Ok, here’s the story. I was reading one too many DIY sites when I started noticing a bit of interest around the T-Amp architecture. Some people were calling it a giant-killer, saying it would beat amplifications priced triple to quintuple its price point (depending on which site I’m reading). Now, I usually don’t go the DIY route; not because I don’t have the skills, but I just don’t find the end result is worth my time and effor of doing it myself. It will still be cheaper for me to spend the same amount of hours working and use part of that money towards the purchase of whatever I’d like to purchase. But I was curious. Besides, the Dayton DTA-100a came pre-built and it’s dirt cheap.
I contacted Dayton to send me a unit for review. As per usual, any company that are willing to have their product to be reviewed without giving me any hassle, usually is a good indicator for me that the product, at the very least, will not suck.
So what does it sound like? Using Pioneer Elite PD-D9 as the source unit feeding directly to the amplifier using Ultralink interconnects and Ultralink Ambiance MkII speaker wires powering my faithful PSB Century 300i speakers, for the first couple of hours was painful. Sharp, harsh and metallic sounding. This can’t be right. So then I proceed by running Kiwi House Studios break-in and demagnetizing signal on a loop and left the system running in my dedicated listening room for a couple of days and threw away the key for the time being. After all, who wants to listen to those soul crunching signals?
When I came back a couple of days later, what a difference. Gone were the sharp highs, replaced by a very detailed, well separated sound. Instruments sound like instruments (acoustic timbre especially), timing is splendid and little details that I hadn’t noticed before are coming to the forefront. There’s also a good punch to the sound – something that none of my reference integrated including my favourite Pioneer Elite A20 and NAD 315BEE have been able to match. Now, there is a catch, however. The rated output of these little devices (and they are little – the power supply is larger than the amplifier it’s almost comical) is pretty low. They say 50W. It is and it is not. At 50W into 8 ohms it’s producing near 7% distortion – that’s pretty high. In order to get acceptable level of THD 1% you can only push it to 34W (this is based on my meter, not spec sheet). This isn’t a party animal or an amp that can successfully drive insensitive speakers or one for big rooms. However, keep within it’s limits (you can actually get 0.01% THD into 8 ohms when driven upwards to 28W), which in most mixing room and with my PSB Century 300i speakers (10ft x 16ft with 8ft height) is more than enough, and it sounds extremely excellent. Am I selling my Pioneer and NAD? Not yet — I still need input switching and the occasional bass/treble control and this amp does not offer that. I can’t stress enough how phenomenal the sound quality at moderate volumes. If you can live with only one input (such as in my mixing room), I’m absolutely positively certain that you will happily live with the little sub-$100 cutie… ecstatic, even.