Note: This article is based upon the video "⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Xduoo TA-26 _(Z Reviews)_ --Start of Tube Week--” made by Z Reviews on his YouTube channel and is printed here in partnership with Z Reviews. The review was originally posted on September 6th, 2021. Edits have been made for clarity and length.
Over on his YouTube channel, Zeos Pantera put the xDuoo TA-26 to the test against the DarkVoice 336SE, a fan-favorite tube amp. How’d it stack up?
“I’m gonna leave [the TA-26] on the desk and put the DarkVoice back,” he said at the end of his review, “because [the TA-26] has surpassed the DarkVoice.”
Check out the full video below or scroll on for some written highlights.
At the top of the video, Zeos sets the stage by noting the similarities and differences between the TA-26 and 336SE: they use the same tubes (although Zeos has swapped the 336se’s stock tubes out), and they cost nearly the same (the TA-26 is $10 more).
To compare the amps, he uses the Sennheiser HD600, the Neuman NHD20, and the Fostex TH909. Both amps are run from the same source.
Until now, the 336SE has been Zeos’ default tube amp, so the TA-26 has a lot to prove. Starting with the HD600, he listens to a song with the 336SE first and then the TA-26. “Even with stock tubes,” he says, motioning to the TA-26, “this has more detail than the DarkVoice.”
“When I talk about tube amps, I talk about how tube amps take away some detail in order to gain that warm, wide echoey soundstagey tubeiness. [The TA-26] still has all of that; it just sounds clearer. So why would I not want that? I see no reason to deny a tube amp keeping detail or even adding detail. Maybe there’s a bump in the treble, but it sounds fantastic so I don’t care.”
Zeos is overly-impressed with the TA-26’s stock tubes. “These are stock tubes,” he says. “The DarkVoice’s tubes are cherry picked, making the DarkVoice what I think is the pinnacle of what a tube amp should be….I could very easily live with [the TA-26] tube amp and no different tubes.”
As for build quality, the TA-26 is “bullet-proof basically.”
“It’s got tank levels of aluminum….This thing weighs like eight pounds. It’s a heavy boy. It’s got a much smaller footprint than the DarkVoice. That might be a selling point alone. It’s legitimately an inch and a half shallower, about an inch and a half narrower, and probably ⅜” higher….It’s got these little metal rails to keep you from driving your shopping cart into the side of it.”
In terms of power, Zeos thinks there’s plenty. “I haven’t taken this amplifier past 11 o’clock. 11 o’clock is so loud. That’s a movie theater. That’s Jurassic Park.”
After testing the Sennheiser HD600, Zeos moves to the Fostex 909. “When I go from the TA-26 to the DarkVoice, it sounds like a downgrade in quality. Period. Just sound quality in general. Not tubeiness or another specific factor. It just sounds less good. And the sources are identical….There’s like a ten year difference. The DarkVoice is a 2011 amplifier, and the TA-26 is a 2021 amplifier. It’s like: oh, this is how you do science now.”
“This gets the full endorsement from Zeos. I’ll probably still recommend the DarkVoice to people, but only when you can’t get a TA-26….I’m gonna leave [the TA-26] on the desk and put the DarkVoice back, because this has surpassed the DarkVoice.”