The T+A Caruso really is a horse of a different colour in that, while it includes power amplifiers, they are uniquely married to the internal speakers (there is a dedicated output to drive T+A's matching active loudspeakers).
These can be switched off and were for our tests. We chose instead to use a Cambridge Audio 840A as a power amp, a good performer of generally neutral character and reasonably in tune with T+A's own high-tech principles.
At its simplest, this is an exceptionally upmarket and well-featured kitchen CD/radio. It has two mid/treble speakers and a subwoofer, each driven by its own power amp with frequency dividing carried out actively.
It also has a versatile display, but outputs at the rear for component video give away that there is full-colour display available – this is, in fact, a DVD player as well as CD. Inputs are well provided for, with a front-panel USB socket for portable music players etc. and an iPod dock on the top surface.
There are two line inputs behind and a LAN (Local Area Network) socket for connection to your home computer network and/or the Internet.
That last connection will allow you to enjoy the vast range of Internet radio stations in addition to those receivable via FM (there's no DAB). Compared with some other Internet radio receivers we've tried, this one is easy to use once one gets used to it, but in general we're not blown away by the user interface.
Buttons don't always do what one at first expects them to do and abbreviations like SCL (Streaming Client – any outboard digital source, basically) and SRC (not Sampling Rate Converter, although its exact meaning is never explained in the instructions) don't help.
On a more positive note, the Caruso is very well put together and fit and finish are to a high standard.
Bearing in mind that the power amp was not T+A's own, our 'blind' listeners were auditioning effectively a CD player and preamp. In the event, they had mixed reactions to what they heard and there were some reservations about the ability of this system to capture and hold on to the imagination.
Musically, it succeeded best with large-scale events and was another good match with Rachmaninov's large orchestral forces. By contrast, the smaller-scale jazz and baroque works somehow didn't quite connect. It's clear from the listeners' notes that something hard to pin down was bothering them, as various specifics get praised even as the overall effect is found just a little wanting.
Our conclusion, based on those notes and on our own later listening, is that the problem lies in the treble. It's tonally a shade bright and can, at times, be harsh too. In fact, it never quite manages to shake off a slight halo of graininess.
When the music is strong in the bass this is considerably less noticeable, but lighter textures suffer from it. This remained the case when we tried various other power amplifiers and indeed via the headphone output.
The FM tuner is much of a muchness with the other units in the group, which is to say, decent. Internet radio proved a lot of fun and the sound from this and also iPod and USB sources seemed good too. The USB input will play uncompressed files (most won't) so is, in principle, capable of full fidelity.
Although in some respects this system disappoints sonically, it has a lot of good features in its favour and we enjoyed using it.