When you sit only two feet away from your speakers, room correction isn't high on the list of "must haves." So, when the folks from Triad contacted me about their new imported line of Lyngdorf electronics, I was lukewarm about reviewing their integrated amplifier with built-in Room Perfect™ room correction software. However Triad insisted, and I'm glad they did. Why? Because even in a nearfield system, digital room correction makes an audible difference.
Features and Technology
Although the Lyngdorf TDAI 2200 is referred to as an integrated amplifier, it is quite a bit more than that. A more accurate designation would be, "two-channel digital audio control with built-in DSP, digital crossover, digital to analog converters, and a digital power amplifier." Although the TDAI 2200 is quite a bit larger than ideal for a desktop listening application as it measures 17.72" by 17.32" by 3.94" and weighs 32 lbs., its feature set is so perfect for a nearfield system that the size and weight were trumped by its ergonomic elegance. I put my review unit on top of my subwoofer (separated by a Bright Star Audio sand base) underneath my desktop. With inputs for every conceivable digital source connection except USB and HDMI, as well as both balanced and single-ended analog inputs, the TDAI 220 eliminates any need for separate DACs or preamps except for USB/HDMI conversion. I used the Trends UD-10 to convert USB from my Mac to Toslink for the TDAI 2200.
I could spend the next 500 words describing all the whiz-bang technology inside the TDAI 2200. But instead I'll refer you to Lyngdorf's website where you'll find obsessively detailed descriptions of all their proprietary technology. If you make your equipment purchasing decisions based primarily on how much new technology is packed into a component, you can stop reading right now because purchasing a Lyngdorf TDAI 2200 will be a no-brainer. For others who withhold their buying decisions until they examine a product's ergonomic and sonic capabilities, read on.
Room Correction Done the Danish Way
Peter Lyngdorf, who was the principal designer of all of TacT's electronics, worked with a design team headed by DSP engineer and acoustician Jan Pedersen to design the current line of Lyngdorf Electronics. His TacT products were among the first with digital room correction, and while they worked very well, their installation required them to be tethered to a PC. However the Lyngdorf TDAI 2200 can be configured without any other equipment besides a supplied calibration microphone. Using built-in RoomPerfect™ software, which operates like an expert system that leads you through its set-up, and after entering some parameters in the advanced set-up menu, such as crossover options and subwoofer placement, the TDAI 2200 runs a series of tests. After a couple of minutes and several microphone repositionings – viola! The system is completely set up and ready to enjoy.
Any time you change a parameter such as the speaker crossover or delay settings you must run the calibration tests again. If you change speakers or change their position must also rerun the tests. For habitual tweakers, unless you are a big fan of minimalist industrial music concrete (my best description of the noises the TDAI 2200 creates during its setup ritual), redoing the calibration tests can get old, but it's still better than doing the TACT computer set-up ritual.
It took me less than 30 minutes to configure the TDAI 2200. I used the ATC SCM-7 speakers combined with the Earthquake Supernova 10" Mark IV subwoofer. The TDAI 2200 has its own internal digital crossover that can support stereo subwoofers. It offers several configuration choices including both Linkwitz Riley 2, 4, or 8th order, and Butterworth 1, 2, or 4th order crossovers. The TDAI 22000 also has different routing set-ups for the main line-outs including high-pass, low-pass, mono and mono low-pass options. I decided to keep life simple. I sent full frequency signals from the TDAI 2200's amplifiers to the ATC speakers and ran full-frequency stereo line outputs to the subwoofer, then used its own internal crossover. Later in my review period I used the TDAI 2200's internal crossover.
Once set up the TDAI 220's RoomPerfect™ software supplies you with a multitude of listening options. EQ settings include neutral, music1, music 2, open, open air, relaxed, and soft. Master settings consist of Global, Focus and Bypass. On page 37 of the TDAII 2200 user manual you'll find graphs of all the EQ settings. Music 1 and 2 introduce not so subtle 2dB and 4dB notches in the 1k to 10k frequency range while open and open air produce 2dB and 4dB elevations from 100Hz to 200Hz. Soft creates a very gradual 0.75dB roll-off from 30dB to 15kHz. Relaxed has the most idiosyncratic frequency EQ, with 1dB hump beginning at 100Hz that turns into a 3dB dip between 1kHz to 2.5KHz before rising back to flat by 5kHz. Neutral has no graph, so I assume that it supplies a flat frequency response. The Global listening setting applies the DSP room settings for room-wide corrections while the Focus setting optimizes the DSP for a centrally located sweet spot. Bypass turns off all DSP room correction.
The TDAI 2200 comes with a stylish silver remote control that I found myself using far more than I initially expected. Its popularity stemmed from the simple fact that the rotary volume control on the TDAI 2200 has the finest graduations I've ever experienced on ANY preamp or integrated amplifier. One complete revolution increases the volume only 2dB! Want to change the volume by 15dB? That'll be 7.5 rotations. It's far easier to grab the remote, push the volume up or down button and count to 10.
Sounds In Space
So how does the TDAI 2200 sound? Like nothing at all; I mean this in the best possible way. This is not the first piece of gear I've heard with built-in room correction. I was among the first reviewers to examine the SigTech two-channel room correction system over ten years ago for Stereophile Magazine. It worked, but not without sacrifices to sonic transparency and ergonomic ease. The TDAI 2200 demonstrates that DSP room processing has progressed to the point where its advantages far outweigh any audible liabilities.
Naturally I expected I would hear some alterations in harmonic balance with the RoomPerfect™ software engaged. But in my nearfield set-up I didn't hear much. Instead the RoomPerfect™ software had the biggest effect on imaging. Although the soundstage didn't get wider, every instrument and voice gained image specificity. On my own recording of the Boulder Philharmonic performing Beethoven's 9th symphony, each soloist occupied a more precise spot on the stage. The overall soundstage exhibited noticeably less smearing of the sonic image. On all the commercial pop, rock, and folk CDs in my library lead vocalists were better centered and background vocalists were more distinct entities with RoomPerfect™ engaged. RoomPerfect's improvement to time-alignment and reduction of early reflections certainly has positive affects on any music that passes through the TDAI 2200.
Soundstage width and depth through the TDAI 2200 was equal to other top echelon electronics I've had in my desktop system. The front of the soundstage began slightly behind the front of my ATC SCM-7 speakers and extended back smoothly with plenty of room for multiple layers of depth. Soundstage width went well beyond the outer edges of the speakers and lateral image specificity was equally good across the soundstage. Although the depth and width of the soundstage wasn't any larger than what I've come to expect from other top-shelf gear, the specificity within the soundstage with RoomPerfect™ engaged was superior to what I've experienced.
As far as the various equalization settings go, after a couple of days of experimentation I found the "neutral" or flat EQ setting was the one I used 99% of the time. I understand through conversations with Triad product specialists that other EQ settings could easily be added via software patches to the TDAI 2200. I'd like to see a couple of presets that had more gradual and subtle high-frequency boosts such as one with only 1dB upwards tilt over the entire frequency range. Since these EQ settings replace treble and bass controls I think that less obtuse names would also add to their usefulness. "Treble Boost 1" as opposed to "Music 1" would be more informative for most users.
Many electronics have a limited volume range where they sound right. I call it the dynamic sweet spot. Below that level the sound isn't fully fleshed out, and above that level music begins sounding hard and mechanical. With the TDAI 2200 I could listen to music at almost any level and it remained involving and sounded harmonically correct. Yes, I know that the TDAI 2200 has a digital amplifier, but even chronic digiphobes will find the sound of this integrated amplifier to be very musical and harmonically relaxed regardless of what volume you choose to listen.
The TDAI 2200 reveals inner detail with as much grace and verisimilitude as anything I've heard. It renders musical detail so you don't have to expend excess mental energy to listen into a mix, but the information isn't presented in a sterile or excessively matter-of-fact way. Even after a long day of listening even at substantial SPL levels (for me that means 88dB to 90dB peak levels) I wasn't fatigued. Often only the late hours prevented me from continuing my listening sessions further into the night.
Every piece of gear regardless of its price-point or technical pedigree has some deviation from absolute harmonic neutrality. The TDAI 2200 is no exception. Overall it has a slightly warmer than neutral balance which, given its digital innards, came as a pleasant surprise. Its warmth is very subtle and not dissimilar to my longtime reference Pass X-150 power amplifier. The lower midrange doesn't have the kind of extra "juice" you'll find in tube electronics. Instead the TDAI 2200 has a subtler form of sweetness, especially in its treble presentation, which gives it a smidgen of extra musicality.
I suspect than many Nearfield readers may be thinking, "I wonder how the Lyngdorf TDAI 2200 would perform in my regular mid-field room-based two-channel system?" I suspect you'll hear more pronounced differences when the RoomPerfect™ software is engaged since room-based systems have more room interaction problems than a nearfield desktop system. I didn't use the TDAI 2200 with a room-based system because that is not my thing. So you'll either have to try a TDAI 2200 in your own room or wait for someone else to review it in that context. I strongly suggest you do the former rather than wait on the latter.
Price vs. Value
Last week I was having dinner in Santa Fe with an artist acquaintance. I made the "mistake" of mentioning how much a particular piece of high-end electronics cost. She went off on the, "How can anything be worth that much?" tangent. I let her wind down and then explained how, for some people, paying four or five figures for a piece of high-fi gear is very much akin to paying the same sum for painting or sculpture. The experience of music through such a component is every bit the equal of the experience you have from living with a great piece of art. Given its price ($7500 fully configured) the Lyngdorf TDAI 2200 ranks as the most expensive integrated amplifier I've ever reviewed in my Nearfield column. Is it worth over twice as much as a PS Audio GCC-100? Perhaps. If purchasing a TDAI 2200 won't relegate you to eating Top Ramen noodles for a couple of years (for some truly fanatic audiophiles even this culinary regimen might be worth the sacrifice), I'd say yes, the TDAI 2200 is worth the extra money The Lyngdorf TDAI 2200 delivers a level of ergonomic control and sonic subtlety that makes it unique among digital or analog integrated amplifiers. After only a couple of hours with the Lyngdorf TDAI 2200, you, too, will discover the joys of RoomPerfect™ are hard to deny and difficult to live without.
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