Are you one of those people caught up in the headlong rush to abandon physical media? Are you now committed to only using your preferred streaming service to deliver all your music? has your local charity shop got boxes full of your old CDs because you discovered that they have no second hand value? Or are you, like me, happy to have a blend of sources, and having hung on to your collection of CDs want to use them from time to time? If the latter, I wonder how often you actually pick one from the shelf, insert it into your player and sit back to listen? Let’s face it, we are spoiled for choice these days.
I bought my first compact discs back in 1985, when I went to live in upstate New York for my job, which was in the IT industry. Audio was already a hobby /obsession for me though, and with two children under 5 in the house I bought into the convenience of this new-fangled digital format. Discs were expensive and initially the choice was limited but in the next few years everything changed and CD stormed the world. ‘Perfect sound forever’ was always a ludicrous tag-line, but there was no disputing that CDs took up far less storage space than records and were indeed more robust (unless you scratched them – Ed). By the time we left the USA in 1989 I had accumulated several thousand of the little silver discs and enjoyed them too, although I missed the ceremony of playing records and the pleasure of holding a 12 album cover and admiring the artwork.
30 years have now passed since those halcyon days, and although I kept my CD collection and added to it over the years, by the end of the first decade of the 21st century I was working in the audio industry and my love for vinyl replay was reignited, fueled partly by everyone around me saying it was the ‘true way’. Records once again were my preferred medium, but I still always had a decent CD player in my system, even if I tended to overlook CDs and choose vinyl for ‘serious’ listening, which does sound rather pompous. I had also copied about 3000 CDs to a server, boxed them and stored them in the garage, never expecting to use them again.
So here we are in 2020 and my preferred amplifier is an all digital Lyngdorf TDAI3400, which I think is an absolutely magnificent piece of modern engineering, and through whose entirely digital circuitry, as if by witchcraft, I still prefer the sound of a vinyl record. An analogue signal, converted to digital as it enters the amplifier, still emerges from the loudspeakers with that certain magic, which has beguiled me for so many decades.
And when I want to try out new recordings, or just feel a bit lazy, I can stream music from Tidal or Qobuz, in high definition, and with amazing sound quality. But then Lyngdorf distributor Rob Sinden asked if I would like to try the Lyngdorf CD-2. Once it arrived, I plugged it into the TDAI3400 using analogue RCA interconnects and curated a small playlist of albums to start with. I had some classic rock from Pink Floyd, Cream, Eric Clapton, the Who, Dire Straits, ZZ Top and Creedence Clearwater Revival, some growly country from Ray Wylie Hubbard, some JJ Cale (I always have some JJ Cale), and some jazz from Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Christian McBride and Dave Brubeck, along with some modern pop from George Ezra and Katie Melua. I had some classical music too, from Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music on the Oiseau-Lyre label among others.
Over the next few days I listened to these discs and found that time passed quickly, always a sure sign that I am enjoying what I am hearing. And yet, I still felt that the sound lacked the richness that I associate with vinyl replay, that the emotional connection was still not quite there.
I then unplugged the analogue interconnects and inserted a modest coaxial digital interconnect between the player and the amplifier, inserted my CD of Meddle, resumed my seat and pressed play on the elegant CD-2 remote control. The amazing bass riff on One Of These Days rang out and I realised that I was grinning like the proverbial northern feline. The pace rhythm and timing were toe-tappingly good, the lowly 16/44 resolution signal sounded full, rich, detailed and was totally convincing and that Roger Waters bass riff was just so real. The Who’s Live at Leeds, which is not the last word in recording quality but nonetheless has always grabbed my attention on vinyl, was overwhelming on the Deluxe CD Edition – the sense of being there was genuinely astonishing. Everything I played through the CD-2 got the same reaction from me –Wow is probably the best way of putting it (although my exact phrase was rather more earthy). Not since I was the proud owner of a Naim CD555 playing into a Naim NAC552/NAP300 combination more than 12 years ago had I heard CD sound so good. Given the price differential between the two box Lyngdorf system and the six box Naim one, I consider this to be a real achievement by Lyngdorf. This is digital done right, there’s no question about it.
I played the vinyl versions of several of the albums, and I can honestly say that the differences between the sound quality of the 12 inch black versus the 5 inch silver carriers became vanishingly small. This may sound like hyperbole, but I can only report what I heard. The main differences? Not having to get up every 15-20 minutes to turn the record over of course, the obvious lack of surface noise on the digital format, not to mention the lack of clicks and pops during replay, the increased dynamic range of CD over vinyl all struck me as I ran this listening test across many days. Both systems gave me huge amounts of musical pleasure, and I am now so very pleased that I have the choice of either, depending on my mood and whether I have a particular album on one format or the other.
The next phase of this extended test will be to try different coaxial digital interconnects between the player and the amplifier, but that will be for another day. For the time being I am very content to report that as CDs are apparently redundant in the age of high resolution streaming, Lyngdorf has delivered a replay system that should breathe new life into the format. I know how good streaming can sound, but to get it right requires so many different things to work well, including the internet. If my web connection goes down, my musical journey can continue uninterrupted, and I find that very comforting in these challenging times.