I have spent decades enjoying this hobby and have learnt that everything can make a difference but not necessarily for the better, and that usually you need to pay for sound quality but there are so many overpriced items and a number of very expensive items where the designer does not have much of a clue. There is only one test for me regardless of what I paid, how sexy something looks, or what reviewers or Internet users think – and that is what my aural system perceives and this of course can be different to yours.
I am writing this short impression to let people know about the existence of this excellent product, and not because “mine is better than yours” or to gain approbation or to convince anyone of anything. Everyone is entitled to their own judgement and I am sure most have a different one to me. So I just want to give my own for someone that may have a similar perspective and might find this useful. I want to try and give something back for what I have learnt and benefited from some of the contributors to Internet sites including this one.
For this post to be of any value there needs to be a comparison and not simply statements of how the heavens have opened and the angels started singing. So, my CD system is an Esoteric K-03X (as transport) > Oyaide AR-910 XLR > Rey Audio Kinoshita R-DAC > custom silver interconnects > custom 8W pure class A battery mono power amps > custom silver speaker cable > Rey Audio Kinoshita K-Monitor KM1V speakers. For perspective, I have compared the K-03X as a standalone to the K-03X as a dedicated transport with digital out to the R-DAC and prefer the R-DAC to the K-03X’s DAC on all SQ counts. A fragment of component history, the R-DAC replaced an EMM DCC2 which it bested in every regard.
I have been looking to get a better sound from my CD’s. After much Internet reading re R2R DACs, I placed an order for a DENAFRIPS Terminator to compare to my R-DAC, which is now 8 years old. The technology and execution looks very interesting and I love components that are honestly priced and outperform some stratospherically mark-up ones. And I am so use to reading opinions of how China is making cheap rubbish it is nice to prove otherwise – China is actually innovating and making some very high quality items. Being out of Australia, living in Hong Kong for quite some time has given me a better perspective than the one I had from reading the Western press. The test of course will be when I have had some good listening time in my system with the Terminator which is yet to arrive. I was looking at the Terminator manual and noticed that the I2s connection had a more direct signal path than using the XLR S/PIDF connection. So I started looking for a CD player that had an I2s digital out. I asked Alvin from Vinshine Audio, with whom I placed my Terminator order, and he recommended the CDT-3. I could find nothing in English on the CDT-3 but took a punt and ordered it from Alvin and here I am.
All critical listening was done after a minimum of 2 hours of music playing to “warm” everything up and approximately 50 hours of playing since arrival. I do not believe in the hundreds of hours burn-in claims of some, but if the 50 hours is insufficient, the CDT-3 can only sound better.
I will largely restrict my comments to SQ and I look forward to hearing whether there is any scaling with the Terminator. To cut to the chase, this is an outstanding CD transport and it outperforms the K-03X as a transport. And as a bonus it is a wonder at its price. The outstanding difference is realistic information retrieval, and it is a significant difference. In this regard it is of a different class to the K-03X. Just put on the detail fest that is Paul Simon’s “Stranger to Stranger”. What wonderfully recorded wonderful music. There is so much information on this CD and the CDT-3 retrieves so much of it and immerses you in it. The CDT-3’s realistic and naturally detailed presentation brings this music alive for me and makes the listening experience so much more pleasurable. I know a component is doing this right when I find myself much more aware of the lyrics and the music - the additional detail and excellent flow grab my attention. Instruments and voices have so much more detail and this is across the whole frequency spectrum.
My impression so far is that the detail the CDT-3 provides is at no cost ie it does not achieve this through artificial etching or skewing the frequency range away from the bass. The CDT-3 also appears to be the K-03X’s equal or slight pier in relation to dynamics. It has very nice mid-range tonality and is largely neutral giving you what is on the disc – it does not sugarcoat making a poor CD sound good.
I will close with a few operational points for the CDT-3:
· It is top loading so you will need a reasonable amount of clearance to load CD’s
· There is a little more to do in that the CD top door is for you to manually slide (it has a nice smooth action) and a magnetic clamp needs to be placed on top of the CD
· It should not be left on – there is a warning that 24 hours is max. I asked Alvin and he replied that this is because its rubidium clock gets hot. But I would note that the CDT-3 does not run hot to the touch.
Lastly, Alvin of Vinshine Audio in Singapore, who I understand handles world-wide distribution, is the most responsive Internet supplier I have dealt with. I will also be posting this review on another site where I post as 1note