A Possible Tag Processor CD and DVD System Replacement

msrhedges

Novice Member
I have been into audio and electronics for 35 years. I did own one of the first generation CD players back in 1983 whilst at the same time I had a B&O linear tracking (DTL Logic) Beogram 4002 record deck (manufactured between 1974-1980) with production batch selected MMC4000 cartridge. The cartridge tracked at 1 gram. I can remember listening to Pink Floyd - Meddle over and over again I was 23 at the time. I also went through a very expensive valve period 20 years later using 300B amplifiers and matching the valves with a AVO MKIV. I built my own very high efficiency transmission line loudspeakers with ATC drive units to work with valve amplification. That's a a long story and bit of background really. I still have the Beogram, Transmission line speakers and valve tester.

In the last 7 years (overlaps with valve amplification) I have been using a Tag Mclaren AV32R-BP192, DVD32FLR, 100x5R and 250x3R. My main speaker system now comprises of Monitor Audio PL300, PLC150, RXFX for the side, GS10 for rear and a GXW15 subwoofer. I also have another system on my workstation using Monitor Audio PL100, Audiolab 8000C, TagMclaren 60P and Echo Layla 3G.

I know that not everybody may agree with me on the following but this is where I have ended up after a lot of head scratching and using my finances carefully.

Technology has moved on a lot since Tag developed their equipment, it is now possible to buy more complex and powerful DSP's / DAC's for significantly less money. So therefore to get high performance equipment it does not necessarily mean that you have to spend shed loads of money as long as the design is implemented to the highest technical standard.

I have been in a state of indecision over a replacement for the processor and DVD player for some time. For Blu-ray playback I have been temporarily using full rate DTS over SPDIFF which was a very good interim solution, this maximised the capability of the AV32R 5.1 sound. I also had an HDMI switch box which my family hated. I never had so many complaints and have to admit that the system tended to be over complex.

I do think that the high quality amplification and speakers make huge differences to a system. Cables can however be debated. I use middle of the range Japanese Canare RCA interconnects made by Mark Grant Cables for all RCA connections, a pointer that I was given by forum member GrahamMG in 2004. For the main passive PL300 loudspeakers I use Audioquest Midnight and Belden 5000UP for everything else.

The 250x3R really is a masterpiece of amplification I cannot praise it enough, it is basically 3 Tag mono blocks in one chassis. Audiolab have now brought out the 8200MB mono blocks, they are very similar to the original Tag and come at a very competitive price, brilliant for the money. Some of you may not believe me but I actually think that the TagMclaren 60P sounds better than my 100x5R, I was shocked when I discovered this, a very good friend of mine bought the 8200CD and I tried it whilst my main loudspeakers were running on the 100x5R, he had a 60P and we swapped it over on my system ....... that was when I bought the 250x3R which is the best amplifier that I have ever had period, this amplifier grips drive units in a Vulcan mind meld and has the uncanny ability to provide detail in the quieter parts of a track. (Note : I like an uncoloured sound without an overly forward mid range).

The first change that I made was to buy the Audiolab 8200CD which for the price is an amazing CD player easily beating the DVD32FLR for CD playback. It uses a Sabre 32-bit audio DAC from ESS Technology. You also get the benefit of additional digital inputs and some interesting filters. In this setup my primary stereo for "music listening" DAC's are no longer located in the processor. In addition I use the USB input to listen to high resolution music at 24bit 96Khz with Foobar 2000. Which works very well. Linn's studio master of Bob Marley - Legend or Claire Martin - Perfect Alibi are a good example.

The second change was the Audiolab 8200T tuner I wanted to listen to radio 4 on FM, enough said.

The third change and the one that concerned me the most and was to the Audiolab 8200AP processor. I had to make a decision over additional functions that I would hardly ever use and ease of use for the family. The display on the Audiolab is not so nice when compared to the Tag but very bright and easily readable at a distance as it is OLED. In addition the setup menu only works over composite (CVBS) video, you can do some setup directly on the main display as well by using Q-SET. I used to buy equipment with all the bells and whistles and then never used half of it. My AV32r was in setup mode only when I wanted to make changes otherwise never used.

Codecs

As Blu-ray players are required to decode all of the major high rate audio standards (DTS Master HD etc) it does not necessarily make sense to include these in the processor as well. I therefore completely agree with Audiolab's position in not putting them into the 8200AP as I do not see the point in buying them twice. This simplifies the system and reduces the cost. The Blu-ray player then decodes (un-zips as I understand it) the high rate formats into LPCM which is sent to the 8200AP over HDMI. There's no difference in quality and so far I have had no problems with this system, it works seamlessly further reinforcing the concept.

Sound Quality

7.1 - I elected to go for the Panasonic BDT220EB Blu-ray player the result was spectacular in comparison with full rate DTS. Titles with DTS-HD Master 7.1 worked as you would expect and with DTS-HD Master 5.1 the rear channels worked as well, they may be copies of the side speakers though. I did use an older Blu-ray player and that did not fire up the rear channels leaving you with 5.1 utilising the side speakers and not the rear. The DAC's in the processor may not be as good as those in the CD player but they are providing very good sound indeed for movies and TV.

Stereo - The sound quality from the CD player in direct mode is excellent as it and the analogue inputs can all operate in full bypass. Therefore using the analogue inputs of the processor means that it is effectively an analogue preamp.

Picture Quality

The picture quality on my pioneer LX5090 plasma is brilliant. I have no issues here. HDMI Pass through is not as far as I can see affecting quality.

Build Quality

You could argue that the case construction is better than the Tag AV32r. I am not sure about the internals as I have not removed the cover.

Operation

The 8200AP worked straight out of the box and has not required much setup, it is in its essence very straight forward to use. The setup that I did carry out was to adjust the loudspeaker distances and output levels with a sound meter and select the surrond modes I wanted to use for TV (Freesat). It looks like all inputs can be renamed with a 7 digit character string I will do this when I have fianalised my system.

Niggles

For some reason Audiolab have used the same IR codes as the some of the channels on 100x5r and 250x3r. For instance selecting HDMI 1 turns one of the 100x5r channels off, pressing again turns it back on. I would hope that Audiolab fix this in a firmware update as other people with Tag amps my take this route. I wonder if it would require a remote control update as well.

I have had to keep my HDMI splitter enabling me to send video output to my projector as well as my TV it would have been nice to have had two HDMI outputs.

Double height text is available on the CD player it would have been good to have seen it in the processor for displaying volume etc. If the function is there I can't find it.

Conclusion

I am very happy with the 8200AP as a replacement for the AV32r BP192. At the end of the day I am an audiophile and so I may have compromised with the high end competition feature list but not as far as I believe on sound quality. I have in this write up deliberately not discussed the psychoacoustics of sound. What I can say is that I am now in the 21st century (HDMI etc) my family is happy and I am happy with the SOUND Quality. Yes there are niggles but I can live with them. I also believe that the 8200AP and 8200CD perform significantly above their pay grade.

Postscript

I have contacted Audiolab about my niggles... they say that the 8200AP has alternate codes for HDMI1 and 2 and the remaining codes will be added in a Firmware upgrade. These codes can be used with a programmable remote. I will use my Tablet S and have asked Audiolab for the details. I will post them here when I get them.

Double height text is also possible in a firmware upgrade and Audiolab are awaiting approval from IAG for this.
 

msrhedges

Novice Member
Audiolab have got back to me and given me the following alternate codes. It will be a few weeks before I have a chance to test them. I can't put them directly into the Tablet S remote control software so I will have to dig out the pronto, I think I can add the codes into the pronto and then learn them on the Tablet S.

The RC5 system code for the 8200AP is 19 (0x13h)

The alternative codes for

HDMI_1 = 102 (0x66h)
HDMI_2 = 103 (0x67h)

Alternatives to the remaining codes which overlap with the TAG 100x5R / 250x3R
will be added in the next version of firmware.
 
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orange55

Well-known Member
This is a great update, the CD replacement is something that is very interesting.
 

ti33er

Well-known Member
Hi MSRHEDGES

Thank you for your write-up - being a fellow Tag McLaren owner it is always good to hear these things from someone in our camp! :)

Regarding your 100X5R comments, you really ought to take your amplifier to Kevin Green for a service and pimping...I think you may change your mind about the 60P being superior sonically (I have got two 60Ps at the moment and picking up a 100P soon in addition to my 100X5R, attempting to Active with my speakers if you wonder why)

The Remote codes made me sell my ex 8000AP, it drove me MAD...I may venture back to an 8200AP because of heat in my cabinet mainly and having to use a large USB powered fan for laptop cooling on top of it, but I am starting to enjoy using the RoomEQ (and Kevin has pimped up my DP a bit by changing a few things like OpAmps etc.)

Best regards and hope you report back in a while to see how you are getting on with it longer term

Paul
 
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ti33er

Well-known Member
PS. It might be a little late now, but alegedly there are NuForce Dealers in Europe these days - try an OPPO BDP-93 NuForce NXE via the Bypass, that is the best I've ever heard for Bluray and SACD, and possible CD too.........apparently the BDP-95 is also really good with CD and Bluray, not heard one yet but I have gleaned that it is.
 

PFM

Active Member
Good write up, I'm pleased that audiolab have released a new model and I have followed the 8200ap extensive discussion on these boards.

My current view (before demoing) is that the 8200ap will be a worthy replacement for my much loved avr32 (original & owned since new). With arcam alpha 10 pwr amps I think it will be a good step up without having to look at a receiver route as a upgrade my setup. Partnered with an oppo I think it might just pull out of the bag that warm glow that the tag has provided for many years.

So it may have limited whistles & bells, again echoing the review above, simplicity done extremely well is what IMHO hifi & home theatre is all about - I have always set up my cinemas by listening and adjusting. It may not be technically perfect in today's world of eq telemetry, but my systems have always got to where I think they should be for an immersive cinematic experience.

Certainly the 8200ap is now on my demo list and thank you for an in depth review that is balanced and well presented
 

sr7000

Member
Thanks for the review. Looks like a great update for my silver 8000av. But I have two questions:

-I it true that the colour of the silver 8200 series is a bit different than the silver 8000 series? And if so: does it look good if you combine the series?

-How does a audiolab 8000p sound, compared to a 100X5R?

Thanks in advance :thumbsup:
 

ti33er

Well-known Member
Hi sr7000

That will be a considerable upgrade as the 8000AV (aka AV30R) was unfortunately victim of price cutting architecture - the Center channel has considerable hiss and DACs were sub par compared to the AV32R back in the day when Tag McLaren were prevalent.

The 8000AP beats the single processor AV32R models and very similar to the Dual Processor AV32R models, without RoomEQ and lossless audio (debatable if there is a big difference vs 1.5mbps Core track)

We are yet to hear about a direct shootout between 8000AP vs 8200AP, but my suspicion is that the newer 8200AP will probably sound a tad more focused owing to the jitter reduction circuit.

The new silver finish is brushed alloy vs paint, it will look different.

A stock 100P will sound a little dry in its presentation compared to a 100X5R...but once a certain 'Kevin' has had a soldering iron inside, they sound very similar indeed and both a bit more dynamic and treble refined......I just had two 60Ps serviced and modified by him, they sound like my 100X5R now, at reasonable volumes (loud enough IMO) ;)
 

msrhedges

Novice Member
Firmware version 4.3 for the 8200AP has been released it includes many more alternate IR codes covering for me at least the the TAG 100x5r and 250x3r. I have done some work with the IR codes and will do a post in the 8200AP part II forum later tonight.

I have now used the 8200AP for many hours and nothing has dented my thoughts on its sound quality. We use it for hours every day and I have had no problems so far. I can tell you that the 8200AP and 8200CD are definitely following in Audiolab's footsteps. Its unfortunate that we don't manufacture this gear in the UK anymore. I hope that one day we will again be a significant manufacturing economy.
 

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