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A legitimate all-in-one desktop amplifier that doesn’t skimp on inputs, outputs, or power.
- High-power with three gain modes powers almost any headphones with ease
- Excellent design, build, and form factor
- Single large red knob simplifies functions and sports a clean aesthetic
- Fairly quiet background noise
- Can be used as a pre-amplifier/DAC only
- Easy-to-read screen
- Excellent sound output
- Two defective review units- could not test the USB input and Windows/iOS/Android functionality
- USB-B is the only USB input option, and the provided cable is USB-A to USB-B
- Inability to reduce the screen brightness or customize colors (despite an OLED screen)
- No remote
- No easy-to-access tone adjustments, such as bass or treble boost
- Missing a distinct “tube sound” and glow
- High output not generally advisable for IEMs
- HOT! Needs lots of space to breathe and may warrant caution with children and animals
Shenzhen xDuoo Technology Co., Ltd. specializes in the development, design, and sales of high-end audio products (based in… surprise! Shenzhen, China). The company started as an ODM (Original Design Manufacturer) supplier and developed a good reputation. While developing and growing, xDuoo created its own brand and successfully launched it to the market, which has won wide acclaim.
xDuoo has produced more than 100 models of headphone amplifiers, audio decoders, USB interface audio decoders (PCHiFi), various types of power amplifiers, and audio players, with several patented technologies to their credit.
- Form: Desktop headphone amplifier
- Screen: 3.12 inch OLED
- Input Connections: USB, Optical/Coaxial, 3-pin XLR
- Output Connections: 6.5mm, 4.4mm, and 4-pin XLR headphone jacks, Bluetooth
- Amplifier: Tube plus transistor hybrid structure
- DAC: Two ESS9038Q2M chips
- Output Power: SE: 1500mW (32Ω), BAL: 3000mW (32Ω), Aux: 2.0 Vrms
- Frequency Response: SE/BAL: 20Hz – 60kHz (土0.5dB), Aux: 20Hz – 20kHz (土0.5dB)
- THD+N: SE: ≤0.02%, BAL: ≤1%, Aux: 0.001%
- SNR: SE: 113dB, BAL: 118dB, Aux: 113dB
- Crosstalk: SE: ≥ 70dB, BAL: ≥96dB, Aux: ≥113dB
- Compliant OS: Linux, Windows, MacOS, IOS, Andriod
- Sampling Rate Support of Optical/Coaxial In: PCM: 16 – 24Bit / 44.1 – 384kHz, DSD: DSD64 – DSD128 (DOP)
- Sampling Rate Support of USB In: PCM: 16 – 32Bit / 44.1 – 384kHz, DSD: DSD64 – DSD256
- Bluetooth Receiver: Bluetooth 5.1, Qualcomm QCC5125 receiver chip
- Bluetooth Formats Supported: SBC, AAC, atpX, atpX LL, atpX HD, LDAC
- Suitable Headphone Impedance: 16 – 600Ω
- Power Supply: AC 100 – 120V / 220 – 240V
- Size: 26cm W x 19 cm D x 7cm H (10.2”W x 7.5”D x 2.75”H)
- Weight: 3.0kg (6.6 pounds)
It’s important to note that I received two defective TA-22 units for review.
The first unit I received had zero digital source functionality, possibly due to a loose or dislodged USB-B input jack. I could not get the unit to recognize any input signal.
I figured this had to be a fluke – it happens. SHENZHENAUDIO.COM was terrific with quickly swapping the first with a replacement TA-22. Unfortunately, the second unit had the same issue regarding the USB-B input. Nothing, nobody home.
Following the directions, I tried the supplied USB A-B cable to connect to Windows (with and without drivers) with no success. The same story on both iOS and Android devices. Again, no positive result. I purchased and tried additional USB A-B and USB C-B cables.
After hours of grappling and testing with three computers, two tablets, and three mobile phones, I was forced to rule out the possibility of an ID 10-T error and conclude that both review units were defective.
Note: Bluetooth was the only digital source tested for the following review.
The TA-22 and its accessories come encased in foam and wrapped in robust cardboard packaging to ensure that the TA-22 will sustain no damage during transportation.
In the box
- TA-22 amplifier
- 2 xDuoo tubes (12AU7)
- Tube guards
- USB-A to USB-B cable
- Bluetooth antenna
- Power cord
- Instruction manual and warranty card
The TA-22 has a well-built gray metal chassis with tight tolerances and no loose parts. It has a pleasant mix of flat and rounded edges and corners. The materials and extensive porting allow the unit to dissipate heat and vent without a fan.
The only moving part is the large, easy-to-find-and-operate red dial. The dial has both push and rotate capabilities. The dial push requires adequate pressure and feedback so that you know that you pushed it. The dial has a positive feel in step adjustments and is easy to control.
The red and gray contrast is attractive without overdoing it. The screen is bright and easy to read, with high-contrast yellow text and an orange xDuoo logo against a black background.
The TA-22 is relatively small, heavy, and needs a lot of space around it to breathe, as it generates a lot of heat and runs HOT.
I used an infrared thermometer at a distance of approximately one inch to check the temps. The body temperatures ranged from about 93 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, while the tubes measured 143 degrees.
The lightweight metal alloy tube guards are a pleasing geometric visual enhancement but serve little practical function. They stay in place with light-duty magnets and are easily knocked out of place if anything comes into contact with them.
The magnetic tube guards provide little to no protection for the tubes or your hands. HOT – Do Not Touch!
Those who want a tube amplifier for the exotic looks and glow of the tubes should choose a different product. Little light originates from the tubes or an artificially enhanced light below them. Combined with the bright non-adjustable screen, you will have to enjoy the tubes as glass objects only.
The placement of the headphone jacks is perfect, as are the input jacks on the rear. All are clearly labeled and easily accessible.
Menus and navigation
Navigating the on-screen menus takes patience and practice.
Now that I’m familiar, it’s not so challenging. Rotating the dial adjusts the volume. When the dial is pushed, operating the TA-22 becomes more complex.
A single press toggles to the input source. Your selection is confirmed by not doing anything further. Pressing, holding, and rotating gives you access to a second menu, including gain and Bluetooth settings. With practice, this is simple enough. I appreciate the elegant alternative to many buttons and switches and keeping the fascia clean and uncluttered.
The TA-22 is a hybrid transistor and tube amplifier. The transistors are for Class A buffering and are critical for delivering clean, high power. The dual 12AU7 tubes act as a pre-amp and process the audio signal to refine the sound.
Two ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chips support native DSD, DXD, and PCM signals. The TA-22 has high-quality parts and technology, including xDuoo’s metal polyester film capacitors, special Japanese Nichicon capacitors for main filter capacitance, and ELNA capacitors for coupling capacitance.
The TA-22 contains a double-active low-phase noise crystal oscillator to support DAC converter duties. In addition, the TA-22 uses a customized R-Core transformer, claiming high efficiency and lower noise. The TA-22 is also MQA-ready, though that is presently irrelevant.
xDuoo TA-22 Sound
The TA-22 has three gain modes (L, M, H) and multiple filter options, which can be toggled and selected through the on-screen menus using the big red button/dial. Bluetooth reception is a huge plus for some users and performs well with all sources I’ve tested.
The TA-22 can produce a large amount of power, up to 3000 mW @32Ω from the balanced output, supporting headphones with impedance ranging from 16-600Ω. The single-ended 6.35mm jack can deliver a maximum of 1500 mW. Both are more than adequate for most IEMs and headphones available today.
Noise and distortion
A critical test for me is to check for unwanted noise. I plug in the headphones/IEMs, turn the volume up on the source to its maximum (with no signal playing), then increase the volume on the amplifier to its maximum. Next, I listen for hiss or noise.
The noise floor is low for a high-power amplifier, meaning you will hear little background noise.
If your primary listening apparatus are IEMs and high-sensitivity headphones, the TA-22 is too much and will blow out your ears and gear. I can hear the source with the screen indicating “0” volume, even on the low gain setting.
I have not noticed any unwanted distortion from the amplifier with my testing. Even though it is not bothersome, more noise is noticeable with high-sensitivity IEMs.
Tubes generally “warm” the sound signature, potentially making music sound more smooth and resonant. The concept of using tubes is to intentionally “color” the sound, meaning to introduce harmonic distortions pleasing to us as listeners.
The benefit of a hybrid amp is all the power of a solid-state amplifier complemented by the tubes acting as a pre-amplifier to modify and enhance the sound. However, I can’t definitively tell you that the TA-22 sounds significantly different from most low-distortion solid-state amplifiers.
The TA-22 does not have a robust tube-like sound with the stock tubes.
It might be my imagination, but with the TA-22, I hear an occasional increase in bass authority, mid-bass impact, and a more full-sounding low end (it is track dependent). It is not a highly significant alteration.
Regardless of the “not tube-like sound,” the TA-22 still performs well and sounds good in all conditions with no reservations.
Where to Buy
It is difficult to assign a fair score due to the issues I ran into with the review units. Putting aside the USB input issues, my user experience is above average. I enjoy using this amplifier. It feels great to operate and sounds great. Its handsome features are a bonus.
Assuming it functions properly, the TA-22 is a true all-in-one desktop amplifier with only minor caveats. It has a myriad of inputs and outputs (with the notable exception of USB-C input and 2.5mm output). Its performance is consistent and pairs well with most headphones. Higher-than-average impedance dynamic driver headphones pair especially well.
With this iteration of tube amplifier, xDuoo will continue to build on its strong reputation for high-performing unique equipment with a desirable price/performance ratio.