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Canor CD2 VR+ - CD player

[handsome faced frontloader]

Canor CD too?

[Italian version]

Manufacturer: Canor - Slovakia
Product: CD2 VR+ precision tube CD player
Price: 2890€ including VAT and EU freight/shipping (2600 YMMV)
Reviewer: Mark Wheeler - TNT UK
Reviewed: March - June 2010

My recent review of the splendid Canor Precision Tube Amplifier TP106 VR+ described the background to the company's amplifiers. The TP106 VR+ presents the culmination of the evolution of one amplifier bloodline over 15 years; an evolving team who have in turn evolved a successful formula into a winning formula. The Canor TP106 VR+ competently ticks all the right boxes for music reproduction; PRaT, musicality, low distortion (especially non linear distortions like IMD and TID). Then, as might be expected at these price levels, it has a USP (Unique Selling Point) where it excels; it has one of the biggest, and certainly one of the most spectacularly stable, soundstages it has been my pleasure to experience. It manages this room dominating soundstage without sacrificing any of the foundations of good speaker interface, S/N ratio (signal to noise ratio), convenience (remote control), and aesthetics. It is one of the best examples of an evolutionary product based on established technology, like for example the Alfa Romeo Multi-Air version of the reciprocating internal combustion engine.

"Wha-a-a-at!" incredulous plebs squeak, stage left, "What is this reviewer on about?"

[valves aplenty]

The TP106 VR+ amplifier was a modern take on an old idea, the ultralinear configured push-pull tetrode integrated amplifier; the Canor CD2 VR+ Precision Tube CD Player is almost the reverse. This CD player uses an all valve analogue stage that goes as far as a valve rectified B+ supply in their brand new application of old technology in a thorough rethink of much newer technology.

[nice remote]

Hence, Canor valve CD players are inevitably more original in design and execution, there being fewer historical models to draw on than 70 years of valve amplifier evolution. The Canor range of CD players start with a wood fascia model, the unimaginatively named Canor CD1, and regular readers will know how much I believe that wood is good. Asked about this Pavol replied "Sometime in the course of 2007, at the instigation of our customers, we decided to modify the visual design of our products, to modern, so called aluminium dress. We entrusted Joshua Creative Professional Studio with this project. The new design appeared to be so interesting and original that we decided to evolve new internal designs. The very positive feedback for the CD1 model confirmed the soundness of its circuit and wiring design, so we focused mainly on tuning and tinkering of the individual wiring circuits. Thus, the whole new design line was created. In spite of having our vast 15 year experience in designing tube [valve] amplifiers, and thirty years experience in tube-based wiring circuits, it still took us 2 full years to have developed our new VR+ products."

So, clothed in the modernist (a twist in the return to modernism from the post-modernist retro irony of so much 21st century audio) schmutter of thick solid aluminium and deluxe speckled paint of the previously reviewed TP106 VR+ this model features not just a single line driver amplification valve like most tubed CD rivals (including the modified Shanling CDT100c that lurks on my rack as one of two cd references) appended to the tail end of an otherwise solid state circuit, often cheap chips, but a fully fledged start to finish valve only analogue section. Even the Canor CD1 entry level CD player (1850€) features the lovely high gain medium Mu ECC83 (12AX7 to our American readers), the audiophile favourite driver the 6922 (a milspec nomenclature for ECC88) and best of all the EZ81 rectifier. I have never seen one of these used outside DIY designs (I'm using two in a breadboard DIY balanced phono stage you will read about if it is ever finished) although the lower voltage EZ80 pops up occasionally. The Canor CD1, CD2 and CD2 VR+ therefore use valves as they should be used. Canor claim, that the CD2 benefits from improved mechanical construction and vibration isolation over the base CD1. The CD2 VR+ takes isolation a step further with additional isolation of the analogue valves. I would hazard a guess that the output stage is a cathode follower 6922 as the output impedance is quoted at 200Ω which should be fine for driving even long cables of normal construction.

That the Canor CD2 (2450€) uses stronger more inert casework than the CD1 - 12kg is borne out by an increase of 2.4kg of chassis material, which is a lot of chassis. This contains the same Burr-Brown PCM1792A and Phillips L1210/65. Throughout the Canor range their designers have chosen not to use the ubiquitous 16 bit Phillips TDA1543, much loved for its timing but no spring chicken. Canor have instead employed the newer (2004) flagship 24 bit Burr Brown PCM1792A device (from the same series as the PCM1794 that appears in other high end players) with its 127dB (@2V) dynamic range, 132dB potential S/N ratio and considerably higher unit cost than the common or garden TDA1543. The Canor CD1 (formerly known as the Edgar CD1) collected some favourable reviews in various corners of the European press. All Canor CD models feature the Philips model L1210/65 transport. The only other player with any quality pretensions that I can recall using this transport is a Jadis (I cannot remember which, such is your scribes venerable age). This transport implementation demands that the listener wait until the transport has identified the CD tracks and duration before play can be activated; tedious or what?

However, the CD2 VR+ also features a big fancy alphanumeric display (which may be switched off or dimmed in case owners might suspect to pollute the power supply with spuriae) and Canor strictly separate the power supplies for the transport control; the power supply for the digital components and the valve rectified power supply for the analogue section to prevent 'interfering signals penetrat[ing]' the audio power supplies. Thorough and desirable in a player at this level. It's impossible to discern unseen, with any reliability or repeatability, whether the display has any effect on sound quality, so the power supply isolation is a success.

I have no way of telling whether the Canor CD2 VR+ is worth the extra 440€, as I do not have a sample CD2 to compare. However, the main efforts that raise it to plus status have concentrated on vibration isolation of the valve stage, using a vibration damper on the circuit board. My experience of the Absorb-Gel dampers would suggest this was a fruitful development improving microphony rejection. Canor's designers noted that it resulted in more detailed sound. I would expect increased clarity and dynamic range from such a modification, leading to more accurate instrumental timbre, better timing and hence more stable soundstage too.

[internal layout] [testing time]

Technology & design

Canor's CD USP (unique selling point) is the all valve analogue output stage; older readers will remember that Rotel UK merely replaced the chip output stage of the RB965 BX with a discrete board (as in separate component circuit featuring discrete transistors, rather than a player more likely to keep mum about its owner's indiscretions) and this alone transformed a competent player into a great one. Hence the ALL VAlVE Canor output stage might put the icing on the cake of a good player but will not turn a sow's ear into a silk purse. The Shanling CDT100c merely adds a tube buffer to the output of cascaded op-amps, merely adding its inaccuracy to those of the preceding stages, hence the glorious transformation wrought by Chevron Audio's modifications. The Canor Precision Tube CD Player CD2 VR+ even employs the EZ81 double rectifier valve to supply the DC for this circuit. One advantage of a that EZ81 double diode rectifier is that valves vary their delivery with the load, whereas solid state bridges do not. Those in the valve rectifier camp say this allows the power supply to flow with the demand made by the music; the sand camp argue that a stiffer supply is better regulated and more accurate. Regulating B+ does make the sound seem bigger. Valve rectifiers respond quicker, expensive fast recovery solid state diodes aren't that fast and additionally the overshoot injects spurious signals into the power supply and audio circuits, increasing noise and wasting power. One might expect more mellifluous flow and sweeter top end, free from power supply related artefacts from the valve rectified power supply for the analogue stages of this CD player. But this is putting the end of the story first, the source is the disc.

The Phillips L1210 transport is the usual flakey plasticky looking affair with tortuously slow access times and looking like it should flap about in the soundfield. Ed Meitner, of EMM Labs, conducted experiments that established CDs could be unseated by playing loud enough tones (particularly 800Hz) in the room, watching the error count escalating until the CD started skipping. Curiously such effects do not seem to relate to whether the transport is flimsy plastic or embedded in 2kg of solid unobtanium. This transport coped with damaged cds I keep especially for this test and in room volume did not seem to affect tracking, which has happened in other players. Pleasure of cd player ownership would be enhanced by some pretence of metalwork in the cd mechanism, this one does work fine (if slowly) but at high-end prices the psychological impact of a solid looking drawer that slides in and out silkily would prime the listener's expectations for high end sound. However, very few players do actually have custom transports, Bang & Olufson being one of the notable few, and most merely dress up the stalwarts with fancy trim, pucks and doodahs.

In response to my enquiries Canor tell me that they configure the valve analogue stages by making the connection directly after the OPA134 DAC. They believe this is unique and their ace card in creating a CD player with a uniquely natural sound quality.

For the CD2 and CD2 VR+ Canor have improved the power supply an order of magnitude beyond that of the CD1. "The precisely designed power supply helps create soft, massive and detailed sound deprived of any disruptive voltage. This was achieved by strictly separating the power supply voltage of all digital components of which might penetrate interfering signals to the sections that are being directly processed an audio signal," claim Canor. Canor found that the toroidal power transformer in the CD2 VR CD player is even more difficult to manufacture than the one in the TP106 VR amplifier, as it contains more independent supply windings and two shields. One such is a copper foil winding between the primary and secondary. The other, similarly constructed, separates the windings supplying the display, successfully as it is inaudible whether on or off. The control processor is powered by yet another separate transformer equipped with an additional filter (VF in Canor nomenclature, I suspect might be a winding tuning Zobel network that doubles as an RF filter). Amplification is nothing more than modulating a power supply so the basic ingredient of the post DAC stages ought to be high quality.

Your old scribe also asked Canor about their filter choice and the philosophy behind it, to which Pavol replied that the DAC features only a simple analogue RC filter, which, if single pole as implied will produce a minimum phase single order 6dB/8ve response. Canor do not use any additional digital filter, but only the filter defined by the PCM1792 digital-to-analog converter. There are 8 variations on this Texas Instruments (formerly Burr Brown) CMOS chip so I cannot be sure, and user programmable functions might permit variation of the 130dB stop band attenuation and some versions have sharp or soft filter selection. Here also the CANOR CD2 VR+ Precision Tube CD Player differs from the earlier design CD1, still in production, which used a more complex analog filter. The CD1 filter does filter higher frequencies better, but is responsible for strong phase shift. In the CD2 VR+ signal path there is but one Mundorf MCap (polypropylene dielectric with ZN Zinc-Tin foil) capacitor, the type common to the VR+ versions of Canor's VR ranges.

Once again the valves in the CANOR Precision Tube CD Player in the output circuits are also subjected to Canor's hi-tech TTM-1 (Tube Tester and Measurer) selection procedure for the 12AX7 (ECC83 medium mu double triode) and 6922 (milspec ECC88 double triode) will be familiar to audiophiles as probably the most popular choices of b9a based valves. The applications recommendations for the Burr Brown family right up to VAM 1794 include ludicrously complicated arrangements of their own op-amps added gain that gets wasted by successive resistor voltage dividers, up to 3 pairs of these op-amps in various data sheets. This is the junk that was removed from my Shanling CDT100c to great effect and therefore is another factor to set high expectations for the Canor CD2 VR+ for its direct-to-DAC all valve analogue connection.

The result of the high gain of that ECC83 is 2.9V output which is much higher than red book. The high output voltage may instantly seduce listeners in a store demonstration against competitors, so caveat emptor. Equally, the problem of interfacing CD players with standard line inputs will be exacerbated by this high output, possibly overdriving some amplifiers into distortion, especially those that do not feature the volume pot immediately after the input selector.

Canor chief engineer and co-owner Zdenek Brezovjak decided to use, on sound quality grounds, the proprietary I2S bus in preference to the S-pdif for internal connection between transport and that PCM1792 converter in the CANOR Precision Tube CD Player as tests showed it improved sound quality. I also found the I2S superior to alternatives when testing Zero One music server, so full marks to Canor for that decision. Another area that raises the bar for the Canor CD2 VR+.

The splendid aluminium remote control also has the pride of ownership effect. I mentioned the slightly eccentric button layout in the Canor TP106 VR+ review. The central circular 4-way rocker (amplifier input left & right and volume up & down) has a square button in its centre for CD play/pause. It would be far better if the remote had two circular 4-way rockers and if the one surrounding CD play/pause controlled skip and fast forward/backward functions L-R and CD stop function, which lurks right at the top near the on/off switches. The track selector buttons are at the bottom and are the easiest and most accurate I have used when selecting track numbers above 19.

Canor CD2 VR+ manufacturer's Specification
dimensions W x H x D 435 x 122 x 370mm

Mass 12kg
frequency response 20-20,000Hz -0.25dB

output impedance 200Ω
harmonic distortion 0.005% at 1kHz
S/N ratio 102dB
valve complement two ECC83 (12AX7), two 6922 (ECC88), one EZ81
mains 230V at 50-60Hz 100VA

Sound Quality

The CANOR Precision Tube CD Player ticks most of this reviewers' desire boxes for a modern CD player:

  • Good vibration isolation
  • Excellent power supply isolation between sections
  • Pedigree DAC chips
  • Minimum phase low pass filtering
  • Discrete - even better, valve - analogue stages

The risk to Canor is that your old scribe's high expectations will be disappointed. Sluggish loading, reading and track access are the first niggle but mitigated by the excellent display that keeps the potential listener informed of what goes on before (s)he can hear anything. Obvious warm up time is around 10 minutes (just over 3 pop/rock tracks) and then there is a slight improvement for the duration of most of a CD, but much less magnitude than for a valve amplifier, so if you activate the whole system at once the CD warm up will be masked by the amplifier settling. There was less obvious burn in time for the CD2 VR+ than its partner amplifier the TP106 VR+ two days on repeat will more than cover it.

From the bass upwards the CANOR Precision Tube CD Player demonstrates a solid foundation and stable soundstage. This is the kind of player than locks in to a groove and stays with it. Whether on the Something Solid XR4 rack, or on alternatives, the CD2 VR+ maintained a solidity and consistency that allowed it to be frequently forgotten. Staying with the musical fundamentals, pace was consistent, never dragging nor frenetic or Flat Earth exaggerated. Pace would score +2 or even +3 against most of the popular best buy CD players I have ever heard (night and day difference) in all three PRaT parameters, Pace, Rhythm and Timing. The Canor CD2 VR+ would score just -1 on my judging (the smallest reliably detectable difference) for Pace and Rhythm against Flat Earth champions like the Avondale and -1 for timing against that superlative timer, the Consonance CD120, while the CD2 VR+ comfortably trounces the CD120 in every other area (as it should given the price difference).

Hence, the fundamental aspects of musical performance, the foundations of Pace, Rhythm and Timing (PRaT) are preserved adequately by the CANOR Precision Tube CD Player on its standard feet. This is Compact Disc's weakest area, the reason the medium was so hard to accept for many years by many audiophiles, whether or not it is due to jitter, other timing errors, low resolution sampling rate, poor playback systems or some other phenomenon (players with obsessive local ps regulation measures seem to perform better), it is as elusive to measurement as it was in turntables (some of which may have great steady state wow & flutter measurements but still sound like the conductor was drunk). As soon as 3 aftermarket feet are placed under this player in positions under the axis of the CD drawer, under the analogue valve board and under the PS, the PRaT lifted an order of magnitude. The CANOR Precision Tube CD Player is elevated from its lesser CD1 and CD2 siblings by extra attention to vibration control, including the aforementioned analogue valve (tube) board so this response to tuning feet is counterintuitive. Once again it tells audiophiles not to allow preconceptions to predetermine what they will hear; an expectation that support feet would make no difference might impede a listener from hearing such a useful difference. Some listening was conducted on the standard feet, but the Waipuna Sound MYRTLEFEET were left in place for the most days of testing. These slightly narrowed the PRaT gap between the CD2 VR+ and the Avondale, but still -1 for rhythm. The Canor CD2 VR+ lived on the Yamamoto PB 4 2 for the remainder of the tests and subsequent authorship. It's still set up like this now, in no hurry to change anything at all about the system to review the latest CD releases.

The final test of the capacity of playback systems to reproduce the essentials of music is the ability to recreate the tingle factor. Source components like CD players are the key elements in the system in this capacity. In an inversion of the Linn argument front end first based on the computer acronym GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out) one can argue nothing in, nothing out, in that any information lost at the disc reading or digital to analogue conversion stage cannot ever be recovered. The CD2 VR+ does not announce itself as an information retrieval player in the manner of Naim or Rega, and at first hearing seems more in the business of high end gloss applied over an average job of information retrieval. However, this impression is misleading as extended audition reveals. The tiny nuances of performance are what separate a competent musical performance from a truly memorable one. Red book CD is hampered by its 16bit (on a good day) range and 22kHz resolution (44kHz sampling rate) so the least significant bit is still far too important to waste. Arvo Pärt's Spiegel Im Spiegel, piano and violin is a fierce test of every aspect of tingle factor from timing and intonation to microdynamics and acoustics. The Avondale is more percussive than the Canor, which in turn has more impact than the Shanling, but it is the Canor that demonstrates the best balance of virtues to raise that tingle factor along with the listener's neck hairs.

Another Arvo Pärt composition O Adonai (second movement of the choral Magnificat) all male voiced prayer has an uncanny capacity to delight and disturb in equal measure, its cadences, intervals and timing reverberating in a natural acoustic. The first bass part has slightly more body via the modified Shanling, but the individual voices are far more easily placed with the Canor CD2 VR+, even if the Shanling seems more explicitly to distinguish between parts. The Canor CD2 VR+ drags as much off the disc as the other players and then adds far more acoustic clues to the extent that it is easier to separate mentally the performers voices from reflected sound, sometimes thought of as a function of very low frequency accuracy.

[comparison players]

The CANOR Precision Tube CD Player CD2 VR+ spends most of this review placed directly upon a dissipating shelf of the Something Solid XR4 rack spiked upon Something Solid Missing Link feet, hence the Canor benefits from excellent external vibration vibration. This will enable the internal vibration arrangements to perform their task of isolating power supply, disc transport, and digital circuits from each other and most importantly from the sensitive all valve analogue circuits. Any of the plebs chorus thinking of challenging this modus operandi on the grounds that it will reduce the differences between players should be pre-emptively struck dumb by the counter argument that a CD player that costs 2890€ is always going to be mounted on the best possible support in an audiophile system unless the buyer is really stupid and possibly deaf.

Mounted on lesser arrangements the CANOR Precision Tube CD Player CD2 VR+ will not exploit its full potential, but differences between CD players in this review will be reduced by the optimal tuning and vibration isolation and control imposed in the test procedure. Throughout comparisons only the Avondale benefitted from the Brightstar LittleRock, which is essential with that player's clangy casework.

Toots & The Maytals' Bam Bam features tape hiss and pre-echo that sorts out low level bass resolution and pitch stability and the Canor CD2 VR+ succeeded in retrieving the information and presenting it as coherently as the modified Shanling reference. In some respects the Canor CD2 VR+ manages to be fleeter of foot than the Shanling, but the Shanling takes the honours with the dense high frequencies on Reggae Got Soul. On Bam Bam the flat earth favourite Avondale Audio AAA5 presents the piano runs more noticeably and percussively than either of the valved cd players. However, due to disc surface damage, the AAA5 cannot play the whole of this disc without skipping (nor can any other cd player recently tried except the Shanling CDT100c with its robust Sony Transport), but the flimsy looking Phillips L1210/65 of the Canor CD2 VR+ takes nearly the whole disc in its stride, suggesting there is more to transport design than hefty mechanics.

CD player differences tend to be tiny once the basic musical fundamentals are taken care of; the majority of CD players time so disastrously that I cannot listen to a whole CD through. Various hypotheses are offered for this; the two oldest proposals are either that the basic limitations of the sampling rate being inadequate to preserve phase accuracy or that jitter is the culprit. A more recent theory is that the steep anti-aliasing filters in either the digital or analogue domains contribute and a number of models have appeared in recent years that defy red book standards and skip most of the filter poles altogether. I am inclined to imagine that all three of these inherent CD properties could contribute to phase shift and hence timing problems. I am lucky to have two reference players on hand that excel in maintaining an illusion of integrity in this respect; The Avondale Audio AAA5 recreates the fundamental rhythm of music as well as any player auditioned, uptempo material remaining suitably uptempo by virtue of obsessive power supply regulation for clock, transport, DAC and analogue circuits and upsampling avoided. The Chevron modified Shanling CDT100c takes a similar approach to a lesser degree, but also employ minimum phase shift low pass filters of modest slope, resulting in high frequency timing integrity only ever bettered by the Consonance CD120 Linear whose better than 14ps jitter contributed to less than 5° phase shift 20Hz-20kHz. The CANOR Precision Tube CD Player managed the musical basics at first audition, for whatever reasons in its design and execution. Comparing with the heavily modified Shanling there was less difference between the Shanling and the Canor CD2 VR+ than between the Shanling and the Avondale. Equally tricky, the differences between the CD2 VR+ and the Avondale are also smaller than between the two references. However, that does not mean that the CD2 VR+ lies halfway between them in performance.

That the differences are tiny is a compliment to the Canor Precision Tube CD Player as the Shanling has had a lot of work performed by Chevron Audio (formerly trading as Chevin Audio). further more, when listening to these subtle differences, preferences varied between different listeners to the same comparisons, and different material being played. Finally, succumbing to the temptation to identify differences coherently and consistently we fell into the temptation of A-B testing. Worse than that...
"Is there's something worse than A-B testing?" query plebs, stage left, continuing, "Has the old scribe taken to drink? Is the balance of his mind disturbed?"

Indeed, in a desperate attempt to isolate and exaggerate the differences between the players. Immediately apparent is the Canor CD2 VR+ transport being so much slower and clunkier after the drawer closes and reading the disc and making ready to play. This might be less frustrating to a purchaser than a reviewer. A-B testing between the CD2 VR+ and the Shanling foregrounded less difference between the two players than between 24bit/96kHz mode and red book mode on the Shanling. The CD2 VR+ is understandably closer to the red book standard play, it being the more dynamic of the two sampling rates on the Shanling but the upsampled rate being slightly sweeter and more subtly shaded in the highest frequencies.

Having a suck or blow switch (phase reverse in the digital domain) on the Shanling is a curious feature. On recordings with phase integrity (Chesky for example) the difference is night and day (as Doug Dunlop would say of tube rolling experiments) but ambiguous on multitrack orchestral recordings for example. The differences between the two settings suck or blow is much greater than the difference between these two players. On some recordings the Shanling is preferred while on others the Canor CD2 VR+ is preferred. Attempting to identify whether this depends on material genre proves inconclusive; as soon as listeners decide that the Shanling is preferred on female vocals, along comes Meshell Ndege Ocello and proves the opposite.

Meshell's bass guitar sound is another case in point; note envelope is much more explicit and funkier on the Canor CD2 VR+, but note pitch is more identifiable on the Shanling. Tough call, and that's just the lowest two octaves. There's a family trend here too, as this was a similar difference between the Canor TP106 VR+ amplifier and a typical single ended triode sound.

The CANOR Precision Tube CD Player has pace aplenty, fleeter of foot than the Shanling (+2 for pace and +1 for rhythm) but not quite tailgating the Avondale Audio AAA5 (-1 for pace and -1 for rhythm. However, such is qualitative data that there is not a 3 point difference on pace between the Avondale and the Shanling as these are Lickert scales, not absolute figures. The heavily modified Shanling has a narrower soundstage than the Canor, but it is deeper on 24/96 (24 bit sample depth at 96 kHz sampling rate) and the Shanling has a more convincing illusion of soundstage presence. Keeping in mind the superlative timing of the Consonance that passed through these doors, the Canor doesn't reach those elevated levels, but the Consonance was a one trick pony and the Canor does so much more (for much more money). The Greatful Dead's early studio tapes (Birth of the Dead) are a great test of timing and this proved one of those occasions when arguments against A-B testing hold sway. The different soundstage presentation militated against an accurate comparison as the drumkit placement was so different between the three players that it made judging the treble timing impossible without resorting to mono. We do not buy real stereo systems to listen to mono so that would be futile. This reviewer will therefore not compare the timing as better or worse, just in terms of how convincing the timing is presented. Keeping an ear on the ride cymbal, the snare strikes and the bass drum's coincidence with the attack of bass guitar notes became secondary to grooving along with the tunes. Nuff said.

I mentioned that the Canor does so much more than the Consonance, and I noted the latter was all for subtlety but not for dynamics. The BIG dynamics are well handled by the Canor CD2 VR+, so much so that the designer notes that it can overload the input of many amplifiers (the 0dB output is 2.9V which exceeds the input voltage demanded by Canor's own amplifiers at full volume) which is not uncommon for CD players into DIN line inputs. The same Greatful Dead tracks manage wide swings which the Canor handles gracefully.

At the top end I become increasingly aware of a curious high frequency phenomenon. that becomes an intermittent but unpleasant artefact. It resembles a reflected and intermodulated high frequency disturbance that resembles aliasing. The CANOR Precision Tube CD Player uses a simple RC analogue filter, but I do not which filter option they select in the Burr-Brown PCM1792A; very little filtering is used in the modified Shanling so it too should be more prone to these problems than most red book filtered players, but is much less so than the CD2 VR+. The appropriate test is to play high frequency square waves through the CD2 VR+ as these contain multiple harmonics (that is what square waves are) way beyond the limits of audibility. They resemble the shockwaves of musical transients' leading edges, repeated again and again. Thus, high frequency squarewaves are most likely to expose any such high frequency problems. The Canor CD2 VR+ exhibited these reflected lower intermodulation products, especially with a 5kHz square wave (hence 5kHz is the lowest frequency in the notional series that builds the square shape). Using a disc with this waveform recorded demonstrated the problem clearly as an audible warbling intermodulation not present in any other player tested with this disc. Concerned that this is a mismatch with their own TP106 VR+ the Canor CD2 VR+ gets tried with other amplifiers and even coupled with a variable transformer. High levels of certain high frequencies definitely excite an intermodulation product that does not seem to be harmonically related to the signal. The strongest hypothesis I can offer is that it is caused by aliasing as a consequence of the choice of gentle filter rates. Frankly I would rather have the improved timing possible with gentle slopes of low order filters at the cost of a rare birdie than suffer the appalling high frequency timing designed into the original CD red book standard; CD introduced the domestic world to digital audio far too soon, before the storage media could handle the amount of data needed to reproduce an hour of music with any semblance of fidelity above 5kHz, so 20 years later playback system designers have to juggle compromises to meet their own priorities.

The fact that the Canor CD2 VR+ develops such a convincing soundstage is testimony to the compromises chosen but the curious whistles are the price to pay, unless there is a fault in this sample, which is unlikely as this effect occurs on other minimum phase filtered players. Your priorities may be different, but for all but a couple of the discs tried, this was inaudible and far outweighed by the benefits of better phase integrity.

[panel switches]

So what, if anything, could be done to improve this CD player for Canor's next generation?
That PCM1792 chip has balanced outputs that could easily feed symmetrical analogue output stages using 2 double triodes per channel off a pair of EZ81 rectifiers, which would probably add proportionately little to the final retail price. This would make it a more universally acceptable high end player in contexts of other amplification. After the lengthy, thorough and otherwise state of the art development path pursued by Canor, a balanced output would be the icing on the cake.

Conclusion

The look, the fit and the finish of the CANOR Precision Tube CD Player is contemporary 21st century. It eschews the artisan qualities of its older stablemates and aims more for modern machine shop production tolerances. The CD drawer has unsurpassed front panel fit, even if the drawer itself is plasticky, clunky and slides along with all the grace of a reality TV show contestant. Loading and track access are slow by modern standards but customers buy this sort of equipment for sound quality not convenience. Being a front loader, the CANOR Precision Tube CD Player will fit in most racks, providing enough space is allowed for ventilation as valve equipment gets hot. At this level a balanced output might be expected and I would hope that the next Canor generation includes impedance matched balanced connections as the final step on the stairway to the state of the art; that Burr-Brown PCM1792A has balanced outputs so this would be easy to implement at double the cost of the all valve analogue stage. Visible valves might be the only other change some consumers might desire, but would require compromised internal layout.

It wasn't until I had heard this player for a couple of weeks and then spent several evenings chopping and changing CD players all night while struggling to identify the effects of the Waipuna Sound Myrtle Feet that the constant changes enabled me to get a handle on what this player can really do. Aural memory is notoriously unreliable and the ear/brain mechanism is self regulating, making constant adjustments to separate content from acoustic or background and to equalise volume as much as possible to allow evolutionarily useful data to be exposed and analysed for threat or utility. Hence, sometimes only those artificial conditions imposed by laboratory or audio journalism enable us to identify subtle effects of which we have been unconsciously aware but only now foreground in consciousness. What I eventually found was that this CD player is, on balance, as good as it gets. Some CD players, especially those modified to excel in certain areas, exceed the CANOR Precision Tube CD Player in just those areas; the Consonance had timed better at a quarter of the price of the Canor. However, the Canor is such an all rounder, coming close to state of the art in most areas, that it is a real contender.

Rumour has it that the Canor CD2 VR+ sounded better than the Luxman D-06 at the Warsaw Audio Show recently. The Luxman weighs in at 7000€ which at twice the price of the Canor so even at these elevated high-end prices questions of value for money arise. However, the Canor CD2 VR+ is not the last word at its price level, and outside the context of a matching Canor system it should be auditioned against its competitors. All players are the result of a balance of virtues prioritised differently by every designer, and in the context of a differently voiced system or one ultra-sensitive sensitive to high frequency spuriæ (very wide bandwidth amplifiers with global feedback for example) the CD2 VR+ may not suit. Auditioning components in your own system is sometimes the only way to get the best match. With the caveat dictated by the high frequency spuriae, in the context of a Canor system this CD player would be recommended.

The tactile qualities of the reproduction of instrumental timbre by the Canor CD2 VR+ match that of the TP106 VR+, demonstrating those priorities of its designer. Certain aspects of soprano voice and high frequency percussion lag behind some of the competition in this rarified atmosphere, possibly compromised to achieve strengths elsewhere; this is surprising in the light of the valve complement selected for this player and its siblings. The high end soundstage size and stability match those of the traditional movers and shakers in the high end audio world. Ambience retrieval is exceptional, the first time the Chevron modified Shanling has been bettered here.

The Canor CD2 VR+ does represent good value in a CD based system in partnership with the Canor TP106 VR+ at a competitive price in this context helped by their low demands on the interconnect by virtue of good impedance matching; not much extra would be needed in the way of fancy interconnect to get it ready to enjoy music. In this context the Canor CD2 VR+ sounds like high end and looks like high end.`

The Canor Precision Tube CD Player CD2 VR+ digs massive amounts of information off the silver disc, but unlike those information retrievalplayers that foreground masses of data in an intimidating wall wall of me me me, the Canor CD2 VR+ presents the information seemingly effortlessly in an enjoyable coherent musical presentation. This is as good as it gets overall in a CD player with single ended outputs.

[Stack system anyone?]

Music enjoyed while writing this review

  • Zzebra: Zzebra/Panic sorts out the bass & rhythm ability
  • Janácek: On an Overgrown Path Supraphon SU3287-2 111, Ivan Klánský who I've heard perform this live in a small room, from neighbouring Czech republic
  • White Lightening: ...As Midnight Approaches/Paradise...At A Price Angel Air Records
  • Jimi Hendrix: Electric Ladyland 1997 Eddie Kramer remaster, the LP I know best of all
  • Toots & The Maytals: Reggae Greats Compilation with surface damage highlights reading errors and error correction
  • Me'shell Ndegé Ocello: Plantation Lullabies Great bass playing singer songwriter
  • Life: Cocoon
  • Eric Bell: Lonely Nights in London
  • Darrell Bath: Love and Hurt
  • Nightmares on Wax: Still Smokin'
  • Future Sound of London: Expander
  • Jimi Hendrix: Valleys of Neptune
  • Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon, a cliche among aged audiophiles, but the MFSL cd maximises info available off the not silver but gold disc
  • Greatful Dead: Birth of the Dead, HDCD
  • Arvo Pärt: Alina
  • Neil Young: Live at Massey Hall 1971
  • Jimi Hendrix: Electric Ladyland, over and over and over and over again and again and again
  • Photek: Modus Operandi, sharp electronica in ice cold drum&bass stylee
  • Robin George: Dangerous Music Live '85,
  • Arvo Pärt: Beatus, Estonian Philhamonic Chamber Choir
  • Foghat: NOT Live at the BBC,
  • Robin George: Dangerous Music Live '85,
  • Little Feat: Waiting for Columbus,
  • The Blue Drivers: Your Mileage May Vary
  • Rob Thomson: Dust
  • Ozric Tentacles: Become the Other, bought stageside in a pub when newly released
  • Nine Below Zero: Chilled/refrigerated, to be released July 5th 2010 and a must buy
  • Gerry McEvoy: Can't Win 'Em All, ex Gallagher bassist - therefore faultless
  • Gil Scott-Heron: I'm New Here

Test CDs used


Chessky: Jazz Sampler and Audiophile tests
HiFi News and Record Review: , HFN003
HiFi News and Record Review: Test Disc III, HFN020

Canor are distributed in the UK by Metropolis Music, those elsewhere should contact Canor for local distribution. The retail export price above is valid within the whole E.U.

© Copyright 2010 Mark Wheeler - mark@tnt-audio.com - www.tnt-audio.com

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