) .......

Ortofan's picture

... aside from being able to play SA-CD discs, what can this device do that a Marantz ND8006, for example, cannot?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

It has a choice of 4 different digital reconstruction filters ...... A better comparison would be the new $5,500, Mark Levinson 5101 ....... That ML SACD/CD player/DAC probably also has a choice of 7 different digital reconstruction filters, like the ML 5805 integrated amp/DAC, reviewed by Stereophile :-) ......

Guileshill's picture

Earlier comment withdrawn. Confusion over the product enumeration.

doxycc's picture

There is considerable value in all-in-one units - shelf space, fewer cables (and lower cost), sonic point of view of manufacturer. There are similar downsides - lack of upgradeability depending on architecture (modular upgrades might be available but for how long after introduction of unit). Residual value of brand especially on the digital side (audiogon can give you a sense of the 50-80% discount on 3 year old digital even among the most well known brand). Some non-US brands have stable distribution and dealer networks others change frequently. At this price, good to have a checklist and determine risk/reward as s consideration separate from the sonic qualities.

Long-time listener's picture

With all this incredible engineering, at $21,000 it still can't provide the 21-bit resolution available from the $2000 NAD M51 or the most recent Benchmark DAC. Why not?

dcolak's picture

It costs 800 USD and offers true 21bit resolution.


Bogolu Haranath's picture

Topping D90 is a DAC ....... Yes, its measurements are excellent ......But, it has no SACD/CD player ..... Also, it has no wi-fi access :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

BTW ...... It would be nice to see a Stereophile review of Topping D90 DAC :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Stereophile has a $400 Class-A listed DAC ....... So, Stereophile can also review another under $1k, probably another Class-A list-able DAC :-) ........

MhtLion's picture

Would the SACD/CD player worths 26.25 times the price? One thing for sure, the sound quality gap between High End DAC vs Budget DAC had shrunken a quite lot. My personal guess is that whoever replaces their $20k DAC with this $800 DAC won't miss too much.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I'm not justifying the price of this T+A player ....... I was mentioning that, it is not exactly apples to apples comparison between the D90 DAC and this T+A player ....... One could buy a $1,200 Denon CD/SACD player for example ....... The $400 Pro-Ject, Stereophile Class-A rated, DAC/Pre-amp/Headphone amp which I mentioned, is even less expensive than the Topping D90 :-) ......

MhtLion's picture

Agreed 100%. I once tried to purchase T+A DSD 8 DAC. At that time, the only U.S. distributor I could find was an unknown name to me, and they tried to charge a full retail price + shipping + sales tax even though I did not live in the same state. So, I found a European retailer who had a small sale plus VAT saving to sell out of the Eurozone. The final price including shipping was at least 40% less than the U.S. price. But, at the last minute, they realized that they have a contractual agreement not to sell to the U.S. The salesperson said other none Euro countries were fine, but U.S. He also said he sold other brands to U.S. hence sorry for the confusion.

Math is funny. $60/$100 is 40% discount. But, $100/$60 is 66% premium. A 66% premium to buy the exact same product over other markets was a bit too much for me.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

T+A DAC8 was reviewed by Stereophile ....... Stereophile Class-A+, listed ....... That DAC8 has similar DAC and similar 4 digital reconstruction filters as this T+A player ....... DAC8 costs less than $5k :-) ........

barrows's picture

I had the D-90 here for a few weeks, and would suggest, respectfully, that your comments are wrong. While the D-90 is a very, very good DAC, For The Money, it cannot compete with a player such this T+A with its much more developed output stage (I have heard the DAC version of the T+A).
I still would recommend trying the D-90, in your system, to anyone looking for a DAC under around $4K. Especially with DSD 256 playback in "DAC mode".

JRT's picture

JA1's measurements show that the device under review has varied output depending on input selected, and that output well exceeds the 4.0_Vrms output of the Topping D-90. If the devices under comparison are not very closely matched in output level, the device with higher output level is usually at an perceptual advantage in the comparison.

barrows's picture

JRT, if your comment is aimed at me, I am well aware of the need for precise level matched comparisons, especially when compared components close in performance (which many DACs are). I typically level match by measuring output voltage with pink noise signal. I work in audio product development, and have been "professional" in this industry for some 20 years now.
The D-90 is excellent for the money, but DACs with more robust output stages and power supplies of my experience do outperform it.

dcolak's picture

D90 is far above Benchmark DAC3 so I would REALLY love to see your measurements.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Which measurements of D90 are 'far above' Benchmark DAC3? ....... Just curious :-) .......

MhtLion's picture

The fact we are mentioning $700 DAC and $21,000 DAC in the same sentence indicates the market is going through a big change.

There were two groups of engineers. Some were born rich and some had great careers elsewhere. Some had wealthy wives. They liked the music and equipment. So, they worked hard: 2-4 hours a day to bring a product or two every couple years or so. It was hard work, but never that hard. After all, only a few had an engineering background. Many hired the engineers or better yet outsourced 97.56% of everything they ever produced. The very idea, concept, and principle of their innovation were ALL OUTSOURCED. They sold a few, but the extravaganza prices kept their lives comfortable. Perhaps they did not care for money. It was LOVE that drove them hard at audio venues and showrooms, where they spent the majority of the time.

The others were mostly with an engineering background. Some liked the music, some rarely listened to anything at all. They were after the hard profit. For their lack of love, they made up by working their a*s out, 10-15 hours a day to produce $800 DAC with great specs and OK sound. After all, most customers judge the audio equipment with their eyes anyway - by the aesthetic and specs. Their work ethics or the lack of it were mostly copying others without ever paying. Some discerned audiophiles scoffed, calling those cheap knockoffs.

But, an unexpected, rather a comical trend starts to emerge. After years and years of hard work, while the other was hard drinking. First, $3,000 DAC starts to sound as good as $10,000 DAC. Then, $300 DAC starts to sound as good as $3,000 DAC. Finally, $700 DAC sounds not too bad right next to $20,000 DAC.

Ortofan's picture

... TEAC to be "cheap knockoffs"?

The UD-301 and UD-501 cost no more than $600.





Allen Fant's picture

An excellent review- JA2
The musical selections, albeit short, are on point.

Anton's picture

But where did the MQA go?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

MQA sems to be DOA :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Or ..... MQA went into the 'Dead man's Chest' :-) .........