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T+A DAC 8 Balanced DAC Review

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of DAC 8 from German company T+A. It is kindly loaned to me by a member. The DAC 8 as tested came out in 2013 I think. Can't find the exact cost but probably in the US $2,000 to $4,000 range. There are newer versions of it now with DSD decoding and such.

While a bit dated in display technology, the DAC 8 nevertheless manages to impress with a nice chassis and controls:

T+A DAC 8 USB Balanced Audio Review.jpg

Lots of connectivity is included in the back including the all important XLR Balanced outputs:
T+A DAC 8 USB Balanced Back Panel Inputs Outputs XLR Audio Review.jpg


As you see, there is both fixed and variable output by toggling that switch. I tested it in variable mode as in fixed output it produced 4.5 volts. That is OK by itself but makes comparisons with other DACs difficult. So for most of the tests, I lowered the output to nominal 4 volts using front panel volume control (there is also a remote which I did not have).

Overall, this is a luxury feeling DAC that gives you the feeling that you bought something above mass market. I like it!

Balanced DAC Audio Measurements
As usual, we feed the DAC a prefect digital sine wave over USB at 1 kHz frequency and see what all we get:

T+A DAC 8 USB Balanced Audio Measurements.png


Hey, this is nice! So often we are used to high-end audio products underperforming but this is good. Here is how it ranks compared to every DAC we have tested so far:

Best balanced dac review measurements 2020.png


Since there is variable output to whopping 9 volts out, let's see how the performance varies that way:

T+A DAC 8 USB Balanced THD+N vs Output Level Audio Measurements.png


Peak performance actually reaches a SINAD of 105 dB which is even nicer than our dashboard.

Dynamic range falls in the same "very good" category:
T+A DAC 8 USB Balanced Dynamic Range Audio Measurements.png


Same for IMD distortion:

T+A DAC 8 USB Balanced IMD Distortion Audio Measurements.png


Multitone shows very low levels of intermodulation distortion:

T+A DAC 8 USB Balanced Multitone Audio Measurements.png


Linearity is almost as good as it gets:
T+A DAC 8 USB Balanced Linearity Audio Measurements.png


Jitter shows a few spurious tones but not a concern otherwise:

T+A DAC 8 USB Balanced Jitter Audio Measurements.png


There are two filter settings:
T+A DAC 8 USB Balanced DAC FIR FIlter Audio Measurements.png


Could use a bit more attenuation.

THD+N versus frequency shows somewhat elevated levels:

T+A DAC 8 USB Balanced THD+N vs Frequency Audio Measurements.png


As you see, changing the frequency of sampling did not matter so the problem must be elsewhere:

T+A DAC 8 USB Balanced 1 khz FFT spectrum Audio Measurements.png


We see the problem on the right. This DAC uses the once common technique of "noise shaping" where audible noise is pushed out into ultrasonic range.

Conclusions
The T+A DAC 8 shows very good performance despite its age. No, it is not competitive with what we have available today but it has great styling and luxury feeling. If you can find one on the cheap in the used market, I can recommend it.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

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Feargal

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I remember seeing (but not hearing) one of these a few years ago and it is a really nicely made bit of kit. Quite a few silly people used feed these highly-upsampled audio streams from powerful PCs and claimed it made a difference.
 

Xulonn

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From an Audiophilia.com review - dated March 8, 2019:

T+A is a German company founded in 1978 and produces a full range of electronics and loudspeakers. The company is based in Herford... [near] ...Westphalia.

The DAC 8 is from its ‘entry level’ Series 8. Let’s hope the 8 gets some trickle down love from the top DAC in T+A’s HV Series, the $37,500 SD 3100 HV Reference Streaming DAC. Our unit under review has an MSRP of $4450, a slightly easier digital pill to swallow.
 

Rja4000

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@amirm
I like that you check SINAD vs level.

Actually, that's an important information: how is SINAD evolving with level, what's the sweet spot, and how wide is the range above, say 100dB SINAD?

That may make a true difference in real life.
(Think of driving a Purifi amp: which buffer gain to chose?)
So it should be part of standard test procedure, IMHO.
 

Matias

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This DAC is very commonly used because of its DSD bypass feature for doing real time software upsampling with HQPlayer to high DSD sample rates and computing intensive algorithms etc.
 
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amirm

amirm

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So it should be part of standard test procedure, IMHO.
Most of the time the DAC only outputs 2 or 4 volts and there is no volume control. As such, measuring at different output levels doesn't make sense. In cases where the output goes above nominal, then yes, it is useful and I will continue to measure it.
 

Racheski

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What is the point of reviewing this since it's way overpriced and 5+ years old?
 
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amirm

amirm

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What is the point of reviewing this since it's way overpriced and 5+ years old?
I like to get at least one sample tested from every audio company. Gives us some clue versus no data at all as to their engineering skills.
 
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