Nine months ago this section of the magazine reviewed German company T+A’s modestly named Music Receiver, says Andrew Everard. Now, from the same stable, comes a very compact streaming system, the Cala.
It measures just 30cm wide, 21cm deep and 9.5cm tall, the main enclosure clothed in a curvaceous aluminium outer skin, which both sets the style of the product and allows for some airflow under the electronics.
At first glance there doesn’t seem to be much to this system, simply because it doesn’t have any visible controls. Operation is in the hands of the remote handset supplied or an iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad app; this wasn’t available at the time of this test but should be in place by the time you read this.
There’s an Ethernet socket, a terminal for the Wi-Fi antenna supplied, a USB input (for flash drives, portable hard drives and iPods, iPhones and iPads) and an F-type terminal for an FM radio aerial. Other sockets extend to two sets of analogue inputs, high-quality combination speaker terminals and a single phono socket to feed an active subwoofer.
What’s less obvious about the Cala is that it also packs A2DP Bluetooth, allowing wireless connection from a range of portable devices, and combines all-digital signal processing and 24-bit resolution, described by the company as ‘Pure Path’ technology.
Installing the Cala couldn’t be much simpler: connect to a wired network, speakers and FM antenna and you’re done. There’s not much more faffage involved in connecting to a Wi‑Fi network, and pairing to a Bluetooth device or connecting to USB media is just as easy.
Even internet radio is simple, thanks to the use of the vTuner platform, allowing favourite stations to be selected and stored on the home computer, then those selections relayed to the system.
I tried the Cala with speakers that I felt were suited to a system so neat and stylish – a pair of PMC’s original DB1s and Neat’s miniature Iotas – and in both cases the system proved capable of room-filling sound, allied to the precision and detail that’s a T+A hallmark.
The stated output power, 55W per channel into 4 ohms, may not seem huge but the Cala uses it to good effect, delivering a sound with powerful dynamics allied to great finesse – not a hint of the mistaken stereotype of German hi-fi sounding a bit antiseptic and emotionless – and fine communication with both recording and performance.
Fast and dramatic when required, warm and smooth when the recording demands, this is a perfect day-in-day-out system, as enjoyable when playing background music from one of the high-quality internet-streamed radio stations as it is music streamed from a home server or a live concert on Radio 3.
Does that make it sound like one of those ‘if this was the only system I could have, I’d be happy’ products? Yes, it’s exactly that.
Power output 55Wpc (into 4 ohms)
Inputs Two stereo analogue, USB for memory devices/iOS portables, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, FM antenna, Bluetooth A2DP
Outputs One pair of speakers, subwoofer
Bass management options (when used with subwoofer) Full-range, 40Hz, 60Hz, 100Hz, 150Hz
Music formats played MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC, OGG‑Vorbis, LPCM, WAV
Accessories supplied F100 system remote, Wi-Fi/FM antennae
Dimensions (WxHxD) 30x9.5x21cm
UK distribution acousticbrandslimited.com