Pro-Ject Audio CD Box DS2 CD player review

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There is a high degree of irony in the fact that vinyl pushed CDs into the trash of history. Vinyl had a very strong 2020, with consumers purchasing over 22 million new records in North America alone. Sales of used records were even stronger. There is no doubt that the CD is on life support in the domestic market. Digital downloads and streaming made sure of that. That the last shovels of earth be delivered by those of us who love records in the digital media age was certainly unexpected.

That being said, why do so many companies manufacture new CD players? Why would the company that sells the most audiophile turntables in the world offer multiple CD players and transports in 2021?

Because there is a market for products like the Pro-Ject CD Box DS2.

People still buy CDs. Music listeners in Germany, Japan and China continue to buy millions of new CDs every year; Although 2020 could prove to be the year the dam finally broke in Japan, with streaming approaching 20% ​​of the market for the first time.

Consumers bought 31.6 million CDs in the United States in 2020. Yes, it is far from the 942 million they bought in 2000 but there is still demand. 2020 sales data shows another sharp drop in sales; CD sales fell a further 23%.

A pre-COVID trip in March 2020 to Princeton Record Exchange uncovered new and used CD bins; used JVC XRCD series jazz tracks sold for between $ 50 and $ 100 each depending on the rarity of the release. Rare SACD and MoFi Gold CD versions sell for twice their original asking price.

When my local record store closed in 2020 due to COVID-19 lockdown rules in place across New Jersey, they relaunched in days with a brand new website and an updated presence on Discogs and eBay.

What saved them during the first days of confinement? sale of CDs. Many of them. Over 50 sold and shipped every day when the record store was closed. Some of these CDs sold for over $ 100 each. Supply and demand are always a thing apparently. Especially when tens of millions of people are stuck at home shopping online.

Pro-Ject is not alone. Rega, Cambridge Audio, Naim, Audiolab, Yamaha, McIntosh, NAD, Luxman, Audiolab, Marantz, Arcam and Technics are still in the game.

A Naim CD5si has been running in my system for over a month and it reminds me of why I loved CDs.

Because unlike streaming files … you own them.

A little project …

The resurgence of vinyl has been a boon for companies like Pro-Ject Audio Systems; world’s leading manufacturer of vinyl turntables which has decided to expand its activities to meet global demand. This increase in business has allowed Pro-Ject to invest its considerable engineering and manufacturing resources in a wider range of audio components (amplifiers, streamers, headphone amplifiers, speakers) that sell well and repel limits from a price / performance point of view. These “lifestyle” components are serious hi-fi kit pieces designed to offer complete solutions for music listeners who demand performance, albeit in a much smaller physical package.

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For those switching to remote work, the six levels of Pro-Ject components offer a very compelling roadmap for creating a high-end desktop or home audio system that won’t break the bank. Pro-Ject manufactures its components in Europe and there is a lot to like about the form factor which is very space-saving.

One of the more interesting components of the 2020 lineup is the CD Box DS2 CD / Transport / DAC player ($ 899.00 – $ 1000.00 depending on finish) which has proven to be quite capable over the past two years. month.

The CD Box DS2 is not a very large component (8 “W x 3” H x 8 “D) and will take up less space than a large hardcover book, making it ideal for a media cabinet or even A shelf Walnut end caps are a welcome touch, giving these somewhat utilitarian-looking components the necessary warmth and depth.

The high contrast dot matrix display conveys a lot of easy-to-read information across the room and I found myself drawn to the teal color which isn’t itchy when the lights are out.

The included remote is of the plastic variety you constantly see at this price point, which I found disappointing, but it deserves high marks for its usefulness. You don’t want to lose this remote unless you like to play with the 8 front panel buttons.

The insertion mechanism works very well; the transport of the CD is very quiet, reliable, and it is clear that the transport has been properly isolated from vibrations and RFI. Over the years, I have owned CD players and transportation that were considerably louder and less reliable. Pro-Ject has therefore clearly thought through both the mechanical and electrical engineering of the CD Box DS2.

Pro-ject CD Box DS2 CD player in black rear corner

Pro-Ject has selected the AK4490 DAC chip for the CD Box DS2 which makes it compatible with high resolution digital tracks. It also has 4 digital inputs which only add to its versatility as a standalone DAC. The USB input can be used with any computer and offers high resolution file support for PCM up to 32bit / 384kHz and even DSD256. Optical and coaxial inputs can be used up to 24 bit / 192 kHz.

The CD Box DS2 also offers digital filters to shape the sound to your liking; 5 filters for PCM files as well as 2 filters for DSD can be chosen. It also offers two digital outputs to further transmit a digital signal to another digital-to-analog converter. A line-level RCA output can be used for any preamplifier or integrated amplifier.

After ripping 2,000 CDs on a dedicated Roon server over the past few years, I didn’t focus so much on my dusty CD collection, but that all changed when I inserted the Box DS2 CD into my rig benchmark and in my home office system.

Make music easy …

Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass’ Take love easy (JVC XRCD, JVCXR-0031-2) has been available on Tidal and Qobuz for several years as a 24-bit / 48kHz high-resolution stream, but the CD overwrote it in all significant ways; the depth, resolution and richness of Fitzgerald’s voice. The streams sound pretty good, but they don’t reach or affect you in the same way.

The CD Box DS2 split its time between the Schiit Audio Ragnarok 2, Cambridge Audio Edge A and Bluesound PowerNode 2i integrated amplifiers and the way it breathed life into long forgotten CDs kept my mind focused on the music, not the music. COVID-19 that turned New Jersey into a prison.

Wes Montgomery’s DCC CD release So much guitar (Riverside / DCC GZS-1078) is a sound monster and the CD Box DS2 has soared through “Cotton Tail” and the rest of the tracks; the CD version had more detail, tonal colors and soundstage depth than any version available for streaming.

The CD Box DS2 was still good with most CDs, but it won’t turn horrible recordings into good ones; even switching between the 5 PCM filters did not act as a panacea. Excellent sounding CDs have benefited from the quality of the internal DAC and output stage and for that alone the CD Box DS2 deserves a solid recommendation.

When used as a stand-alone DAC, the CD Box DS2 delivers a robust and incisive presentation while being powered by high-resolution streams from Tidal and Qobuz; with a little less heat than I heard from the same CDs. Ella Fitzgerald seemed more alive and tightly grounded in the recording space but with less body.

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The music advanced at a steady pace regardless of the source and it was a godsend for jazz, blues and rock recordings. Nothing is holding back the music via the CD Box DS2.

Used as CD transport in two integrated amplifiers with their own internal DACs, and two external DACs demonstrated the versatility of the Pro-Ject unit. Very few music listeners are likely to use the CD Box DS2 with a $ 5,000 DAC or $ 6,500 integrated amplifier, but at no point did it seem out of place or hampered by significantly more expensive competition. .

If you still listen to CDs or are looking for a single interface for all your digital streaming platforms, the Pro-Ject CD Box DS2 performs even better than advertised and is well worth the asking price.

For more information: Pro-Ject CD Box DS2 CD player / DAC / Transport


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