Teac UD-505 ($1699): This isn’t your Dad’s reel-to-reel.

Teac UD-505: This isn’t your Dad’s reel-to-reel. 4.5 stars

Pros: Affordable in this price range
Versatility
Power
Sound, which allows the music to flow forth (no coloration)
Excellent remote

Cons: Front markings fade in low light (hard to see/read)
Not the flavor of the month
Not much else

Teac UD-505 ($1699): This isn’t your Dad’s reel-to-reel.

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Teac UD-505

TTVJ Teac Link



Intro: As the title states, this isn’t your Father’s Teac. At one time Teac was the reel-to-reel player to have. There might have been others that cost more, or maybe sounded slightly better, but the Teac brand literally brought reel-to-reel players into the affordable range for audiophiles of yore. My best friend’s father had one and playing it through some custom GSL speakers made in Kansas City; the sound was phenomenal. He of course also had a Linn Sondek LP12, which was phenomenal as well. Imagine being a teenage kid having access to the best audio players of the time (within reasonable price), given free rein to play the music at hand. We spent many a night spinning discs and reels as a result. He is the reason I have a Linn Sondek Axis turntable and still use it, although not as much as I should.

Fast forward to the portable age (reborn) and Teac saw what could be again. Providing the tie between home audio and portable with the sound of home audio, the UD-505 (and its predecessors) espouse to give you that listening room flavor within the privacy of your ears. I did achieve markedly different results depending upon the input connection I had, and headphones, but all came across as clean and detailed. Combined with a vibrant tonality, the memories of yore came washing across again, and life was grand.

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The Teac is a tour I jumped on late. I was hoping Todd would add me, and he did. I am forever grateful for the services he provides the community by lending us wares many of us would not have the chance to hear. Of course, I have also repaid in kind, purchasing some of my finest gear from Todd. This is another fine offering from TTVJ and Teac.

The unit spent the better part of 8.5 days with me, and I accumulated approximately 25-30 hours of listening, due to other obligations. I did have two long listening sessions, which entailed about 4-5.5hrs each so I can confidently state I used the Teac as intended.

I again thank Todd for the opportunity to try a fairly unique product, and enjoy it as well.



Specs:

  • Hi-Res audio playback supporting DSD512 (22.6MHz) and PCM 768kHz/32-bit PCM
  • Dual monaural circuit design with a high-end AKM VERITA AK4497 DAC on each left and right channel
  • 5 types of PCM digital filters and 2 types of DSD digital filters
  • Up-conversion up to 24.5MHz DSD and 384kHz/32-bit PCM
  • Dual on-board clocks for 44.1kHz and 48kHz frequencies, and 10MHz external clock input
  • Bluetooth® receiver supporting LDAC™ and Qualcomm® aptX™ HD
  • TEAC-HCLD output buffer circuit and TEAC-QVCS volume control for high quality sound
  • Dual toroidal-core power transformers
  • Digital Isolator for separated digital and analogue sections
  • 4.4mm 5-polar Pentaconn jack and dual 1/4” TRS jacks for balanced and active-ground drives*1
  • TEAC’s patent-registered pin-point feet in three positions for the perfect installation*2
  • Bulk Pet USB transferring technology with four transfer modes for various sound characters*3
  • USB audio port for Hi-Res audio input from Windows/Mac
  • Coaxial and optical digital inputs on both front and back
  • Convenient analogue LINE input to use the UD-505 as a pre-amplifier
  • Analogue outputs with balanced XLR and conventional unbalanced RCA outputs
  • High-contrast full-graphic organic EL display with dimmer
  • Full-metal body with an A4-sized footprint
  • Free TEAC HR Audio Player for DSD512 and PCM32/768 playback
  • Compliant with RoHS

Gear used/compared:

iFi Pro iDSD
Yulong DA-Art ii

Cayin N6ii mk2
Shanling M6 Pro
XDuoo x10t ii

ZMF Eikon (xlr to 4.4bal adapter)
Audeze LCD3 (xlr to 4.4bal adapter)
Kennerton Magni (4.4bal)
Empire Ears Odin (DDHIFi 2.5bal to 4.4bal adapter)


Songlist:

twenty one pilots: Trench, Regional At Best
Alex Fox: Guitar On Fire, To The Gypsies
Roger Daltry
Dave Matthews
Jeff Beck
Tidal MQA


Unboxing:

As you would expect from a home audio component, the Teac came is a well-protected box, replete with foam inserts to keep it suspended. Typical fare and that’s that. I will also copy over from the requisites the necessities of the “talents” the Teac has, as they can provide as good a basis of a read as I can.

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Technicals:

From the website:

“The UD-505 employs the latest VERITA AK4497 (developed by Asahi Kasei Microdevices) on each of the left and right channels. It is a highly regarded high-end audio DAC and supports DSD512 (22.5MHz) and 768kHz/32-bit PCM formats, achieving industry-leading ultra-low distortion levels. OSRD (Over-sampling Ratio Doubler) technology, meanwhile, significantly reduces out-of-band noise. As a result, the UD-505 has the refinement necessary to make the most of Hi-Res formats, successfully processing information that lies outside the audible range.”


Use of the TOTL DAC chip is nothing new but appreciated since it can be counted on in this device. With no need to chance something new, tried and true is the way of careful business here.

Using a dual monaural circuit configuration throughout, from the power supply (including power transformers), to the D/A converters in the digital section and the analogue output stage allows the voltages to be kept separate. As a result, no outside interference or bleed from the power to the audio circuitry. Many tube amps use discrete power running as well, due to the high current sent through, which has to be controlled. Woo Audio and XDuoo with their wonderful tube amps do this, which keep noise interference to a minimum. Teac calls this Teac-HCLD:

“At the heart of analogue section are TEAC-HCLD (High Current Line Driver) buffer amp circuits, designed to enhance current supply. Each channel employs two identical buffer amps that process differential drive for balanced output, and parallel drive for unbalanced output. By increasing the current supply to the buffer amp section, the analogue audio signal is passed to the next step without any loss of dynamism.”

Simply put, isolating input voltage from output voltage is a good thing and helps to promote an absolutely black background.

With the ability to run as a fully balanced amp (in and out), the possibilities for source use and operation expand even further. Throw in that this is also a darn good pre-amp, with XLR connectivity and you could easily insert this into not only your desktop setting but home/office stereo as well.

“The UD-505’s headphone amplifier circuit provides balanced-drive by using the TEAC-HCLD circuit, – comprised of four output transistors for each left and right channel – for headphone output. Furthermore, by driving these transistors in parallel when a single-ended headphone is connected, the UD-505 delivers stronger driving power than most ordinary single-ended headphone amps provide.”

Many sources utilize something such as this as well. You could call this the “false sense of power,” but it really does provide a nice powerful response. By “false” I mean, it mimics the sense of balanced in a single end mode of operation. Again, not new technology or innovative, but much appreciated that all of this mingles together in one place. I currently have three sources hooked into the unit all at once and can easily switch using the dials or the very nice included remote. Should DSD float my boat, I run my XDuoo x10t ii. Want Tidal MQA? Hook up to my MBP. It just works across many platforms and throw in BT without fuss and you have another hook up, which is painless in presentation.

There is much, MUCH more I could write, but I suggest you peruse the manufacturers webpage or the one on TTVJ for a more detailed look. I did enjoy reading about it, as an almost hearkening back to the old days and my Stereo Review or Audio rags.


Build/Fit:

I keep this separate because functionality deserves its own section here for the features are impressive.

Coming in either black or silver, the Teac looks functional and a bit old school to me, which isn’t bad. You even get the old “rack handles” for whence you used to have a rack of audio gear. I find this a refreshing look to others more “organic” shapes, especially with the ability to move the unit by the handle.

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The unit does sit on a tripod of wide feet though, and I found myself tilting it accidentally more than once when doing something around it or on top of it. The top makes for a perfect “storage area” of gear and other smaller amps/DAC’s as well. Currently the excellent iFi Zen CAN sits atop right now, looking spunky and in nice contrast. Size is about what you would expect a desktop unit to be, with it only being a bit taller than expected. The iFi Pro iDSD would fit perfectly on top of it, making for two very worthy options. Of decent heft as well, the Teac is solidly built and put together just like you think it should be.


Functionality:

The front is dominated by the volume wheel on the right, and a small OLED display slightly left of that. Directly below the display are the 4.4bal and dual (L/R) 6.35mm bal headphone jacks. Spaced nicely, I do not have a cable, which split into L/R 6.35 jacks. No bother, as I have plenty of 4.4bal, and Will sent along his XLR female to 4.4bal jack; which currently drives my Eikon’s nicely.

To the left of the display is a menu button to access the items you can change from filter to brightness as well as other functions. To be honest though, I used the remote 95% of the time, since the unit may be left on “standby” with the main toggle switch left on. A rotating knob is to the left, which controls the input, but again…

Just to the right of the on/off toggle you have a clock button and another Opt/Coax in, which makes easy access to your portable sources that have the ability to run optical. As stated earlier many units have the cross-connectivity options that the Teac does, but these are laid out logically and with the thought of ease in use. I would finish this by saying I wish the lettering surrounding the front items were a brighter white as they fade almost completely away in less than optimal light. Again, the remote takes care of this as it is silver with black lettering and easier to see on these tired old eyes.

On the back you have the connectivity options, which are numerous. You can run XLR/balanced as well as RCA-analog LO on the left, which is also where the RCA in connections are. Laid out functionally and with the thought that these will be your stouter cables, so kept away from the more “fragile” connections such as digital/coax/USB. To access the dual on-board clocks for 44.1kHz and 48kHz frequencies, there is a 10MHz external clock input, “over with the digital inputs as well.

The Teac promotes itself as thoroughly competent in connectivity and functionality and to me it does not disappoint. Throw is Bluetooth as well and you can easily hook your Smartphone or DAP for quick access to your Tidal or Spotify lists.

As expected, a good DAC/amp should come with filter options as well. The Teac does not disappoint.

PCM digital filters

Sharp Roll Off: FIR filter with a steep roll-off that sharply cuts signals outside the audio band
Slow Roll Off: FIR filter with a slow roll-off that gently cuts signals outside the audio band
Short Delay – Sharp: Short delay filter with a steep roll-off that sharply cuts signals outside the audio band
Short Delay – Slow: Short delay filter with a slow roll-off that gently cuts signals outside the audio band
Low Dispersion: Short delay filter with low dispersion that cuts signals outside the audio band.
Off


Many more versed than I can discern the discrete differences from the above. I shall leave it at that. Suffice to say that even I can hear some of the differences.

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Sound:

In talking with another reviewer, we agreed that the Teac provides an excellent cleanliness to it that promotes a solidly near-neutral sound. I hate to call this reference, for what is one person’s reference is another’s anathema. And of course, vice versa. So, calling the Teac neutral is not an insult but rather that it does not color your sound.

I personally find it refreshingly clean in some manners and connectivity, and slightly dull or colored in others. Running the same songs over the same headphones but different connectivity, I get two different sounds. Running optical from the back, the XDuoo X10T ii and the Eikon’s with an LQi XLR balanced cable sound refreshingly clean. There is a definite lilt to the song, without being antiseptic or flat. I even get a bit of holography from Alex Fox’s Just Grace. Very pleasant and uncluttered. Crisp in detail retrieval, and a clarity worthy of the UD-5xx history, the UD-505 promotes a listening pleasure where you can’t help but reach for the up-volume button.

Switching to the excellent Kennerton Magni running a DHC Double Helix 4.4bal cable, I get the same responses as the Eikon, with a bit more vibrancy. Bass is excellent as well, but it sounds a bit thinner to me. Crispness is as good as it gets here, and I am thoroughly impressed by the quad assortment of listening accoutrements I have at my disposal in one string. Vocals come across as a bit cleaner than the Eikon, but this isn’t about the two of them, but the sound, which is provided by the Teac. And while that cleanliness could be construed as clinical or antiseptic, I would concur that by changing your listening device or source, you can alleviate that thinner quality of note.

The Xduoo is one of my all-time favorite transport sources that sounds as clean as pretty much any I have heard. As a result, I can count on it to provide me the necessities of deciphering the discrepancies of the unit at hand. In this case the Teac is allowed to play nicely with the other toys to see how well it works.

Moving to the RCA line-in and the Cayin N6ii mk2, I first used the same songs as on the Xduoo. Using the excellent E01 motherboard and set on LO, I did have to increase the volume about 4 notches above the Xduoo. But what became immediately apparent was the better bass quality wrought from the Cayin. Running on Class-A, the Cayin simply sang with a vibrant, rich tonality, which the Teac “allowed” to shine through. Switching back to the Eikon’s the sound is a bit flatter, but I put this down to the tuning. Distinct notes are heard and separated easily. One can clearly make out Alex Fox’s strums and picks either way.

If I had to define the UD-505’s soundstage & layering is would have to be again competent and source/headphone dependent. Other have spoken on being able to discern and define in minute detail how those functions come across in a quality DAC/amp; but I would suggest this be taken with a grain as what you listen with has as much of an effect as what quality map goes through it. That said, yes you can discern between DAP’s, much as I have here, but the actual DAC/amp involved has allowed me to discern those differences. To me, not the actual unit; the Teac. I consider that a quality option when dealing with a desktop DAC/amp. There are times for clean, crisp, clear and transparent desktop unit. There are also times for colored ones.

The Teac does not offend me in any one category, but again I have a hard time discerning the actual influence of some “categories” here, which in my opinion means it is doing its job behind the scene without fuss.

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Comparisons:

Teac UD-505 ($1699) v iFi Pro iDSD ($2299):

iFi is known for their versatility in operation and options. I chose the iDSD as my TOTL DAC/amp for it fit my bill since it is a tube-amp and has a fantastic DAC inside as well. Throw in input and output options galore, and what is not to like. I will admit I run it on full tube-SET about 95% of the time. Usually the only time I do not is in comparisons such as this. And yes, I obliged.

I love the functions provided by the iFi from the gain switch to the ability to run full solid state to a combination of tube/solid state to full-on tube mode. iFi seems to promote things ahead of the curve, and for that it is still a top competitor today. Plus, who doesn’t love a tube amp?

The major difference in sound comes from that tube sound, which promotes a warmer, richer sound. The Teac simply cannot come close to the warmth emoting from the iFi. And that is all right for it isn’t meant to be that way. Picking on the details of each, both are good, but the Teac presents a better detail retrieval with regard to an airier presentation. The iFi is still quite good, but since it is on the darker side, I perceive that there is a bit less air between the notes.

From my conclusion, “…What started as an audition, turned into a purchase. And as such, I became quite lazy. I preferred listening, instead of writing. And due to Lawrance’s infinite patience, I could be lazy and wait. He politely emailed me again, which was the nudge I needed. I sit here pecking on my keyboard listening to twenty one pilots through my Legend X and the fabulous XDuoo x10t ii/iFi Pro iDSD combination. I have better DAP’s, but to me the XDuoo is about as pure as it gets. And as such, I can customize the sound at my beck and call through the iDSD. This is as good as it gets. Sound-wise, the Apex Pinnacle 2 is better (as it should be for $12k), but with infinite more options for tuning, the Pro iDSD is my choice for well over 60% of my listening. I will fiddle with the filters on a sing by song basis sometimes but leaving it to one setting is as much fun as the other.

And here is where the true benefit comes in, the ability to filter as I chose, the ability to source as I chose, and the ability to tube as I chose. That to me is what sold me on purchasing the Pro. And I do not regret it at all. This is still a fantastic unit (with 4.4bal option now), and truly one, which will stay in my rotation for a good long time. It is the basis of my comparisons, as it should be. And that gives me the kind of joy I have right now finalizing this. The sound is sublime, and all is good. Enough said.”


Both are extremely versatile so this would come down to either the cost or preferred sound signature. Plus you will notice that the X10Tii made it into this review as well…I purchased the iFi, and I do not regret it in the least, nor want for more (save the aforementioned Apex Pinnacle II, of course…).


Teac UD-505 ($1699) v Yulong DA-Art Aquila ii ($700):

A “budget” entry into the DAC/amp market, the Aquila comes on the heels of its predecessors as well. Known for excellent sound out of the DAC section, the Aquila does not disappoint. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the unit, plus it has a stylish look that lends itself to enhancing its location upon your desk or credenza. Sound-wise, the Aquila is about as neutral as it gets to me, and from my finale, “But, and here it comes, there are others that can do all of the above for near the same price. You can get similar performance from other manufacturers and get similar performance from manufacturers who’s wares cost 2x more as well. And this is where it also gets interesting. We are faced with a plethora of listening devices and why not a plethora of amplification devices as well? The Yulong fills into a niche of mid-fi quite nicely and performs admirably against the competition. You get fully balanced. You get two options in which to listen with both being balanced as well. You get a powerful semi-tunable DAC/amp that can function easily in most systems, without fuss. While not necessarily presenting as much character as some (such as the XDuoo TA-30 mentioned above), you get a thoroughly competent, clean sound that provides you with options in which to listen.

I cannot find too many faults in the Yulong save that it presents a near-neutral sound. Mind you, that is not a fault to many, and you can tailor that a bit with the ASRC/sync options, but is it up to the DAC/amp to flavor your sound too much? To give you that luscious deep-richness you crave? Or is its job to provide the listening platform that carries the sound across cleanly to your listening devices? Those hard to drive headphones will not suffer from that lack of “character” the Aquila II may have. In fact, it may benefit allowing you to really focus on the headphone listening pleasure instead. The Yulong DA-Art Aquila II just gets out of the way allowing the listener to experience the music and the headphone you are using. And sometimes isn’t that the point?”


Finale:

So there you have it. Another review from this old hard of hearing gent. One where I ramble on and do not really provide you with definitive answers as to whether you should purchase the review unit. Lately, I have shied away from actually coming out and saying, “GO BUY THIS!” Because, it really should be your choice, and your alone. I can tell you what I like and what I do not like, which can help but short of listening you are pressed to read the reviews. And here, I can tell you that if you value detail, clarity and a good air of note between then the Teac might just be a good fit for you. While some might balk at the cost, others may just say that this is an excellent value for it can run in my home system (as a pre-amp) and desktop, easily hooking up my portable DAP from the commute as well. That “value” of services cannot be underestimated, nor should it be overlooked. The proverbial “you get what you pay for” rings true often enough that one should be wary of spending too much. But at what cost you draw the line between functionality, cost-effectiveness and longevity is decided by your goals and pocketbook. And for that, the Teac might just be that excellent value if you can live with a near-neutral sound, which can be tailored by the source, with plenty to play with as well. I do like the Teac, and think that is should be given a listen (as I recommend often…) if you like an open, airy sound, which does not offend in any direction. It just might fit your bill. If on the other hand you prefer a bit of coloration or personality, this may not fit the bill unless you are happy with your DAP’s of choice, which can fill in the rich, warmth you desire.

I again thank Todd and TTVJ for a fabulous opportunity to hear a ware of his offering. The Teac UD-505 was a treat, and with the price drop, might give certain people an itch to add this to their arsenal.

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