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The A8T and 2008 CD players
as reviewed by Francisco Duran
Original CD players hail from China, through Boston via AAA Audio and Mr. Ping Gong. They are built to a very high standard, both mechanically and electrically, boasting components like Phillips Vam laser pickups, Burr Brown DACs, and what Original calls "unique GOS processing technology." The circuits are designed from the ground up by Original's own designers. An attractive feature shared by all Original players is their modular design. The circuit board can be easily replaced by AAA Audio, which means that if repair is needed, you will not need to send your player overseas. I think this is a big plus. When one of my Antique Sound Labs amps needed repair, I waited six months for the parts to arrive from China!
These CD players don't look like they will break. They are solidly put together, and their circuit boards and internal wiring are very cleanly laid out. I heard all four players at Larry Cox's house, but was only able to listen to the 2008 Mk-II and the A8T in my own home. As with most audio companies, performance improves as you climb up the product ladder. The baby of the group, the A8S, displayed the Original family character of a detailed and slightly warm, relaxed, yet involving sound, plus a three-dimensional soundstage. It sounded remarkably similar to the solid-state section of the A8T (which has both tube and solid-state output sections). The A8T sounded slightly more open and clear, with a cleaner background and quieter noise floor. Its inner detail was just a tad more intelligible, and slightly less pinched. The A8T's presentation was slightly more effortless.
The tube and solid-state sections of the A8T sounded very similar, in both Larry's system and mine. This made me wonder why Original bothered including the tube section, and called for experimentation with tube rolling (the tube section uses two 12AU7s) and cable swapping. I was able to achieve improvements by swapping the stock tubes for some not-too-expensive NOS 12AU7s. The most notable rewards were a cleaner background, a more spacious sound, and slightly more detail. Nevertheless, the two output sections still sounded remarkably similar. In both tube and solid-state mode, listening to the A8T is a satisfying experience. The player steers clear of the bright, etched, and analytical, and floats its boat towards the sweeter, more musical side of the musical spectrum.
I compared the 2008 Mk-II to my modified Pioneer DVD player, and found it much more detailed, dynamic, and open. The soundstage was deeper and more dimensional. The 2008 Mk-II's low-level detail and microdynamics are a tad smeared (a trait I have noticed in all but the best CD players), but to hear this, I had to listen very closely. The shortcomings of the 2008 Mk-II are slight, and the player is very competitive with others at its price and up to $1000 more. Throw in the substantial build quality, and the Original 2008 Mk-II becomes even more competitive. I bought the review sample, and am happily spinning CDs. All of the Original CD players are built well, sound musical, and very fairly priced. One more thing―they all incorporate HDCD processing. Retro, I know. So is vinyl! Francisco Duran
Read more on these players here.