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er equipment review

Audiolab
8000CD CD Player

Audiolab’s new 8000CD player is radically built in a circuit that allows you to paused mode, for example, the Audiolab
different from any CD player in Audiolab’s ‘de-activate’ the SPDIF digital output instead just shows the word ‘Pause.’
long and glorious history, including the so that if, like many people, you don’t This may seem like a small thing, but
previous one that shared the same model use this output, you can benefit from when you actually use the player, it
number. It’s because the International a reduced r.f. field and an increase in makes operation more comfortable
Audio Group, which now owns Audi- power supply capacity. and ‘friendly.’
olab, gave long-time Audiolab designer, Many manufacturers cut costs by
Nick Clarke, a free hand to re-design the The Equipment stripping functions from their players
8000CD player, so he took the opportu- The very first thing you’ll notice about that they think you might not use—
nity to completely redesign the circuitry, the 8000CD is that it’s solid! The reason which is very annoying if you’re one of
taking advantage of Crystal Semiconduc- is that its solid steel chassis is not only those who use them. The only feature I
tors’ latest generation of 24-bit, 192kHz double-skinned, but also fully galvanised. could find missing from the 8000CD is
sigma-delta digital-to-analogue converters The reason it has to be solid is that it has an A–B repeat function, otherwise the
(DACs) that lift CD sound to a level that one of the largest power supplies I’ve ever Audiolab has everything you could need,
rivals—some say betters—that of the seen in a CD player. Indeed the left and including the other repeat modes (Repeat
DVD-A and SACD super-fidelity formats. right channels are each powered by their Track, Repeat Disc and Repeat Program).
Even better, Clarke has built in added own independent power supplies, each of The track programming mode is far more
flexibility by allowing owners control which has its own toroidal transformer. extensive than usual, allowing you to
over the way these new DACs convert The second thing you’ll notice is program up to 60 tracks to play back in
the digital signals into music, permitting the superb front-panel display. Instead any order and allows multiple use of the
a choice of a standard ‘brick-wall’ of those arcane little symbols to tell same track number.
filter—preferred by those who like a more you what’s going on inside the player, Not only are there the standard track
clinical sound—or a less aggressive filter, Audiolab’s display uses plain English. search functions; there’s also a search
for those who like their music to sound What a great idea! Rather than displaying function that allows you to locate index
sweeter and more musical. He’s even two vertical bars when you’re in the points within a track, which will make

40 | Australian Hi-Fi
Audiolab
Brand: Audiolab
Model: 8000CD
Category: CD Player
RRP: $1699
Warranty: Three Years
Distributor: International Audio Group
Pty Ltd
Address: Unit 30 398 The Boulevarde
Kirrawee
NSW 2232
T: (02) 9521 4844
F: (02) 9521 4222
E: iagaus@bigpond.com
W: www.audiolab.co.uk

the 8000CD a favourite with classical and the Slow filter by those who like response slightly between 10 and 20kHz.
music buffs, since a great many classical their music to sound sweeter and more Listening Sessions
CDs contain index marks so you can musical, this is not strictly true because As usual, I checked the transport drawer
easily locate individual movements it is complicated by the fact that your logic first with an old CD, just to see if
within a work, or the start of particular preference for one or the other will be it would stop properly in the case of an
variations, such as the 33 in Beethoven’s enormously affected by the design of accidental disc misload, or a tray blockage,
Variations on a theme by Diabelli, or the your amplifier and your speakers. To (for the simple reason that I don’t want
32 in Bach’s Goldberg Suite. use the most extreme example, you’ll to ruin any discs in my collection—as one
Display brightness is adjustable find that if you use an amplifier with a player did once) and found the Audiolab’s
through four different levels and can be Class-D (digital switching) output stage, tray logic was impeccable, with the tray
switched off entirely. Audiolab notes in you’ll find the ‘Fast’ setting will give stopping almost the instant I deliberately
its manual that ‘Some listeners prefer to far better performance than the ‘Slow’ blocked it, and the motor turning itself off
listen with the display switched off. Others setting. This will also be true—but to automatically, to prevent a potential burn-
feel that sound quality improves when the a lesser extent—if your amplifier has a out. Not only this, but that ‘Plain English’
digital traffic involved in the display is conventional linear output stage, but a display read-out sprang into action, show-
disconnected.’ Presumably it’s those who switch-mode power supply. Once it’s set ing the words ‘Tray Blocked’ rather than
are concerned with unnecessary ‘digital to your preference, the player stores the some arcane error code (or worse still, no
traffic’ that will be pleased by Audiolab’s filter type in memory until you change it, display at all!).
inclusion of an ‘SPDIF Off’ facility, which even if you switch the player on and off. Once a disc was playing, however, I
turns off the digital output on the rear For those who need a refresher course did find the 8000CD’s time read-out a
panel. Turning the SPDIF output on and on filtering, all CD players contain filters tad confusing, because I couldn’t see any
off is a simple front-panel procedure to remove frequencies above 20kHz so indication of whether the digits that were
that can be altered very quickly any they can’t interfere with music playback. being displayed represented the elapsed
time you like—though it does involve The filters that cut in very gradually, or remaining time or whether they
having to turn the player on and off, so so their action is like a gentle slope, pertained to the particular track that was
unfortunately, you can’t make a quick removing higher frequencies only little playing or the entire disc. It’s pretty easy
A–B comparison to see which mode you by little with increasing frequency, are to work out which is which by pressing
prefer. known as ‘Slow’ filters. The filters that the ‘Time’ display on the remote handset,
The same is true of the process for cut in quickly and dramatically above which quickly cycles through the four
selecting your preferred output filter. 20kHz are the ‘Fast’ or ‘Brick Wall’ filters. available time modes, but a front-panel
Rather than use arcane technical The most significant effects on sound, indicator would make things even easier.
terminology Audiolab refers to these other than those mentioned previously, It’s a simple-enough software update, so it
two filters as ‘Fast’ and ‘Slow’—the ‘Fast’ are that fast filters have no effect on could be included on future models.
setting being the ‘Brick Wall’ filter. the level of sounds below 20kHz, but Operationally, the Audiolab 8000CD
Although I said in the introduction that do affect their phase, whereas slow is a delight to use, with a quick, rapid
the Fast filter would be preferred by filters don’t affect phase, but do have a response to key presses, whether on the
those who like a more clinical sound, small effect on level, tending to roll-off front panel or the infrared remote. It’ll

Australian Hi-Fi | 41
er Audiolab 8000CD CD Player TEST RESULTS

play CD-R and CD-RW discs as well as Treble performance is balanced Test Results
ordinary CDs. The front panel switches beautifully against the midrange. Audiolab’s 8000CD turned in a superb per-
have a longer travel than you’d expect, Speaking only in terms of balancing formance in every respect. Distortion was
but they felt good to use. I loved that the volume levels—yes, the extreme highs exceptionally low, with the overall THD+N
remote gives direct track access to double- are perhaps a touch forward in the ‘Fast’ figure coming in at 0.009%—though this
digit tracks just by pressing the two mode, and perhaps a touch recessed in is increasingly looking like it’s actually
numbers in succession. That is, pressing ‘Slow’—the differences are so slight that the limit of the CD test disc, since many
‘2’ followed by ‘3’ sends the player to a third setting, midway between the two, new high-end players are returning exactly
track 23. The ‘autoplay’ also speeds things would be an exercise in futility. However the same result. What many can’t do is
along. there’s more to the filter differences than deliver the clean –20dB signal shown in
I’d like to be able to write here that I mere level, and it’s here that your CDs, the accompanying graph of the Audiolab’s
preferred one filter over the other, but I amplifier and speakers that will come output. This is the average level you’ll
didn’t. Certainly I thought the sound was into play in determining which mode typically find on CDs (allowing 20dB of
brighter and a little ‘sharper’ with the to choose. The biggest point to note here headroom for peaks) and you can see that
Fast filter, but although this worked well is the obvious: that with the 8000CD played on the Audiolab, there’s absolutely
for many CDs I played, mostly—but not at least you’re in control of the choice! no distortion visible at all. Equally im-
exclusively—orchestral works, I found a portant is the noise floor: you can see it’s
great many discs where I greatly preferred Conclusion right down at –130dB. This superb result is
the 8000CD’s sound using the Slow filter This is a fabulous CD player, but so un- reflected in the signal-to-noise ratio (which
setting. Again, as a generalisation, I liked prepossessing that you really have to use includes the contribution from the power
the Slow filter setting for listening to one—and hear one—to fully appreciate supply, visible as the peak at the far left of
jazz and rock CDs. Since the differences just how great it really is! this graph) which came in at 101dB.
were relatively subtle, I’d probably set the  greg borrowman Distortion at very low levels was
Audiolab to ‘Slow’ for day-to-day use (and equally good. The graph shows the output
in fact this is the default setting) and Readers interested in a spectrum with a dithered test signal at
only switch to ‘Fast’ for a critical listening full technical appraisal of –90.31dB. You can see that once again, no
session with a CD I’d established sounded the performance of the distortion is visible. The elevated level of
better with the ‘Fast’ filter. Audiolab 8000CD should the noise floor (to around –125dB) is an
In either mode you’ll find there’s a continue on and read the artefact of the dithering process.
nice weight and feel to the bass, so it LABORATORY REPORT Frequency response was exceptionally
comes through hard when required, but flat across the bass and midrange, but
published on the following
doesn’t sound overly heavy or ponderous, rolled off a little above 2kHz, to end up
pages. All readers should
and the pitching is impeccable. The 0.15dB down at 20kHz. Remember to
note that the results
midrange performance was wonderful as take into account the extraordinarily
mentioned in the report,
well, with a clean, very detailed sound expanded scale on this graph (0.05dB per
tabulated in performance
and a great delivery of presence—and vertical division). Channel separation was
charts and/or displayed
ambience!—on properly-recorded discs. also exceptional, averaging more than
REPORT

using graphs and/or


It’s across the midrange particularly that 125dB right across the audio band.
you can hear how the total background
photographs should be You can see the effect of the two filters
quietness (yes, I had the SPDIF switched construed as applying in the two graphs showing distortion
LAB

off) allows you to pick subtle vocal only to the specific with a 20kHz/0dB test signal. With
inflections and instrumental details that sample tested. the slow filter, there’s a 24.1kHz signal
are glossed over by lesser CD players— sitting at around –30dB that’s caused by
and the music sounds all the better for it. Continued on page 93

42 | Australian Hi-Fi
er Audiolab 8000CD CD Player TEST RESULTS

Continued from page 42

interaction between the 20kHz test signal line is 44.1kHz signal that, because it’s low jitter: a set of the best I’ve ever seen
and the 44.1kHz sampling frequency, introduced after the filter, is the same in and particularly important in light of
along with a second harmonic peak both graphs). the fact that low jitter levels have been
at –105dB (at 48.2kHz). With the fast IMD (not shown) was particularly low, proved to correlate with high marks in
filter, the level of the 24.1kHz signal has with regenerated 1kHz coming in lower listening sessions. Overall, the technical
been reduced to –110dB and the second than –90dB. However, it’s the tabulated performance of the Audiolab 8000CD is
harmonic completely eradicated. (The results that contain perhaps the greatest nothing less than excellent.
peak just to the right of the 38.4kHz surprise, in the form of the spectacularly  Steve Holding

Audiolab 8000CD Compact Disc Player Serial #: 231G001938


Analogue Output Measurements: Result Unit/Comment
Output Voltage 2.3878/2.3872 volts (Left/Right)
Frequency Response: -0.15/+0.003 dB (20Hz-20kHz) Slo Filter
Channel Separation: 125dB 1kHz
THD: 0.009% @ 1kHz @ 0dBFS
Channel Balance: 0.0021 dB @ 1kHz
Channel Phase: 0.03/0.00/0.07 16Hz/1kHz/20kHz (degrees)
Group Delay -5.35/+1.45 degrees (1k-20k/20k-1k)
S/N Ratio (No Pre/emp) 101 dB (weighted)
S/N Ratio (Pre-Emp) 101 dB (weighted)
De-Emphasis Error 0.15/0.84/0.35 dB (1kHz/4kHz/16kHz)
Linearity Error @ –60.00dB/–70.00dB 0.04/0.01 dB (Not Dithered)
Linearity Error @ –80.59dB/–85.24dB 0.01/0.04 dB (Not Dithered)
Linearity Error @ –89.46dB/–91.24dB 0.09/0.18 dB (Not Dithered)
Linearity Error @ –80.70dB/–90.31dB 0.04/0.06 dB (Dithered)
Digital Output Measurements:
Digital Carrier Amplitude 132mV Audioband
1.13V/1.35V Differential/Common Mode
Audioband Jitter 3.8/0.023 nS/UI (p–p)
Data Jitter 3.5/0.019 nS/UI (p–p)
Deviation -54.3 ppm
Frame Rate 44097.603
Eye-Narrowing (Zero Cross) 0.6/0.002 nS/UI (p–p)
Eye-Narrowing (200mV) 3.3/0.02 nS/UI (p–p)
Absolute Phase Normal Normal/Inverted
Bit Activity 23 At Digital O/P
Power Consumption 8.04 watts

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