This week we?re testing the TEAC CR-H101 CD receiver, a model which is part of the Japanese brand’s Reference series and features Hi-Res Audio compatibility as well as a USB DAC. Can this tiny receiver meet the challenge of driving a demanding pair of speakers?
TEAC CR-H101: modest power rating?
The TEAC CR-H101 CD receiver belongs to the Japanese manufacturer?s Reference series. A highly versatile model, it integrates a CD player, a wireless Bluetooth aptX receiver, digital USB and optical inputs, analog inputs and an FM tuner. TEAC has equipped it with their own optical reading mechanism (the brand’s CD players are highly regarded), a Texas Instruments Burr Brown PCM1795 DAC and a Class-D amplifier (TPA3118). The abundance of Japanese electronic components (USB and S/PDIF controller, op-amps, headphone amplifier, etc.) is a testament to the device?s quality.
The TEAC CR-H101 CD receiver?s power rating isn’t staggering. To be exact, it is rated at 2×20 W into 4 or 8 Ohms. However, Class-D amplifiers are often full of surprises, and low-power units are sometimes capable of producing sound so powerful it?s on par with comparable valve amplifiers. What?s more, a single Watt is enough to reach a convincing level and largely suffices for domestic purposes. Still, we need to make sure that this mini receiver can be a match for demanding speakers, such as the Klipsch Heresy III, for example.
TEAC CR-H101: characteristics
The TEAC CR-H101 CD receiver has quality written it all over it. Instead of plastic, everything seems to be composed of brushed aluminum, potentiometers and control buttons included. The front panel is flanked by two handles, giving the receiver a retro look straight out of the 80s or 90s. The power button is surrounded by a blue LED light. It feels sturdy and the chances of slip-ups while powering the device on or off are slim to none. Beneath this button, a 3.5 mm mini-jack headphone output is available. Just next to this, a first continuous rotation potentiometer allows the user to select the desired source.
A LED-backlit LCD display is positioned in the center of the device. The choice of font for the text is again reminiscent of the 90s. This is where the duration of the track being played (CD), the track number (CD, MP3 files), the volume and the time are displayed. A noteworthy feature, the TEAC CR-H101 CD receiver displays the time even when not powered on. Above the display, the remote control’s IR receiver and 4 control buttons for the CD player are present. To the right, a bigger potentiometer may be used to adjust the volume (headphones or speakers). Lastly, at the very top, a slot allows the user to insert CDs.
The top panel is vented in order to allow for efficient heat dissipation. CDs inserted into the CD player are visible through the vents.
The back panel includes an input for an FM antenna, an RCA stereo line-in input, a USB Type-B digital input, a Toslink optical input, a filtered RCA mono output (frequency non-adjustable) for a subwoofer, and two pairs of screw terminals to which banana plugs may be connected.
Teac CR-H101: included accessories
The TEAC CR-H101 receiver is shipped with a power cable, a wired FM antenna and a small IR remote control (with batteries). Analog RCA cables, USB cables and optical cables must be purchased separately.
TEAC CR-H101: what you can do with it
The TEAC CR-H101 receiver may be connected to 4 different external sources (optical, USB, analog and Bluetooth).
Listen to CDs
The CD player is compatible with CD-audio, CD-R and CD-RW discs. For these last two disc types, the TEAC CR-H101 CD receiver plays MP3 and WMA audio files (preset or variable bit rate) up to 320 kbps. As many as 250 files may be played, folders included. For the occasion, we unearthed some old CD-R discs burnt about 20 years ago, and they were read flawlessly. Since the playback mechanism is paired with a slot-in disc loading system, the disc is automatically loaded by the receiver. Although the loading system?s motor emits a characteristic sound, the motor is perfectly silent during playback. The display indicates the number and the duration of the track being played.
For correctly tagged MP3 files, the name of the track, as well as that of the artist, are displayed.
Connect a TV display or any other digital source
The Toslink optical input is compatible with PCM signals up to 24-bit/96kHz, which makes it compatible with any Blu-ray player or TV display for which the settings of the optical output have been properly adjusted (PCM stereo mode and not Dolby or DTS). The receiver?s display indicates the resolution of the track being played.
Connect a computer or any other USB source
The TEAC CR-H101 CD receiver is equipped with a type-B USB input. Thanks to this connector, the receiver may be used as an external sound card capable of handling PCM stereo signals up to 24-bit/192kHz (Hi-Res Audio). The class-2 USB controller requires a specific driver for computers running Windows (available for download on the brand’s website), whereas Mac OS and Linux automatically recognize the receiver. TEAC proposes audio playback software for Windows and Mac OS which allows the user to bypass the audio mixer of the OS and convey audio stream directly to the receiver (bit perfect mode). Once again, the receiver?s display indicates the resolution of the track being played.
The USB controller is asynchronous, which means that the TEAC CR-H101 CD receiver uses its dual on-board clocks to regulate the data transfer speed.
Connecting an iPhone (with Camera Kit) or an Android smartphone is supposedly possible, although we didn’t try this for ourselves. On the other hand, we can confirm that a Raspberry Pi running Volumio, which guarantees lossless DLNA streaming, works perfectly when connected to the TEAC CR-H101 receiver?s USB input.
Stream music wirelessly with any smartphone or tablet
The Bluetooth receiver is compatible with the SBC, AAC and aptX codecs. As such, the user is guaranteed the best possible connection with any computer, smartphone (notably iPhone with AAC) or tablet. A reminder that a wireless Bluetooth connection means lossy compression for audio files, except when an iPhone is used to play AAC files.
Connect a turntable or any other analog source
The TEAC CR-H101 receiver has one analog input which is in RCA stereo format. It allows the user to connect a turntable (with integrated or external RIAA phono preamp) or a DAP, for example. Note that analog signals are automatically converted to digital (24-bit/96kHz PCM): it?s a necessary step with Class-D amplifiers.
Listen to FM radio
The presence of an analog tuner means that the TEAC CR-H101 CD receiver may be used to listen to FM radio programs. Here again, the signals are converted to digital (24-bit/96kHz). Twenty stations can be memorized and the RDS standard is handled. The supplied antenna cable may be replaced with a bonafide FM antenna.
The 3.5 mm mini-jack headphone output is paired with an amplifier rated at 2×80 mW into 32 Ohms. That?s enough power to drive most headphones, and the power supply doesn’t peter out when listening at high volume.
TEAC CR-H101: Hi-Res Audio oversampling and loudness
Oversampling of incoming digital stream is available. It can be activated using the IR remote control (upconvert button). In practice, the sample rate for signals up to 96kHz is doubled. As a result, a 44.1kHz CD signal is upsampled to 88.2kHz. For the rest: 48kHz -> 96kHz, 88.2kHz -> 176.4kHz, 96kHz -> 192kHz. Sample rates of 176.4kHz et 192kHz are not modified.
The loudness mode functions with all sources, including headphones. TEAC has opted for a powerful, 80s style EQ which places heavy emphasis on lows and highs. The listening experience is immediately carnivalesque. It?s amusing, but a certain amount of moderation is in order.
TEAC CR-H101: test conditions
We connected the TEAC CR-H101 receiver to several speakers: Tangent Spectrum X4, Focal Aria 906 and Klipsch Heresy III. The latter have an imposing 12? driver, two acoustic horns and high sensitivity rating, which makes them a challenge for any receiver. Connections were ensured by NorStone W250 cables.
We listened to CD-Audio discs, CD-R discs (MP3s), a Raspberry Pi2 (Volumio) connected with a NorStone Jura USB cable, an LG TV, and a Sonos Connect network player connected with an Audioquest Vodka Optical optical cable (followed by a NorStone Jura RCA analog cable). We listened to a good number of FLAC files (from CD quality to 24-bit/192kHz Studio quality) in addition to several TV series and concerts.
First, a word on the TEAC CR-H101 receiver?s headphone output, which we used to connect a pair of Meze 99 Classics headphones. The audio quality is very good, with a flattering spotlight put on mids. The balance is also good.
With modest power and a miniscule chassis, TEAC clearly isn’t looking to dazzle its audience. However, anyone who has heard the Japanese manufacturer?s cassette decks or CD players will tell you that the brand is brimming with expertise, and has been for a long time. All things considered, it should come as no surprise that the TEAC CR-H101 receiver delivers a highly articulated and wide soundstage from the very first notes. The mids are irresistibly lively and free from any hint of harshness, which is no small feat when it?s a pair of Klipsch Heresy IIIs that need to be driven, as their compression drivers aren’t very forgiving. Highs are well integrated, smooth and not excessively bright. Lows never descend beyond reasonable limits, and yet remain dynamic while occasionally surprising the listener.
These qualities are easy to appreciate at all volume levels. In other words, there is no need to crank up the volume to get a clear and balanced sound.
Lows: nervous, with a suitable range and a lot of punch in the upper end
Mids: natural and clear, perfect for rediscovering a wide range of music (very precise dialogues when used to watch films)
Highs: well integrated and never unpleasantly bright
TEAC CR-H101: conclusions
What we liked:
- The compact format and the impeccable finish quality (which creates the urge to showcase the receiver rather than hide it)
- The energetic, well-balanced listening experience
- The resolution and the speed in the three registers (+++ for the mids)
- the 3D soundstage
- the quality of the optical and USB inputs
- the silent CD player
- the total absence of noise in standby mode
What we would have liked:
- an AirPlay and DLNA network input for streaming (but solutions exist)
The Teac CR-H101 receiver knows how to handle demanding speakers such as the Klipsch Heresy III and has no problem with compact speakers. In a room measuring 20m² and at reasonable volume, this receiver will win the hearts of its audience, even with floorstanders (Dali Spektor 6, Dali Zensor 5, Q Acoustics 2050i, Elipson Prestige Facet 14F, Triangle Elara LN05, for example). Very large floorstanding speakers with drivers larger than 6? and bass reflex ports should be avoided. For those looking for an elegant and compact all-in-one receiver, the TEAC CR-H101 deserves a spot on the top of the list.
PS: The TEAC CR-H101 receiver is a component of the following hi-fi systems: Teac CR-H101 / Q Acoustics 2020i, Teac CR-H101 / Wharfedale Diamond 220, Teac CR-H101 / Focal Chorus 705, Teac CR-H101 / Klipsch RB-81 MKII.