Neuhaus Labs T-2 Tube Amplifier
How many songs do you have in your music collection? According to iTunes, this author has 23,072, or about 68 days worth. Now, that might pale in comparison to the nearly-never-ending spin of Gear Patrol’s resident music guru, DJ Bowers, with his hard drive (and shelf) bursting under the weight of 100,000+ songs; but whereas Ben is a music guru, I like to consider myself a sound guru.
That’s why, last month when Neuhaus Labs contacted us to try out their all-new T-2 Tube Amplifier, we were glad to oblige and we put it through the paces. For those of you looking for the one sentence review here it is: The Neuhaus Labs T-2 will blow the doors off anything you’ve got hooked up to your computer, period.
Lets see, and discuss why.
Back To The Basics
The Neuhaus Labs T-2 amplifier is designed specifically for people who recognize that CD’s are an obsolete way of listening to music, but listening to high quality audio is not. Personally, I’m a fan of either high quality digital files or vinyl (which we’ll be covering in upcoming articles). Being a man of sonic fidelity, I tend to pay top dollar for higher quality equipment. At the Gear Patrol offices, I often befuddle my gear compatriots with terms like “bit-rate”, “lossless”, “DAC”, and “soundstage”. Of course, it’s in the spirit of finer gear, something any Gear Patrol reader can recognize.
You buy a mass produced receiver to be replaced every few years. You buy a Neuhaus Labs T-2 to give to your son.
The Neuhaus Labs T-2 fills in a unique need that gives this author a chance to also share with you why the reason you justified buying an HDTV applies to purchasing quality audio gear.
In a world overcomplicated with 200 channel surround sound systems, über Blu-ray, and 2160p HDTV’s, the T-2’s two channel analog sound reproduction is a breath of fresh air. It’s also further evidence of the resurgence in two-channel sound. You know, stereo. Both enthusiasts and traditionalist alike are enjoying the increasing number of options. No need to dive into the trend, just know it’s a good one.
A common misunderstanding in the world of sound is that good speakers = good sound. Makes sense, right? Wrong. Even a pair of decent speakers will come alive when matched through a great amplifier. There’s a reason musicians still use tube technology in their amps at live venues. Tubes make mp3’s come alive, you can only imagine what they do to high quality recordings. They don’t need bass or treble controls. Equalizers? Pah. One need only look at the remote control for the T-2. It only has two buttons. Up and down.
Meet The T-2
At the heart of the Neuhaus T-2 brain is a built-in Digital to Analog (DAC) converter that, when hooked up via USB cable (or SPDIF) overrides your computer’s internal converter, an often cheap mass produced processor you likely never thought of until now. Well, garbage in, garbage out. By overriding the DAC, the T-2 uses its own, high quality, Cirrus Logic (Optical) or C-Media (USB) DAC’s to process your digital music to analog sound, then amplifying it via vacuum tube technology. Better yet, they include both cables and a pair of white gloves. Nice.
One of the best parts of the Neuhaus Labs T-2 is it’s ability to work with modern day setups. Speaking with Neuhaus Labs’ George Golik, I learned of their background in audio and their reasoning behind the T-2. It’s core mission is blending traditional sound reproduction with modern day setups. Neuhaus Labs understands that modern day users store most of their music on the computer, and also recognize that a shortage of gear when it comes to listening to said music in the quality, original recording artists intended. This is apparent in not only the amplification, but in the T-2’s wide variety of connections. Three analog (gold plated), SPDIF, and USB connections ensure you’ll be able to match all your components.
The T-2, like its James Cameron movie namesake, is built like a tank. At 20 lbs, it manages to be both beastly and elegant, though I would have preferred more of the piano gloss finish over the fingerprint susceptible mirror stainless steel. The retro design is clean, crisp and deserves prime placement in your home’s setup, perhaps even resting on an Atocha Record Cabinet. Everything from the electrostatic potentiometers (read: volume control) to the behemoth case exudes quality, at an affordable price no less.
As a matter of fact, Neuhaus Labs is so confident in their product that they offer a 15 day trial. If it doesn’t meet or exceed your expectations you cans send it back, shipping included. There aren’t a lot of manufacturers that do that anymore, and I for one am glad to see it.
Editor’s Note: After testing out the Neuhaus Labs T-2 for a month paired with a set of Orb Audio and Definitive Technology Studio Monitors we’re seriously considering the use of Neuhaus Labs T-2 as our reference unit (like we do with Panasonic and Nikon).