California Audio Labs – Icon Mk II CD Player - HDCD

Did all the Icon Mk II players with HDCD have PowerBoss?  Or are there some Mk II players with HDCD but not PowerBoss?

And how do you tell?

I'm struggling to recall, as I had an Icon Mk I that I had upgraded to Power Boss. I'm tending to think Power Boss was not "standard" but my recall is very hazy on this. 

That said, while I thought the Icon was excellent 25 years ago, I probably would shy away from an Icon. The company us long gone and digital is much better now. Based on my experience, a Rega Apollo is a better sounding player than an Icon 1 or 2, with or without Powerboss. 
Just checked- power boss was an available upgrade- not standard 
I had the Cal Icon Mk 2 HDCD with powerboss for years and loved it. I replaced it with an Ayre Cx7eMP which is in another league. The Ayre will be my last CD player purchase. Great player and company and their upgrades are worth it when they make them available. I originally bought mine as a CX 7 and have had it upgraded twice since that purchase...
I already own this unit and it has HDCD.  It sounds very very close to an Oppo BDP-103 in sound quality, despite its age.  

I heard that if it has the HDCD, then it has the Powerboss upgrade for sure.

Does anybody know if that's true?
As I recall the Power Boss upgrade included HDCD.

However, a basic (less expensive) HDCD upgrade was available as well.

Right on all accounts guys. Enjoy the Music!
Great question. Because the mods became so popular at the time, CAL ultimately offered an HDCD/PowerBoss model for sale with all the benefits up front. To your question about how do you tell? That can be deduced from wether or not the unit you have/want originated as a full featured ICON mkII HDCD/PowerBoss from CAL or if the unit had a mod/upgrade done to an original/older standard ICON after the fact.
I am currently selling a direct from CAL most-full-featured HDCD PowerBoss model. Listing ID lis7c7e1

Mine came direct from Cal Audio but it says HDCD on it and does not say "PowerBoss"

The Stereophile article says "The Power Boss upgrade for the California Audio Labs Icon Mk.II ... adds HDCD "  but it does not say that an HDCD player has PowerBoss.

I am curious because this elderly player seems to be as good as the OPPO one (the $500 Oppo, not the expensive one).
I have lots of experience with the CAL product line, but beyond conversational deduction, you may want to reach out to these guys with your specific serial number, etc. Maybe they can get you closer to your definite identification:

But yes, the ICON is impressive, enough to make us wonder about these refinements!
1- an HDCD unit will have an HDCD indicator lamp on the front panel

2- to see if it's a power boss unit, pop open to he lid and see if there's a small piggy back PC board stuffed with capacitors above the main PC board. If there's a piggy back board, it's a power boss unit 

With the company no longer in business and the age of these players, do they have a good reliability history to be a viable purchase option? Would you buy one for $500 or its better to look for something new for that price? If so, what? I'm particularly concerned about the transport mechanism on these older CD players.  
A low mileage, well maintained unit should give you many additional years of listening pleasure. That being said, even newer peices sometimes require service at some point. Good to know that if ever in the future a hurdle is encountered, there appears to be a reliable service option for these tank-built classic players:

CAL's 5CD Changer had a bad reputation and was buggy. The later generatons of the new PowerBoss HDCD ICON mkII have always been solid. CAL got lots of practice initially modifying older ICONs and perfected the process that resulted in thier flagship ICON mkII HDCD PowerBoss; I was an authorized dealer of this line for some time and never had a return. The carousel changer was a different story.
Even today this pimped-out version of the ICON is competitive and holds its own against newer one-piece players. I am only selling mine because I graduated to building a JRiver based music server with a $2,000 external DAC. I stored the ICON carefully as a collectors item, but its time for one of my Audiogon brothers to enjoy it now.
Thx for the info on ID'ing the unit.

BTW, I've used mine for many years with no problems ever.
Great info on this cd player- guys.
I confirmed mine has the PowerBoss pcb -- it seems about as good as an Oppo 103 

the Power Boss is an upgrade. How do you like this player?
I know it is an older spinner- is its technology outdated in your listening?

Happy Listening!
I have no current  xperience with the CAL IconHDCD Power Boss but I did own one years back. Sold it in 2001 and bought in its place a Meridian 508.24. The Meridian, which wasn't exactly new in 2001, trounced the CAL in every area except one- the CAL's bass was better. Can't imagine thar a CAL Icon would stack up well against a current $2000 to $3,000 digital front end 
I guess I like this player quite well since it is about as good as Oppo's 103 (tho it lacks features like SACD, DVDs, or ability to stream).  The display is very comprehensive tho hard to read.

I have never compared it to a current $2000 to $3,000 digital front end, but if we reached a plateau in redbook CD playback 20 years ago for the better players like this one, then that money should go into better speakers, room treatments etc.

I am likely to buy a universal player in the near future, mainly just to reduce clutter on the stereo cabinet, and the # of remotes involved.  I'll either move the Cal Audio downstairs in the bedroom or sell it.

BTW, it plays into the following system: Sonic frontiers Line One pre; Sunfire amp; Maggie 1.5QRs.  I sometimes patch in a DacMagic but usually use that to decode Apple Lossless files coming over Wifi via an Apple TV3

Much Thanks! randy-11
Happy Listening!