Product: Edgar TP 105 - stereo tube integrated amplifier
Manufacturer: Edgar Ltd. - Slovakia
Approx. price: 1700 € (YMMV)
Reviewer: Lucio Cadeddu - TNT Italy
Reviewed: May, 2006
For absolute beginners or for those audiophiles who re-discover this world after years of stand-by it is not easy to get a precise idea of what the market has to offer. Hundreds of new Companies, thousands of new products, a seemingly endless (and rather confusing) freedom of choice! Even choosing a sub-niche doesn't seem to help. For example, if one plans to buy a tube amplifier, the choice is still so wide that it is very hard to decide: low-powered SETs that cost an arm and a leg, high-powered push-pulls that produce enough heat to substitute a fireplace and, usually, prices are so high that you could buy a mid-priced sedan with the very same money.
We normally prefer a down-to-Earth no-nonsense approach. For this reason I've accepted with enthusiasm to review this amplifier made by Edagr Ltd. It is a tube equipped amplifier, with 40 watts per channel, 5 line inputs (including a tape loop), a remote that controls every function, good aesthetics (real cherry wood front panel), priced below 1700 €. Certainly NOT entry-level but it is still in a price tag that can be interesting for many Music lovers.
Now you'd like to know something more about the manufacturer, Edgar Ltd.. This is a Company located in Slovakia which specializes in tube HiFi components and that makes products for other brands as well (for example, the ProJect phono stages are made by Edgar!).
Their catalogue includes another tube amplifier, a headphones amp and a hybrid phono preamp. All their products belong to what I like to call "middle class". Components which are a real step above entry-level gear but still affordable and for sure very far from the high-end folies.
This is a no-frills well-designed tube amp, based on well-known techniques: a push-pull of Electro-Harmonix EL34 tubes in the power stage, 4 x PY 88 tubes by RFT (anodic voltage is tube-rectified), 4 Electro-Harmonix 12 AT7 in the first stage of the preamp section and two ECC81 (still from Electro-Harmonix) in the second stage.
The volume pot is of the ubiquitous ALPS blue series, while here and there in the circuit several MKT caps can be spotted. The 450 VA toroidal transformer is supplied by Torelec and is followed by 4 x 470 nF Rubycon caps. In the output stage you can find two output transformers with an Edgar badge, perhaps these are custom-built by Edgar itself.
In the rear you find double speakers binding posts for 4 and 8 Ohm loads. The RCA inputs are of the gold plated variety and appear to be conveniently spaced. The mains cable is detachable thanks to the usual IEC inlet. In case you are wondering what's missing...there's no headphone output and no phono input.
These are the claimed tech specs:
This Edgar TP 105 has been evaluated over a long period of time, using very different ancillaries, especially in terms of loudspeakers. This is necessary when dealing with tube amps, in order to properly evaluate driving abilities and compatibility with very different loads.
From time to time readers accuse me for not being what is commonly called a "tube nut". In their opinion, any serious audiophile should love tubes (the famous No tubes, no Music credo). Personally I've always been a firm believer that the key role is played by the design of the circuit, not by the components used in it. I've discovered good sounding tube gear and bad sounding solid state...and viceversa, so many times that it is hard to claim that only tube gear can sound good.
As said, I was very curious to evaluate this amplifier...too many things concurred to make it interesting: nice looks and finish, good power, down-to-Earth price, sano no-frills approach and, finally, the absence of snake-oil in the manufacturer's claims and literature. Furthermore, if a Company like ProJect chose Edgar to design and build their phono preamps...that was very meaningful to me.
The tonal balance of this TP 105 is essentially neutral, with a warm note in the mid-high range. It is harmonically rich in the highs, vigorous in the mid-bass region, strong and sufficiently extended in the bass.
The mid-high range is warmish, as said, and if I had to choose a colour to identify it I'd say amber.
Overall, this amplifier is extremely charmant and it does everything possible to fascinate the listener. Its favourite musical genres are classical and jazz but even with rock and pop it can perform quite well. Only with electronic Music (such as trip-hop a la Massive Attack and Chemical Brothers, for example) it reaches its boundaries, mainly due to the limited current output of the tubes, a physical constraint that can't be avoided. This, of course, happens at very high listening levels and with speakers that can deliver bass frequencies down to 25-30 Hz flat.
Obviously enough, this kind of limitation becomes evident only when you compare the TP 105 with some generous solid-state champions like the NuForce REF 9's I'm currently testing, for example. There's nothing a push-pull of EL34's can do against a class-D design capable of 1 kW peaks on difficult loads.
Embarassing (and illogical) comparisons aside, this Edgar TP 105 sounds convincing. It performs very well with voices, both male and female ones, each one with the right pathos. It shines with acoustic instruments, such as strings, for example. It can even reproduce realistically a Steinway or a Bosendorfer, in full bloom.
With electric instruments, the performance is excellent with the bass, thanks to the aforementioned vigorous mid-bass and with drums (even tympani). With electric guitars, especially of the hard-rock variety :-), the performance is less than ideal, and power chords get reproduced less aggressively than they should.
Overall, this is an amplifier that you can listen to over long periods, without experiencing fatigue. Perhaps it is not the most transparent or faithful performer one can think of but it does not hide its character and adds charme to everything it plays. Fascinating, without doubt.
This is the reality-check for any tube-equipped amplifier. Considering tubes can't deliver high currents and taking into proper account the presence of the output transformers it is difficult for any tube amplifier to reproduce floor-shaking dynamics, especially on difficult loads at high listening levels. There are physical limitations that can't be forgotten (of course, I'm not considering SETs partnered with +100 dBs speakers). That said, the Edgar TP 105 is quite surprising as it is rhythmic and authoritative, even on complex musical patterns. Its output power proves to be more than sufficient with different loudspeakers, small bookshelves and large floorstanders included. More precisely, it is not hard to follow the drum and bass patterns throughout the entire track, even at high listening levels. This means that the dynamic reservoir is adequate, thanks to a sano design and a very well-designed power supply section.
Don't expect lightning fast response, though. Of course, it sounds slower than the best solid state designs but I'd hesitate to call it slow overall. Perhaps a single-ended 300B-equipped amplifier is faster but I can still find its pace and timing adequate. Comparing it to a car I'd say it is not a sport coupé, rather a comfy sedan with a big, generous engine.
A quite nice performance in this department, too. Height and depth of the virtual image appear to be very good overall, while width is quite limited so that the image doesn't extend much beyond the speakers, laterally. Moreover, it seems the TP 105 tends to concentrate instruments and players in the middle, between the loudspeakers. The different virtual planes are reproduced correctly, with the right geometric proportions. The air surrounding instruments and players is sufficient though I'd hesitate to define this amplifier as airy. Stability and focus score high on my paper notes.
Somehow, I feel the 3D soudstage is a logical consequence of the tonal balance of this amplifier. According to my experience, it is hard to get rarefied and floating images when there's that warm note in the mid-high range.
Manufacturing and finish. Perhaps not the most elegant integrated amplifier in the market, because of its size, but thanks to the quality of its finish it should score high in your personal WAF scale.
Though it has to be appreciated the effort to design a front panel as symmetrical as possible (one big knob at the center, two smaller knobs laterally) I didn't like to ON/OFF rotary knob. The problem is that you turn off the amp with the very same clockwise movement you do to turn it on. This is because it has been used a push-push switch but I've found it not exactly ergonomic nor logical. I've found extremely sexy the electric-blue backlighted logo when turning on the unit.
The remote control didn't work well on my test sample, perhaps something got damaged during shipping...and it has been a long journey, from Slovakia to Sardinia :-)
During the first months of break-in the amplifier produced a smell that wasn't exactly pleasant. Perhaps the unit was brand-new and the extreme heat it produced caused this.
As said, both a headphones output and a phono input are missing.
Sound. The typical customer of this kind of amplifier will be satisfied with its performance, there's no doubt about this. The sound is warm as one may expect it to be (or...tubey :-)). Furthermore, the amp is vigorous and "solid" and it can even sound rather muscular when required. For sure you can't expect extreme transparency or lightning fast attacks and decays, these are performances you should require to a completely different kind of amplification (new class D modules, perhaps!).
If fine detail, extremely defined highs and clinical introspection score high on your wish list, this might not be the amplifier for you. Personally, I've nothing on my wish-list, with respect to this amplifier. It is good as it is, it could be stupid to try to make it different. Its behaviour and overall character are coherent and homogeneous. I'd say it is a well balanced mixture of pro's and con's.
I'd avoid ancillaries with the very same tonal balance or character...the same virtues could easily become "too much of a good thing".
Conversely, I'd see it as a good partner to bright and hyper-detailed speakers or sources as it will help taming these a bit.
A good mains cable is almost mandatory. I've successfully used our TTS DIY design. The unit gets quite warm when in use so please let air circulate freely around it, to avoid overheating. For the same reason, avoid placing components over or below it. It is quite heavy, so use a solid and stable (read: vibration-free) shelf. You might experiment with different anti-vibration feets, such as heavy-duty Vibrapods, for example.
For those who still suspect I'm not a big fan of tubes this review should prove how wrong are they :-)
I liked this Edgar TP 105 very much, because of its strong and sincere character. I enjoyed it for its way to portrait Music effortlessly. It can play for many, many hours, without experiencing listening fatigue. It is, without doubt, a clever example of that "middle class" we wouldn't like to see disappear, suffocated by insanely expensive high-end and destroyed by extremely cheap gear.
Finally, let me spend two words on its list price: considering the quality of crafstmanship and finish, the good level of components used and the way it sounds I'd say 1700 € is an extremely logical amount of money...if you consider this amplifier is NOT made in China.
Summarizing: Edgar TP 105, an excellent mix of vacuum tubes and logic. Welcome back, middle class!
Copyright © 2006 Lucio Cadeddu - www.tnt-audio.com