If you want the best possible hi-fi sound from as few components as possible, Teac has a very interesting solution, in the form of the compact network player NT-505.
With Teac NT-505 you get all the audio sources you can dream of in one and the same box. Here you get digital conversion of almost everything, including computer via high-resolution USB-B (both PCM and DSD are supported). In addition, it is a network player, which supports both audio files and streaming services. Including Tidal, but unfortunately not Spotify (we mentioned earlier that Spotify is supported, sorry!). Then you must use Bluetooth as an alternative. It has built-in MQA support, so you get the most out of the high-resolution releases on Tidal.
The NT-505 also has a complete volume control, with four separate amplifier units: so that the plus and minus parts of both the left and right channels have their very own amplifier.
This means that all you need for a complete system is a pair of active speakers. Or an amplifier and a pair of normal, passive speakers. If one is to talk about that something may be missing, then it must be a turntable input. The reason may be that most of Teac’s own turntables have built-in RIAA stages.
But wait, there’s more!
If you want radio, TuneIn provides access to thousands of internet stations from around the world. And if you are not satisfied yet, yes, then yom me Teac has equipped the player with Bluetooth connection as well. They could settle for an emergency solution there, but instead support both aptX HD and Sony’s LDAC codec. The latter is the closest you get to transmitting audio losslessly over Bluetooth. No, now I almost forgot to mention that AirPlay is also on board. Pooh!
Since the Japanese Teac has a long career in the professional industry with its sister company TASCAM, it is fitting that a lavish product such as the NT-505 also has professional connections. As a balanced XLR output, and a BNC connector for connecting an external digital clock. This is for advanced users, and nothing most people need to think about. What is relevant for many PC users is also a very competent headphone output in the front.
Ease of use
That the NT-505 is a Japanese product is easy to understand. The Japanese tend to want to pack all the features around the world. And everything should be user-adjustable. You can select a lot of things in the menu, including digital filter settings and upscaling. You can select variable or fixed audio output. And the remote control has a thousand buttons. Nothing “less is more” to see here. Except for the actual footprint of the box, which is small and snug.
The menu system is still neat enough, it is not difficult to use NT-505. But you must not feel abnormal if you constantly switch between different filter settings, because you are in doubt about what sounds best. The differences are not so great, but you hear them. The only question is whether you like it super precise and lightning fast (Sharp / Slow roll off), or rather a slightly more lush and “analog” sound image, which also has less “pre ringing” and thus – in many people’s opinion – a more natural reproduction of transients and tones. Then select Short Delay Sharp / Slow. Short Delay Slow is automatically selected when playing MQA-encoded music.
Playback and a variety of settings can be made from the HR Streamer app. It’s not my favorite. The Tidal interface is confusing, long song titles can only be seen at the beginning, and in general it is knotty in use. Instead, use a third-party app such as BubbleUPnP. Or, even better, Roon on PC. Then everything is forgotten!
Network player with good sound
In terms of sound, the Teac NT-505 is an ever so small dream package. I prefer the filter setting Short Delay Slow, which I feel gives a more natural reproduction of the music. But you may want more touch in hi-hat and cymbals, then you can choose a different filter.
Balanced connected to the integrated Hegel H590 and the very truthful speakers Vivid Audio Kaya 90, the Teac player gets the opportunity to show off his best side. Let it be known that the other components cost over 360,000 kroner – or the price of over 20 Teac players!
The sound is excellent. The MQA version of the late rapper Mac Miller’s dark RnB ballad Good News, which he never got to experience in a released state, gnaws at his soul. This is the sound of silk, with a hint of vinegar, as his inner dark thoughts flow out of the speakers.
The bass is large, steady and full. Miller’s voice is exceptionally well-articulated, and the soundscape hangs in the air with layers upon layers of details. Compared to the built-in DAC in the H590, there are no immediate differences to be seen. The bass is probably somewhat better defined when the same song is played through the H590, and I sense a little more depth. If you already have an H590, there is no need to buy an external network player such as the Teac NT-505. But then we know in advance that the Hegel DAC is very good. It is therefore actually an achievement that Teac can measure itself so well.
Classical music is reproduced with a large room, and a good focus on the individual instruments. Just listen to those tubas! Reverberating deep, at the same time as the lasting brass multiplies through the air in the upper layers. The sound balance must be said to be neutral, and if I had the Pioneer N-70AE in for direct comparison, it should not surprise me if the two sound similar. The two share the same parent company and it is easy to share the expertise. And that’s not a bad thing, because the much bigger Pioneer player is really good.
I would have liked to have Bluesound Node 2i for a comparison, as it is the player everyone else measures against at the cheaper end among MQA players. Should I go after my own experiences from previous models, it should still be done well if Bluesound is on a par with NT-505. Especially if you have a balanced amplifier!
I mentioned the headphone jack. This is clearly lavish, a rare commodity on products like this. It has no problems running my own HiFiMAN / Drop HE4XX. It is absolutely powerful enough, and plays with a precision that you normally only get from separate headphone amplifiers. Gorgeous.
The Teac NT-505 gathers everything you need for technology to play everything you want from digital music, in one small cabinet. It does not matter if you are using Android, iPhone, PC or Mac, or if you have music on a hard disk or NAS. Or if you are a Tidal user. In addition, it sounds so good, that it would easily defend the price as a DAC alone.
Ease of use is decent, but the app has great potential for improvement. I prefer to use Roon myself.
If you add that the NT-505 has a good preamplifier part and also a formidable headphone output, then this is a complete music station for the desktop. You only need speakers and amplifier as well. Make sure the latter is balanced.