Neuhaus Laboratories' T-1 is a beautiful and bizarre little tube amp with a modern set of features, including TOSLINK, USB and Bluetooth audio. It is unweildy, requires some assembly (linen gloves included), and demands space all to itself wherever you place it. Once done, however, the tubes' orange glow lurks warmly behind a stark enclosure, giving its appearance that distinctive love-it or hate-it quality.
I've never had a tube amp before, so you can stop reading now if you're looking for an expert opinion on the audio. But as a lover of pretty technology unwilling to put up with poor quality for the sake of looks, I found it warm, clear and satisfying even hooked up to cheapo M-Audio speakers; with a decent pair of Silverlines, it was fantastic.
Bluetooth, tested with an iPhone 4, connected without a hitch and sounded OK. When connected to a computer via USB, it bypasses the machine's chipset in favor of its own DAC; this can make for an audible difference, especially on cheap laptops with poorly-shielded headphone ports, such as an older Asus EeePC I tried. I didn't try the optical link.
If you want to fool around with bass, treble or equalization, you'll have to do it before it gets to the T-1, because it doesn't have any of that. There's just a volume control and an input selector.
One place where this unique-looking device really excelled was alongside a desktop computer. Given its small dimensions, it replaced my computer speakers with something far superior, without filling the desktop or snarling up the floor beneath it with extra cables and power bricks.
The T1 has a 15-day return guarantee. If you like the look of it but want something beefier, Leander Kahney at Cult of Mac reviewed the T2 a while back and liked it too.
T-1 Amplifier [Neuhaus Laboratories]
Removing the bars to take off the protective sheeting required a firm hand.
Small and perfectly formed, but its mirror finish picks up dust fast.
Caveat: the LED lights are very bright and the wireless one blinks constantly when Bluetooth is in use.
Old-fashioned metal knobs. The T-1 is well-made and feels like it'll last the distance.
Vacuum tubes: a dog whistle for audiophiles, but also pretty on the shelf.
The T-1 offers plenty of connectivity options, including TOSLINK, USB and two RCA pairs
Anyone got a duster?
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