The new 8200CDQ from Audiolab joins the already popular and highly regarded 8200 range which includes a DAC and CD player . Essentially it combines the features of these two units and adds full preamp functionality into a chassis of the same size.
It comes with an impressive list of features matched only by the far pricier Naim Uniti2 and discontinued Musical Fidelity CD pre 24. It’s already proved to be a very popular unit as it can basically be used as the centrepiece for a hifi setup. Just add a quality power amp and speakers or powered monitors and you’ve got a great system right out of the box.
It’s an impressive looking beast, finished tastefully in brushed aluminium (it’s also available in black) and features the new OLED display. It’s nice and heavy, the buttons have an almost velvety yet solid feel and the CD tray and transport are smooth and virtually silent. Even the remote control feels weighty and exudes quality.
The I/O features are comprehensive enough to satisfy almost any audio requirements.
-Balanced XLR/unbalanced RCA stereo outs
-Digital optical and coax CD outs
-6.5mm headphone out
-3.5 mm I/R in/out
-2 x digital coax ins
-2 x digital Toslink ins
-3 x line level stereo RCA ins
-2 x 3.5mm trigger outs for controlling matching power amps
Of course it features the usual CD transport controls, but with a couple of surprises. You can create a custom playlist of up to 30 tracks from a CD, including the option to play the same track several times. A myriad of display options is also offered with the 8200CDQ able to display: current track time left, current track time played, total playtime on disc, total time left on disc, and a CD text mode which refreshes every 30 seconds. Interestingly enough, the sample picture in the manual is of the OLED screen displaying Dave Brubeck’s “Take 5”, perhaps a nod to the recently deceased jazz legend.
The display can also be changed to extra large characters if the unit is a long way from your listening position. It can be dimmed to your satisfaction, or can be turned off completely.
*The other interesting features that will be of particular interest to those who really like to tweak their kit is the inclusion of a switchable digital/analogue preamp mode and an impressive list of digital output filter settings
-Optimal transient: recommended for normal listening and is the default setting, with Optimal transient XD, and Optimal transient DD being identical in frequency and time domain characteristics, but exhibiting slightly different internal structures.
-Sharp rolloff: -6db at 1/2FS with time domain ringing. This is included for comparison purposes.
-Slow rolloff: rolls off at a lower frequency than sharp rolloff, but has a gentle rate of attenuation and less time domain ringing.
-Minimum phase: similar to slow rolloff but exhibits no pre-ringing in the time domain.
-Optimal spectrum: Implements the highest level of accuracy, with near perfect response in the frequency range. Although this setting comes with the caveat that it may lead to listener fatigue.
* I used only the default setting for any length of time, I switched between the others, but found no immediate discernable difference, though I’m sure, given time, the characteristics would reveal themselves.
So, with the features and tech stuff out of the way, how does the thing sound? The short answer is very, very good indeed. When compared side by side with a domestic DVD player into a typical household AVR, the results were quite vivid. Gone was the woolly mid-bass and blurry soundstage, and welcomed was clarity, extended cymbal decays & reverb tails, tighter, more controlled bass and a much wider stereo image.
I threw nearly every conceivable genre of music at it in a variety of formats (digital files, CDs, vinyl and FM radio) and it handled all of them with aplomb, never becoming confused or harsh on the ears at all. Albums I’d heard a hundred times revealed new sounds that I was previously unaware of….and that’s what we love about upgrading our gear after all!
Audiolab recommends using Foobar media player and, in a strangely clandestine and ambiguous manner they hint at using WASAPI instead of ASIO.
I used ASIO and the drivers installed within seconds of plugging in the USB cable. I used a variety of media players, WMP, VLC and Media monkey and all of them functioned as they should and sounded fine.
There isn’t much I didn’t like about this unit, but after 14 hours straight of listening time there are a couple of things. You can’t turn the thing off with the remote….a baffling omission on a device with this many features, especially considering its trigger outputs for switching on power amps…very strange.
Also…this thing runs hot! Make sure you have PLENTY of ventilation around it. Not too hot to touch, but not far off it….put it this way, my Audiolab 8000px power amp runs considerably cooler.
Despite these minor complaints, this is an extremely versatile and high quality unit that compares more than favourably to its competition….not that there’s a lot of it. It’s also very well priced compared to the Naim Uniti2, particularly when you consider that it only costs marginally more than its Audiolab brethren, the 8200CD and 8200DQ.
This one’s a winner. If you want an all-in-one unit that does (almost) everything, you won’t be disappointed with The 8200CDQ.
Description: Digital & Analogue Pre-amplifier
DAC: ESS Sabre32 9018 chip
Resolution: 32 bits
Output Voltage: RCA: 2.05V RMS (±0.1dB) XLR: 4.1V RMS (±0.1dB)
Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz (±0.2dB)
Total Harmonic Distortion: RCA: < 0.0025%, XLR: < 0.0008%
Crosstalk: RCA: < -120dB, XLR: < -130dB
Dynamic Range: RCA: > 98dB, XLR: > 100dB
Dimensions (W x H x D): 445 x 74 x 335mm
Standard Accessories Remote control handset, power cord.