Today, I review the xDuoo TA-22 DAC and balanced tube headphone amplifier. The TA-22 features dual ES9038Q2M DAC chips and 2 12AU7 tubes. It’s priced at $489.
Disclaimer: This sample was provided by Shenzhen Audio for an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
The xDuoo TA-22 sports a gunmetal grey chassis that’s similar to its other desktop components. There are perforated panels on the sides and top to allow for heat dissipation. The 2* 12AU7 tubes are half-sunken into the top panel and protected by sturdy aluminium frames. The frames just slot in and are easy to remove if you’d prefer not to have them there.
It’s a fairly large unit and takes up some space on the desktop. Furthermore, it feels substantial, weighing in at a hefty 3kg. A large OLED display occupies the left half of the front panel. To the right of the display are the 6.35mm, 4.4mm and XLR headphone outputs plus the multi-function volume knob.
On the back I/O panel, we find (from left to right) AUX Out (tube), AUX Out (DAC), AUX In, XLR In, 4.4mm In, Optical In, Coaxial In, USB-B In, Bluetooth antenna socket, voltage selector and power switch.
In terms of output power, the TA-22 is quite impressive. The balanced headphone outputs can push up to 3000mW which should be enough for any headphones from 16-600Ω. The singled-ended 6.35mm output is 1500 mW.
Dual ES9038Q2M DAC chips lie at the heart of the TA-22 and support up to 32bit/384kHz and DSD256. Bluetooth 5.1 is present and supports all of our favourite wireless codecs including SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX LL, aptX HD and LDAC.
Many devices of this type only use the tubes for the headphone output but the TA-22 also gives you the option to use it as a tube preamp. For those who want an uncoloured line out, there is also a standard AUX RCA output.
Gear used for testing includes the Meze Audio ADVAR, FiR 5×5, Hifiman Sundara and Sennheiser HD650. Prior to any critical listening, I burned in the TA-22 for 100 hours and gave the tubes ample time to warm up before each use.
So how does the TA-22 sound? Well, it sounds great but there is a problem: when I use IEMs there’s a noticeable background hiss (even on low gain) that I find really distracting. It’s weird because I’ve tested several of xDuoo’s tube amps and have never experienced an audible noise floor until the TA-22. Maybe I have a faulty unit or faulty tubes? Unfortunately, I don’t have any other 12AU7 tubes on hand to check. However, with headphones or high-impedance IEMs, the noise floor is inaudible so all is not lost.
The xDuoo TA-22 sounds different from the brand’s other gear I’ve tested. It’s not as muscular or bold. Instead, it gives off a classic tubey vibe, a softness if you will with an analogue touch.
The sound is transparent and balanced albeit with not quite as much bass extension as something like the XD05 Bal‘s solid-state amplification. However, bass notes sound richer and fuller. Vocals come to life with the TA-22, sounding extremely lifelike and engaging. I noticed the same with piano notes: a little less aggressive on the transients but more bloom and dimension.
There’s a similar effect on the treble – the TA-22 is more forgiving than its solid-state contemporaries, adding some velvet to the sound and less directness. The treble is a tad more rolled off but with rounder glowing notes that are soothing to my ears.
The xDuoo TA-22 is a device I wanted to love and in a sense, I do. I love its solid, heavy chassis, and the easy controls and I love the bold, clear display (even though it’s yellow). I also love the way it sounds with headphones, especially my Sennheiser HD650.
What I don’t love is the audible noise floor when using IEMs. That’s really the only gripe I have but I feel it’s valid because it’s one of the noisiest headphone amps I’ve heard in recent times. If I were a cans-only guy, it probably wouldn’t be an issue. But I think there are a lot of other people (including myself) who have a combination of earphones and headphones.
So what’s my final verdict? If you’re primarily using headphones or speakers then the TA-22 is a lovely device that I’d be happy to recommend. But if you’re like me and always have IEMs in your rotation, you should pass on this one.
Screen: 3.12 inch OLED
Power Supply: ( AC100-120V/220-240V)
Compliant OS : Linux、Window、Macos, IOS, Andriod
Sampling Rate Support of USB IN: PCM: 16~32Bit/44.1~384kHz
Sampling Rate Support of OPT/COA IN: PCM: 16~24Bit/44.1~384kHz
DSD: DSD64~DSD128 ( DOP )
Support Format of Bluetooth: SBC、AAC、atpX、atpX LL、atpX HD、LDAC
Parameters of 6.5mm Headphone:
Output Power: 1500mW(32Ω )
Frequency Response: 20Hz~ 60kHz(土0.5dB)
SNR: 113 dB
Parameters of 4.4mm and XLR Headphone:
Output Power: 3000mW(32Ω)
Frequency Response: 20Hz-60kHz( 土0.5dB)
Parameters of AUX OuT
Output Level: 2.0 Vrms
Frequency Response: 20Hz- 20kHz (土0.5dB)
THD+N: 0.001 %
Suitable Headphone Impedance: 16-600Ω