Brief and amateur review of the Audiolab 8200CDQ from the ears of krlock3
Prior to this, I am looking to make me first step into "better" hi fi. I have very nice B&W CM9 speakers which I use with a Sony ES home cinema AVR with matching B&W surrounds and sub.
Having tested the Cyrus CD8SE (fantastic to my ears) together with the 8XPD (nice amp but optical input from my macbook unimpressive compared to the CDP), I was intrigued to get a test at a different local dealer out here in Switzerland.
My three main test songs are a recording of the finale of Stravinskys Firebird Suite; nightswimming from REM, and Happiness is a warm gun from the Beatles. Because I have listened to these three tracks a lot (I like them after all, I feel that I can now perceive quite well the differences to be heard with different hi fi gear). I also test with one or two of the HD tracks sample album at 96k.
We hooked up the Audiolab 8200CDQ to teh 8200P matching ampflier, fed with not sure exactly which cables into CM9s at the dealer.
First test with CD unimpressive. Pretty flat, nothing standing out. However, I must admit that the dealer had a classe setup (CD 102) with piega speakers right next door and I was also listening to my cds on this so of course no contest.
I was about to actually end the test without bothering to hook up my macbook but what the hey did so anyway. In fact, to my ears, the optical output through itunes and songbird sounded better than the CD player output. While neither CD nor macbook compared at all favourably compared to the CD8SE, the macbook input was approximately on a par with what I heard from the same input on the 8XPD.
If only the Classe were the same price!
However, all was not lost.
At the dealer suggestion, I reluctantly agreed to test the 8200CDQ with two matching 8200MB monoblock amplifiers.
First impressions from the CD player were promising, certainly a big step up to my ears and in the same ballpark if not as good as the CD8SE. Maybe 75% of the way there. Of course, these are just my guesses.
Another test of the Stravinsky on the Classe (with Piega speakers by the way) reveal that the Classe still doesnt need to feel jealous. Although Im not much of a one for the typical audiophile terms, it really could be said that the audiolab was more neutral, the Classe more organic, and the Cyrus perhaps more detailed.
Anyhow, I noticed that we were still not using balanced cables between the CDQ and monoblock amps. I have never used or investigated balanced cabling before. To be honest I thought that the cable would go to the speaker, rather than between the amp and 8200CDQ. Shows what I know.
Anyway, an immediate step up was heard with these cables. Now, sometimes I am suspicious when this occurs... does the new and more expensive input also just jack up the volume because, you know, higher volumes are sometimes perceived as better quality. Well, that may be true here too... it did sound louder, but to my ears it also sounded better.
With both CD player and macbook optical in, I was getting very close if not equal or slightly exceeding what I heard and what I desire to hear from my test of the CD8SE / 8XPD cd playback.
Ears being fickle things, I have the following tests planned in the coming weeks before I spend the cash....
a) another test of the 8200CDQ with monoblocks.
b) a test of the QX version of the 8XPD, probably again with the CD8SE
c) a test of one of the Cyrus stream products, either the X or the XP.
This should be completed in around two weeks, then I am itching to make a decision.... time to get this damn music into my home!
About colour, Im probably leaning towards black in both the Cyrus and Audiolab. Honestly speaking, for me in aesthetics there is no contest, I genuinely like the Cyrus design very much (I am aware it also has its detractors but I personally love the form).