T+A DAC 200 DAC Preamplifier Review

Posted on 6th March, 2024

T+A DAC 200 DAC Preamplifier Review

Craig Joyce auditions a striking-looking digital source component from a premium German brand…


DAC 200 D/A Convertor Preamplifier

£6,180 RRP (as reviewed with optional HDMI Module)

This striking-looking, high-end German DAC/preamp has a fight on its hands because the competition is tough at this end of the market. The T+A brand is less common on shelves outside Europe, but the company offers an extensive product portfolio that covers everything from loudspeakers and headphones to electronics. To my eyes, its distinctive industrial design language is tasteful and appealing. From the top-tier HV audio systems through to the compact Caruso series, the aesthetic is crisp, bold, uncompromising and engaging.


The DAC200 slots into T+A's Series 200 product line, a suite of models that includes the HA200 headphone amplifier, M200 monobloc power amplifier, A200 stereo power amplifier and MP200 multi-source player. All can be used independently of one another; however, in a stroke of brilliance, they can be stitched together using T+A's proprietary connection framework to aggregate multiple 200 series products into a single logical device.

The DAC200 is a handsome hi-fi component with a neat, squarish, compact 100x320x340mm [HxWxD] footprint. Arriving in a silver or black anodised finish, it weighs around 6kg. The front panel is adorned with two backlit VU meters that can be switched between a number of status display modes, allowing for a blue VU scale for level measurements, a red scale for temperature measurements and a green scale for frequency offset and trend measurements. Inputs are selected with radio buttons under each labelled source, and an LCD panel displays the current selected input, sample rate, volume and filter selections. The DAC also ships as standard with an infrared remote control.

You get a comprehensive range of inputs, including multiple S/PDIF connections (two coaxial and two optical TOSLINK) capable of supporting up to 192kHz and DSD64 over PCM. It also offers BNC and AES-EBU inputs, both supporting 24-bit, 192kHz sample rates, plus USB connectivity. The latter supports PCM up to 768kHz and DSD up to DSD1024. The review model came equipped with an optional HDMI module, introducing two HDMI inputs and one output with full ARC (Audio Return Channel) support. This functionality is aimed at integrating the DAC into a home theatre configuration, routing TV audio through the DAC.

A pair of analogue RCA inputs are fitted, which is useful for those looking to integrate a phono preamplifier, enhancing the unit's versatility in any high-fidelity audio setup. The device also helpfully includes a headphone amplifier. While not offering the same impedance and current configuration flexibility as its HA200 sister product, the onboard Class A headphone amp is capable of supporting complex headphone loads using its 4.4mm Pentaconn-equipped output stage. A single USB port is available on the rear of the unit to charge USB-powered devices, while an RJ45 port is provided to link the device to other Series 200 components in a virtual stack configuration.

One pair of low-impedance RCA analogue line outputs is fitted alongside one pair of balanced XLRs. The spec sheet claims an exceedingly flat frequency response with greater than 108dB channel separation and a stellar signal-to-noise ratio of 114 dB. The volume control is a continuation of the T+A design legacy, an implementation first used in its products in 1995. Using a relay-controlled resistor system, the volume is claimed to reduce interchannel variations while reducing distortion – and is free from the bit stripping that can plague digital volume controls. It has a reassuringly tactile response, albeit a slightly noisy one, as the relays switch between volume settings.

Before writing this review, I had the chance to interview Joerg Kuepper, the lead product developer, and Sigfried' Siggi' Amft, the founder of T+A. The latter set up the company in 1978, first making a name with loudspeakers. Over the years, it has grown into one of Germany's leading high-end audio brands. Our conversation covered a broad range of topics, focusing on the distinctive features and design choices behind the DAC200.

T+A says that the key to the performance of the DAC is the use of path separation technology. DSD and PCM are treated through totally independent conversion processes tailored to the idiosyncrasies of each media type. The DSD implementation is a unique true 1-bit design, while with PCM signals, the DAC uses a quadruple Burr Brown converter. Kuepper explains: “We are using two pieces of the 1795 for one channel to reduce the noise and distortion, the same used in the high-end HV series”. This approach effectively offers two independent DACs in the same chassis.

Focused on keeping performance high and reducing the potential for distortion in the design, T+A has deployed its so-called Digital Analogue Separation System to leverage ultra-fast digital isolators to provide galvanic isolation between the analogue and digital pathways. Kuepper adds: “It is very important that you have a complete separation from the analogue and the digital part with separate power supplies. We have also separated the control signals and the clocks so that there is no possibility that any distortion from the clock generation can impact the analogue pathways.”

The DAC200 offers a number of user-selectable upsampling filters. FIR 1 is a classic FIR filter with an extremely linear frequency response. FIR 2 has improved peak handling. BEZ 1 is a Bezier interpolator combined with an IIR filter. Siggi believes this filter produces a result very similar to an analogue system. “The Bezier polynomials really have the advantage that they sound more natural, more like an analogue signal, and the dynamics are much better”. BEZ 2 is a pure Bezier interpolator that is said to offer perfect timing and improved dynamics. The upsampling on the DAC can be deactivated by selecting the filters labelled NOS 1 and NOS 2, allowing for the use of a 60kHz low pass filter on PCM source materials.

The DAC's 'de-jitter masterclock' is a unique T+A design aimed at minimising jitter in incoming signals. It uses a multistage process using microprocessors to check the signal against a reference clock. If the DAC's inbuilt performance criteria are not met, the signal is reprocessed again, dramatically improving the measured jitter response to a claimed femto-clock accuracy. 

In the flesh, this product looks strikingly attractive, with its front panel initially surprising but quickly becoming inviting with regular use. Its wide array of connectivity options reflects careful consideration and planning, serving as a testament to the excellence of German engineering in Herford. This attention to detail underscores the DAC200's status as a standout product in its field in terms of design and build quality.

To evaluate the unit in my system, I streamed hi-res audio from Qobuz over Roon using a USB connection from my Mac Studio desktop. In my listening room, the DAC200 acted as a DAC and preamplifier for a pair of Barefoot Micromain 27 nearfield active studio monitors.


The DAC200 performs exceptionally well, being distinguished by its precise and accurate sound. It adeptly retrieves details without ever coming across as harsh and strikes a perfect balance that enhances music with clarity and depth. The unit excels in capturing and conveying the ambient sounds found in many studio recordings, adding a sense of space and atmosphere that immerses you in the music.

Stereo imaging is notably precise, ensuring instruments and effects are well-placed within a broad soundstage. This clarity makes even the most complex pieces accessible and engaging rather than overwhelming. Vocals come through beautifully and naturally across all genres, highlighting the DAC200's adaptability and its skill in handling various vocal shades. The midrange is particularly insightful, revealing intricate details in uniquely recorded pieces. Among its upsampling filters, the Bezier interpolator stands out for delivering the most lifelike sound. It smooths out any perceived digital artefacts without losing detail.

Listening to The Polyphonic Spree's Section 49 (Hop Off The Fence) reveals a beautifully tender song that highlights Tim De Laughter's gentle and emotive vocals. This track stands out not only for its vocal layers but also for its rich instrumentation, creating a serene and inviting atmosphere that offers a glimpse into the songwriter's thoughts. Despite its nostalgic tone, the track incorporates distinct elements of modern production, including a powerful kick drum sample that nearly pushed my studio monitors to their limits. The lush nature of this playback reminded me of the Linn Organik series DACs and my reference MSB Premier DAC, both a far more expensive financial proposition. This DAC's ability to seamlessly blend the organic with the synthetic elements provides a listening experience that offers a rich, multi-dimensional soundscape.

A knack for unearthing musical nuances might lead to a taxing listening experience with aggressive or unpolished tracks over extended periods. Cartwheel by Hotline TNT, one of my favourite releases from the previous year, seems influenced by the musical lineage of Bob Mould's Sugar and shoegaze stalwarts My Bloody Valentine, with tracks like Beauty Filter enveloped in a haze of overdriven guitars and harmonic layers. Here, the T+A distinguishes itself by its ability to vividly sketch out an expansive soundstage, allowing for a clear separation of musical elements, with each instrument enjoying a well-defined spot in the mix. Using a bespoke design and carefully avoiding the etched-sounding nature of some ESS Sabre DAC implementations, I never once found the DAC200 fatiguing. Where inferior DACs would likely conflate the track's swirling guitars and synthesisers into a sonic blur, the T+A avoids such confusion. 

It is unusual for me to play a track repeatedly, especially on an album I had long since forgotten. Having the DAC200 as part of my setup, Roon Radio reintroduced me to Supergrass's Road To Rouen album, and I was particularly captivated by the track St. Petersburg. The room microphones managed to capture the band in what feels like a single, seamless take, imbuing the track with a rich, live quality reminiscent of the finest jazz recordings. The piano and bass are portrayed with outstanding clarity, allowing the recording to showcase the band's dynamic swing effectively. This song's resulting sound is irresistibly engaging, drawing you into the music with its compelling appeal.

The ability of DACs to render vocals in their pure, unembellished form, making them a captivating focal point, is an aspect that deserves attention in any evaluation. Testing a DAC with vocal tracks stripped of their usual musical accompaniment offers a genuine measure of its design and performance. An unconventional choice for testing, yet revealing nonetheless, is the track Rosy Star Tears From Heaven by British occult act Current 93

David Tibet's distinctive vocals are introduced in the left channel, subtly enhanced with reverb, and joined by John Balance's ominous growling and vocal characterisations. Despite the track's modest production values, its presentation through the DAC200 is profoundly engaging. When played at a higher volume, it feels as though Tibet is performing live in the room. His voice is enveloped in a realistic reverb that adds depth without compromising quality, perfectly capturing the room's ambience. Michael Cashmore's acoustic guitar work is beautifully rendered, so despite the track's unconventional sounds, I found myself repeatedly drawn to it, rediscovering a long-neglected album with renewed interest.

Taking a more electronic tangent with the new Arab Strap single Bliss, here the rapid transient response of the DAC200 and its ability to deploy a fast and accurate sub-bass is enough to bring a smile to your face. As with the SPL Diamond DAC I reviewed recently, the T+A offers accurate bass that doesn't lose any of its native roundness. Aidan Moffat's flatly delivered Scottish brogue sits happily in a precision-imaged recording with analogue-sounding arpeggiated synth runs and synthetic kick drums – quite the juxtaposition. The mid-track breakdown offers a more pastoral pause before the insistent beat commences again.

This DAC demonstrates a remarkable proficiency across a diverse range of music genres, from niche English bands to complex electronic pieces, handling each with finesse. The exceptional level of skill and dedication evident in its design is unparalleled; every detail has been meticulously engineered to enhance the listening experience.


T+A's DAC200 is a standout product that handles a wide range of music with clarity and precision. Its design reflects high-level craftsmanship and attention to detail, making every listening session a pleasure. With its comprehensive input options and impressive filters like the Bezier interpolator, its superior sound quality brings recordings to life. It's a shining example of what modern engineering can achieve in the realm of high-end audio, providing an immersive and enriching listening experience that's hard to beat.

Considering its asking price, one might pause to ponder its value, but delving into the level of care, knowledge, and expertise embedded into this device quickly dispels doubts. The DAC200 is a testament to T+A's commitment to audio excellence. This company might not yet be a household name outside of Europe, but it should be high on any purchaser's list of audition candidates. This DAC is the culmination of years of engineering prowess, designed to deliver an unmatched listening experience. 

For more information visit T+A

    Craig Joyce's avatar

    Craig Joyce

    With an engineering degree in digital signal processing and a storied career in IT networking and cyber security, Craig loves to push the boundaries of audio technologies. An aficionado of live music with personal detours in music production and event promotion, Craig is a long time enthusiast of post punk, electronic and experimental music.

    Posted in:Hi-Fi Amplifiers Preamplifiers DACs Applause Awards 2024
    Tags: t+a  kog audio  t plus a 


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