The T+A P 3100 HV preamp is part of a family of components made by a manufacturer that’s something of a powerhouse in Europe, but only recently committed to increasing their footprint in the highly competitive U.S. market. And unlike most European audiophile electronics companies, T+A is actually making some serious strides in the United States in terms of distribution. You might still need to travel to a show or a bigger city to audition them—especially the top-of-the-line products. But that’s part of the experience and not at all out of line with audiophile gear in this class.
The name (T+A) is short for “Theorie und Anwendung”—or, in English, “Theory and Application” —and represents the company’s commitment to engineering excellence and the pursuit of what they call the “appliance of science.” Of the 85 or so employees (a very large staff compared to most high-performance manufacturers) 14 are full-time engineers. This engineering group is tasked with the design and development of electronic circuits, cabinet design, software, and all operations required for product development and production.
What Makes The T+A P 3100 HV Special?
- T+A is very serious about their components being designed to be dual mono from input to output. In fact, the cabinet is constructed so that the left and right channel circuitry are completely isolated. There are even two power supplies—one for the display and one for the analog audio circuitry—requiring not one, but two 15-amp (pretty beefy) power cords.
- All cabinet internals are designed to completely isolate their function from other operations.
- Each component comes packed in a flight case. How serious is that?
- The T+A P 3100 HV’s cabinet is very sturdy, walled aluminum and weighs a stout 62 pounds. That would be beefy if this were an amp, but it’s not; it’s a preamp designed for source switching, processing, and volume control.
- T+A P 3100 has thoughtfully included a wealth of user adjustable controls. Most notably included are balance and tone controls. They don’t stop there, as a fully fleshed-out parametric equalizer is also included. With a user supplied USB microphone, stand, and a laptop computer, the included software (included on a CD) may be used to take readings from various points in the listening space, and the P 3100 will apply proprietary room correction algorithms to help achieve a more neutral frequency response.
- In addition to tone controls and room correction, the P 3100 HV has something I haven’t seen since the 1970s: a loudness setting. In that long ago time, many receivers had a “loudness” button, which tended to give low-volume listening a slight “boost.” This feature was intended to improve sonics when playing at low volumes. I am not sure this is a game changer, but it is a neat include nonetheless.
- There are four balanced/single-ended inputs and two single-ended-only inputs for a total of six. With such flexibility, the P 3100 HV is well equipped to accommodate a serious lineup of sources. All of the inputs may be personalized on the front display to read DAC, Phono, CD or any custom identification. Switching between the inputs is simple and done on the remote as well as on the front of the preamp.
- A headphone jack with its own internal amp is standard in the P 3100 stereo preamp. That’s nice but unexpected perk at this level.
- An optional, $1,700 internal phono stage is available and may be installed at the factory or by an authorized T+A Dealer
Why You Should Care About a $23,500 Stereo Preamp?
- All of T+A’s HV line of products are designed for decades of playback. Their build quality is as refined as anything on the market today.
- T+A is an environmentally responsible company. The manufacturing plant consists of entirely green buildings—resulting in little to no carbon footprint. They also do not use any CFC or chlorine-based chemicals that can potentially harm the workforce. When designing enclosures and internal parts, materials that can be recycled are always, where possible, selected and used.
Things The T+A P 3100 HV Could Do Better…
- Conveniently included is a gain function, allowing global user adjustment from -30 dB to +10 dB. While its inclusion is highly welcomed, I would like to see this feature specific to the individual input. This would allow the user to define loudness levels individually and separately for a DAC, Phono, CD player, or any other input.
Listening To The T+A P 3100 HV Stereo Preamp…
The best preamps don’t have a sound of their own, but that is actually very hard to accomplish as an electronic component. At these price points, you should expect to not experience any sonic colorations.
With Faith Hill’s “Breathe” (44.1/16 bit – CD quality) (buy at Amazon on CD), one of her most iconic songs from her fourth studio album, I found Hill’s vocals to have big scale dynamics. As she went up the musical scales, so did the power of her voice. It was palpable in my listening room with the P 3100 HV in my setup. The image extended the widest side dimensions of my listening room and reached all the way back to the front wall. A very clean and clear presentation, the P 3100 HV did an outstanding job of giving this recording a “you are there” experience.
With Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains The Same” (96/24 Remastered HD download) (buy on CD or Vinyl from Amazon), I could hear all the significant improvement over the original master of this iconic album. The P 3100 HV had absolutely no problem keeping up with the speed and frenetic pace of the opening bars. Robert Plant’s wide-ranging vocal antics are dramatically portrayed, as is John Bonham’s fierce and utterly explosive drumming. The presentation of the track is clean and uncolored. The twang of Jimmy Page’s Gibson Double-Neck EDS-1275 12-string never sounded more resolute and transparent in my room than with the T+A in my rig.
Who Is the Competition in the High-End Stereo Preamp Market?
In terms of cost, there are many contenders in the $25,000 price range. Jeff Roland, Pass Labs, Esoteric, and many more (too many to list here) have similarly priced preamps. At this level of audiophile excellence, it is largely a matter of personal preference. That said, I’ve heard the top-of-the-line stereo preamps from the likes of Jeff Roland and Pass Labs many times and in multiple, excellent sound rooms. I’ve even owned an Esoteric preamp and have spent considerable time with their flagship Grandiose series. In terms of overall sound quality and the simple enjoyment of the music played through it, the P 3100 HV is at least equal any of them to my ears. Perhaps, it is the best of the group? I am pretty sure it’s at least close.
Perhaps considered the absolute best of the best and a steward of that “Swiss” sound is CH Precision. Invest in a top-of-the-line, monoblock amp and preamp combination from CH and you’ll need to come up with about $200,000. With that in consideration, the T+A P 3100 HV preamp with the A 3000 HV amp at $47,000 is a virtual bargain. OK, stop laughing. Seriously. Considerations like value are all relative.
Does The P 3100 HV Keep Its Value?
The short answer is: mostly yes. T+A has a history of longevity in Europe and I have no doubt will establish a similar position in the United Stated. Combine the features of not only the P 3100 HV but the entire HV product line and compare that to the price and I think you are safe.
Final Thoughts On The T+A P 3100 HV Stereo Preamp…
To say I was completely and thoroughly impressed with the P 3100 HV is an understatement. Its musical presentation was a joy to behold even right out of the box. Well, not a box, really. It is shipped in a metal and wooden flight case, further evidence of T+A’s commitment to quality. When you consider the retail pricing to the features, and best of all the incredible performance, you’ve got a real player in the ultra-high-end audiophile market. Does anyone truly need to spend this kind of cash on a stereo preamp? Of course not. The problem is, once you hear it and put your hands on it, you will want to.