Back in the 1970s, the music receiver was the hi-fi weapon of choice – a stereo amplifier and AM/FM radio tuner combined. They fell out of fashion in the minimalist 1980s, then had something of a renaissance in the 1990s, reborn in multi-channel form for home-cinema setups.
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We’re starting to see their return, back in two-channel form again but this time with added network connectivity. And so we see generously featured units like the T+A E Series Music Receiver, armed with powerful amplifiers, CD player, analogue tuner – and a wired/wireless network adaptor to let it play internet radio and music from NAS and PC music servers.
T+A Elektroakustik is a respected German audiophile brand, known for its wide range of digital and analogue electronics and loudspeakers. The T+A E Series Music Receiver carries that tradition of heavyweight, precision build quality.
The front fascia is dominated by a large vacuum-fluorescent display, and a pantheon of little domed buttons – 23 in total. It took us a while, weeks actually, to get around this braille-like pattern of controls.
On the left are four source selector buttons; these actually switch between eight different sources. There’s no space here to list every button and its myriad functions but trust us: you will need to pore over the 50 pages of the printed manual to learn your way around.
Some gotchas had us in a road-to-nowhere loop for a while. First, the little red speaker icon in the display (and associated button between + and – fascia buttons) is a kind-of reverse Mute button. When activated, you will hear sound through the speakers. Conversely, when the red light is out, you won’t.
And if you wonder why the T+A E Series Music Receiver cannot see your wireless network when all your neighbours’ SSIDs are there, you should check that you’re not using Channel 13 on the 2.4GHz band. This receiver would seem to be aligned to only US-legal Wi-Fi bands.
T+A E Series Music Receiver: Sound quality
Power will probably not be an issue here, if the manufacturer’s specs are to be believed. With 94W into 8 ohm speakers (160W into 4 ohm), the T+A E Series Music Receiver has some headroom to play loud. And using PWM technology, also known as Class D or ‘digital’ switching amplifier technology, there’s a good grasp of bass drivers for a tight, controlled sound.
The sound is clean, smoothed off, almost sanitised. Referenced to our budget classic Mission Cyrus One amplifier, we were reminded of some of what we were missing though – air, spaciousness, twinkling and the long-decay shimmer of metal percussion.
The digital electronics are great though, and we found the CD player to be a first-class source. Then there’s the option of using coax digital inputs to replay sound from other sources. This could include film and video from a PC, set-top box, DVD or Blu-ray player.
It has a 24-bit/192kHz-capable DAC that can even be tweaked with different oversampling filters – a useful trick T+A pioneered more than ten years ago for its high-end CD players.
Analogue radio reception was also exemplary, with FM ‘full quieting’ possible in our home which essentially silenced all hiss. A worthy nod to quality was noticed by the absence of any ear-shredding DAB radio facility.
For the latest digital sources, music from streamed internet radio and NAS were enjoyed (once we’d reassigned wireless router channels). Radio was reasonably easy to navigate by remote or front panel. Since there is no dedicated iPhone app, for instance, to browse files or stations, the receiver is robbed of the crucial simplicity of operation such complex centres demand.