While not a completely new concept, today’s generation of discreet, room-friendly amplifiers are the perfect complement to soundbars, local sources such as TVs and even indi-vidual zones within a multizone system. Entering the market with its TVA2.1 Amplifier, New Hampshire-based whole-house audio veteran Russound is offering dealers an affordable, compact stereo amplifier to address those wide-ranging aforementioned applications.
Features & Setup
The TVA2.1 features a thin profile that allows integrators to mount the ampli-fier behind a TV, as well as other loca-tions such as in a wall box or directly to a TV mount.
The amp produces 30 watts of power per channel, and it offers versatile installa-tion options including a subwoofer out and three line level inputs (analog, coaxial and optical). Russound also includes a basic IR remote with volume up/volume down and mute functions, and it notes that third-party control and automation systems can learn its remote functions for complete system integration.
Setting the small-footprint amp up in my home, I paired it with an Atlantic Tech-nology 3.1 HSB speaker base system that incorporates three passive channels and a powered 6.5-inch woofer.
After unboxing the amp I stripped some 16/2 Monster Cable speaker wire and inserted those leads into the included phoenix connector. I connected the amp’s power supply and plugged the component in, and hooked the phoenix connector into the amp. I ran a cable from my 4K Vizio TV’s optical output to the amp’s optical input. I finished the setup by running an RCA cable from the TVA2.1’s sub out to the subwoofer input of the Atlantic Tech 3.1 HSB, and a ran an IR cable into the amp’s IR input, concealing the IR cable underneath the Atlantic Tech speaker.
After the simple, straightforward set-up I fired up the TVA2.1 A/V system with sources that included a Dish Joey 4K, an Apple TV and a Sony Blu-ray disc player. I started with some broadcast content, but after a few minutes, however, I lost audio. Eventually I figured out that my speaker cables were stripped a bit too much and they must have touched, which threw the amp into its overload protection mode.
The next day I used a little bit of electrical tape to cover the exposed wire and restarted the system. Finding the system still wasn’t running right I tapped into the TV’s audio settings and switched from bitstream to a PCM output — from that point on the amp has run without an issue.
Performance & Conclusions
As part of breaking in the amp I stuck mostly to watching standard television content such as sports and network programs. The more time it ran, the TVA2.1 continually sounded smoother, I thought.
I started digging into some music-only playback by firing up the Jeff Beck Performing This Week at Ronnie Scott’s Blu-ray disc. I thought as a source Blu-ray sounded much better than broad-cast. The content came across bigger and broader, as well as more dynamic. It did not sound as compressed as broad-cast, as reproduced by the TVA2.1-driven system.
Furthermore, after I adjusted the volume level on the 3.1 HSB’s active woofer section from the 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. position, it made all content sound fuller without adding bloat.
Then I switched back to broadcast content and found Live with Jools Hol-land on the MTV Live channel. With the concert performances on this show I thought the bass level adjustment positively impacted the fullness of that content too.
TV shows, including Timeless and Gotham, and sports broadcasts such as Boston Bruins hockey games, sounded clear and articulate. The hockey games in particular benefited from the clarity ac-companying the fast-paced play-by-play calls, while background sounds such as the puck hitting sticks and checks along the boards had more authority too.
My impression was the amp present-ed slight emphasis on upper midrange, which helped with its delivery of male dialog as well as with musical content. That also may be influencing the amp’s overall clarity with TV shows as well and their mix of vocals and instrumental scores.
Comparing the Russound amp to Phase Technology’s P3-35 amplifier that I also evaluated recently and is somewhat similar, I think the Russound amp may have a touch more top-end “air,” but from a feature standpoint the P3-35 is a 3.1 solution that offers EQ options, a built-in volume control, RS-232 and Bluetooth.
The Russound TVA2.1 has a slimmer profile, while the P3-35 offers a smaller footprint. Also, the P3-35 runs a bit warmer to touch than the TVA2.1 when in use, and I’ll add that the Russound is slightly less expensive than the P3-35.
Personally I’d be elated to have either amp in a media room or whole-house audio system. The Russound offering is solidly built, it offers all of the features needed to power a pair of speakers, and it sounds clear and robust. Because of its size I was also able to neatly tuck the amp into a TV stand without it looking out of place.
For a reasonable amount of money, the space-friendly TVA2.1 fills a lot of needs in today’s audio market. It’s a solution for which dealers can find plenty of uses, which makes it a resourceful product to have in their solutions portfolio.