TAGA (“To Achieve Glorious Acoustics”!) is a European Company that makes value-for-money hifi equipment with Polish and German founders. Out of the neat box, TAGA does not strike you as a low cost product with its brushed metal body. Feeling solid at 4.2kg, but with a small footprint, holding it on your lap and attaching cables is no difficulty at all. In fact, it is a bit of a relief after moving around heavier components!
From the manufacturer’s website, USB DAC is capable of 24/192 using a Cirrus Logic chip. It also has Bluetooth connectivity with the attached antenna, and RCA in. There is also a preamp out for those who want to sub-woof away! Last but not the least is the headphone out. The quality of the connectors is good, especially the speaker binding posts.
In use, only the volume control knob gives a nod to its budget roots – else all else feels above price point. The tubes are left exposed – which looks nice in a way, but if you have a kid running around thinking he/she can play with the pretty orange lights, there is trouble!
I received a 700B V2 which had been broken in for a week. The first listen was actually a new pair using the Castle Knights, and the music that came out with Bill Evans “Waltz for Debby” made it an arresting listen. The bass notes were clearly articulated, and the piano had enough weight and tone to invite a second listen.
After a week brought it home and connected it to my system consisting of Graham LS 5/9, RATOC-RAL DM-192 DAC and Oppo CD player.
Coming off the sound of the Leben 300XS which has a lit up magical quality, and a good matching for the Graham in my smaller room, the sound was solid, chunky and matter of fact (more on that later) after about half hour of warm up. Tonally good, there was no harshness in sound, and perhaps, an overall feeling of softness.
Listening to great Martha Argerich playing Chopin Preludes – DG (oh how I love Prelude 7 – a complete musical statement in 38 seconds) even at lower volumes, the dynamic swings came through clearly. Moving on to Radiohead’s Kid A– EMI as the song went, everything was in its right place! All the layers of electronic sound were captured very well in an even balanced way. Voices were good.
However, it is the “matter of fact” which is what bothered me after a while. Yes, it seemed better than the many brand name electronics with a sterile sound, but there was no fairy dust to the sound. It seemed flatter than I am used to, and this one noticed especially with Argerich’s piano, which sounded mechanical.Perhaps the SE version would be better? It uses 12AX7 tubes compared to the 6N2P tubes, and I have a load of 12AX7 as part of my Leben Arsenal.
I was told that there was no SE version in India, such a pity! A quick mail to the really responsive TAGA team, and was told that V2 and V2SE version were the same and all that was required was a change in jumper! Yay! Out came the Philips screwdriver, the TAGA on my LAP take out the back plate, change jumper, (look 2/3 of the way down and you will spot it), change tubes (Siemens 12AX7), power on and there you go.
Woah, much more like it! Argerich’s piano is less of a hammer hitting a string, less mechanical and more of living breathing instrument!Air finally! Listening to Burt Bacharach The Very Best – Rhino, the voices had greater texture, and hence better emotional connect. The Shirelles, Dionne Warwick, B.J. Thomas, Tom Jones all came into the party. The texture and clarity improvement also resulted in better emotional connect. Listen to Miles Davis Kind of Blue – Columbia (Super Bit Mapping) – the drum roll following the chorus in So What that marks the entry of Miles adds the right degree of excitement, the trumpet tone is spot on and the brush cover followed by the snares on All Blues is also captured very well. Turning to the Leben, and the richness shows you what you paid for, but the TAGA reminds you it is still about the music, and your toes tapping! The bass also has enough weight (albeit may be not the slam, which frankly, I find a bit overrated as far as sound reproduction goes) to move the music along.
Also tried the Bluetooth – this was very easy to latch into – using my Iphone 5c with Apple Music. The point of such a connection is ease of operation and listening to music of reasonable fidelity and the TAGA worked well. Listened to the remarkable St. Mark’s Passion Golijov, and the emotion of the percussive ensemble and chorus came through clearly. OsmoVanska’s Sibelius Finlandia – was tonally engaging to make out all the instruments (the strings sounded pretty enough, without being shrill), though not as powerful as it could be.
Not really being into computer audio, I used the USB output only to give it a whirl. It sounded competent! Heard a 16/44.1 wav rip of the majestic Richter Rachmaninov Prelude No. 5 (another favourite) – it did sound majestic enough. Also listened to an ALAC rip of The Magic Bus from The Who Best of; the USB input conveyed the excitement of the music as well as the relatively poorer audio quality.
The downsides – given the power rating, it is better for a small- to medium-sized room. Given that it sounds so nice, if you feel like cranking up the volume past the midway mark, its budget price makes an appearance with a shouty sound. Pairing it with Castle Knight 2 (which I think is an incredible value for money speaker) makes a better combination, than the more expensive Graham LS 5/9, which cries out for better mates!
If you are new into hifi, or have been living with mass market solid state integrateds, and are looking for an entry into good fidelity at a low cost, the TAGA Harmony V2 SE is a knock out product – the V2 by itself is good rather than great. Pair it up with efficient easy to drive speakers, and in a small to mid-sized room (a typical bedroom), you have a great component. The only thing you may fuss over is the tube you use.
Do not get confused by the four star rating for the performance, which reflects me getting spoilt with the sound of higher priced components. It is even, balanced and musical, and the performance belies its low price! Compare it to generic integrated, it is no contest.
Just be careful with the exposed tubes!
- DAC: RATOC-RAL-24192DM1
- Amp: Leben 300xs
- CD player: Oppo
- Cables: Symphonic Line, Hitachi
- Speakers: Graham LS 5/9
- Website: http://www.taga-audio.com
- Distributor: MZ Audio Distribution
- Price: ₹31,900.00