The Neodio TMA Integrated Amplifier
By Roy Gregory
There is a popular adage in audio that the best sub-woofer is the one you don’t notice – until you turn it off. Yes, I know that it’s an amplifier – not a sub-woofer – but in a weird yet very real way, that’s exactly how I feel about Neodio’s TMA integrated.
When it comes to producing products that challenge convention, Neodio has a rap-sheet as long as the company’s history. Based in Bordeaux in the South West of France, it has produced a string of interesting, often exceptional but always intensely musical products. Perhaps the most obvious example was the Origine CD Player. Just when the audio world had seized on the appeal of high-res recording and file replay, seeing the future in terms of hard discs linked to complex, multi-chassis digital solutions – Neodio launched an expensive, one-box CD player. Distributors and journalists scratched their heads and tutt-ed at this commercially obtuse decision – while missing the rather more significant points that: not only was this the finest sounding (and certainly most musically communicative) digital source then extant, it was one of the prettiest and most stylish too. Actually, let’s make that ever. In fact, in my experience, the Origine CD player quietly maintained its ascendency over all but the (vastly more expensive) Wadax products until really quite recently, when a lack of transport mechanisms finally killed the design.
Then there’s the astonishing B2, a product the size and shape of a hockey puck that is part footer, part coupler, part damper part something else altogether. Yes it works under equipment, but it works on top too. It works under power strips and speaker cables. It works on the floor around speakers, on shelves, on windowsills… It defies categorization – or understanding – but it definitely works and, in some cases, spectacularly so. Stéphane Even of Neodio brought that same innovative flair to cables and other, more eclectic products: an adjustable internal bracing bar to upgrade existing speaker cabinets, anyone? No part of the system or its circumstances were off-limits, with a series of radical and occasionally brilliant solutions the result. M. Even is far from noisy, but when he speaks about matters audio, he’s one those to whom you should listen.
Currently, the company produces only one item of electronics, the TMA amplifier (soon to be joined by a matching and similarly priced DAC). In due course, expect to see a set of separates, based on the same ultra-minimalist and eco-aware philosophy. But for now, the TMA is it. The initials stand for The Minimalist Amplifier and the man isn’t kidding. For your €4,600 you get four line inputs, a volume control and two pairs of 4mm sockets for the speaker outlets – and NOTHING else. No remote, no internal DAC, no wireless connectivity or streaming capability, no alphanumeric display or user tuneable facilities of any kind. You get to select a source, set the level: And. That. Is. It.
Sometimes less really is more…
Fortunately – and far from surprisingly – there’s a lot more here than meets the eye. Starting with the general philosophy. In a world where each and every electronic box, phone, watch or gadget seems to do more and more (most of it irrelevant, unnecessary and detrimental to performance) a return to a more minimalist focus on core-functionality is a natural step. In audio terms, the separation of (or distinction between) digital and analogue circuitry brings obvious advantages, benefits that are too often conveniently ignored in pursuit of, well, yes – convenience. Creating a dedicated, analogue amplifier, shorn of the apparently obligatory digital inputs and circuitry, is a fairly obvious step. But the TMA goes a lot further than that.