I have a few quid put aside with the intention of improving my digital front end.
(Currently MF A3.5CD and SBT into Audiosector DAC).
One of the options that has caught my eye is the Audiolab 8200CDQ and I was wondering if people had first hand experience with this unit.
Has anyone compared the DAC section with the Audiosector/AudioZone DACs?
Has anyone compared the DAC section with similarly priced DACs like the young?
Has anyone any experience of using the PRE with an analog input, in this case a phono stage?
Most of the reviews I can find concentrate on using the pre in digital mode with digital sources.
I'm particularly interested in how well the Pre functions when used in the analog domain with an analog line level source.
I know the questions of how the DAC compares to other DACs will be subjective but for me a demo will involve either an international flight or finding a dealer willing to ship a unit abroad for a home demo, so I want to gather as much information as possible before finalising my shortlist.
My CDQ has been tried in a few wammers systems now, Jerry, lordmortlock and lokes might have comments. It was given a very quick comparison with a Young dac round Jerry's. We should have done it better as it was just given a quick blast from cold as it was a music sesh not a bake-off. My memory was that the CDQ sounded a bit faster than the Young but the Young had a bit more sparkle to it - that's as technical as you'll get from me. We only listened to CD as source. I think the result was that Jerry was happy with his Young dac (well for the time he had it ) and I was still happy with the CDQ. No experience with an analog source with it.
In case you didn't know - the CDQ is about to undergo changes to the display and transformers. The upgrades can be fitted to existing models at parts cost + 1 hour labour I understand. Plenty on the pink fish thread about this. If you are only after the dac with pre then it might be worth hanging on until the Audiolab stand alone dacs come out - there sounds like there will be further improvements incorporated into these
HiFi World did a five pages review on it last month and it says that they don't normally do a five page review but in this case because it is an exceptional piece of kit so they did it.
I bought an used one but never get round to try it, until one of my friend borrowed it for a spin in his system and decided to keep it. His comment was that good job I didn't try it in my system otherwise l would have kept it.
I remember the pinkfish shoot out suggested that the Yound and the CDQ are very similar and you can only get better if you spendtwo grand upwards.
I had a couple of visitors yesterday afternoon, bearing samples of soon to be released product. As you may well know there's a long running thread on PFM discussing the whys and wherefores of the CD8200 and CDQ8200 products from the pen of John Westlake. Well for those of us who were initially drawn to these products by the promise of the standalone DAC product, way back when , many moons ago over on DIYaudio, I'm happy to say that I've finally heard the MDAC.
John and his Mrs were heading to scotland on family business yesterday so they stopped in for a travel break and to let John hear the MDAC alongside the Young. Having heard the CDQ back to back in my system, when Steven Toy brought it round, I couldn't really turn down the exclusive opportunity to hear its little £400 brother before it even hits the magazines.
It's a little half width box, basically the CDQ without the transport gubbins, there's a few differences in terms of the output stage as well as a smaller remote control. The OLED display is better, bigger, brighter and it comes with an external power supply. Don't think wall wart, it is an inline transformer supply, but it has a 9 pin connection providing separate voltage rails for most of the circuits inside, coming off separate secondary windings on the transformer. If you could source the 9 pin (s-video style) plug it'd be a dead cert for a massively overbuilt DIY linear supply.
Unlike when Steven came around, we plugged the MDAC into my power amps directly and used the Digital pre-amp function. We didn't level match or anything else and there was precious little in the way of A/B it was a lot of A followed by unplugging and then a lot of B. Whereas the CDQ sounded just like the Young when plugged into my pre-amp, these two were a world apart when the MDAC was driving my power amps directly. Almost chalk and cheese in fact, with the MDAC having the edge in bass definition, and an ability to unravel layers of complexity without getting congested. The MDAC was simultaneously smoother, more refined and had better drive. At this point I was thinking- bugger, and wondering what magic John had sprinkled on the less expensive MDAC. I genuinely couldn't get my head around the differences.
The upshot was that after John left I spent a good while messing with the Young with some inline attenuators and the digital pre-feature in Decibel trying to remove my pre-amp from the equation. And what did I find out? Well .....my Young sounds even better, when suitably attenuated in the digital domain, than it does via my pre-amp which smudges everything and blurs detail in comparison. In isolation it's a great pre-amp, but no pre-amp is even better. Though I didn't have the MDAC to do a new back to back without my pre-amp in the loop with the Young I'm pretty confident that the two of them would be matched once more. But the difference in my set-up was not small, I thought my pre was decent, it was shown not to be the case- annoyingly. If you own the CDQ of CD you simply have to try it without your pre-amp. I know some combos don't work with some power amps and speakers but in my set-up the removal of the pre-amp was quite startling.
So my hifi search continues, but this time it's for a better pre-amp and not a DAC. I'm happy with the Young, the comparison with the MDAC just highlighting the shortcomings of my pre-amp.
The Mdac sounds superb, especially if you can use the digital pre-amp feature without incurring any digital volume noise breakthrough due to an awkward combo of impedance, gain and speaker sensitivity. For me with 47k input power amps and 91db speakers it was a perfect match. If it had the analogue input I require for my phonostage it would be in my set-up the day it hit the shops. Unfortunately it looks like I'll still be waiting for the full bore DAC/pre product that John mooted yesterday, if he does make a MDAC 'ultra' with all analogue pre-amp functions and ADC/DAC then I'll be a happy man indeed. Funny to think that we are still waiting, some four years after he first discussed the 'DAC' over on Diyaudio.
I wasn't aware of this. I'll check out the thread on PFM.
Originally Posted by The Count
Thanks for the "Heads up".
The mdac will be half the price of the young?
Very intersting Simon, thanks for taking the time to write all that up.
Sounds like you have similar requirements to myself.
What I was contemplating was running the CDQ directly to the power amps without a seperate pre but that's only an option if the sound quality of running the phono stage into the CDQ is up to par.
Hmmm... with the long awaited MDac approaching release and an upgraded version of the CDQ in the offing I foresee some potential for bargain prices on the current CDQ in the near future.
was reading peter c`s article in hi fi critic where he states a few years ago the technology inside would have cost around 10k . good to know at least something in hi fi is getting cheaper !!!
i think he is referring to the new version
Wow, some great info in that thread over on PFM.
Thanks for pointing me towards it!
Yeh that thread is a monster, split 5 times to keep it manageable.
Having spoken to John he still has plans somewhere down the line for pre/dac/adc all in one box, that would suit my needs.