I consider myself to be an "audiophile", whatever that means these days, but mostly, I just love music, and the equipment is a means to an end. I have listened to many "high end" pieces of equipment over the last 30 years of enjoying this hobby, and still own a few classics from Audio Research. A few years ago, I was in the process of downsizing my system, and along those lines, was looking at more affordable, great-sounding gear. I took a listen to a lot of the more well known brands in the affordable arena, and then came across the Anthem line. I remembered their lower-priced line of gear, some tube/hybrid preamps and integrateds several years back, and also thought very highly of the original Sonic Frontiers brand. I am glad I decided to give the newer Anthem line a try.
I ended up purchasing a TLP1 tuner-preamp. along with it's matching PVA2 amplifier to go along with a Lexicon universal disc player that I already owned. I used this as a system along with my trusty Ohm Acoustics Walsh 3/3000 speakers. This has been a very fun system to listen to, music or video, it all works together very well.
The TLP1 is a very good sounding piece, and very flexible too. It has all the usual inputs and outputs one would pretty much ever need, as well as a couple extras. It has both high/low pass filters to use a subwoofer along with satellites, and another fixed output that can be used for a second zone. Very nice! The remote is pretty decent and worked flawlessly since the day I got it. It is also capable of "learning" other equipments remote capabilities, so you can pretty much end the 3 or 4 remotes on the table look.
I like the ability of the TLP1's features, full tone controls that are totally usable and doe little harm to the overall sound, you can't take it too far to totally mess up the sound, and they are defeatable for us audio purists. There is also a contour control, which again is defeatable. this control acts like a variable loudness control up to a certain part in the volume control's range, above this point, it is no longer active. Very neat feature for listening late at night. Input levels, tone controls can all be set and remembered by input if desired. Also, there is a fairly decent headphone jack that mutes the main outputs automatically when you plug your phones into it. It drove my Sennheiser HD580's pretty well overall. Not bad at all! Last but not least, there is a nice built-in AM/FM tuner with presets and stereo/hi-blend/mono selection. This enables the best sonics for the station you are trying to tune in.
So, how does the TLP1 stack up to some of the "high end" gear? Overall, pretty good really. Comparing the preamp to my Audio Research LS3 solid state unit, very little is lost overall. Where the ARC obviously loses out on features and bells/whistles, it makes up for in a more sonic purity. The ARC is a little more detailed at the frequency extremes, more detail on the top end, and digs a bit deeper in the bass. I would say the Anthem is probably a bit more laid back at the extremes, overly polite perhaps, with a bit more up-front midrange. I have always loved the sound of my ARC LS3, a fine peramplifier even though it is getting on in age. It still holds it own to much finer preamps even today. The Anthem is indeed a very good performer, and not just for the money.
The TLP1's tuner section was also put through it's paces. I have a Magnum Dynalab MD90 as my reference, and love the quiet, detailed music it makes. Compared to the Magnum, the TLP!'s tuner is at a disadvantage right from the get go. The Magnum is priced higher than the entire Anthem pre to start with. But, the Anthem did a fine job pulling in stations all around town that I generally listen to. The blend and mono switches came in handy for a few stations that were particularly noisy. The Magnum also sports a few of these up it's sleeve as well, but generally, it does such a superb job of rendering those stations great to listen to to start with. The Anthem is nice for being able to pre-program a number of stations in the presets, the lazy-mans tuner! I did apreciate that though quite often! The Magnum being a manual tuner only(although you can add a remote option to it), required a bit more finess, and is better suite to those that enjoy a bit manual tuning for best sound. Bottom line, the Anthem does a fine job for most, especially those just wanting some background music, or aren't as ate up with absolute fidelity. After all, these days, there isn't much on the FM dial in my neighborhood that has really good broadcasts. The big thing again is that Anthem was able to shoehorn this in along with all the other great features of the preamplifier, what a bargain!
While this is more a review for the Anthem TLP1, I might as well add a few remarks about the Anthem PVA2 amplifier. I should write a review on it at some point, it deserves one! I think the PVA2 is also a very good performer, looks good, sounds even better. Taking the place of an Audio Research D130 amplifier, which is a solid state design, 130 WPC, the Anthem does a very good job. Like the TLP1, it gives up a little at the frequency extremes, a little soft in the highs, and doesn't dig as deep in the bass. I would say the PVA2's midrange just as smooth as the D130. All this is very minor, especially given the original price differences in these few pieces used in the review.
What more can I really say about the Anthem gear? It really is very good sounding equipment, doesn't do anything really wrong at all, more omission if anything, and for the market it is selling in, probably is a good spot to be in. I often think about gear like this and wonder why there isn't more excitement over it. I think more times than not, it is because it falls to the botique names in the industry, and people don't give it a thought. Well it can't be better than XYZ. It is a shame, because a lot of really good gear is probably left behind and not given a good listen because of this. One could build a very seriously nice system for a lot less going the Anthem route, and lose little if anything in sonics-in fact, I would say there is gear out there for a lot more that sounds a lot worse in my opinion.
A couple of ending comments, Anthem has a very good reputation for building good sounding gear. This equipment is built very well right here in North America. The gear is downright solid and should give many years of problem-free service. The warranty is very good, and I have heard that when having to deal with an issue, Anthem is very good about resolving things. I had read the other review on initial problems with some TLP1's. I believe this has been long sorted out. Also, at this point, the TLP1 has been discontinued from Anthem's lineup, the PVA2 continues. The TLP1 can be purchased on the used market for a song, and is just well worth the prices they seem to get these days. If your are in the market for a good sounding, well built system, you can't really go wrong with Anthem in my book. Take a listen, you will be glad you did! Enjoy the music!
While I classified myself as an "audiophile", I am more of just a music lover, and less about the gear overall. I have had a lot of "high end" gear from Audio Research, Pass, Wadia, you name it. Recently I was put in a position in which I had to downsize due to changes in work and life. After being without a stereo system for awhile and wanting to get back into things, I started looking at more affordable options. I came across the Anthem line of gear, and had remembered the former tube amps and preamps that had gotten good reviews in the past.
After considerable research, and careful listening, I purchased the Anthem TLP1 along with an Anthem PVA2 amplifier. I have to say that I am extremely pleased with these pieces, they are reasonably affordable, built to last, and most of all, sound incredibly good. I have enjoyed these amplifiers now for over two years and they are still played almost every day. They have been used as straight 2-channel stereo listening, as music is my foremost passion, but also they make an excellent 2.1 A/V setup. The preamp has some very nice options for subwoofer use if one is inclined to go that route. All in all, this preamp has most of the bases covered, very flexible, and with the built-in tuner, can't be beat.
So, how do these sound compared to the "high end" big boys? Actually, they stand up very well thank-you very much! My own opinion is that many folks make a big deal out of what gear they own, the botique names and such. Unfortunately, that is why really good and affordable gear such as these Anthem components get pushed aside and aren't given a thought, they don't seem to be good enough to be talked about in the same sentence as XYZ. And while everyone has their own preferences, when it comes down to most electronics these days, most of it is very good. If you can push aside those prejudices, you can find a lot of great sounding gear out there, and save a big bunch of cash too.
In comparing the PVA2 against my Audio Research D130 amplifier, I felt the Anthem gave up very little to it. The ARC dug just a bit deeper in the bass, and maybe had a bit more defined upper end, but in no way was the cheaper Anthem embarrased at all. It held it's own very well. I can say pretty much the same with the TLP1 against my trusty Audio Research LS3 preamp too. At the frequency extremes, the TLP1 wasn't quite as solid, and maybe the soundstage a little smaller, but again, overall, the TLP1 did a fantastic job on all types of music that I play. Both pieces also did very well with any movie soundtrack, of course they all are subject to poor recordings, and niether the ARC or the Anthem can do much with those. However, this where the flexibility of the Anthem can shine through. With the judicial use of tone controls(tone controls?!!! Heresy!), things can be slightly tailored. I found it more useful when in the A/V mode mostly. The tone controls can be bypassed for us "audiophile nerds".
Comparing the tuner section of the TLP1 with my current Magnum Dynalab MD90, I can say that the TLP1's tuner was adequate and did an okay job on pulling in stations, and the sound quality was above average. However, you can't expect a multi-purpose tuner/preamp to totally outperform or be even with a dedicated tuner that costs more than the TLP1! The Magnum just does a better job all around, and sounds more musical, more realistic than the TLP1. This may not be a big deal to you if you are a casual FM listener, or just use it as background noise. I still listen to the TLP1's tuner most every night, sometimes it is just background, other times I am enjoying some broadcast. The main thing is that it is very enjoyable and very listenable. It doesn't do anything wrong at all, and really, considering the quality of most broadcasts these days, actually probably does a better job than most tuners. It has selectable stereo/mono, and blending, so you can usually at least listen to some stations that are not premium quality.
Unfortunately, I see the TLP1 has been discontinued by Anthem, which is a shame. The PVA2 remains in the current lineup and again, is a real solid performer. I can totally recommend these two pieces, and I am sure there are TLP1's floating about in the used market, and usually, Anthem products can be found very cheaply. Good for the person looking to go that route, not so good if you are looking to sell your gear-but then again, why sell such a good product to begin with? Enjoy it for a lifetime, the things are built like a battleship, and if needed, I can say that Anthem's support is extremely good.
As a side note, since purchasing these two pieces of gear from Anthem, I have added a couple more of Anthem's gear, an AVM30 SSP, and MCA amplifier for surround duties. I am enjoying these pieces very much as well, and am amazed at the quality and sound these give for the money. Well done Anthem. Are there better? Yes, I am sure of that, but in the end, for my money and my ears, I don't think I have gone wrong. Give them a listen, and most of all, no matter what gear you choose in the end, enjoy the music and the movies!
I am very much on the fence with this product. First, let me say that Anthem, as a company seems quite good. I have heard mostly raves about their variety of amps and preamp processors.
Therefore, I felt quite confident in my first new gear purchase in a few years. It has a very nice, neutral sound and a LARGE number of features that one wouldn't expect at this price point.
Sadly, that is where the majority of my positive review of the TLP-1 must end. I got my unit home and found that the headphone jack didn't work properly. There was a fairly constant buzzing while listening (any time any bass material made an appearance). I had a few minor issues with the processor used as well, but minor quibbles at this point and not worth complaining about here. So, I returned the unit to my dealer. And to keep this short, I have since had to try and return three additional units, for essentially the same problem(s). Now, one of the quality control managers actually contacted me via the dealer and spoke to me at length about the problems I was having. In addition, they updated the software (which is user updateable via an rs-232 port on the TLP-1), and claimed to have fixed the headphone problem (which, apparently they ALL had, though I was apparently the first to notice it)
The headphone problem hadn't been properly resolved as of the last unit, however...though I feel that it will be shortly.
I also wish the unit had slightly more gain. I like a feeling of "power" with audio equipment, and I don't get that feeling with the TLP-1. However that is not an actual problem with the unit, simply a subjective observation by a rather fussy audio enthusiast ;)
I am currently waiting for my 5th unit. I haven't decided if I will keep it or not at this point. But, in that price point, there aren't a lot of choices, it seems.