Review: Onix Audio XCD 88 CD Player

Category: Digital

As far as CD redbook players go, this has to be one of the best kept secrets in audio. For years the Music Hall CD 25 has been getting one rave review after another. The XCD 88 CDP is the same internally as the Music Hall CD 25 player and shares the same chassis as well. The face plate on the Onix is the only difference I see in the two players and in fact both are manufactured in the same production facility in China, known as Shandling.

This player replaced my venerable Denon 1560,as well as a newer Arcam CD73 and eventually my Classe CDP .5 player. The Onix XCD 88 is to my ears as good if not better than the pricer Arcam 73 with better build quality.Overall sonics bettered the Denon 1560, but the venerable 1560 has better build quality,something about these older Denons,very well built. So with that being said the Onix XCD 88 is no slouch in this area. Not in the same leaque as the Classe .5 CDP, but not that far away either. Plus the Onix has the HDCD that the Denon and Arcam units did not have.

As with the Music Hall CD 25, the Onix readily lends itself to the upgrade path in the same vein as the Music Hall. However in its stock form, there is very little to fault the Onix XCD 88 in sonics or build quality. And at $299.95 with a 3 year warranty it is a total no brainer to choose the Onix XCD 88 CD Player. To choose something over this in its price/performance ratio is sheer lunacy. It just doesn't get nuch better than this till you hit the $1,000.00 mark. The Onix XCD 88 just does not have any peers in its category - PERIOD!

Minor tweaks aside from major upgrades really bring this player to another level. The use of a high quality power cord, I use the Audioquest NRG 1 power cord, with John Hilligs Musical Concepts RCA interconnect futher enhanced an already great sonic signature.

Recently tried the Dakiom Feedback Stabilizer with the Onix XCD 88 and have to admit that the Dakiom unit brought the Onix XCD 88 to another level that was on par with the Classe .5 CDP. Have never been a big fan of so called gizmo tweaks such as the Dakiom, but even as jaded as I am after 47 years in this hobby have to admit that the Dakiom produced a major overall improvement in the sonic signature of the Onix XCD 88 and the Dakiom will remain in the system it is just that significant and improvement.

Specifications Below:

Burr-Brown 1732 24-bit/96kHz DAC
HDCD decoding chip
Two digital outputs; 1 x coaxial and 1 x optical
Standard analog output
Philips CDM-12.1 transport controlled by a CD-7mkII servo
The OPA 2604 op amps are used for the output stage and low pass filtering
Thick brushed-aluminum front plate and solid chassis
Full remote-control operation
High quality remote control
Easily readable and dimmable florescent display
Detachable power cord
110V/220V Switchable
Shipping weight: 18lbs
3 Year Warranty!

Listed below are some of the CDs I used for this review.

Ben Webster At The Renaissance (Contemporary Records OJCCD-390-2)
The Royal Ballet Gala Performances (Classic Compact Discs CDSCD 6065)
Peter And The Wolf - Boston Symphony Orchestra (Sony SK 64079)
Dave Brubeck - Time Out - Columbia (CK 65122)(HDCD)
Jurassic Park Motion Picture Soundtrack (MCAD 10859)
We Get Requests - The Oscar Peterson Trio (Verve 810047-2)
You Won't Forget Me - Shirley Horn (Verve 847482-2)
Sneakers Motion Picture Soundtrack (Columbia DIDP 078100)
On Every Street - Dire Straits (Warner Brothers 26680-2)
Trio Jeepy - Branford Marsalis (Columbia CK44199)
Paris Jazz Concert - Louis Armstrong (RTE 1001-2)
Braveheart Motion Picture Soundtrack - London Symphony Orchestra (London LC0171)
Patriot Games Motion Picture Soundtrack (RCA 07863 66051-2)
Hook Motion Picture Soundtrack (Epic EK 4888)
Highlights From The Plugged Nickel - Miles Davis (Columbia CK 67377)
Cleveland Symphonic Winds - Frederick Fennell (Telarc CD 80038)
Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture - Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (Telarc CD 80041)

As you can see I used a very wide selection of music genres in order to evaluate the Onix XCD 88 CD Player. I found that the overall musical reproduction clearly exceeded what I expected in a CD player in this category.
The Classe .5 CDP played the classical selections with a slight more authority, but it was ever so slight in overall presentation, with the Classe player having a bit more bass presence. Mostly so on real time recorded CDs.

Dave Brubecks Time Out CD on Columbia is actually a HDCD encoded disc. But no where on the disc or the liner notes will one find the HDCD logo. This was a very pleasant surprise and the Onix XCD 88 played this disc with great verve. This was one of the real treats in the inital evaluation of the Onix player. I continue to play this disc often as it is such a joy to hear on this player.

One in a great while a product such as this sets a very high benchmark for price and performance and the Onix XCD 88 certainly falls into that category easily.

This one has been up and running for near 6 months now and I remained amazed that a $300.00 CD Player has sonics that rival some of the more exhaulted players in the market place. Perhaps someday I will spend the additional dollars to do further upgrades. In one way that this one of the hidden values in the Onix XCD 88 is it upgrade path to higher performance. But for now it will remain as stated as I find it very good in its present form with the minor upgrades I have done.

It has never failed in its execution and has always played each and every CD placed in its tray. However I am not sure it will play copied or burned CDs as I do not copy CDs to CD. I do record to Mini Disc and it works quite well in doing that.

So if you find yourself in need of a way above average CD Player and have limited budget, this is the one to get. Plus later on you can tweak and upgrade to your hearts delight as your budget dictates.

But stock out of the box, this is one very fine CD Player worthy on anyones consideration.

Remember in the final analysis this hobby is about the music, much more than the gear or paranoia that surrounds high end. And as such the Onix XCD 88 is one fine musical performer.

Associated gear
Click to view my Virtual System

Similar products
Arcam,Denon,Cambridge,Music Hall,Musical Fidelity,etc
I bought the Onix XCD-88 by reputation of Music Hall CD-25 with half the price. The Onix has very good instruments seperations and clear sound stage, midbass is focus and specialy vocals also do very well with this player. The high is good, little bright on some disk than I would like some mod probly would take care of this. One thing I donot like about the Onix is it came without the gold plated RCA jacks some ordered on the way to replace them and thiking of the OPA-627 opamps as well. For $300 it's a bargain best deal performance/dollars.
CDs used:
Vaughan Williams : Fantasia on a Them...
Eric Clapton : Unplugged
Richard Strauss : Eine Alpensinfonie
Norah Jones : Come fly with me
Holly Cole Trio
Quest : Natural Selection
Peter Gabriel : So
Willie and Lobo : Between the waters. Jim Brock Tropic affair ....
System : Silverline Audio SR-12, Carver super true sub jr,
MIT T2 Bi-wire speaker cables, all Synergistic Reseach interconects, 2 power wedge pwr conditioners ( one for comp and one for amps on floor ), 2 Dynaco ST-70 vertical Bi-amps, Comp and amp stands.
BTW the preamp is Dared SL-2000a with GZ30 mullard and GE 12AT7 5 stars.
Very well presented review. I'm curious however about the operation of the player. I've read review of the Music Hall player where the reviewer was not happy with the way the player accessed tracks on CDs. Can you describe/elaborate on any operational foibles you encountered with the XCD-88? Thanks.
I have no problems on access to track but at the beginning it take couple seconds to read tracks and a DAC relay "click" before it plays music.
I see an Usher CD-100 in the Agon ads that says its a Shandling also. Is this a brother of tne Onix? DAve
Yes three of these are the same but the Onix xcd-88 is best deal brand new and I believe you can return within 1 month and 3 years warranty check the website for info. I just replace the OPA2604s to dual OPA627s. Happy listenning.
Has anyone tried this unit strictly as a transport? I was curious if it make a good one.
I've been using a NAD C541i for more than a year now with great results. Do you think the Onix would be an upgrade? It will be sometime before I will live without HDCD.
I bought this CD player partly based on this review and because I also purchased the Onix SP3 integrated amplifier and Onix Reference 1 LE monitor speakers. I have to say that this system was very impressive straight out of the box. A week later and it's only getter better and richer. Some people claim that this CD player is thin or bright. I haven't found that to be the case at all. In a revealing system, I think people hear engineering equalization biased at the higher frequencies on some recordings, but on well engineered material, the music is balanced and the XCD-88 does a wonderful job of fleshing out detail for such a reasonably-priced CD player. I bought this unit as a B-stock bargain from AV123 at $249 complete with the three-year warranty. It was a show demo unit, but it was packaged as a brand new unit. I felt like I robbed the bank on this one.
How much did this $300 wonder total out to with the pwr. cord, ICs & Dakiom voodoo?
Since the review using a DH Labs Power Plus Cord at $188.00, the interconnect from Musical Concepts $69.00 and the Dakiom was $99.00. Already had the power cords and interconnects from past use. So the only upgrade paid for out of pocket was the Dakiom. Perhaps a little overkill on
the DH Labs Power Cord for this application, but works very well indeed. But the unit does need a better than the supplied power cord and one may be able to use a power cord not quite as expensive as the DH Labs. Although I do recommended the DH Labs Power Cord over the Audioquest NRG2 that was used previously. Just sounds better with the DH Labs Power Cord.

Have had the Onix XCD 88 operating in the system for a year
now and have had zero problems with it and sounds very good. In my opinion it remains a benchmark of budget CD Players. Still nothing comes close at its price/performance ratio.
I bought an Onix Audio XCD 88 CD Player modified by Underwood HiFi last is one great player. Wally at Underwood told me that it is the exact same player as the Music Hall, save for the face plate. And the price was right!!

Oh, and it is a HDCD player by the way!!
I was wondering if anyone has any suggestions on where to find an xcd 88 or 99 to purchase, preferably with a warranty? They seem to be out of stock at AV123. Or, does anyone have any suggestions for a comparable CD player - in quality and price?

Thanks very much!!
If you can wait for about 30 days I understand the new Onix that replaces the XCD 99 is now called CD-5 for about same price as the XCD 99. Same player just name change. Not many audiophiles give up the XCD 88 or XCD 99. Just way to much CD player for the money. However the Music Hall 25.2 is same player as the XCD 99 and can usually be had a good pre owned price.
I have an old Denon DCD 1500MKII thats about 21 years old and I have set a maximum limit of $1000.00 limit for a new CD player but would love to stay $500 and below. I also am looking for a player that has volume control!
Does the Onix?
I was looking at the Rotels, the NAD's, the Rega Apollo, and Jolida JD100A, are always recommended as the best under $1000,
How close does the Onix come?
No the Onix XCD-88 does not have volume control. I have one I'd sell you. I sent an email with some details.
Great review Ferrari, as all your reviews are, always a pleasure to read.
I just picked up a used CD-25 that has been modded.
Can't wait to see the UPS big brown truck.
Thanks again for the info on the S/150 a while back.