Our today’s meeting is the next step in trying to learn about the sound of the Japanese brand Audio Tekne, of which we recently tested a phonostage. Testing the phono preamplifier was much easier, as we needed only to plug it into our system and see what it has to offer, while the hero of this test is much more demanding from the listener, as it requires at least some basic knowledge about audio gear. I think I do not need to remind you how the first test ended, but for people, who do not read all of our reviews, I will just say, that I had already my first (negative, as it often happens, but time works in my favor) negotiations with my wife. Being aware of how that test ended, and knowing that the tested integrated amplifier offers only 6 Watts of output power, I knew I need to go lengths to meet its requirements. Of course I could just connect it to any loudspeakers, and if it would not be able to power those, it would mean as much as end of the test, and returning the amplifier to the manufacturer with the advice of not bothering the audiophiles with such products. Yet, as I mentioned during the test of the phonostage, the way the amplifiers presented music in the tough hotel room environment during the Audio Show, was so intriguing, that even the furthest going preparations would be worth trying. Fortunately I could make some serious changes to my setup and was able to exchange the Trenner&Friedl ISIS (90dB) for the Pharoah (92dB). This brought some changes to the volume of the sound, but because the distributor did not force me to move very quickly, I could achieve full synergy with the set I composed for this test. It is probably also clear to everyone, that at the end of the test I made a try using my usual loudspeakers, and I will mention that in this text too. So please be invited to the package of information and subjective impressions about the integrated amplifier TFM-2000 made by Audio Tekne Inc, which we received thanks to the distributor, Natural Sound s.r.o.
The design of the tested integrated is a continuity of the previously tested gramophone preamplifier. There is a simple platform for the electron tubes, hidden below the openwork covers, and transformers hidden within their protective covers, all in grey-blue-graphite colors. Frankly speaking there is not much to the eye, but for me, this simplicity is a value on its own. It can be loved or hated, and I belong to the first group. The front of this amplifier is equipped with a power switch and a LED indicating power status on the left, a smaller knob of the input selector in the middle and slightly bigger volume knob to the right. Besides those there is only the company logo and some descriptions allowing to find out the function of the manipulators. The back plate is also not very extravagant, as it offers five line inputs, a single set of loudspeaker terminals, a grounding terminal and power inlet. Just plain visual minimalism with connection pragmatism – old Japanese school at its best – only the bare necessities. Bravo.
Like i already mentioned, switching over to the tested configuration resulted in a significant lowering of the volume of sound reaching my ears, what could easily falsify the result of this meeting. This is the reason, that before I started with any analysis, I played a dozen of silver and black discs, as I still had the company phonostage at that time. I must confess that I was ready for the test already after playing three discs – I know the loudspeakers I used well, as those are my reserve set, but I did not want to go over the top so I allowed myself two long evenings to accommodate. And I can only say it was really worth the effort. Entering the world of 6 Watts, even from a push-pull output stage, and not SE, allows to get a different view on the sustain of the individual instruments, which do not try to attack, but shine with millions bits of information, lighting up the ether between the loudspeakers. I started the review with my beloved ancient music, delighting myself with the ethereal sound of the baroque guitar, viola da gamba and natural trumpet. I knew them well from everyday listening with my set, but now I heard some small, but important nuances, usually lost with higher levels of sound. It is fascinating, to learn to know your library anew, and if I would have enough money, for sure I would have a second system based around a low power amplifier and high efficacy loudspeakers. Moving to vocals from that era I have even more to say. Until recently I thought, that the Reimyo system has such high resolution, that not many others are able to compete with it in that aspect – of course each audiophile has the same opinion about his system, but the presentation of John Potter’s voice on the disc “Care-charming Steep” showed clearly, that the almost invisible fog surrounding his voice, that was always nagging me, just disappeared, not destroying anything around it – what often happens – the correlation between the voice and the reverberations inside the church remained unchanged. The amplifier sounded a tad darker than I am used to, at least to my ear, but this did not change the temperature of the generated sound. It was just as if the performer asked to dim the lights, to have the listener become deeper involved by the music. An interesting and nice touch. After I caught the idea –in a positive way – I needed to revisit most discs with jazz and ancient music I had. After that time came to try out the Audio Tekne phonostage, fed with signal coming from the SME 30/2 turntable and Miyajima Madake cartridge. But you may ask – already going to vinyl, and what about a more heavy repertoire? In such case, I could ask: if you meet a subtle woman, do you want to engage her in support of your football team, amongst most die-hard fans? – I do not think so. Of course I played some more difficult pieces, but we came not even close to the levels needed for true exploitation of the instruments in this genre. Please draw your own conclusions and ask people more immersed within such fascinations, as for me it was clear, this is not the way this amplifier should be treated. Going back to music, a bit against myself, I placed the compilation disc from Massive Attack as the first one on the platter. Maybe there was not the power of a 300 Watts amplifier, but the lowest notes achieved satisfactory levels of heaviness, what combined with the slightly darker presentation of the sound by the tested integrated resulted in adding nobleness to the electronic music. But let us not fool ourselves, this is not a product for this kind of music as well, it is aimed at the more refined presentation of the musical spectacle, which is the ideal kind for me. I did not mention anything about the setup of the sound stage yet, but to analyze this, I needed to employ something more sophisticated that computer generated signals. The sound stage was shockingly deep and wide, and it presented its assets fantastically due to the Enrico Rava and Dino Saluzzi quintet. The instruments were scattered behind the speakers – all of them, the trumpet, accordion, drums and percussion, contrabass and guitar – the positioning was ideal, not forgetting about such basics as different volumes depending on localization, especially the lowering of the volume from the last rows. No forceful extraction of those far ends from the background, what usually is done by construction aspiring to High End and trying to appeal to the listeners, but just proper reproduction of their positioning versus the line of loudspeakers. Pure realism. All the black discs were played in this manner, showing clearly, that my Reimyo system works well with their Audio Tekne brethren, achieving synergy, what is fantastic for the music lover, instead of competing against each other. But let us think, what would happen, if I could offer the Japanese loudspeakers with efficiency around 100dB (the ones I had were only 92dB)? Looking at that what I achieved with the tested configuration, I can suppose, that it could only be better, but I can only leave the verification to you, potentially interested in this amplifier, and I can only say it will be worth it.
When at the end of the test the place of the Pharoah was taken over by the Isis – both constructions came from the Austrian manufacture Trenner & Friedl, the music gained swing, with one change, it slightly limited the previous intimacy of the sound. Unfortunately the size of the bass drivers took its toll, and the six Watts generated by the TFM-2000 were fully engaged to keep them moving, and not in building an intimate relationship with the listener. But please do not get discouraged, because that what I am writing is maybe a too detailed, but my intentions are absolutely clear, I just want to make any potential user aware, that he can make a configuration error. If you ignore the need to adjust the efficiency of the loudspeakers to the power of the amplifier may result in achieving completely different final results, what could invalidate my observations completely, and this is something I would like to avoid.
This second adventure with the Japanese brand Audio Tekne gave me lots of joy, although the tested amplifier did not reach full synergy with the loudspeakers I use on a daily basis. It sounded really well, but for sure not as good as it would with more efficient loudspeakers, because 92dB is only the vestibule of easy to drive loudspeakers. The spell of the music played is most probably attributable to the slightly darkened light on the sound stage, which reaches far beyond the loudspeakers, not forgetting about the full gradation of the sound volume levels. I also need to mention the resolution, that allows wealth of information to be reproduced, so when we supply loudspeakers, that will be easy enough to drive, what should not be an issue taking into account the amount of speakers available on the market, we should really be rewarded. The only small inconvenience of the amplifier during daily use, is the low amount of steps of the volume knob (only ten), but after three weeks of listening I can tell you, that as long as you are enchanted by the sound, this becomes a non-issue. Is the integrated amplifier Audio Tekne for everybody? For sure not, as it requires some work and knowledge, but when it is applied, then it can bring the nirvana, otherwise it will result in a non engaging sound. Anyway, if you think such a setup would fit your music sensitivity, then you should absolutely try out this modestly looking Japanese product with heart and soul. I really recommend that.
Distributor: NATURAL SOUND s.r.o.
Price: 20 000 €
Type: Vacuum tube stereo integrated amplifier
Inputs: CD, TUNER, TAPE, AC, AUX
Power Output: 2x 6 W
Harmonic Distortion: < 5%/6 W/1 kHz
Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz, +/- 3 dB
Residual Noise: < 1 mV/8 Ω
ATT: Lossless winding transformer type ATT (volume)
Power consumption: 180 VA
Dimentions: 445 x 225 x 250 mm
Weight: 24,5 kg
System used in this test:
– CD/DAC: Reimyo CDT – 777 + Reimyo DAP – 999 EX
– Preamplifier: Reimyo CAT – 777 MK II
– Power amplifier: Reimyo KAP – 777
– Loudspeakers: TRENNER & FRIEDL ISIS, TRENNER & FRIEDL PHAROAH
– Speaker Cables: Harmonix HS 101-EXQ (mid-high section); Harmonix HS-101 SLC (bass section)
– IC RCA: Harmonix HS 101-GP
– Digital IC: Harmonix HS 102
– Power cables: Harmonix X-DC 350M2R Improved Version
– Table: SOLID BASE VI
– Accessories: Antivibration stand for the power amp by Harmonix TU-505EX MK2, Harmonix Enacom improved for AC, Harmonix Room Tuning Mini Disk RFA-80i
– Power distribution board: POWER BASE HIGH END
Drive: SME 30/2
Arm: SME V
Cartridge: MIYAJIMA MADAKE
Phonostage: RCM THERIAA, Audio Tekne TEA-2000