German audiophile manufacturer T+A has built a reputation for creating sophisticated and technologically advanced audio equipment designs ranging from the mid to extreme levels on the audiophile product spectrum. The A 3000 HV power amplifier reviewed here falls more on the extreme side of the equation. Like all products in T+A’s HV Series, the A 3000 HV is a dual-mono design from input to output. The amp features exceptionally high voltage to the power supply rails, thus providing a sonic presentation that’s more linear (measuring) and vacuum-tube-like, with lower distortion. This defining feature was pioneered by T+A and is now used by several other world-class manufacturers. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, or so I’ve heard.
This amp utilizes solid-state, Class AB topology, which is a pretty standard design even at extreme audiophile levels. What is notably different about the A 3000 HV is that, due in part to the HV design ethos, the amp operates in full Class A through about the first 40 watts (editor’s note: according to T+A the amount of power varies based on the load of the speaker but 40 watts is a pretty safe estimate for Class A operation). Not unlike many of Nelson Pass’s Class A designs at Pass Labs (and perhaps First Watt), the A 3000 HV amp starts off as a Class A amp and then converts over to Class AB after 40 watts. Believe it or not, in terms of the power needed to make a pretty loud sound, 40 watts covers most of the music that any of us will listen to. Simply put, the big power that an amp can deliver is often only needed for a brief second during a complicated/loud/demanding passage. Many amps that have a Class A element to them only remain Class A through the first 5 or 10 watts. As many audio enthusiasts will agree, Class A operation delivers a very warm, rich, and beguiling sound. Fans suggest that Class A operation sounds more like tubes, but without the headaches that tubes bring to the hobby.
Because this amp is a standalone component without an integrated preamp or DAC, the T+A engineers were able to use all the cabinet’s internal real estate for advanced circuitry and not be overly constrained by space considerations. Engineering optimal circuitry to handle larger signals and the stability of the power supply are an important path to better sonics. As such, it is vital, and a critical design requirement, that an amplifier maintains a stable power supply and current delivery independent of load. Housing the electronics to accommodate this takes space, yet the A 3000 HV is the same basic size as the P 3100 HV preamp. It is, however, slightly heavier at just under 84 pounds.
Prominently featured on the front faceplate are two large, green-glowing meters showing power output in both watts and decibels. Positioned in between is a panel with icons that illuminate to show the amp’s status. These include, among others, whether the unit is in stereo mode or mono mode, ideal operating temperature, and if RCA or XLR inputs are being used. Below that you’ll find four soft-touch buttons: one to power the unit on and off, two for selecting the A or B best audiophile speaker terminals, and one to adjust the front panel’s brightness.
What Makes the T+A A 3000 HV Power Amp Special?
• If McIntosh has the “coolness factor” wrapped up with its iconic blue power meters shining on the front faceplate, then the A 3000 HV is a very close second to my eyes. Turning the lights down low and watching the greenish meters sway to the music provides visual enjoyment to reinforce the auditory enjoyment that this amp delivers.
• The two sets of speaker terminals, both WBT-type, allows for maximum flexibility during setup and testing. You can connect a pair of speakers to one pair of terminals or bi-wire them, or you can drive two different sets of speakers. Banana terminations may be inserted into the end of each terminal if desired.
• T+A decided to go all out and use the highest quality speaker terminals available, as they should on a power amp priced at this level. Machined from pure brass and plated with rhodium, the terminals are designed to make near-perfect contact between speaker cables and the terminals on the amp. Rhodium is as conductive as silver, as durable as platinum, and as resistant to corrosion as gold. It also happens to be as expensive as all three, if not more so at times.
• Part of the advanced circuitry is devoted to protecting the amplifier’s operation. Considerable attention was paid to voltage spikes and drops, along with operating temperature and short-circuit issues. If one of these conditions is detected, the protection circuit will shut down the amplifier, quite possibly saving the unit from catastrophic failure. I’d much rather have the amp shut down than melt down, even though I’ve never gotten the protection circuit to engage during any of my most rockin’ listening sessions.
Why Should I Care About a The T+A A3000 HV Amplifier?
• If you are considering an apex-predator power amp like the T+A A 3000 HV, we’re assuming that this isn’t your first rodeo—you know what you’re getting into and what to expect from an amp that costs more than most of our first cars. If the brand (or the concept of a nearly $25,000 amp) is new to you, that’s cool, too. Seeking out an active demo of this level of gear at a retailer, consumer audiophile show, or elsewhere is an E-Ticket ride well worth your time and energy.
• Few amplifiers in this price range offer an equivalent level of advanced circuitry and meticulous attention to detail. Because it is so thoroughly thought out and executed, there are those who think this amp could sell for much more.
• As desirable as build quality may be, uber-level audio gear also needs to have that “audio jewelry” factor. The A 3000 HV amp delivers a visual “wow” factor on par with stuff from D’Agostino, Jeff Rowland, Pass Labs, and others in the ultra-high-end space. You can even have the amps painted in custom colors if desired. I question the resale prospects if you do that, but you can.
• T+A is a vertically integrated audio company that designs and builds nearly everything in-house in Germany. All metal work, including machining and fabrication, is done by T+A. While certain components, like circuit boards, are sourced externally, the final assembly and testing is all done under the T+A roof, which consistently assures the highest level of quality.
Things the T+A A 3000 HV Power Amp Could Do Better…
• Having the first 40 watts of power in Class A certainly delivers on sonics for nearly every volume level at which I listen to music. I can rock tracks at 85 dB in my room for hours, and the meter seldom goes above 20 watts, even with intermittent musical spikes that demand more power. The biggest tradeoff, though, is the potential to overheat. Class A amps run hot. All of them. I’ve yet to meet one that doesn’t. T+A recommends a minimum of 8 inches of clearance on each side and 15 inches on top to allow for airflow to keep the unit cool. In order to follow this recommendation, I elected to put my amp on a vibration-absorbing platform in front of my gear rack rather than inside it. Where you will house this unit should definitely be a consideration prior to buying.
• It should be also noted that this amp uses a 20A, IEC-19 outlet (in the U.S.) for an AC power cord. If you plan to use a high-performance, consumer-supplied power cord or any audiophile accessory, the female end will need to be configured for a 20A circuit. While T+A does not hide this fact in any way, I’d like to see more advanced notice given. With so many users accustomed to a 15A, IEC-15 configuration, this spec might get overlooked, meaning that many existing power cords you own will not work. If you are at this level in the hobby, your electrician should already be well versed in the electrical needs of your system.
• The amount of energy used by a Class A amp can be higher than other designs, such as Class AB and especially Class D amps. The design, as has been explained for years by audio engineers, is like turning the water faucet from completely off to full blast, with no middle ground. That faucet is the power coming in from the wall, and if you are worried about your carbon footprint, then perhaps some solar panels and battery backup for your home might be a worthy investment.
Listening To the T+A A 3000 HV Power Amp…
Generally speaking, I found that the A 3000 HV excelled at nearly every level that I could hear, as compared to my long-standing Esoteric amp. With an ample supply of power (500 watts per channel at 4 Ohms/700 wpc intermittent), dynamic passages sounded spectacular even when they were redlining the performance of the T+A. Voices and instruments soared through my speakers in ways that extended well outside the width and height of the soundstage in my room. Yet at the same time, there was a naturalness to the sound with this amp in the loop. It never came across as harsh or mechanical to my ears.
Sugarland – “Settlin” (16-bit/44.1-kHz, CD) (buy from Amazon)
Jennifer Nettles has a very powerful voice. On this song, she rides the octave wave from high to low, always with complete authority. This track is no cakewalk for lesser amplifiers in terms of its overall range and dynamics. With the power the A 3000 HV has on call (plus the headroom it keeps in reserve), this track simply came to life as I spooled up the volume. The drum strikes that start the song had a visceral, chest-pounding effect for me in my best listening chair. The clarity and detail that I heard was simply excellent.
Andrew Lloyd Webber – “Music of the Night” (16-bit/44.1 kHz, CD, Original 1987 London Cast) (buy at Amazon)
Whenever I have non-audiophiles over and they want to hear my audio system, I usually cue up this song. It starts very softly, but every word Michael Crawford sings with a “ph” or a “th” or a “dh” sound is cleanly and clearly discernable. When the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra comes in, partnered with Crawford’s powerful vocals, it gives a clear testament to how much presence and authority a non-amplified orchestra can really have. Playing this song through my system with the T+A amp at the helm rendered incredible dynamics, yet also a still, quiet calm through the softer, more tranquil parts. Crawford, in the role of The Phantom, is widely considered to be one of the best in all versions of the stage production. His voice is so listenable on this recording that it draws the listener in completely. I heard remarkable clarity through the A 3000, even when doing direct A-B comparisons with other amps in this lofty space.
Who Is the Competition for the T+A A 3000 Power Amplifier?
• There are quite a few uber-high-end amplifiers that are worthy of your consideration. Looking at similarly priced offerings from top manufacturers like D’Agostino, Constellation, Boulder, Pass Labs and a host of others, you’ll find many exceptional, finely constructed amp solutions that have Class A and/or Class AB operation.
• You might think that I’ve lost it when I talk about a $22,500 amp’s value, but if you look at it relatively, the T+A A 3000 HV competes favorably with amps costing significantly more—including options from brands like CH Precision and Solution that can cost as much as five times more than the T+A. A natural question is, how much more is anyone willing to spend, and is this increased cost worth it sonically? That’s up to you, your ears, your money manager and the limit on your AMEX Centurion Card. With the A 3000 HV, we are already up where the air is rare in terms of price, but of course it can always go higher.
Does the T+A A 3000 HV Keep Its Value?
Just like its stablemate, the T+A P3100 HV preamp, the answer is a pretty confident yes.
T+A was founded in 1978, and those 44 years of exceptional manufacturing have imbued this German company with a solid reputation for excellence in Europe. Admittedly, the company doesn’t yet have a well-known foothold here in the United States but it just hired one of the most proven executives (who worked previously at Classe, Equity International and Mark Levinson) to grow the company’s reach in North America. Not every T+A product is priced at the level of the A 3000 HV, and we expect to see more and more dealers taking on the line in 2022 and 2023—which should help resale values.
If I were to grade the resale value, it would be in the B (maybe B- range), with room to improve perhaps when they add more A-list audiophile dealers. Right now there are more established, better-distributed brands in the U.S. than T+A that would earn my A grade.
Final Thoughts on the T+A A 3000 HV…
If you consider the whole audiophile picture of performance and value, T+A, with its considerable engineering acumen, has produced something exceptional with this amplifier. It is uniquely positioned at this price point in the audio pantheon. This amp simply delivers—and does so by creating a very engaging sonic picture through its clarity, accuracy, dynamics, and bass performance. So much so that I have made the A 3000 HV amp and the matching P3100 HV stereo preamp my new reference electronics, a choice that I expect will bring me years of musical satisfaction.