Evolution CD5.2 CD Tube Player
as reviewed by Gary Lea
As stated in my first two installments of this three way review I will refer to the notion of déjà vu and symbiosis. A refresher if you will!
Déjà vu, from French, literally "already seen", is the phenomenon of having the strong sensation that an event or experience currently being experienced has been experienced in the past, whether it has actually happened or not. Do something spontaneous to rid yourself of the sensation. Or Deja Vu Showgirls Voted #1 Strip Club in Las Vegas.
Symbiosis (from Ancient Greek σύν "together" and βίωσις "living") is close and often long-term interaction between two or more different biological species. In 1877, Bennett used the word symbiosis (which previously had been used to depict people living together in community) to describe the mutually beneficial relationship.
Now why on earth is he opening up a review with definitions of two completely unrelated subjects and one of the definitions having two completely different meanings? Good enough then.
1. Déjà vu obviously referring to the fact that I did a 3 component review of AVM products when they first entered the US market right here in these pages. The alternative definition is an ode to Las Vegas where I reside. A town in which form many years the CES convention high end stereo exhibits and the Adult Video convention took place in the same building. Hence the fact that Déjà vu is arguably rated the number one strip club in Vegas. For the sake of this article definition one is the one that matters.
2. Symbiosis is the reference to an interesting interaction between a mix of two or more audio components that are solid state and tube.
There you have it. This review is both a Déjà vu experience for me and it is about the symbiosis between a set of solid state and tube components all living together in relative perfect harmony and how well they live separately as part of another group of components, (noting that nothing is ever perfect if it is created by man).
AVM Evolution CD5.2
Next to arrive at my door somewhat on the heels of the SA8 amplifier were the PA5.2 and the CD5.2. At this point my familiarity with the AVM products was pretty firmly entrenched. Even so I immediately replaced my mainstay Cary unit with the CD5.2 and went to town listening.
I have not had as enjoyable CD player in my system since the Grant Fidelity CD1000. That was also a tube CD player. It is perhaps this one change to the player that made it seem so much more enjoyable to listen to than the CD3.2 which was no slouch.
Given a choice I will most definitely take vinyl over digital any day of the week. That being said digital still rules in terms of availability and affordability in many ways. An argument for simplicity and ease can be made for the digital offerings. So when I can put a CD into a player and get a very similar experience to that of a vinyl album I find that something to get excited about. The CD5.2 provides that with its Tube output stage.
And now for the technical stuff:
The CD5.2 offers connectivity in plenty: 2 x USB (1 x 192/24 asynchronous, 1 x 48/24), 2 x SPDIF coaxial, 2 x SPDIF opt. and one AES EBU digital input. The XLR- and cinch outputs use different drivers and may be operated simultaneous.
Like all AVM hi-fi components the CD5.2 is carefully developed and assembled by our engineers in Malsch, Germany. Our vendors for housing and electronic parts reside all near-by. This proximity helps us to easily ensure and maintain superb quality level of the supplied parts for the AVM hi-fi components made of these.
Technical Data EVOLUTION CD5.2
I placed this unit into my secondary system with a Bel Canto integrated amp and Cary Audio Q5er speakers (the only ones in existence BTW). Just to hear it in a tube free environment. All I can say is WOW. It totally blew away the Grant Fidelity unit I have been running in that system. As well it should considering the cost difference but then I digress.
This is one of the finest CD players I have ever had floating through my system. It’s not just the warmth and total lack of edge and fatigue it is more about delivering the subtlest of things present in music. As a guitar player there are minor little things in playing that come through a live performance that are often missing in recordings. The finest systems I have listened to will allow you to hear and feel the difference between the sound of a pick on a guitar string and the sound of human flesh. Joe Bonamassa is a guitarist who uses both techniques frequently. Sometimes I have noticed with certain bits of gear that I lose that finite detail in the presentation. I have always wondered if it was happening in the failure of the recording to pick it up or the failure of the playback gear to fully deliver it. It appears, at least with this unit, I have my answer. It is most likely in the playback. There is another technique in guitar playing called a pinch harmonic. While not delving into another complete article about this phenomenon altogether a pinch harmonic is a “technique in which the player's thumb or index finger on the picking hand slightly catches the string after it is picked, canceling the fundamental of the string, and letting one of the overtones dominate. This results in a high pitched sound. By using string bending, a whammy bar, a wah-wah pedal, or other effects, electric guitarists are able to modulate the pitch, frequency, and timbre of pinch harmonics, resulting in a variety of sounds, the most common being a very high-pitched squeal.” (wikipedia) It can offer other worldy tones when driven by higher volumes or it can be a soft and subtle overtone. While I don’t portend to be a great or even good guitarist I can do pinch harmonics with the best in the business. I call it wizardry and trickery over substance and talent. When done live there is a definite lilting and singing quality and the overtones are like a whisper on top of the note. While listening to a Steve Vai recording I got shivers down my back at the totally “in the room playing it live for me only” sensation I got during some very exquisite pinched harmonics. It was right then and there that I realized how special this player was. Is it totally neutral? Close but not totally. Is it overly warm? Not even close! Is it well balanced? Absolutely! It delivers the heart of the music and captures the subtle little things that make a musical performance something that reaches down into your soul! I do not think I can say anymore than that because in the end nothing more really matters does it now? It is relatively easy for an audiophile to find gear that does one or two things with stellar results but that usually comes at a cost to another facet of the delivery. You may get great, huge soundstage but little detail or fantastic detail and articulation but muddled placement of the musicians. I am always on the lookout for gear that can provide a reasonable balance of all those items. You can certainly get it all in no holds barred systems. At the end of the day relatively few of us can afford those cantaffordium and unobtanium systems and have to live down on earth with the mere mortals of Audiodom.
Here is where the AVM Evolution CD5.2 tube CD player begins to shine in a way all its own. Relatively few of the CD players in this realm do everything in the way of delivery in a balanced and natural way. Make no mistake the CD5.2 is not the best player at center focus, expanded soundstage with incredible depth and height, pinpoint placement or any other facet of CD musical delivery. That is no slight by any stretch because what it does is give you 9.5/10s of players costing 5 times more! That last .5 comes at a cost that should and certainly will make a lot of people stop and think how much that last bit is truly worth. It’s the same in so many other hobbies. As I have said before, In cycling you can spend $2000 shaving an extra pound off your bike. Or if you are not a world class professional racer you can shed 10 pounds of the engine for free and save the money and be way ahead in the end.
This is a CD player that will satisfy 99% of the audio enthusiasts out there and leave them never wanting for any more, ever! That makes it a bargain and worth investigating very seriously if you are in the market for a new player. AVM = Absolute Value Maxed! Gary Lea
CD5.2 tube CD Player