Altmann Tera-Player Impressions
I have had quite a few Digital Audio Players (DAP) including a Sansa sFlo2, an iRiver H320 & iRiver Clix, Multiple Sansa Players (inc Sansa Clip), Colofly c3 and an iPod 5th Gen. I have owned a Graham Slee Voyager (now sold) portable and I still own a Meier Stepdance amp which I use with most of the players except the H320. I have never heard a HifiMan DAP or a iBasso DX100. I am telling you this so you get an idea of what I have listened to.
I ordered the Tera-Player as a gamble. I wanted a portable player. My sFlo2 / Stepdance combo is fantastic and I will not get rid of it, however I was looking for something small and portable with excellent sound quality. I use the Jriver music management program which does automatic transcoding of files to compatible formats for portable players. The WAV only format limitation was not an issue for me as most of my music is encoded in FLAC (a 1:1 lossless compressed WAV format).
My dealings with Charles Altmann (the maker of Tera-Player) have been nothing but professional and I found him responsive and helpful in all correspondence.
The Tera Player arrived on my doorstep 9 days after placing my order. The following is a summary of my impressions of the Tera-Player:
It is small
Far smaller than I has imagined (yes – I know that there a measurements on the Tera-Player website but numbers don't do it justice). It fits easily and comfortably in the top pocket of any of my shirts.
It feels solid
Nothing rattles or vibrates, it has a feeling of solidity in its manufacture – more so than any of my other DAPs (the H320 is pretty close).
It is basic. It has five buttons, no screen and no on/off switch. This is design at its most minimal. This is not a problem for me most of the time, but I found one instance (where I had a compilation had been created with each artist having its own folder) where navigation became quite difficult. I resolved this by creating a 'various artists' folder and making sure the compilation wavs were placed together in that folder.
It is fast. Close to instant in fact. When I picked up any of my other DAPs they felt sluggish.
Sound (Yuin PK1)
It sounds fabulous with the PK1s. I had to drive my PK1s with my sFlo2/Stepdance combo in order to bring them to life. Not so with the TP. They are alive without an amp. TP provides a decent level of volume and I have never run out of headroom on any of my tracks. One thing I noticed is that some tracks that sounded fine on my sFlo2/Stepdance combo sounded quite different on the TP. Not lacking in any one area, but different. In fact every album sounded different, whereas on my other DAPs they sounded similar. After listening and comparing for over a week (and many many hours a day) I am convinced that the TP is neutral and the others are presenting their own flavour to the sound. On the TP well engineered tracks sound amazing, older tracks sound older, bassier tracks sound bassier etc. Others may disagree but I believe that the TP is neutral in a way that my other players are not. Separation is outstanding – When voices and instruments come in they sound like separate voices and instruments.
One other notable thing.... I have been able to listen to music for very long periods (5 hours +) with the PK1 and TP. This is notable in that it is the only combination where I have been able to do so without some form of discomfort (either physically with IEMs or sonically where the sound becomes irritating after a couple of albums).
Sound Others – I am not reviewing the earphones mearly commenting on their synergy with the TP:
Earsonics SM3 – Good match. This earphone does not need much power and the TP can drive them well. However, I don't believe these earphones show off what the TP is capable of.
Sennheiser MX980 – Excellent Match. Great across the board – the TP drives the MX980 with authority and the it has a clinical presentation.
Fisher Audio DBA02 – Excellent Match. Tames the sometimes exuberant highs of the DBA02 (very noticable with the Sansa Clip). Very good match.
HifiMan RE262 – This earphone has amazing synergy with the Stepdance amp (mentioned in several threads on Headfi) but is mearly ok with my other DAPs. The TP fails to get the best out of the RE262. It sounds slightly shrill and lacking in midrange and bass body. I suspect the TP lacks the power to drive these authoritatively. Poor match.
Koss PortaPro (Kramer Mod) – Great budget-fi and sounds amazing for the price – TP drives very well. Not in the same league as the PK1 / MX980 or DBA02.
Senn HD25 – Not great. Goes loud but treble and upper midrange is lacking. I have always found the HD25 to be slightly dark sounding and the TP accentuates this impression. Poor match.
I have made these comments openly and honestly. I paid full price for my Tera-Player and have no connection to Altmann except for my purchase. I am not afraid to sell equipment that I have bought and not enjoyed – indeed I have done so on many occasions. I will be keeping my sFlo2 / Stepdance as it drives the RE262 and HD25 better than the TP. However, I will not be selling my Tera-Player as I consider that it together with my PK1s to be my reference portable audio setup.
Additional Comments (20/11/2012):
The tracks that I listened to were secure CD Rips (using Jriver) of music that I am very familiar with which were used for comparison on both the sFlo2/Stepdance and TP players. I also listened to 10 hires (192/24) flac (converted to WAV) files on the TP which played perfectly (bar one that consistently failed at midpoint and I assume was miscoded). Battery life is averaging at between 14-15 hours.
Edited by apmusson - 11/20/12 at 5:59am