||Taga HTA 1000B, Integrated hybrid valve/solid state
|Power Output 8 ohms
||2 x 105 Watts
|Power Output 4 ohms
||2 x 133 Watts
|Power Output 2 ohms
||20 Hz to 35 kHz (+/- 0.5dB)
|Signal to Noise Ratio
||0.1% (1 kHz, 1 W)
||1 x RCA coaxial, 1 x Toslink optical
||2 x stereo RCA, 1 x MM phono stage
||2 x line-level stereo RCA
||110 x 430 x 380 mm (HxWxD)
PRICE +/- R27,000.00, as tested with upgraded Valves R34,000.00
SUPPLIED BY Audio Tweak
TAGA is not a brand I am familiar with and so it is with some interest that I got my hands on this integrated amplifier from the stable. New equipment is always interesting, with new takes on how to do things being fun to see, and of course hear.
The blurb that comes with the amp tells us that this is an ‘affordable integrated amp with a sweet and rich yet fast sound with oodles of power’. Having spent some time with the unit I tend to largely agree.
Being a hybrid valve/solid state amplifier, this particular unit came with upgraded RCA Nos tubes fitted to it. This adds around R7k to the asking price and I only listened to the amp with these valves fitted, given that I don’t particularly want to open review units and poke around in them with my grubby fingers. The amp comes with a crescent transparent front panel and orange internal lighting that can be turned off and on remotely to add a visual interest cue. I enjoyed it – but in critical listening mode I turned it off to be safe. I have to say this lighting effect is a bit like the exhaust button on an M3 or Porsche – stupid and ridiculous and irritating to everyone except the driver, and yet… when behind the wheel… yes, we all push the button don’t we?
The tubes themselves get a light orange glow anyway when warmed up and there is a degree of romance associated with this ambience that I must admit to quite enjoying for those that insist on the more subtle approach.
On the power front you’re getting around 100 watts a channel effectively from the amp. Choice of that signal path comes from RCA inputs / optical digital and optional Bluetooth. Additionally there is an onboard DAC in the unit, albeit at an entry level (as far as DACs these days go anyway). At a 16 bit resolution some file compatibility issues with higher res files might be expected, but to be honest I didn’t even get to test this, time constraints with the unit being what they were.
Note on the back panel that the amp sports two pre-amp outs (to run a sub or to bi-amp). Always handy!
I ran the unit using the BlueSound Node for lossless streaming and my trusty Sony CD player as the sources fed into the amp. The loudness button was set to off, treble and bass controls set to neutral and the source direct button was engaged to bypass any signal adjustment circuitry, just to make sure. The remote control gives you limited control over these and so you need to get up and tend to them manually. That said, the remote is a chunky, heavy, all metal affair that really feels classy – I loved it. You can remote trigger the internal lighting array should you so feel inclined. The rest is limited to input selection, volume control and the mute function. But really, what more do you need?
From the outset this particular unit, with its upgraded valves, arrived with some run in time already clocked up. Joel will be giving us his opinion on the unit as well, simply because things worked out that way and I got the amp from him, happily unbroken but with some new tunes in my library to reference against.
Musically the Taga is on point. The 100 watts a channel is beefy, and driving the ML ESLs I never got the sense that they were going to run out of power and turn my ribbons into a fused molten mess. At extreme levels there is some clipping, which is expected, but in all fairness I was pushing my luck beyond being reasonable. Throughout, the amplifier didn’t lose composure or sound harassed, and carried what was thrown at it with no complaints. I put it through its paces with some fast tracks and plenty of sibilance to try and expose any brightness or tinniness. I wasn’t expecting any given the nature of the amp’s design, but you never know. I certainly didn’t get any and if anything my sense was that the amp gently rolled the tops off just a touch, giving you a wonderfully warmish but engaging sound. I hate using ‘warm’ with valves because it’s all too obvious a comparison so perhaps ‘full’ and ‘coherent’ is a better description.
Vocals are particularly natural sounding but with complex sessions of musical mayhem it’s easy enough to spot the detail in the ‘chaos’ and this is generally a good indication that one has an amplifier in place that is getting the fundamental basics of straight wire with gain correct and in place. And as one goes lower down the frequency spectrum, the ask on the unit doesn’t appear to be beyond its abilities to provide a taut, tensioned and just about slammable bass with surprising vigour if you give it the beans.
I wouldn’t classify the amp as being as neutral as my reference Thule (with newly upgraded capacitors). The Thule has always been almost clinical in its neutrality, but the Taga’s signature places emphasis on making listening easy to engage with. It’s an amp that becomes easy to live with, thoroughly enjoyable to listen to and certainly offering performance that at this pricing point forces itself onto your shortlist. Add in that you get basically a free DAC and Bluetooth wireless connectivity (but use cables, the amp deserves it) and the value offering is accentuated, even if I suspect that the amp’s capabilities supercede the limitations of these ancillaries.
There is no doubt though that the baby Taga is well worth seriously listening to. I enjoyed it tremendously, and yes, with the lights on!