But first, a quick look at recent history…
Having won The Absolute Sounds coveted Golden Ear award for 2010, and Editor’s Choice award for 2011, and with several more outstanding reviews to its honor, I thought I should give it an audition. I, quite possibly like you, hadn’t really been paying attention to the fact that “Teac actually has a Reference Line”. In fact, the Teac I knew from the 70’s was just a single line of high quality gear, who’s forte was tape recorders. If you wanted a best of the best Reel to Reel or Cassette deck, you needed look no further than “TEAC”. In fact, even those in the Professional Recording Industry depended on Teac’s fine line of tape machines, and other pro quality audio components. But as several factors in the 80’s & 90’s combined, to lighten our economic prowess, many of the higher end companies from Japan left the dwindling U.S. market, and some reduced their offerings to only their low end, “affordable” gear. And of course, many of us learned that what “affordable” meant was “cheap” and “disposable.” Not to mention poorer sounding. But thankfully, a handful of these grand old Japanese companies have since returned with some of their higher end offerings. Such is the case with TEAC REFERENCE. So please DO NOT confuse this with Teac’s regular line, which shares the cosmetic’s ONLY! There are Big differences here. For instance, their regular line includes several mini systems, CD Receivers, and even speakers, and they’re clearly as good as anyone else in that arena. However, in their Reference Series, they have just these two pieces, and the parts, build, and sound quality differences are substantial! So it goes without saying the Reference Line is neither cheap, or disposable.
And now onto the review:
The two units that comprise the Teac’s Reference 600 series are available separately, but form a system together that makes a lot of sense physically, functionally, and sonically. Plus, you get a ton of features for your money! A more than competent 75W per channel integrated amplifier, wired and wireless network connections for internet and podcasts, AM/FM and, an onboard Internet Tuner, a quality phono stage, and high integrity DAC’s for direct input of music files via memory card or USB ports. That’s a lot of a bang for the buck! Furthermore, I have not found a better performing CD player or Integrated Amplifier near either’s price, even those stripped down types that don’t include ANY of the extra features! So as a system, it’s quite formidable, and quite frankly, a true Audiophile Bargain, by any standard!
I must further comment on the obvious build quality. Both the CD Player’s & Amplifiers chassis are made from thick, heavy, rigid brushed aluminum. They look and feel as they are built to last. Smart features and styling is exemplary. Further, as I have gleaned from other reviewers (What Hi-Fi & The Absolute Sound, etc) I more than suspect there is a good bit of trickle down technology from their ultra high end division Esoteric. I more than suspect Esoteric technology present in the CD player, as it performs way better than any I’ve tested near its price! The fact that it shares the same “mini-style” chassis as the matching amplifier belies the fact that it performs like NO COMPACT component at all, and I would put it against ANY high end offering from the high end community at large.
As a system, the TEAC Reference sounds as good as any full size component in their price range, delivering on the true high-end experience one expects when visiting a specialty audio store. Serious deep, detailed sound stage, with excellent extension and weight. With expressive music like Jazz, drum kicks are deep and taut, string plucks are fast and detailed, bass is forceful and cymbals sparkle. With classical, which as the experienced listener knows, can be very difficult for modest systems to lend true justice too (typically you have 130 instruments all playing at once!?!), the Teac Ref. does quite well, fooling you into thinking you are listening to a larger system with a more robust amplifiers. Overall excellent tonal and rhythmic cohesion extending deep into the lower regions and high in to the upper ones. And unlike most mini’s, the Teac Amplifier will actually run floor standers with surprising authority and control.
In all honestly, I believe TEAC may have done themselves a disservice by making the Reference gear of Mini Stature, as its performance is anything but. So I must conclude that the TEAC Reference is simply more of a stunningly smart stealth design, with virtually all of today’s most desired features, in a sophisticatedly smart and powerful package. I highly recommend it with most any speaker system, large or small.