The Anthem TLP 1 / PVA 2 duo have a very distinct sound quality that is immediately noticeable. I would describe it as a blend of analog warmth and digital clarity, a sort of hybrid sound quality. They had the warm, full sound of tubes combined with the stark clarity and detail of digital audio – a nice combination.
I tested the TLP 1 and PVA 2 with my Paradigm Reference 100 speakers, with which I’m very familiar. The bass had a full and warm analog quality, but also sounded tight, solid and quick with no overhang or lumpiness – the ‘digital’ part of their hybrid sound. Bass reproduction is highly dependent upon speaker placement, yet the Anthem components had snappier, tighter bass than any components I’ve auditioned on my speakers. It’s a sound quality I appreciate because heavy, boomy bass is annoying. I suspect that the damping factor and slew rate specifications are at least partly responsible for the apparent quickness or speed of the PVA 2 amplifier – more on that later.
Midrange was very warm sounding and smooth with plenty of detail. Their characteristic warm, analog sound quality extended all the way to the upper frequency ranges. Treble sounded detailed and crisp with no hint of brightness or brittleness. The soundstage had very good front to back depth, though its width did not extend beyond the speakers.
In short, the Anthem amp and pre-amp were very easy and enjoyable to listen to for long periods, and these are Anthem’s entry class separate components.
Overview of Anthem TLP 1 Stereo Pre-Amplifier/AM-FM Tuner
The TLP 1 is an uncomplicated stereo preamp/tuner that includes basic custom installation features and independent signal paths for listening to and recording different sources simultaneously. It’s an analog-only/audio only component with six inputs (including AM-FM tuner) and preamp outputs for various system configurations. It has full range preamp outputs or high-pass outputs (crossed over at 80Hz, -12dB/ octave) for satellite speakers with a subwoofer, a full range or low-pass filter output for a subwoofer (80Hz, -24dB/ octave filter slope) as well as fixed level outputs for Zone 2 audio and Record outputs.
Other features include a +12-volt trigger, an I/R input and an RS-232 port for configuring the TLP 1 via a PC. The software is downloadable from Anthem’s website, but is only PC compatible.
The TLP 1 comes with a Universal remote control that takes some time to master, but once studied it is easy to use.
Its volume control has a range of 88dB (-80dB to +8dB) in 0.5dB increments, providing a wide gain range and minute adjustments of volume level. The TLP 1 has wide bandwidth frequency response from 1Hz to 120kHz +0, -3dB through its main outputs.
I’m critical of two things about the TLP 1: The AM tuner had only fair reception using the supplied AM loop antenna. I live in a rural area but AM reception was frequently subject to interference and static. The FM tuner had good performance. I also wished for a phono input, but the superb sound quality of the TLP 1 overshadowed my desire to listen to my vinyl collection. An outboard phono preamp would easily solve the problem.
Overview of Anthem PVA 2 Stereo Power Amplifier
The PVA 2 is also a straightforward power amplifier rated at 125 watts per channel with a frequency bandwidth that ranges from 10Hz to 80kHz (+0, -3dB). Although amp specifications are generally less significant than a listening test, there are two specs that can often predict an amplifier’s performance: damping factor and slew rate. Damping factor is a measure of an amplifier’s ability to damp or control unwanted movement of a speaker cone and the higher the number the better. A high damping factor generally means tight and well-defined bass response, but bass is also dependent upon the speakers and speaker placement. The PVA 2 has a damping factor of 200 @ 1kHz, a relatively high number. Slew rate is defined as the maximum rate of change of an audio signal. It describes the ability of an amplifier to quickly supply the needed electrical current when a sudden increase in current is required. It is measured in volts per microsecond (V/µS). The PVA 2 has a slew rate specification of 28V/µS, also a high number. The combination of a high damping factor and slew rate in the PVA 2 explains the sound qualities I described earlier.
The PVA 2 has a +12-volt trigger input and output, a required feature for custom installation applications, and also has a three-position power mode (trigger/manual/auto). In the Auto Mode the amplifier turns on automatically when an audio signal is present.
With a toroidal power supply behind its 125-watts per channel, the PVA 2 had plenty of dynamic headroom and an almost-unheard-of 122 dB signal to noise ratio.
It’s no mystery why Anthem enjoys a strong reputation among audiophiles – top class performance and real value. Even their most affordable TLP 1 and PVA 2 components offer a distinctive, luscious sound quality I’ve heard in some of the most expensive audio systems. The Anthem TLP 1 and PVA 2 Anthem are two of the best-kept secrets and a great foundation for a mid-priced two-channel system. With a price tag of $1,798 for the pair, that leaves more money for speakers, disc players and other stuff. Consider the TLP 1 and PVA 2 as a great alternative to a mid-priced AV receiver, even though the TLP 1 has no video switching or digital circuitry. In summary, I’ll repeat a comment I made a few years ago when I reviewed Anthem’s flagship Statement D1 processor and Statement P5 multichannel power amp: ‘Run, don’t walk to your nearest Anthem dealer.’
Anthem components are designed and manufactured by Sonic Frontiers International, a Canadian company that is also the sister company of Paradigm Electronics.
- Anthem Electronics