Wednesday, December 7, 2011

An impressive Pro-Ject


I did not plan to review the Pro-Ject CD Box SE so soon after getting it from Tong Lee at Low Yat Plaza, but this little gizmo impressed me so much that I just have to tell you the good news sooner rather than later.




And, of course, Christmas is round the corner and hopefully Santa will be kind enough to slip one into my home since I did not misbehave at all this year.




Just when there are reports that some record companies will stop releasing CDs by the end of next year and with CD sales plummeting to new lows, Pro-Ject - the turntable specialist - has decided to market a CD player. Two, in fact. The Pro-Ject CD Box and the CD Box SE. The former is slightly bigger than a CD Walkman and has only analogue outputs while the latter also offers a digital coax out so that it can be used as a transport.




Good things sometimes come in small packages like the Pro-Ject CD player.
You need to push the CD into the slot gently.


The high-contrast dot-matrix display can be dimmed.


I was more interested in the CD Box SE as it can be used as a transport and - on top of that - the transport is made by StreamUnlimited, the company set up by ex-Philips engineers in 2005 which also makes transports for high-end marques like Wadia and Ayon.


From the outset, I have to state that at RM2,799 (rrp) the CD Box SE is worth every sen. Even when used as a CD player, it can take on players costing twice its price.


When used as a transport, it shows its true colours - vivid and brilliant. It really shines as a transport and anyone out there looking for a good CD transport must try the Pro-Ject CD Box SE.


Since it is a new product and since StreamUnlimited is a small specialised company making CD transports and servo boards and other digital streaming components, there will be a steady and reliable stream of spare parts for a very long time. There's no need to worry about obsolescence.


The CD Box SE is a small component measuring 206 x 72 x 194 mm and weighs 2.67kg. It comes with an external power supply which is a simple wall wart.


It is a slot-loading design and those who have car CD players will have no issues using it.
A cute little remote control offers basic commands and frankly that's all you need.




The cute little remote control offers basic commands.


The DAC is a 24Bit/192kHz Burr Brown PCM 1796 with 8x oversampling while the servo board is the 'Blue Tiger' from StreamUnlimited. The player can read CD, CD-R, CD-RW and Hybrid-SACD.




Since Pro-Ject is a turntable specialist and its designers know all about the detrimental effects of vibration, much effort has been taken to isolate the transport. There are four feet on the casing - three rubber studs and a hard plastic foot which is supposed to drain the vibrations away from the transport.




I found that the performance can be improved with footers. Using soft earthquake pads resulted in a 'fat' bass and I had good results with felt footers.



The ProJect CD Box SE was plugged into my current system comprising an Orb Jade 2 DAC (being reviewed), resident Benchmark DAC1 Pre (used as DAC), Acoustic Zen Silver Photon coax cable, Alphacore Micropurl Silver interconnects, Melos SHA-1 headphone amp/preamp, Kimber Silver Streak interconnects, Bryston 4B SST power amp, Kimber 12TC speaker cables and ATC SCM40 floorstanders. Power cords were a Siltech SPX20 Classic Anniversary for the DAC, a DIY cord for the power amp and a Kimber PK10 for the Melos. All of them were plugged into an MIT Z Strip power distributor.


As I said earlier, the CD Box SE sounds quite good as a CD player and the words "musical" and "analogue" kept popping up in my mind. The sound was smooth, detailed, transparent and punchy with great depth. 


I found the CD Box SE to really shine in the reproduction of depth - since it is the festive season I played Christmas songs sung by choirs and the rendition of the size and scale of the rows of boys was amazing - especially when I used the Orb DAC.


The ProJect CD Box SE sounded so good when used as a transport that I spent much time plugging it to either the Orb or the Benchmark. With both DACs, the depth of the soundstage was cavernous and only the sonic signatures of the DACs altered the sound.


It has been said that good things come in small packages - the Pro-Ject CD Box SE is a fine example of that.

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