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Audiolab 8300CD: Brilliance Evolved


The King is dead, long live the King! Audiolab replaces the illustrious 8200CD with the
new, improved 8300CD

Cambridgeshire, England – Audiolab, one of Britain’s most revered audio brands, is excited to announce
the hotly anticipated successor to the 8200CD, arguably the most widely celebrated CD player of the current
millennium. The 8300CD spearheads Audiolab’s all-new 8300 Series, sporting a fresh new look and a host of
improvements to enhance functionality and performance.

The outgoing 8200 Series contained two CD players: the 8200CD and 8200CDQ, the latter sporting
additional preamp facilities. Both players proved hugely successful since launching in 2010, topping group
test after group test, as the 8200CD became a three-time winner of What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision’s ‘Product
of Year’ award and the 8200CDQ was named Hi-Fi World’s ‘CD Player of the Year’. The 8300CD replaces
both players, adding full digital preamp functionality (among other things) to the 8200CD’s specification.

Some might ask: is it worth Audiolab making another CD player in this day and age? The answer is
emphatically ‘yes’ – many music fans have large CD collections and this will not change anytime soon.
Audiolab is dedicated to ensuring that these individuals continue to be well served with CD players of
exceptional quality, but without exceptionally high price tags. Equally, if you’re making a CD player with a
great DAC onboard – and Audiolab’s CD players are top-notch in this regard – then it makes sense to allow
external digital sources to benefit, too. This, in a nutshell, is the philosophy behind the 8300CD, and the
8200CD before it.

Building on solid foundations

How do you improve upon a landmark product like the 8200CD? Very carefully indeed! It’s about painstaking
evolution; precisely targeted improvements in key areas, taking advantage of newly available components to
make a great product even greater. The 8200CD and 8200CDQ provided the firmest of foundations upon
which to build, and the fundamental ingredients that made these players great remain unchanged, including:

32-bit ESS Sabre DAC

The 8200CD and CDQ were among the first CD players to use this exceptional hybrid multi-bit DeltaSigma
DAC and it continues to have a reputation as the finest high-end D/A converter chip available.
Like its predecessor, the 8300CD is built around the Sabre32 9018, with 512 DAC elements (256 per
channel) each operating at 84.672MHz – all digital audio sources, whatever the sample rate, are
upsampled or oversampled to this frequency.

Exemplary jitter reduction

Around the DAC are extensive measures to reduce jitter to vanishingly low levels, of a nature you
would expect to see only in much more expensive players. Audiolab delivers superb sonic
performance through the use of a proprietary, discrete master clock, in conjunction with the patented
Sabre32 sample rate converter, in order to radically reduce time domain errors (jitter) from all digital
input sources.

Time domain isolation

While the Sabre32 sample rate converter virtually eliminates jitter within the digital domain, external
‘analogue domain’ induced artefacts caused by RF breakthrough, PSU coupling and so on will affect
the DAC’s ultimate sonic performance. Audiolab resolves this critical issue via its CATDA (Cascaded
Asynchronous Time Domain Attenuator) circuit. This circuit isolates the DAC substrate from sonically
deleterious artefacts that affect non-synchronous digital input data. To achieve the best possible
performance, three identical cascaded stages are used – each individual stage provides increased
isolation, thereby maximising timing performance, even at higher RF frequencies.

Selectable digital filters

As digital audio reproduction technology has progressed, the importance of the characteristics of
reconstruction digital filters has become more appreciated. The Audiolab 8300CD features userselectable
digital filters for optimal listening and measurement modes, in addition to the more
conventional types for easy comparison. These filter settings allow the user to tune the 8300CD’s
performance to suit his or her preference, depending on system configuration, digital file quality and
musical taste.

Discrete Class A analogue stages and sophisticated power supply

The 8200CD/CDQ’s analogue output stages and power supply were highly unusual in their extensive
pursuit of quality, and the 8300CD is identical in this regard. There are, for example, a plethora of
reservoir/smoothing capacitors, an impressive number of regulator chips, and discrete transistor
(instead of op-amp) analogue stages at the output with ultra-low impedance to drive any cable and
any load. The power supply incorporates 34 regulated supply rails including 14 ultra-low-noise
regulators, with extensive measures against power supply contamination and cross-coupling. One
look inside the 8300CD and the painstaking sophistication of its circuitry is obvious.

Enhancing a masterpiece


The improvements brought to the 8300CD deliver precisely targeted advances in functionality and sound
quality, as well as the player’s physical appearance. As follows:

New 8300 Series aesthetic

Updated external design, with softened lines. Still recognisably Audiolab, but less ‘boxy’.

Upgraded components at critical parts of the circuit

After hours of listening tests, Audiolab has made small but keenly audible improvements in
subjective performance through the revision of specific components in both the power supply and the
signal path.

Full digital preamp functionality

The 8300CD adds full digital preamp functionality to the 8200CD’s spec, with adjustable volume level
and source selection accessible via the player’s front panel and remote handset (the 8300CD had
digital inputs but didn’t offer this level of control). This means the 8300CD can be connected directly
to a stereo power amp, or a pair of monoblocks like the new Audiolab 8300MB, as well as to a
traditional integrated amp like the equally new Audiolab 8300A.

New slot-loading CD transport mechanism

As some reviews noted, the loading tray used in the 8200CD and 8200CDQ was a rare weak spot in
the design, seeming less sturdy than was perhaps ideal. The 8300CD sports a new mechanism that
includes slot loading – much quicker and neater than the old tray. The new mech also reduces the
occurrence of disc rejection, able to play CDs that the 8200CD/CDQ might have rejected because of
dirt or damage, while increased disc stability and reduced susceptibility to resonance contribute to
the 8300CD’s improved sound quality. The new mech’s digital buffer circuit is a perfect mate to the
asynchronous input of the DAC, too, enhancing even this area of performance.

Improved high-resolution USB input

The asynchronous USB input on the 8200CD/CDQ was compatible with PCM data up to 24-
bit/96kHz – impressive at the time of launch. The new 8300CD processes data up to 32-bit/384kHz
via USB; this is a far higher specification than that required by current hi-res music formats, ensuring
the 8300CD is fully equipped for future advances in ultra-high-definition digital sound.


The USB input now also accepts DSD files (the digital audio system originally developed for Super
Audio CD). This is a significant addition, as DSD has an important role to play in the developing
high-resolution digital download scene. Accordingly, the filter section now includes four extra filters
for DSD playback (in addition to the seven filter settings for PCM files inherited from the 8200CD),
allowing the user to optimise the noise floor to suit the performance of the source file and the
bandwidth of associated equipment such as amps and speakers.

Uprated digital processing

The uprated digital processing associated with the increased resolution at the USB input delivers
additional sonic benefits, for both CD replay and other connected sources, whatever the resolution of
the file. In advancing the capability of the USB input to include files of up to 32-bit/384kHz, the
processing of data preceding and within the Sabre DAC has increased the subjective resolution of
musical detail and dynamics, resulting in a more energetic and transparent performance that sets a
new standard for CD players at this price level.

Expanded connectivity

Connectivity options have been further expanded with the addition of an AES/EBU digital input and
XLR digital output. These join the full complement of inputs/outputs retained from the 8200CD: 2x
coaxial digital inputs; 2x optical digital inputs; 1x asynchronous USB input; 1x coaxial digital output;
1x optical digital output; single-ended RCA and balanced XLR analogue outputs; 12V trigger loop.

Price and availability

The Audiolab 8300CD is available from October in a choice of silver or classic Audiolab black, with an RRP
of £999.95

About Audiolab

Formed in the early 1980s by Philip Swift and Derek Scotland, Audiolab earned worldwide acclaim with the 8000A – an
integrated stereo amplifier that became a classic ‘step-up’ from the budget models of the time. During the ensuing years,
the 8000A established itself as one of the most successful British amps ever produced, and was joined by a range of
electronics including CD players, pre/power amps and an FM tuner. The brand switched hands in 1997, changing its
name to TAG McLaren Audio; and so it was known until 2004, when Audiolab became part of the International Audio
Group and returned to its original name.

Audiolab introduced the full-width 8200 Series components in 2010, combining the company’s original ethos of simple,
well-constructed ergonomics and crisp, transparent sound with innovative, performance-led design concepts. The quality
of these components, in tandem with the now-legendary M-DAC and its siblings from the compact LAB Series, earned
Audiolab more awards in the UK press during the last five years than any other brand of high-performance audio
electronics. 2015 sees the next major evolutionary phase in Audiolab’s story, as the new 8300 Series propels the brand
to even greater heights.


About Jon Scoulding

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