Regular readers of The Ear may recall that some months ago I reviewed the Lyngdorf TDAI 3400 and that I was absolutely smitten with it. In fact I was so enamoured that I have since taken ownership of one and it sits proudly at the heart of my system. It is a source of hours of listening pleasure every day, and even with extended use I have found nothing to criticise. In fact, I keep finding new ways to delve deeper into the TDAI 3400‘s potential via its web based software control system which can be used to really dig into its capabilities.
It was therefore not tough to agree to review Lyngdorf’s most recently announced amplifier the TDAI 1120, when it was offered by Rob Sinden, the UK Lyngdorf distributor. In due course the courier delivered a new Lyngdorf package, which bore the slogan ‘Technology with purpose’, a mission statement that is both concise and, luckily, accurate.
Unpacking the TDAI 1120 reveals a unit built with the same house style as its bigger brother but in a significantly more compact form factor. Its just over 10cm (4 inches) high but weighs almost as much as the bigger amp. On the front left is a large screen and to its right a small knob for changing source or muting the output, and on the far right a large volume knob, with a small standby button to one side. On the back we find a pair of speaker sockets, coaxial and optical inputs and an HDMI socket (to take the audio return channel from a TV), as well as a pair of analogue inputs and an MM phono input to plug in a turntable with. An ethernet input socket is here also and a USB A connector. There is a pair of analogue outputs to support a subwoofer or an external power amplifier and last but certainly not least, there is an XLR microphone socket for setting up the all-important Room Perfect software. I rummaged in the box looking for a remote control, but there is no remote supplied – the TDAI 1120 is designed to be controlled exclusively via the same app which runs the TDAI 3400. I shall return to that later.
The TDAI 1120 is, like its big brother, an all in one unit, sporting a streaming media player, DAC and but has a less powerful 60 Watt digital amplifier. Built into the media player we find vTuner (for internet radio) and Spotify Connect, and the device has built in Chromecast support, Apply Airplay 2, DLNA/UPnP streaming and Bluetooth. If you want to add Qobuz or Tidal there are third party apps available such as Roon or MconnectHD, which I run on my iPad alongside the Lyngdorf native app. The Lyngdorf can be connected wirelessly or hardwired to your broadband network. I always choose hard wiring when I can so a cable from the switch to the unit was inserted.
Having sited the TDAI 1120 on the system rack I plugged in my Harbeth P3ESR loudspeakers and phono stage, the Lyngdorf CD2 and my REL subwoofer. The TV was plugged in via one of the optical inputs. We were now ready to run Room Perfect. The procedure is straightforward, assemble the supplied microphone stand, attach the supplied cable to the microphone at one end and plug it into the socket on the rear panel. This is slightly more awkward than using the front socket on the bigger Lyngdorf, but given that this is typically a one-off operation it’s hardly more than a minor inconvenience.
As with its big brother, this Lyngdorf is an astonishingly versatile device. Each input can be assigned its own ‘voice’ (sound shaping by DSP) and via the web interface it is also possible to tweak these to suit your own tastes. Similarly there are bass, treble and balance controls available through the interface should you wish to adjust any of those parameters.
The Room Perfect set up is controlled via the web browser on your tablet, phone or laptop. First the microphone is placed exactly at the main listening position and then moved to random positions around the room. Room Perfect ‘learns’ the room via a series of test tones at each microphone position, and after eight different readings it was showing a 95% understanding of the room. Distances from the main listening position to the speakers and subwoofer are entered, and a crossover frequency selected. Room Perfect then makes its final calculations and the job is done. Unplug the microphone and sit down and start to listen. You can select ‘Focus’ (concentrating the sound at that first measured position) or ‘Global’ settings. The differences are quite subtle and for the most part I ran the TDAI 1120 in the Global setting. See our feature on Room Perfect for more on this technology.
Unsurprisingly, the TDAI 1120 bears a close sonic resemblance to its bigger sibling. I started by streaming from my Naim UnitiServe via the Lyngdorf app, and found myself moving swiftly through the usual demo tracks. A mixture of Pink Floyd, JJ Cale, Eric Clapton, the Beatles, Dire Straits, Bob Dylan, Dave Brubeck and Miles Davis, along with some rich classical recordings, all of which sang out through the little Harbeths. To get to similar volume levels to those I enjoy with the TDAI 3400 I had to crank the setting quite high on the 1120. The joy of the Lyngdorf amplifiers however is that increasing volume does not lead to any change in sound quality. There is no hint of the hardening to the sound that can happen with an analogue amplifier as you push it, and no sense of strain at all. This little guy just gives the same delightful musical performance, but louder.
I know that my Harbeth P3ESRs are not easy to drive, at 83.5dB, although they do present a steady 6 ohm load to the amplifier across the frequency range. My advice would be to match the 1120 with more efficient loudspeakers if you regularly listen at higher volume levels. A good dealer will help with that.
For the next listening session I switched to CD replay and once again the 1120 sounded incredibly ‘right’ with Lyngdorf CD2 connected to one of the coaxial digital inputs. I have a wallet of CDs which I take to the Bristol hi-fi show every year to use in one of the Harbeth rooms which I host there, and from that I selected some of my favourite demo discs. Gary Karr and Harmon Lewis (Adagio D’Albinoni, Impex) on double bass and church organ sounded very fine indeed through this system. The acoustic of the church in which the music was recorded being reproduced really well, and deep notes really lingering, as they should. Switching to Trilok Gurtu’s wonderful God is a Drummer, the intricacies and dynamic swings of the music absolutely shone through. Toes were tapping and I rather fear air drums were being beaten too (thank heavens reviewing is a solitary pursuit). The Peter Frampton Band’s All Blues had real rhythm and drive. In fact every album I played filled the room with glorious sound.
Finally, I listened to vinyl played on my modified Linn Sondek LP12 and its Gold Note Machiavelli MC cartridge through a guest phono stage which was also here for review. The analogue signal is converted to a 24/96 digital stream in the Lyngdorf but emerges from the loudspeakers sounding like vinyl. I know this is counter-intuitive, but it’s true. To make sure I wasn’t imagining it, I switched back to my own reference phono stage, the Gold Note PH10, and could clearly hear that it was different to the visiting unit. I lost none of the distinctive warmth and richness of the vinyl sound from either phono stage despite the fact it was digitised as soon as it reached the ADC in the Lyngdorf.
Was there anything I didn’t like about the TDAI 1120? I found that being reliant on an app is absolutely fine as far as it goes, but I did miss having a remote control to instantly mute the sound when the phone rang during a listening session. Inevitably the iPad had often gone to sleep, I’d opened another app, or it was not immediately to hand. Maybe it’s an age thing – younger users may find that app control is more intuitive. However, after a phone call to Rob Sinden I learnt that the there is a remote control receiver built in to the 1120 and that it is fully compatible with the remote control for the CD2, so now I had a volume control to hand all the time. I am pleased to say that a remote control can be purchased if you decide that you would like one.
I think that as an all-in-one unit, that does pretty much everything most users could want, with small form factor, good looks and overall ease of use, this baby Lyngdorf should win a lot of hearts. It is well made, it sounds fantastic and I think deserves to be at the top of any shortlist for audition because I actually think it will show a clean pair of heels to some of its more celebrated, and widely available, competitors. Make no mistake, this little device gives a real taste of high end audio at a very attractive price point. I hope it enjoys the success to which it is entitled for its many strengths, its audio performance and the integrity of its construction. Another winner from the House of Lyngdorf.