ATC CDA2 Mk2 CD player/DAC/preamp Page 2

Outputs are provided on both balanced XLRs and conventional RCA phonos, and the CDA2 Mk2 is built on a chassis combining steel and aluminium and using constrained mass damping to control resonances, with the front panel machined from a 13mm aluminium extrusion with a brushed and anodised silver finish.

Extensive Reworking
What’s new here? Well, the obvious things are on the input side – both the USB and the 3.5mm stereo socket have been added, but the CDA2 Mk2 is also the result of extensive reworking under the lid. The AKM DAC is new, as is the TEAC-supplied transport, chosen for faster seek times, lower mechanical noise and improved error correction, while the power supply has gained nine extra voltage regulators and better decoupling. The input/output gain stages have been upgraded with discrete op-amps in six blocks – two for input buffering and four to deliver the balanced output.


The output section is also designed to drive long cable runs, as might be the case when, for example, the CDA2 Mk2 is connected directly to a pair of active speakers. ATC says it’s good for balanced cables of up to 50m, which should be adequate for even the largest room. Other gains are brought about by more meticulous construction, including hand-soldering of components, each unit being assembled by a single ATC employee, while the headphone amp has also been upgraded, to give it better drive for tricky loads. The package is completed by a comprehensive IR remote control, handling all the CDA2 Mk2’s functions, a neat touch here being a ‘CD standby’ button to turn off the disc section when listening to other inputs, thus reducing the potential for noise and vibration.

sqnote.jpgA Joy To Use
ATC recommends J River Media Centre 22 for playback on both Windows and Mac OS X, and provides illustrations in the user manual for the optimum set-up for the best possible sound. Mind you, it also recommends Windows 7-based PCs, and El Capitan for Macs, saying that was how the CDA2 Mk2 was developed, but I had no problems running it with Windows 10 and more recent OS X versions – most of my Macs now run either Sierra or High Sierra – along with playback software including Amarra and Audirvana.

What’s clear, however you feed the CDA2 Mk2, is that this unusual hybrid device sounds very special indeed, whether playing discs, receiving audio via its S/PDIF inputs, connected via its analogue ins or handling hi-res audio from a computer. Simply, there is a rightness and directness about the sound, with tight, powerful bass, a clean, informative midband and a treble that’s as explicit as it is sweet, all suggesting that the CDA2 Mk2 is just letting the music through, and not messing with it in the process. It’s this neutrality that makes it a joy to use – it is amazing how its ‘nothingness’ can prove highly addictive! You could pay a lot more for a CD player, DAC and preamp and still find the components imposing something of themselves on the sound. That this (relatively) affordable combination offers so much and yet adds or removes so little is a major achievement by ATC’s engineers.

418atc.rem.jpgFresh As A Daisy
For an indication of that in action, I needed look no further than the eponymous debut album by The B52’s, already eight years old when it appeared on CD in 1987 [Island Records CID 9580]. Yes, some saw the ‘High Fidelity’ logo on the cover as a joke, given the snappy, jerky rhythms, dense mixes and campy vocals, but the album lives up to the description right from the opening riff of ‘Planet Claire’, and the CDA2 Mk2 delivers it with real drive and a wide open view of the layers of the recording, charging through the album’s paltry 39-minute playing time with such verve that it seems to be over almost before it’s started.

This front end may come out of a studio heritage, but it knows how to have a good time, and there’s nothing anonymous or ‘technical’ about the way it plays music.

The same is very much in evidence with Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, in DSD64 [from EMI 5099952243325], played in via the USB input. The crisp resolution of the CDA2 Mk2’s digital section allows the lumbering rhythms of ‘Have A Cigar’ to power out into the room, while making every detail of the lyrics and recording plain to hear. Meanwhile its unfettered dynamics are perfectly suited to the slow burn of ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ before it lets the guitar riffs scream out with fine attack.

Get somewhat spikier with Elvis Costello And The Attractions’ Armed Forces album [Imp Records FIEND 21], now unfathomably almost at its 40th birthday, and the gutsy Nick Lowe production combined with the still punky charge of the band on tracks such as ‘Oliver’s Army’ and ‘Goon Squad’ is meat and drink for the wide-open ATC sound.

It’s an album on which you can hear Costello’s sound changing, his voice opening up, the songs still hard-hitting lyrically but now becoming more layered with keyboards, more guitars and harmonies. Here it comes up fresh as a daisy, reminding you what all the fuss was about back in 1979.

Come bang up to date with Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa’s Black Coffee [Provogue PRD75445], an album that looks dynamic range in the face and laughs, and the CDA2 Mk2 lets the full-on, ‘bouncing off the limiters’ effect thunder through with all its melodrama intact. It ain’t pretty, but boy is it effective!

Hi-Fi News Verdict
The music centre, ATC style: the CDA2 Mk2 may have all the air of ‘a horse designed by committee’, as it does so much, but this is more thoroughbred than camel, with a wide-open sound, masses of detail and unrestrained slam. It makes a fine partner for power amps and active speakers alike, getting on with the business of delivering the music without adding or subtracting anything. If it does all you need, it’s a bargain.

Loudspeaker Technology Ltd
Supplied by: ATC, Gloucestershire
01285 760561