Published On: 20 Jan 2024Categories: Reviews
Frequency response 0.1 Hz – 200 kHz
Signal-to-noise ratio 110/114 dB
Inputs USB, AES-EBU, BNC, 2x coaxial, 2x optical, HDMI, optional USB for powering external devices
Outputs Balanced and Single-Ended
Dimensions 10 x 32 x 34 cm
Weight 6.2 kg


PRICE R125 000.00 (exchange rate dependent)

SUPPLIED BY ElectroAcoustik (Mark Chewins 083 399-8383)



The short of it…

An extraordinarily good DAC with lots of features. In audiophile terms it’s also not stratospherically priced.

The long of it…

Not too long ago I helped a friend in his hunt for a new Digital to Analogue Converter. His new DAC had to follow a set number of criteria. It had to – and in this order – sound great, be reasonably affordable, play most of today’s current audio formats and finally, have decent specifications. Some may at this point be a little intrigued by the order listed above. Surely the most expensive models sound the best and ditto, the better the specification, the better a DAC will sound.

My response to this is as follows.

Sometimes expensive gear is just that: ‘expensive’. And the gains in performance over lower priced models simply don’t justify the ‘specialist’ pricing, particularly when bang for your buck is high on your list of desired criteria.

When it comes to specifications, my friend is fond of saying that, “You don’t race Formula 1 cars on paper.” By this he means that printed specs don’t always result in the best real world performance. This truism was borne out during our several listening sessions. Those devices with the best specs weren’t always the most musically involving. And some with lesser specifications were certainly musically pleasing.

Finally, the reason we weren’t absolutely hung up about the DAC playing every conceivable format was as follows: why base a buying decision of a device’s ability to play 24-bit/384 kHz encoded music or DSD 1024, when such music forms a minuscule part of the music you actually listen to?

This brings me to the T+A DAC looked at here, and while it wasn’t in the batch of DACs we listened in our pre-purchase listening sessions, it would certainly have been one of the top contenders if it had been included in the initial line up. This, as it ticked all the boxes we looked at and added the capability of operating as either a pure DAC, or a DAC/Pre-amp.

Visually, the DAC 200 is a relatively compact and good looking device that manages to pack a whole lot of technology into its supremely well-made chassis.

The T+A 200 series was, by the way, designed to re-imagine the performance capabilities of midi-sized components and comprises the DAC, a multi-source/streaming player, an amplifier and a headphone amp.

On the inside of the DAC 200 you will find several T+A technologies that the company claims work together to ensure optimum performance.

These include T+A De-Jitter Masterclock, which all but eliminates jitter from any connected digital component. There’s what T+A calls its Digital Analogue Separation System, which utilises ultra-fast digital isolators from Silicon Labs to provide galvanic separation between the analogue and digital sections of the DAC. Unusually, both PCM and DSD formats have their own converter. For PCM signals T+A uses its quadruple converter featuring a double symmetrical circuit design comprising eight 32-bit Burr-Brown converters, while DSD files are processed using the T+A True 1-bit converter.

On the outside of the DAC and starting at the back, you find digital inputs for practically every conceivable digital device. There’s even a USB socket for powering a USB device, and if you’re staying in the 200 series family, there’s T+A’s in-house SYS-Link, which is used for communication and data transfer between compatible components. There’s also a pair of analogue inputs on RCAs and both single-ended and balanced outputs. Nice optional extras are HDMI-in and -out with ARC. Power connection is via IEC connector, meaning that upgraded power cables can be used.

Out front in the top half of the DAC are from left to right, a pair of multi-function analogue meters, a large display that shows currently selected input, the format being played, volume , and various other menu selections. Next there is a large Volume/Input selector knob. Along the bottom of the DAC you’ll find the following: The Power/Standby selector, Headphone On/Off and a headphone jack. These are followed by a trio of selectors for meter modes, one for Wide/Invert and filter selector marked OVS. More on these in a short while.

Next up we find six direct access push buttons for input selection, an output On/Mute switch and finally the menu access button. The menu button is used in conjunction with the Volume/Enter rotary knob to select the various functions available to the end user.

It’s worth mentioning that all features and functions can be accessed via the supplied remote control. This is a solid feeling piece that worked well.

DAC installation and set-up was relatively easy and involved no more than me connecting both analogue and digital devices and downloading T+A’s USB drivers onto my Windows laptop. USB drivers are necessary for optimal USB performance, but aren’t required for Linus or Mac.

Digital devices included my laptop via USB, a CD player via 75 ohm coaxial cable and a music streamer via optical cable. My phono stage was connected to the DAC’s analogue input. Finally, I used the single-ended outputs to connect to my amplifier.

With connections made, I powered my system up, set the DAC to fixed level out, selected optical input and…Nothing. Analogue in and coax in, likewise provided inky black silence. USB however was playing just fine.

After some head scratching I did something that does not come naturally to me. I read the manual.

Here I learned that all inputs can be deactivated, something the person who used the DAC before me obviously did. A few button presses later and all inputs were now working.

While reading the manual, I learned about the various modes that can be selected to be displayed via the DAC’s meters. The obvious ones were Line-In and Line-Out voltages. Here the gauges operate as old fashioned VU meters with the zero point equivalent to 2.35 volts. There is a mode for checking the DAC’s internal temperatures and this can be used to check when it has reached optimal listening temperature.

The final mode is possibly the most important. Here the left meter shows how close the incoming digital clock frequency is to the stated frequency. The right meter shows the error rate of the incoming data. If this is high, it indicates either a cable fault or equipment fault.

Fortunately all digital devices I used were clocked precisely and had almost no jitter.

The second of the trio of buttons mentioned earlier, is the Wide/INV button. This is used to set the low pass filter on the output of the DAC. One equals a filter setting of 60 kHz. This setting is recommended for amplifiers that have a lower than 60 kHz bandwidth. For amplifiers with a higher bandwidth, T+A recommends Off, which sets the output filter to 120 kHz. Invert, as the name suggests, inverts the output signal.

Following the Wide button is the OVS button, which is used to set the four oversampling modes of the DAC, with these being FIR 1, FIR 2, BEZ1 and BEZ2.  Each of these filters has a slightly different sonic presentation.


In addition to these, there are two non-oversampling filters, NOS 1 and 2. You can toggle through all six settings via remote or the button on the DAC

As mentioned, initial listening was done with the DAC 200 set to fixed output and it was here that I found a small anomaly in performance. While the specification of the DAC stated that maximum output voltage was 2.35 volts in both fixed and variable output, output in fixed mode was always quite a bit lower than input voltage. This was verified by comparing input and output voltages on the DAC’s meters. I would guess, without actually measuring it, that the difference was around 10 dB. Even when playing test tracks at 0 dB, the DAC didn’t reach its rated output.

By switching to variable output I was able to match input to output voltage and the DAC certainly sounded better and more engaging when putting out higher signals. An added bonus was that in variable output mode, I could use the balance control of the DAC.

I had now tried the DAC in both fixed and variable output modes, but I hadn’t yet ascertained how good – or otherwise – the volume control on it worked. In other words, could the DAC be used as a pre-amp?

Fortunately for me, my integrated amp has a bypass mode that lets me run it as a straight power amp, and after holding down both volume up and down buttons for a few seconds its pre-amp and internal DAC were bypassed.

Of course before doing this I reduced the volume on the DAC 200.

As it turned out, I preferred listening to music like this, and at this point have to say that the pre-amp section of the DAC 200 is extremely good. With 1 dB step resolution it’s easy to find the exact level you want.

Having ascertained that DAC performance in my system was best this way, this was how I used the DAC for the rest of my time with it.

I spent quite some time listening to the various filters in the DAC and while each was subtly different and delivered some improvements in certain areas, I ultimately settled on BEZ1. Of all the filters, I felt that this one gave me the best balance between the sonic aspects I desire in a music playing audio system.

The next couple of questions that needed to asked are the following: “What music did I listen to, to review the DAC, and what are my thoughts on its performance?”

I’m fortunate that my 15 year old daughter will still, on the odd occasion, sit down and listen to music with her old dad. What this means is that we listen to an eclectic range of music from old to new and across multiple genres. I could select some Deep Purple and my daughter could follow this up with some Daisy Jones & The Six. This meant that the DAC was really put through its paces and had to perform when playing both ‘real world’ music and that which we consider ‘audiophile’ quality.

On the performance front, I was far more impressed by what the DAC didn’t do than by what it did.

Let me explain this somewhat strange comment.

Often when listening to a new component, you detect a distinct highlight, a bright point in performance that makes said component seem that little bit better than others of its kind. In most cases however, I’ve found that this highlight can quickly become tiring. For example, what you initially thought was added sparkle on the three demo tracks you listened to, turns into added sibilance on everything else.

The DAC 200 didn’t have any one area of performance that immediately stood out; rather what I heard from it could best be described as ‘balance’. Balance in terms of tonality and balance in terms of imaging and staging.

Surprisingly and to a degree dependant on filter settings, the DAC was more forgiving of lesser quality recordings than the DAC in my amp was. This was a decidedly positive, because when I’m in ‘audiophile’ listening mode, the amount of music I listen to typically shrinks. That I could listen a little more critically and not get irritated by lesser recordings – within limits that is – was a bonus for me.

Equally surprising was the fact that when in ‘audiophile’ mode and being critical, the DAC was equally adept at delivering those aspects of music that I want to hear.

Dynamically the DAC was good and scored high in pace, rhythm and timing, or ‘PRAT’. Here, my daughter commented that musical notes to her, started and stopped quickly and in time. They were in short, more precise.

Dynamics are but one part of what I listen to when evaluating gear. What I also require is smooth tonal balance. PRAT is useless if a trombone sounds like a Tuba. As one would probably expect from a good DAC, the DAC 200 was able to easily deliver vocals – both male and female and from the lowest to highest octaves – with both precision and balance.

Instruments were like-wise well delivered with brass instruments having the requisite bite but not so hard-edged as to be unpleasant. The DAC was able to deliver higher frequencies and their harmonics in a manner that was always pleasant to listen to.

The wide frequency range that the DAC was capable of playing was certainly audible in the ‘air’ and space that it lent to music. And talking about air leads me to the final aspect of DAC performance that I want to talk about ­– imaging and staging.

These aspects of performance were to some degree – as with tonality – dependent of the filter used. As I’ve already mentioned, I mostly used the BEZ1 filter and here both image size and stage depth and width were rather good. The stage was multi-layered and I could hear where instruments and vocalists were placed in all three dimensions.

I did find that for me, there was a little more precision or focus to the stage when using the non-oversampling filters, with NOS2 (the filter with maximum frequency range) being a little better than the BEZ1 I mostly used. The flip side of this was that the BEZ1 was tonally better and I was happy to trade off just a smidgen of image focus for better musicality.

Ultimately, the best aspect of the T+A DAC 200 was that even when intending to sit down and listen critically, I usually ended up just wanting to listen to more music. And isn’t this what this game of ours is supposed to be about? Plus if you really want to be critical, you can always find a filter that suits the track you’re listening to. Throw in top notch build quality, a feature set that is usable and flexible and good looks, you have a DAC that is worth its asking price.

Joel Kopping


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