For 2011, a Superb NEW Audio Horizons TP 2.3 Preamplifier with Remote Option
Joseph Chow, after several years of refining his highly praised Audio Horizons tube preamplifier (see elsewhere in the Audio Horizons web pages for past reviews of the TP 2.1 and TP 2.2, and for the new review of the TP 2.3), Joseph Chow now introduces his finest tube preamplifier ever--the Audio Horizons TP 2.3. The TP 2.3 exceeds in audio and musical performance by a wide margin the justly praised and much reviewed TP 2.2. It comes in the same handsome slim line chassis only with superior component parts, and with clearly better performance and the same excellent value. It is also now available with a resonant free lid, oil oak or Cocobolo sides, and brass pyramidal feet.
When we say this is the finest tube preamplifier Joseph Chow has ever produced, that’s saying a lot. Every one of the three 2.3 versions constitutes an upgrade to the equivalent TP 2.2. To hear what owners of earlier Audio Horizons preamplifiers, the TP 2.0 and TP 2.1, have had to say about them in their 1100 frank, unsolicited, and unremunerated posts, visit the Audiogon Discussion Forum and search “Audio Horizons TP 2.0.”
If you would like more information about the TP 2.3 please visit our website at the address above. Highlight the web address above and then right click your mouse and it will provide a direct link to our website.
We do not have extensive feedback on the TP 2.2 because it is so new, but let me quote from one of our first customers, an Australian designer and builder of a very high end turntable:
“The cqps have improved the pre. It is even more musical and the noise floor is lower. It is extraordinarily quiet. Piano has a wonderful decay that I have never heard before in audio.”
The Audio Horizons TP 2.3 adds a number of new features and improves key component parts quality to build on the already excellent circuit designs found in the Audio Horizons TP 2.2.
Finally, in addition to reading further, we urge you to read Jerry Seigel’s 10Audio review of the TP 2.3SvB, either elsewhere on this site or by using the link at the bottom of this ad to visit our website.
Introducing the Audio Horizons TP 2.3.
• The TP 2.3Sc and 2.3Sv add a sturdier resonant free lid with a unique cinching feature, oiled oak or Cocoblolo wood sides, and pyramidal feet. Sonically it adds significant clarity to the musical performance.
• In the TP 2.3Sv, a bank of grind transformers is added and the power supply voltage has been tweaked to match the addition of these grid transformers. The combination of the two widens and deepens the sound stage, improved imaging focus and layering, and adds an extra high level of micro-detail resolution.
• The introduction in the TP 2.3Sc and 2.3Sv of new harnesses using larger and improved quality wire, including cryo’d solid silver wire, throughout the preamplifier—from the power supply to the preamplifier board, from the preamplifier board to the volume control and the output jacks, and from the input jacks to the preamplifier board. The sonic benefit is immense It results in a dramatic increase in the preamplifier’s tonal body and purity of tone, and because at the same time it results in improved dynamics and superior micro-detail retrieval.
• In the TP 2.3Sc, the capacitors and key resistors are also upgraded to the Clarity MR capacitor. The result is an increase in the level of relaxed smoothness, effortless balance, and musical transparency.
• In the TP 2.3Sv there are three further upgrade steps: 1) the capacitors are upgraded to what we believe is the finest capacitor presently made, V Cap’s copper film CUTF cap, 2) the key resistors in the signal path are upgraded to expensive premium Vishay resistors, and 3) a harmonic alignment is performed on the preamplifier. This upgrade, too, results in a dramatic improvement in performance. The V cap is a fast cap so installing it results in clearer edges, sharper tonal focus, crisper attacks, and better micro-detail retrieval. But the CUTF cap adds a layer of warmth and textural richness that to our mind is un-matched in any capacitor we’ve heard. The Vishay resistors seem to remove a layer of grunge in front of the music so that after installing them one feels one has cleaned a dirty windshield. Everything is there with an added layer of clarity, presence and immediacy. Finally 3) the harmonic alignment adds a layer of smoothness and sonic coherence lacking before it was performed. Everything seems less electronic, a little more the way we think live music sounds. The combination of the three is transformative.
The TP 2.3 is available in three versions (each in single ended or balanced mode, designated as a B)—the TP 2.3 at $2,895, 2.3Sc at $3,500, and 2.3Sv at $4,395-- and with or without a remote control. Add $1,000 for a balanced version. A tape loop for audio-video or some other use is available upon request at no charge.
As with the TP 2.2, the TP 2.3 comes with a free home audition.
Free Home Audition and Free Shipping
We are so persuaded of the superb performance and superior value of the Audio Horizons TP 2.3 that we want you to listen to it in your own home over your own sound system. If you qualify for a free home audition, we’ll even pay the freight to you: In the USA, we will pay the full freight cost. In Canada and abroad, we will cover the first $50 of the freight. If you are not persuaded that this is one of the finest preamplifiers you’ve ever heard, return it within ten days. That’s it. Or if you’d like more time to evaluate it, buy it under our thirty day money back guarantee program and we’ll pay the full freight both here in the USA and abroad. You can then take 30 days to make up your mind.
To encourage people to take advantage of this offer, we will even absorb the PayPal fees. We’re that confident you too will be impressed by its superior performance.
To qualify for a free audition, you must have an Audiogon Positive score of 30 or better and no Negatives
To learn more about what makes the TP 2.3 such a superb performing preamplifier, read on or visit www.audio-horizons.com.
Tubes versus Solid State
One of the oldest debates in high end audio is between the proponents of tube equipment and those committed to solid state designs. There are arguments to support each position.
Solid state equipment is hassle-free—there’s no need to replace tubes at periodic intervals; warm up time until reasonable performance is briefer than it is for tubes; and the component can be left on for long periods of time (and oddly, this will improve performance) without exhausting the finite life expectancy of tubes. More significant in terms of performance, solid state equipment has better S/N figures than can usually be achieved by tube equipment, in part because of the inherent residual noise level of tubes. Solid state equipment produces crisper edges, and thus sharper transients, because solid state IC’s and transistors have a faster decay time than tubes. Finally, far lower Harmonic Distortion figures can be reached with solid state equipment than can be reached by tube equipment, again in part because of the residual higher distortion levels of tubes. There are other areas, such as Dynamic Range where solid state equipment again usually excels over tube equipment, but the first three produce the greatest challenge for tube designers.
At first glance, this is an impressive list of advantages, whose sonic effects would weigh in favor of solid state designs. But there are certain advantages that tube designs have over solid state designs that make the choice more complex.
Tubes produce a rounder, fuller sound than do solid state components. For many this adds a pleasing warmth and body to the music not easily achievable with solid state equipment. In addition, tubes are better able to capture those higher order harmonics that distinguish the reedy quality of an oboe from that of a clarinet, the resinous quality of a string bass from that of a drum bass, and the sound of a soprano’s breathy vocal chords better than solid state equipment. For tube aficionados, this too is a big plus. Finally, tubes, because of their inherently slower decay times, are better able to capture the musical rise and fall and ebb and flow of live music, which does not turn on and off the way solid state component parts do but instead flows imperceptibly from one rising or falling phrase into another. For many listeners, this slower decay time of tubes enhances the listener’s experience of the music—that is, the music sounds more musical and involving when played over tube equipment.
Must one choose between these two opposing excellences? The answer is no. If the designer is insightful and creative enough, he can minimize the shortcomings of tube equipment while still preserving their excellences. In effect, he can narrow and almost eliminate the advantages unique to solid state equipment.
Since Signal-to-Noise is among the two or three most critical parameters of sonic excellence—one can’t hear any micro-detail below the noise floor--a tube designer must first attempt to bridge the gap between solid state designs and tube designs in this critical area. Many tube designers achieve this narrowing by elaborate feedback circuits. While the use of feedback does lower the noise floor, the elaborate circuits required to do so complicate the signal path and thus introduce signal compression. Thus while they gain in reducing S/N, they lose in sonic openness and transparency. Joseph Chow avoids feedback entirely. But by virtue of his deep insight into materials and circuits he is able with his tube designs to achieve S/N levels that would do many solid state designers proud. For example the S/N for the Audio Horizons TP 2.3, 2.3Sc and 2.3Sv -115dBv, for the TP 2.3ScB and 2.3SvB, it is -125 dBv.
As further illustration of Joseph’s ability to virtually eliminate this key sonic advantage of solid state designs, one need only note that often a manufacturer’s S/N levels are reported using higher than 1 volt output ratings (usually signaled by the abbreviation dBv), say 2 volts or 3 volts, but the S/N at 3 volts, for example, will be about -10 dB better than at 1 volt. Thus by using 3 volts output, the manufacturer is able to use a -10 dB lower S/N figure than he would if he used the generally agreed upon 1 volt standard. Some manufacturers call this marketing. In addition, sometimes the S/N figures on tube equipment are so poor they are not indicated at all in the website spec sheet.
By virtue of avoiding feedback and using a philosophy of classic design, Joseph is able to achieve the clear edges and fine transients characteristic of solid state designs. And by designing balanced geometry interconnects with carefully designed capacitance, whether using RCA or XLR jacks, Joseph is able to create tube designs that have clean but soft edges, that in a word, preserve all the excellences of tube design while achieving those common to solid state designs.
In essence, Joseph has created a tube preamplifier that weds the virtues of solid state design to those of tube design to create a superbly transparent sounding DAC.
The Audio Horizons TP 2.3 Stereo Preamplifier is a high end tube preamplifier boasting specifications found only in preamplifiers costing two to five times as much. We invite you to compare our confirmed specifications with those published by other manufacturers of high end tube preamplifiers. Then we invite you to audition the TP 2.3.
A number of impressive design features from the TP 2.2 are continued in the Audio Horizons TP 2.3 to contribute to its superb performance. They include:
• The power supply uses a 10 times larger VA than needed in order to insure a stable soundstage.
• A capacitor bank comprising 12,000 uf on the DC filament.
• Independent channels each with a pure DC filament supply to reduce crosstalk between channels.
• Thirteen stages of regulation on high voltage provide better ripple regulation, which results in quieter noise levels.
• The use of a low ESR capacitor bank, with an extremely high 2,860 uf of storage in the HV section, to provide extra reserves when sudden instant sonic demands are made.
• In addition, the use of a cascode section increases the system’s dynamic range, linearity, and responsiveness, thereby producing a punchier sound.
• The low output of the line out transformer design permits the use of long interconnects with minimal sonic degradation.
• All inner wiring uses Teflon silver coated wiring to provide optimum performance for many years, and to protect those who live in environments with high humidity.
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• RF shielded balance/XLR connectors eliminate contact impedance, insuring the lowest possible noise floor.
• A gold plated Furutech IEC and all gold plated Teflon RCA jacks insure low connector loss and insure high signal transfer.
But while this extensive list describes some of the features that contribute to the TP 2.3’s superb performance, they do not fully explain it. To truly understand how Joseph Chow has managed to achieve spectacular performance at a relatively modest cost, we have to spend a moment explaining how Joseph Chow’s classic design philosophy differs from typical audio design philosophy.
Most of us are aware of the well-known division among audiophile designers between those who prefer solid state designs and those who prefer tube designs, but few are aware of other deep divisions. The most important of these is between two audio electronic design philosophies--between those who seek to prune away as severely as possible the materials and circuitry used (who, for example, when designing a preamplifier have as their ideal, “a straight line with gain”).
Opposed to these minimalist designers are those who seek to overcome the inherent limitations of the materials used by elaborating circuits and feedback. These designers seem wed to complex circuitries. For purposes of this discussion, we will call designs of severe simplicity, the school of simple design. The second group, which attempts to perfect designs via circuit complexity, we will call the school of exotic design. Most designers fall somewhere in between, but within the parameters of one or the other of these ruling philosophies.
Joseph Chow has chosen a third way of design, one neither simple nor exotic, but one which seeks instead to look deeply into the circuit function, the materials used in it, and the sonic goals to be achieved. By analyzing these, especially the inherent sonic characteristics of the materials and components at every stage, Joseph Chow seeks neither to eliminate components, as those in the simple design school do, nor to compensate for them, as those in the exotic design school do. Instead, he seeks to harmonize the inherent characteristics of materials with the circuit design itself. This search for harmony between the materials used and their function within the overall architecture is what defines and distinguishes Audio Horizon design. The focus is always on the sound characteristics inherent in the materials themselves and, given their characteristics, to achieve at an affordable price the highest quality sound possible.
The Audio Horizons designer looks as deeply as possible into the circuit path, and into the sound characteristics of the materials and components used, and he does this at the smallest level possible. His search for distortion and noise at the minutest circuit and material level begins, first, with a desire to eliminate all spurious noise and, second, with a respect for the importance of Q [defined as the “quality factor of an inductor or capacitor. It is the ratio of a component’s reactance ... to its effective series resistance” Dictionary of Electronics].”
We seek to lower noise because only by lowering noise are the sonic characteristics of individual components revealed. No designer, no matter how fine his ear, can improve a design below the noise level, for at that level he cannot hear the difference between one component make or value and another, one circuit modification and another. Low noise permits the designer to hear more clearly the very fine sonic differences small component changes and slight circuit modifications make.
Typical of Audio Horizon’s attention to the smallest detail, the designer has specified that the input jacks be Teflon insulated because the Teflon reduces signal loss, and because it has a high Q.
In addition to a focus on high Q, Audio Horizons’ classic design leads it to eliminate all spurious, little used features, ones that may add glamorous complexity and the appearance of quality to the product, but yield no sonic improvement and in fact present design problems of their own. This is in keeping with Audio Horizons’ desire to keep distortion, the noise level, and costs as low as possible at every stage. Thus, as part of his desire for a classic line, at every stage the Audio Horizons designer seeks to keep the signal as clean as possible with the minimum number of parts. If three parts, however, will yield a cleaner signal than one part, without altering or degrading the signal, then three parts is both theoretically and sonically the minimum number of parts required.
Throughout the circuit, noise and distortion are reduced by providing clean, high Q signal paths that make the signal timing more accurate and lifelike.
But that’s enough about design theory and about why the TP 2.3 specifications and performance are so outstanding. The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the tasting. Listen to the TP 2.3. When you listen, the first thing that strikes you is how the sound emerges from out of the very blackest silence. Then you are struck by the harmonics, by how well you can hear the reedy overtones of a clarinet and the resinous string quality of a cello. Soon you realize there are no hard edges, that the spurious warm edges lent to music by distortion are gone. Little by little, you begin to realize how wide the soundstage is, how sharp the imaging, how airy the high end is and how rich and tight the bass is. And on and on your appreciation for this marvelous instrument and this brilliant designer grows. But don’t take our word for it. Listen to it with your own ears. Better yet, listen to it over your own system. You will clearly recognize its superior performance.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS TP 2.3
Frequency Response: 2.3/2.3 Sc/2.3 Sv: 10-100 kHz, +0,-1dB
2.3 ScB/2.2 SvB 10-60kHz,+0,-1dB
Harmonic Distortion (THD): 0.05% @ 10-60kHz, 0 dB, A-weighted
Dynamic Range: 100 dB
Signal to Noise Ratio: 2.3/2.3Sc/2.3 Sv -115dBv
Channel Separation: 95 dB @ 1 kHz
75 dB @ 10 kHz
Gain 2.3/2.3Sc/2.3Sv 20 dB
2.3ScB/23SvB 10 dB
Output Impedance: 600 ohms
Input Impedance: 100 k ohms
AC Voltage: 120 Volts
AC Frequency 50/60 Hz.
AC Power cord: None supplied (15% discount on Audio Horizons AC Power Cord)
Power Consumption: 65 Watts
Input Complement: 2.3/2.3Sc or Sv 4 pair RCA-type female connector
2.2ScB/2.2SvB 4 pair RCA-type female connector
1 pair XLR-type female connector
Output Complement: 2.3/2.3Sc or Sv 2 pair RCA-type female connectors
2.3ScB/2.3SvB 1 or 2 pair RCA-type female connectors
1 or 2 pair XLR-type female connectors
Tube Complement: Four 6922 type Tesla E88CC tubes
Outside Dimensions: 17” wide x 15” deep x 4.25” high
Shipping weight: 10 kg. (22 lbs.)
Warranty: 3 years, parts and labor
Available in silver or black.
The 2.3 is a reverse phase preamplifier. For correct phase, please reverse you speaker phasing.
The TP 2.3ScB, and 2.2SvB add premium line balancing output and input transformers before the output XLR jacks and before a pair of input XLR jacks.
The TP 2.3R versions adds a volume or volume/input remote control function to the various versions.
Options can be combined: For example, a TP 2.3RSvB would be a remote control version of the TP 2.2Sv with the line input and output transformers added.