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Review: Teac TN-3B-SE: A Stylish Turntable with Mixed Sonic Impressions

Review: Teac TN-3B-SE: A Stylish Turntable with Mixed Sonic Impressions - Teac TN-3B-SE, priced at 529 euros, beckons audiophiles with its captivating design, unique tonearm, and versatile performance—exploring its merits and drawbacks.

Introducing the Teac TN-3B-SE: A Visual and Sonic Odyssey

In the realm of turntables, the Teac TN-3B-SE stands as a captivating fusion of aesthetics and sonic prowess with a current list price of 529 euros. Beyond its alluring high-gloss finish, this Japanese marvel promises an immersive listening experience. Our exploration begins with a visual feast – the TN-3B-SE, particularly in its “Cherry” variant, earns praise for its Instagram-worthy appeal, especially when adorned with colored vinyl. Assembling solidly and standing wobble-free, this turntable beckons audiophiles with its sleek design and tactile feedback. However, as we delve deeper into the listening room, the TN-3B-SE encounters formidable competitors, leading us to dissect its sonic capabilities against the backdrop of renowned players in its price range.

Teac: A Legacy of Audio Excellence: Teac, a prominent player in the audio industry, brings a rich legacy of technological innovation and audio excellence to the forefront. Originating from Japan, the company has consistently demonstrated its commitment to crafting high-quality audio equipment since its inception. Renowned for producing turntables, amplifiers, and other audio devices, Teac has become synonymous with precision engineering and cutting-edge design. The TN-3B-SE, a testament to their expertise, reflects the brand’s dedication to superior craftsmanship and encapsulates the evolution of their decades-long journey in delivering exceptional audio experiences to music enthusiasts worldwide.

Specifications

TypeBelt-drive (External drive)
MotorDC Motor
Rotation Speeds33-⅓ rpm, 45 rpm
Wow-and-Flutters0.1% or less
S/N Ratio67dB (A-weighted, 20kHz LPF)
Turntable (Platter) 
MaterialAluminum Die-cast
Diameter30cm
Tone-arm section 
TypeS-shape, Static-balanced
Effective Length223mm
Needle Pressure Range0g to 5.0g
Compatible Cartridge Weight3.0g to 12.0g
14g to 23g (including Head-shell)
Cartridge section 
TypeMM-type
Output Voltage4.0mV (1kHz, 5cm/sec.)
Needle Pressure1.8 to 2.2g (2.0g recommended)
Weight6.1g
Head-shell weight11g (including screws, nuts, and wires)
Compatible StylusAT-VMN95E * Average stylus life: approx. 300 hours.
Analog Outputs 
ConnectorRCA Pin jack × 1 pair (Gold-plated)
Output Voltage 
PHONO4.0mV (1kHz)
LINE224mV (–13dBV)
Operating PowerAC 100 to 240V, 50/60Hz
Power Consumption1.5W
Standby Power0.5W
Overall Dimensions (W×H×D)420 × 117 × 356 mm /
16.5″ × 4.6″ × 14.0″ (including protrusions)
Weightapprox. 5.0kg / 11.0 lbs.

Design and Build Quality: A Symphony of Elegance and Stability

The Teac TN-3B-SE emerges as a visual masterpiece, harmonizing elegant design with robust construction. Priced at 529 euros, its high-gloss finish, particularly in the captivating “Cherry” variant, elevates it beyond mere functionality. The meticulous assembly of the turntable ensures a solid and wobble-free presence on any table or sideboard. Every detail, from the smooth operation of the speed switch to the precise lift lever, contributes to a tactile and visually pleasing user experience. Teac’s dedication to aesthetics is evident, making the TN-3B-SE a musical instrument and a piece of art.

The foundation of this auditory marvel is its thoughtful construction. The plate, crafted from thin-walled cast aluminum, adds to the overall visual appeal and resonates like a bell when touched. However, the unconventional placement of the rubber drive belt, wrapping around the aluminum lid on the outside, stands out. This design choice results in a lightning-fast startup and a direct transmission of potential faults, highlighting Teac’s commitment to performance. The minimalistic yet elegant MDF chassis, adorned with wood decor and high-gloss varnish, adds a touch of sophistication. Whether in “Cherry,” black, or white, each variant exudes a refined aesthetic underlining Teac’s dedication to form and function.

Listening Room Impressions: Unveiling the Soul of Sound

The true essence of the Teac TN-3B-SE unfolds in the sacred sanctuary of the listening room, where its sonic characteristics come to life amid the embrace of high-resolution speakers and an array of records. Facing formidable contenders like the Rega Planar 1 Plus and New Horizon 121, this turntable undergoes a critical examination, revealing the intricacies of its sonic palette.

The integrated phono preamplifier introduces a unique dynamic, prompting a nuanced evaluation with and without its influence. Against Tom Jones’ dynamic hits from the ’70s, the TN-3B-SE falls short in its built-in preamp performance. The blaring brass on “It’s Not Unusual” lacks the expected spark, and Jones’ iconic vocals appear subdued. The shortcomings become apparent in this critical listening environment, highlighting the delicate balance between the turntable’s internal components.

However, a transformation occurs as the Teac TN-3B-SE takes on a role with an external phono preamp. Tracks from Kae Tempest’s album “The Line Is A Curve” reveal a more balanced and nuanced performance, showcasing the strengths of the standard pickup. The Audio-Technica VM95E, distinctive among its peers, distinguishes itself with more precise contours and disciplined handling of intricate sounds. The listening room becomes a stage, and the Teac TN-3B-SE adapts its performance, proving its mettle with the right external amplification.

The sonic landscape evolves further in the clash with the New Horizon 121. While the TN-3B-SE offers a pleasant, clean sound with external pre-amplification, the New Horizon claims its ground with enhanced dynamics and a more substantial low end. The listening room thus becomes a proving ground for the turntable, where the interplay between internal and external components shapes its auditory identity. The Teac TN-3B-SE, despite its initial nuances, reveals its capacity to enchant when paired with the right external amplification, creating an immersive listening experience.

Comparisons with Competitors: A Sonic Showdown

In the competitive arena of turntables, the Teac TN-3B-SE faces off against formidable rivals, the Rega Planar 1 Plus and the New Horizon 121, each vying for supremacy in the realm of audio excellence.

Rega Planar 1 Plus Encounter:

The Teac TN-3B-SE engages in a sonic duel with the Rega Planar 1 Plus, priced in the same echelon. While the Teac falls short with its built-in preamp, the Rega Planar 1 Plus emerges as a formidable contender, delivering a fresh and dynamic sound. Tom Jones’ timeless hits serve as the battleground, revealing the Teac’s struggle to capture the fiery dynamics, rendering brass tones dull and mellowing Jones’ iconic vocals. In contrast, the Rega Planar 1 Plus breathes new life into the classic tracks, offering heightened clarity and dynamism. The listening experience resembles a live performance, drawing the listener into a vibrant, cocktail-worthy ambiance.

New Horizon 121 Faceoff:

Stepping into the ring with the New Horizon 121, the Teac TN-3B-SE encounters a challenger with a slightly lower price tag but a potent auditory arsenal. The integrated phono aid of the New Horizon, coupled with an elegant Gold Note PH5, elevates the sonic battleground to new heights. Voices and guitars gain a credible body with the Teac, showcasing a rounded and smoother tone in the first round. Yet, the New Horizon 121, while not clicking percussion accents as robustly, surprises with increased pressure and structure in the low end. Though somewhat diffuse, its high-frequency range adds a sense of completeness and airiness to the audio landscape. In this heightened auditory showdown, the Teac TN-3B-SE maintains its pleasant and clear presentation but faces the New Horizon’s prowess in delivering a more intricate and powerful sonic experience.

In these comparisons, the listening room transforms into a battlefield where sonic nuances determine the fate of these turntable contenders. The Teac TN-3B-SE, while showcasing its strengths and weaknesses, proves to be a player that flourishes with external amplification, revealing a nuanced and enchanting musical journey.

Technical Highlights and Build: Precision Craftsmanship Unveiled

The Teac TN-3B-SE not only captivates with its visual allure but stands as a paragon of precision engineering and innovative design, marked by many technical highlights contributing to its auditory excellence.

Plate and Drive Belt Innovation:

The heart of the TN-3B-SE lies in its thin-walled cast aluminum plate, weighing approximately 600 grams. Beyond its aesthetic charm, this plate resonates like a bell, promising a unique auditory experience. The unconventional design choice of the rubber drive belt, wrapping around the aluminum lid on the outside, ensures a lightning-fast startup, a testament to Teac’s commitment to performance. Though introducing potential faults directly into the output signal, this innovative approach underlines the brand’s daring spirit in pushing the boundaries of turntable design.

Tonearm Marvel:

A distinctive technical highlight is the tonearm, a feature shared with its directly driven sister model, the TN-5D-SE. Designed by the resurrected SAEC, a renowned tonearm manufacturer from the ’70s and ’80s, the TN-3B-SE’s tonearm stands out with cutting-edge bearings. Balancing on two hardened steel wedges, this seesaw-like construction stabilizes itself through its weight. Despite initial skepticism during unpacking, the arm moves smoothly and without play once set up. The S-curve arm tube, terminating in a standard bayonet fitting, embodies classic aesthetics while accommodating any headshell following the SME standard. With its mix of history and innovation, this unique tonearm design sets the Teac TN-3B-SE apart in the crowded turntable landscape.

Adjustability and Compatibility:

While the TN-3B-SE impresses with its design, it also showcases user-friendly features. The tonearm, equipped with an Audio-Technica VM95E, allows easy attachment, tightening, and precise tracking force adjustment. Although the arm height is fixed, it is strategically chosen to provide compatibility with various records, mats, and pickups. The TN-3B-SE demonstrates its versatility, accommodating different setups with ease.

Chassis Elegance:

The chassis, constructed from MDF with wood decor on the top, epitomizes elegance beneath its high-gloss varnish. Whether in “Cherry,” black, or white, the TN-3B-SE’s chassis exudes sophistication. This visual appeal and its technical prowess reflect Teac’s commitment to marrying aesthetics with functionality.

Motor and Hidden Adjustments:

The TN-3B-SE utilizes high-volume technology from a Taiwanese OEM producer, incorporating a motor contributing to its unique startup speed. The speed control, managed by a smooth and engaging rotary switch, operates flawlessly at 45 and 33 RPM. Hidden trimmers are accessible after removing the floor, allowing for fine adjustments and ensuring precision and accuracy.

In essence, the Teac TN-3B-SE showcases aesthetic finesse and a fusion of technical innovations that make it a compelling choice for audiophiles seeking a turntable that marries vintage charm with modern engineering. The unique features and meticulous construction underscore Teac’s dedication to delivering a turntable that transcends mere audio playback, becoming an instrument of sonic artistry.

Tonearm Design and Adjustability: A Symphony of Precision

At the heart of the Teac TN-3B-SE’s sonic prowess lies its meticulously designed tonearm, a key component that contributes to the turntable’s exceptional audio performance and versatility.

Intriguing Design Philosophy:

The TN-3B-SE’s tonearm, a gem crafted in Taiwan but inspired by the esteemed tonearm manufacturer SAEC, introduces a unique design philosophy. Departing from conventional ball or tip bearings, the tonearm’s vertical movement relies on two cutting-edge bearings. This seesaw-like construction delicately balances on two hardened steel wedges, with each tip resting in a concave bearing socket. The initial rattling during unpacking gives way to smooth and play-free movement once the arm is set up, showcasing a design that stabilizes itself through the weight it carries. This unconventional yet effective approach to bearing design distinguishes the Teac TN-3B-SE, hinting at a harmonious blend of tradition and innovation.

Versatile Adjustability:

The TN-3B-SE’s tonearm design considers both ease of use and adaptability. The arm tube gracefully traces a classic S-curve, culminating at the front in a standard bayonet fitting compatible with any headshell adhering to the SME standard. The simplicity of attaching, tightening, and adjusting the tracking force makes it user-friendly, catering to both novices and seasoned audiophiles. While the arm height remains fixed, the strategic choice ensures compatibility with various setups, providing ample room for records of different thicknesses, mats, or even taller pickups.

Precise Tracking Force Adjustment:

The TN-3B-SE comes equipped with an Audio-Technica VM95E, and the process of attaching the shell, tightening it, and adjusting the tracking force is straightforward. This precision allows users to tailor the tracking force according to their preferences without needing a tonearm scale. The meticulous attention to detail ensures that the TN-3B-SE is ready to deliver an optimized performance.

Exploration of Sonic Enhancements:

While the TN-3B-SE shines with the included Audio-Technica VM95E, it reveals its true potential when paired with other cartridges. The possibility of upgrading to higher-grade needles, such as the EN or ML needles, opens avenues for audiophiles seeking to extract finer nuances from their vinyl collection. Additionally, the Teac TN-3B-SE pairs exceptionally well with the Denon DL-110. This high-output MC cartridge enhances the sonic landscape and adds a touch of vintage aesthetic with its red mother-of-pearl plastic housing.

In essence, the tonearm design of the Teac TN-3B-SE is a testament to the artistry of turntable engineering. Its harmonious blend of distinctive design elements and user-friendly adjustability positions it as a versatile and sophisticated component, inviting users to explore the nuances in their vinyl collection with unparalleled precision.

Usability and Functionality: Bridging Elegance with Practicality

The Teac TN-3B-SE dazzles with its aesthetic appeal and underscores a commitment to user-friendly functionality, offering a seamless experience for novice enthusiasts and seasoned audiophiles.

Simple Startup and Speed Control:

Navigating the initial steps of the TN-3B-SE proves to be effortless. The turntable boasts a smooth and engaging rotary switch for speed control, facilitating a hassle-free transition between 45 and 33 RPM. The absence of fine adjustment from the outside is inconspicuous, as the turntable impressively maintains pinpoint accuracy at both speeds. The result is a user-friendly setup that ensures an immediate and precise start to the vinyl-spinning experience.

Hidden Trimmers for Fine-Tuning:

For users seeking an extra layer of control, the TN-3B-SE caters to their needs with hidden trimmers accessible after removing the floor. This thoughtful inclusion allows for fine-tuning adjustments, providing audiophiles the flexibility to adapt the turntable’s performance to their unique preferences. This meticulous attention to detail underscores Teac’s commitment to providing a customizable listening experience.

Intuitive Phono Preamplifier Switch:

Based on a high-quality OP amp chip, the built-in phono preamplifier adds to the turntable’s versatility. A user-friendly slide switch at the rear lets users deactivate the internal preamp if an external alternative is preferred. This simplicity in switching between internal and external amplification aligns with Teac’s dedication to ensuring users can seamlessly integrate the TN-3B-SE into their existing audio setups.

MDF Chassis with Elegant Finishes:

The TN-3B-SE’s chassis, crafted from MDF and adorned with wood decor, strikes a delicate balance between elegance and practicality. Under a thick layer of high-gloss varnish, the player’s top exudes sophistication. This choice of materials enhances the visual appeal and contributes to the turntable’s overall stability, ensuring it stands solidly on any chosen surface.

Practical Tonearm Design:

The TN-3B-SE’s tonearm, while exhibiting a unique design philosophy, remains user-friendly. The S-curve arm tube, standard bayonet fitting, and simple tracking force adjustment make it accessible to users of varying expertise. The fixed arm height, while limiting in certain aspects, is chosen strategically to accommodate a wide range of records, mats, and pickups without sacrificing performance.

Accessible Adjustments for Vinyl Enthusiasts:

Beyond its initial setup, the TN-3B-SE welcomes enthusiasts to explore sonic enhancements. The user-friendly process of attaching different cartridges and adjusting the tracking force without additional tools encourages vinyl exploration. This accessibility aligns with Teac’s commitment to providing a turntable that grows with the user’s evolving preferences and audio journey.

In summary, the Teac TN-3B-SE combines elegance with practicality, presenting users with a turntable that not only pleases the eyes but also ensures a straightforward and enjoyable vinyl-listening experience. Its user-friendly design, intuitive controls, and hidden adjustments cater to a diverse audience, emphasizing Teac’s dedication to making high-quality audio accessible.

Conclusion: A Sonic Odyssey with Teac TN-3B-SE

In the symphony of turntables, the Teac TN-3B-SE emerges as a distinctive player, weaving together aesthetic elegance and auditory finesse. While its visual appeal, innovative tonearm design, and thoughtful adjustability showcase Teac’s dedication to craftsmanship, the listening room becomes the true stage for the TN-3B-SE’s performance. Engaging in sonic duels with competitors like the Rega Planar 1 Plus and New Horizon 121, this turntable navigates a complex landscape of highs and lows, revealing its strengths and quirks. The TN-3B-SE excels with external pre-amplification, proving to be a versatile instrument capable of delivering a nuanced and enchanting musical journey.

For enthusiasts seeking a turntable that marries the nostalgia of vinyl with modern engineering, the Teac TN-3B-SE stands as a worthy contender. Its user-friendly functionality, intricate tonearm design, and the marriage of visual sophistication with audible excellence make it a compelling choice in the competitive world of audiophile turntables. While its built-in preamp may falter in certain scenarios, the TN-3B-SE’s potential to resonate with external amplification positions it as a canvas for sonic exploration, inviting users to embark on an immersive musical odyssey.

Reasons to Buy the Teac TN-3B-SE:

  1. Aesthetic Appeal: The TN-3B-SE’s high-gloss finish and elegant design make it a visually striking addition to any audio setup. The choice of colors, including the captivating “Cherry” variant, adds a touch of sophistication.
  2. Unique Tonearm Design: The tonearm, inspired by SAEC, showcases cutting-edge bearings, contributing to smooth and precise tracking. The S-curve arm tube and its compatibility with various cartridges make it an appealing option for users who value both form and function.
  3. Versatility with External Amplification: While the built-in preamp may have limitations, the TN-3B-SE truly shines when connected to an external phono preamplifier. This versatility allows users to tailor their audio setup for a more refined and personalized listening experience.
  4. Fine-Tuning Options: Including hidden trimmers for adjustments and user-friendly controls make the TN-3B-SE adaptable to various preferences. Audiophiles who enjoy fine-tuning their setup will appreciate the flexibility offered.
  5. MDF Chassis Stability: MDF in the chassis contributes to stability and durability. The high-gloss varnish enhances the visual appeal and ensures the turntable stands solidly on any chosen surface.

Reasons Not to Buy the Teac TN-3B-SE:

  1. Built-in Preamplifier Limitations: Users looking for a turntable with an outstanding built-in preamp may find the TN-3B-SE lacking compared to competitors. The internal preamp may not deliver the desired performance, especially for those seeking an all-in-one solution.
  2. Motor Noise: Some users may be deterred by the audible engine vibrations introduced into the output signal, particularly the steady hum heard outside the record. Those sensitive to such vibrations may find it distracting during quiet passages.
  3. Fixed Arm Height: While strategically chosen for compatibility, the fixed arm height limits adjustability for users who prefer more control over their tonearm’s height. This may pose a drawback for audiophiles who seek precise adjustments for different setups.
  4. Competitive Market: In a market with various turntables around the 500 euro range, potential buyers may find equally compelling alternatives with different strengths, making it crucial to weigh personal preferences and priorities.

In conclusion, the Teac TN-3B-SE is an excellent choice for those who prioritize aesthetics, unique tonearm design, and the flexibility to optimize their setup with external amplification. However, users seeking a robust built-in preamp or more extensive adjustability may want to explore alternative options in this competitive price range.