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Audio Analogue Paganini - CD player

Moto perpetuo...

[Italian version]

Product: Audio Analogue Paganini CD player
Manufacturer: Audio Analogue - Italy
Approx. price (in Italy): 1,000 Euro/ 1,000 US $
Reviewer: Lucio Cadeddu

[Audio Analogue Paganini]
Audio Analogue Paganini CD player

Everyone already knows Audio Analogue, the Italian HiFi firm that has conquered the World with a series of high quality/price ratio components, namely the Puccini integrated amplifiers (both the standard and the SE version) and the Bellini/Donizetti preamp/amp combo. If you want more details about Audio Analogue you may need to check our recent factory tour.
Audiophiles all around the World were awaiting for a CD player to match these amps with. And here it is: the Paganini, another product of the Great composers series: Puccini, Vivaldi (the DAC, now discontinued), Bellini & Donizetti.
Niccolò Paganini (Genova, 1782-1840) is probably the most famous violinist ever. He is famous for being both an incredible "virtuoso" and composer himself. Among his pieces, you may know the Moto Perpetuo, one of the most difficult tasks for any violinist worth his weight in Stradivari's.
Hence Paganini is a HEAVY name for a CD player. We will see if the new Audio Analogue player will be worth the name.

The Paganini is a rather heavy CD player (10 kgs-22 lbs), sturdly built and nicely finished. The cabinet is made out of thick-wall steel while up front you find a solid aluminium panel, with pretty unusual looks. Take the buttons/switches, for example: the circular placement is a radical departure from the ubiquitous sequence of horizontal commands. Even the display is circular, with orange LCD digits.
The on/off switch is located in the rear panel, close to the IEC power socket. A digital output is available (coaxial) plus a switch that allows to turn it off when the CD player is working as a stand-alone unit.
A complete blue-coloured remote control is available.

Technically the Paganini consists of a modified Sony transport coupled with a 24 bit Crystal D/A converter. For more tech details please refer to the official site.
The inside view you find below doesn't require any comment by the poor reviewer: the quality of the craftsmanship is simply superb. Excellent if you consider the price tag of the player.

The Paganini has been carefully evaluated into different HiFi systems and has been also compared with an Audio Analogue Maestro CD player (of the "Maestro" series, top of the line) which has been already reviewed here on TNT-Audio.
I've listened both the CD player as a whole and the transport separately.

Moto perpetuo...

[Audio Analogue Paganini]
Paganini -IMPRESSIVE- inside view

Its price tag puts the Paganini in the middle between the hi-end stuff and the entry-level players so it should be considered as a natural step forward for anyone willing to upgrade from players like the Marantz CD 67/6000 and the like.

The Paganini is, first of all, a smooth and sweet performer, no digital harshness being detectable while listening to it. The high range can be divided into two sections: the lower high range does possess a sweet roll-off while the upper high range is well refined and detailed.
The mid range remains clear and rather bright, quite analytical and very revealing. A very good performer, given the price, with large choirs and multiple voices. Thanks to the clean mid range each single voice can be detected and "followed" while listening to the whole.
While being so analytical, the Paganini never sounds harsh or aggressive, always remaining smooth and enjoyable even at loud listening levels.

The main difference with cheaper players is the "grain" of its sound. It becomes clear, after the first notes, that the Paganini is a higher class CD player, the same kind of difference you experience when upgrading to 1,000$ speakers your old 500$ boxes.
Now, while this sweetness of the high range can be relieving with many recordings, which are overbright oftentimes, it may result a tad "too much of a good thing" with neutral or dark recordings with which it may sound cloudy and shut-in. This is the price to pay for a performance that "smooth".
Then you have the bass range. The upper low range, say, above 60 Hz, is powerful and even a bit "forward". Below 60 Hz this power becomes to disappear so that the fundamental lower notes of bass and pipe organ appear a bit "behind" the rest.
Perhaps, being the 80-100 Hz a bit "forward", the lower portion of spectrum, while being linear and correct, appears a bit "behind" the rest. Psychoacoustics rules here.
For example, if you listen to a bass guitar solo, the upper notes appear to be played powerfully while the lower fundamentals (those that shake the windows panes and the floor) lack some sheer energy.
Again, let me remark that these lower fundamentals can be heard only with loudspeakers which go flat till 30 Hz or so, nothing that can be detected with mid-sized bookshelf loudspeakers that appear to be the natural partners of the Paganini into a budget-oriented mid-class HiFi system.


A smooth performer is a smooth performer. Trivial but true. Hence you wouldn't expect the Paganini to explode into your listening room with larger than life dynamics and extra-fast pace, would you?
Instead, the Paganini offers the Music gently, punchy in the mids and a bit slow in the bass, never aggressive or of the big-baam-boom kind.
Simply delicious with small jazz ensembles and orchestras, it lacks the badness which is necessary for large orchestral symphonic works or rock bands.
It is a gentleman, you won't be able to make it sound bad or explosive. The bass range appears a bit "out of time" with respect to the mid-bass but the fact isn't truly disappointing. If I had to say something about the overall "pace" of the Italian player, I'd rate it as "relaxing and a bit on the slow side".
While playing Music you will easily forget the Hz's and the dB's, concentrating just on the musical sound this player gently offers to the listener.

3D imaging and soundstage

The Paganini does possess a large and deep soundstage and, thanks to the analyticity of the mid range, the instruments and the singers appear precisely focused inside the 3D scene. A performance so good you can find it only in players costing twice the price of the Audio Analogue Paganini.
The best thing the Paganini does is to offer a very deep scene, outstandingly deep indeed, for the price. And, of course, it appears to be wider and "taller" than the one created by cheaper players...as I always say, the difference between entry-level and mid-priced HiFi components lies in the capability to create a sound(stage) large enough to be realistic instead of being compressed between the 'speakers.
The Paganini, with respect to soundstaging, can rival far more expensive CD players and transport + DAC combos. Kudos!

Some advice

While sturdly built, the Paganini benefits from using Vibrapods or equivalent damping feet. The sound becomes fuller and more powerful, the bass firmer and the pace a bit faster. The same happens with a good AC cord, with which the Paganini earns some deeper frequencies too.
In few words: damping feet and AC cord are strongly recommended if not mandatory.
Then leave the Paganini permanently ON, at least in stand-by mode.
Do not use dark interconnects or your amp will need a treble tone control.

Looking for an upgrade? The Paganini transport is way better than its DAC, imho. So an easy upgrade, if you already have a Paganini, would be a better external DAC. Having tested the transport separately I can assure you this section of the Paganini is capable of excellent musical perfomances, sounding precise, accurate and very fast. No wonder the same transport has been used into the expensive Audio Analogue Maestro CD player.


The craftsmanship quality of the Paganini is outstanding so it is very difficult to find something to complain about.
Personally, I didn't like the orange display, which is quite hard to read, and the switches, that require a long time to be used to: you always end up pressing the wrong switch :-(
Sonically, if you're looking for an effervescent performer you should consider something else, period. The Paganini's smooth sound may result "wooly" and shut-in to some listener. With wrong (read: dark) partners the "smooth" tone would easily appear excessive and unwelcomed.
Choose the right partners before buying. The Puccini amps being natural partners, provided the speakers aren't on the "soft" side.
Of course I may be wrong, but it seems the designers have tried to give an "analogue" character to this player and, in my humble opinion, they've gone slightly too far.
A more "linear" bass response and a more "open" behaviour in the highs would have made this player a more "universal" (read: easy partner) performer.


If you're looking for a serious upgrade for your entry-level digital front-end with a taste of hi-end, please take the Paganini into proper account.
Smoothness, soundstaging and grainless sound will make you easily forget the price, in the sense you wouldn't believe you're listening to a 1,000 $ CD player.
Conversely, if you're looking for a lightening fast, punchy and bright CD player you may need to look elsewhere, as the sweet character of the Paganini won't suit your needs.

A huge thank you to the Audio Analogue staff for having sent us the Paganini for reviewing.

© Copyright 2000 Lucio Cadeddu - http://www.tnt-audio.com

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