This summer I could no longer resist the impression that the return of vinyl as a signal source - be it as a recollection of childhood & youth memories or be it as an exciting new sensory experience - has started to claim its place in the computer-audiophile ecosystem. Not quite central, more in a sense of a lightweight counterbalance that allows us somehow to better adjust our digital pleasures.
That's why I decided last July finally to hand over my Rega Planar 3 turntable, which had been dormant in the closet for a looong time, together with the adjacent upgrade kit comprising a new motor and a suitable 24v power supply, to a professional engineer in order to re-establish operability. This decision led me to a vintage hifi repair shop, where I spent some very special waiting time, enjoying a combination of one almost 30 years old Cyrus 1 integrated with a pair of Wharfedale PACIFIC PI40, presenting the 2001 Radiohead CD "Amnesiac". Very British, I would say 😉
I have already enjoyed some very pleasant moments with Cyrus equipment in the past, but the Wharfedale brand I only remembered for extremely competitive surround system offerings. However, that wonderful warm and immersive sound of the pairing made me so happy that I instantly wanted to learn more about the Wharfedale brand when arriving back home.
Wharfedale, from Huntington (without Beach) in the English Cambridgeshire, half way between Cambridge and Peterborough, a neighborhood that has given birth to Oliver Cromwell and John Major, is a manufacturer with a long standing tradition that - like many other well-known companies defining the British Sound signature - was taken over by a foreign industry group in 1997. New models were designed, the production was relocated and a successful fresh start was initiated.
The company became part of the International Audio Group (IAG) under Taiwanese leadership, which today includes Quad, Audiolab, Luxman and Mission as sister brands. The group has state-of-the-art production facilities on the Chinese mainland and employs experienced British and international experts for engineering & construction of loudspeakers and electronic equipment along with sales and marketing specialists.
During my investigation, I came upon an image of the 2019 Linton Heritage speakers and immediately thought that they mirror by heart and design the quintessence of cool British heritage in audio. What crossed my mind first was something like : Whoah, these look like the BBC sound of 1964, the year after they started playing the Stones live on air! If you’ve liked Richard CurtIs’ Pirate Radio (The Boat that rocked), you may know what I mean.
Further research then culminated into the clear outcome: "Value for Money" at a price range, which is certainly exciting for me as an author to experience and interesting for the Audiophile Style readers to read about. A pair of these 3-way loudspeakers usually leaves the dealer for 1200 $ without stands (+300$).
During the preparation, IAG also equipped me with the Audiolab's 6000A integrated amplifier and the CD transport 6000CDT, their recent entry-level models of another British treasure brand inside the International Audio Group, whose performance is also also part of this review. I had seen requests for that CD spinner in the forums, which made me curious about it and accepted the offer in a heartbeat.
I also took my chances with some sort of short interviews with the engineering brains behind the speakers, Peter Cormeau, and the Audiolab equipment, Jan Ertner, which are echoed by a personal communication I had with Dave, an Audiophile Style user from Iowa, who owns these transducers and talked to me about his own experience with them.
3 Questions to Peter Comeau, Director of Acoustic Design, IAG Group
AS: Peter, you've got a life spanning career cruising through nearly every aspect of the Hi-Fi industry. Could you indicate for our readers which were the marquee experiences during your career?
Peter Cormeau: Wow, that’s difficult, there have been so many. I suppose the first was when I was managing a hi-fi shop and discovered that people were more impressed by a good demonstration than by technical aspects or specifications. I started writing reviews for hi-fi magazines that focused on the subjective experience in contrast to other reviewers who concentrated on measurements and technicalities. This influence carried over to when I started designing loudspeakers because it enabled me to concentrate more on the speakers as a way of engaging the listener musically rather than trying to achieve technical perfection.
Most people think that a flat frequency response is the goal of good loudspeaker design. I quickly found out that it wasn’t, at least not just on its own, and that the balance between the loudspeaker drive units and the crossover that tied them together was far more important.
That led me to start to figure out the relationships between the mechanics of speaker design, how to interpret the measurements I was making and using those experiences to make loudspeakers which were more musically adept. I developed an iteration between measurement and listening that allowed me to fine-tune my designs and, later, added software tools into the process to speed up development.
In a way that work is still ongoing in that I’m still discovering and learning new techniques. I’m constantly looking for new ideas and reworking old ones in an effort to make better sounding speakers.
AS: You work in a company that serves the two poles of the audiophile world, QUAD/Luxman at one side (Luxury goods) and Wharfedale at the other (Affordable priced high quality equipment). Where are the crossing points of your work and - reflecting your experience - would you see your work at the IAG a text book case for the "trickle down effect" in technology?
Peter Cormeau: Every product design starts out with the premise: ‘how can we meet customer demands and fit those requirements with a product that delivers long-lasting musical satisfaction?’. In that way, it doesn’t matter what the cost of the product is, only in that it determines the cost of the materials we can use. Obviously higher-priced loudspeakers enable us to push the boundaries of what is possible with current technologies, but there is also a surprising amount we can do with the production methods we develop and use for affordable products too.
In terms of ‘trickle down’, we can afford to spend years on the development of a technological advance for a high-end loudspeaker, then use what we’ve learned to develop mass-production techniques that enable us to use something similar in our more affordable products. Because we make 99% of the parts that go into our designs within our own factory this is, perhaps, a lot easier for us than for other companies that outsource their components.
AS: When did you start with design phase of the Lintons and have you already been influenced by the return of Vinyl into the audio-culture of the 21st Century then?
Peter Cormeau: For me the attraction of vinyl, the more organic feel of its music reproduction, has never gone away. I’m happy to use both analogue and digital sources for my own enjoyment. What led me to start the Linton Heritage design, over 2 years ago, was a desire to recapture the feeling that I had from the first Wharfedales that I heard, and later built myself, in the 1960s. There is a level of performance available from bigger loudspeakers that has been lost, I feel, as modern preferences have led to ever smaller speakers.
That organic, easy flowing nature that one gets from vinyl, bigger speakers and well-designed valve (tube) amplifiers is highly attractive to people who remember fondly the sound of their hi-fi systems before the solid-state and digital revolution. Being able to recreate that level of performance from Linton Heritage has been a lot of fun for me.
Wharfedale Linton Heritage stand mount speakers
Wharfedale, Rogers, Harbeth, Spendor: The heritage line from the above speakers seems to be exclusively British for the Lintons. On their steel stands with two robust looking inlaid wooden laths decorated with the Wharfedale logo, these loudspeakers appear like a monument of a bygone era before Twiggy-lookalike loudspeaker columns had assumed dominance in our listening rooms. This actually fits very well into the outgoing 2nd decade of the 21st century, in which it isn't difficult to sense a great extent of a return to past time values, forms and materials, not only in audio. There, we may note the return of Vinyl - even as a television series - and, more recently, the apparent interest in compact discs and matching players. When you read the youtube comments of next generation audiophiles you can sense the interest in a technology that hasn’t had a substantial presence during their upbringing and offers a 2nd wave of bargaining after vinyl had been cheap for years. However, I hear, that the sales of new CDs is in decline, the trend goes second hand.
In this respect, the beautiful design of the Wharfedale Linton Heritage Speakers, 3-way with a wide baffle and a large woofer, which covers a frequency range from 40 Hz to 630 Hz, appears absolutely en vogue. A fact that may contribute well to their worldwide success. The other determining factors are sound quality and a comparatively low price in combination with the heavy speaker stands, which also serve as a show board for our old or newly acquired record collection.
These 90 db sensitivity speakers are equipped with an 8 inch woven Kevlar bass unit, 5 inch woven Kevlar midrange and 1 inch fabric dome treble unit. This choice of material makes them quite a bit different from the paper cone bass, polymer midrange and soft dome tweeter with the original Linton design. The design choice is explained in the notes of Peter Cormeau, Acoustic Director of IAG and designer of the Lintons, as "simply good engineering practice". When I asked him about his design goals with this transducers, he explained it in a more detailed way:
"One difficult aspect of speaker design is how to handle what we call the ‘baffle-step’. This is the frequency at which the speaker enclosure stops radiating only forwards (hemi-spherically) and radiates sound all around. This causes a step in the frequency/power response of the speaker of up to 6dB. Naturally this is audibly obvious.
The problem is accentuated in smaller baffled speakers because the baffle step is pushed up in frequency to the upper midrange where it is even more obvious. If you switch from Linton Heritage to a thinner loudspeaker you’ll hear the difference immediately – there’s a depth and power to vocals and instruments like cello and woodwind and acoustic guitar which is missing from the thinner speaker. In addition the extra sensitivity that a larger than normal bass unit in a sensibly sized enclosure helps amplifiers deliver a more dynamic performance – they are simply not straining so hard to achieve musical peaks.
The package of having a large bass unit in a wide baffle and optimizing each drive unit for the acoustic range it has to cover, then blending those drivers seamlessly into a musically enjoyable reproducer, was a demanding goal that has given me a huge amount of satisfaction to have achieved. Of course, the whole design exercise is helped by the use of advanced, but tried and tested, materials, like the woven Kevlar of the bass and midrange units and the sandwich of woods we use for the enclosure. Then matching that performance to the retro looks and high-quality veneer finish, that our cabinet craftsmen can bring to the Wharfedales, is the icing on the cake."
Unpacking the 4 big boxes was a bit like xmas in September. The items were thoroughly wrapt in bags made of tissue and packed in plastic foil. Each item is accompanied by a plastic map containing a nicely printed documentation with signature, some white soft tissue gloves and 2 pair of distancers. My teenage son was stunned by the quality and the attention to detail of that product. Yes, you can impress the Nike & Iphone generation if you care about your product and the packaging.
I have lived with the Lintons several months now, testing them with different sources and in my book I have heard a product where the objectives of the engineers are fulfilled with ease. Their very natural way of reproducing the music from my system or the stereo sound of my TV won them a lot of sympathy with anyone who heard them, friends or family. While I think the retro design allows for a lot of positive influenced bias, their well tempered musicality, when driven with matching equipment, counts most for me.
Here are 2 cues for better sound, taken from the designer’s note sheet, which I have added to the Zip-file with some other product documentation at the end of the review
- Listen with attached speaker grille - it should sound better
- Use blue tack to uncouple the speakers from the stands, that should give you the best results
My systematic approach for critical listening with these speakers and the associated equipment resulted in a comparison of CD and Vinyl sources vs. Audirvana's Qobuz streaming and Roon playing the files from the CAPS streamer's SSD. As usual with matched levels and bias awareness. Nonetheless subjective, even I might prefer a more measured approach ;-). That precise information you'll find at the end of the CD transport section.
Here are the Wharfedale Linton Heritage 85th anniversary specifications
A quick real life check with Audiophile Style member Dave from Iowa (Botyris), who started a thread about the Lintons in the Headphones & Speakers subforum. (Thank you Dave for participating and allowing me to publish our conversation)
AS: Did you buy these speakers because you were on the hunt for new transducers, or did they cross your way by chance?
Dave: I saw them at AXPONA and was impressed with them. It was just a buy to try.
AS: When hunting, which were the key criteria for you and which other models were in the competition?
Dave: I really wasn't looking at any other speakers. They impressed me at the show and since they came with the stands, I was one of the first to buy them in the US in Mahogany finish.
AS: What did you impress when you heard/saw them?
Dave: It was the balance that impressed me.
AS: Do you listen with or without the speaker grille?
AS: How do they sound to your ears ?
Dave: Very balanced and nice integration of the drivers.
AS: Do you feel that these speakers offer an excellent audiophile sound reproduction within its price range ?
Dave: I have the ELAC Uni-Fi UB5, so there are speakers that are very good at this price.
AS: What would you describe the greatest strength of the speaker, now that they are completely broken in. (
Dave: For me it is the tonal balance and midrange that work well. I am not a believer of long speaker break-in.
AS: Do they match well, the PS Audio S-300 and the Linton Heritage??
Dave: The PS Audio S300 was bought because I could tell the bass was tubby and the amps I was using couldn't drive the Linton's sufficiently. This is also a weakness of the speakers to me, also .
AS: How big is your listening room and did you do Room treatment?
Dave: Room is 12 foot x 12 foot with treatment. I do have plaster walls in the room.
AS: Do you use room correction software in the signal path?
Dave: NONE !
AS: What kind of music do you listen to regularly ?
Dave: I really have no set genre - I listen to basically all types of music. I do have a preference for jazz and jazz vocals but classical is a big one for me also.
Audiolab 6000A Integrated Amplifier
The Audiolab amplifier - in the well-known Audiolab demeanor - is a power amp, pre amp and integrated amplifier in one case. These three states can be selected by moving the inner rotary knob. In addition, the device has a DAC which can be controlled via 2 optical or coaxial inputs and allows three different filter modi. The unit can receive music via Bluetooth, has 3 line stage inputs plus sports an MM phono preamplifier as well as a headphone output.
That's quite a lot, though I think it would be unjustified to categorize it as an AIO amplifier. Audiolab sees it primarily as an affordable integrated amplifier in the sub 1000 $ category , and these features set it clearly apart from the elite in that price range, the Rega Brio.
In my opinion, its design is based on a clear distribution of tasks within the 6000 series and a coherent differentiation from the 8300 series. That's also the reason why I do not feel the need to claim the lack of more network capabilities and USB audio for the A6000, which can be found optionally within Audiolab's 6000 series.
I emphasize this development policy as logical and once again like to contrast the class leader as the benchmark for the Audiolab. The Rega Brio lacks the digital comfort ingredients such as Bluetooth streaming or integrated DAC for COAX & Toslink and concentrates on the analogue domain solely.
Of the three usage options, I was the least impressed with the Power Amp, though in combination with my NAD BEE 165 preamp I couldn't hear any noticeable difference, neither for the analog nor with the phono preamp's utilization, which was “en par” with the MM section of the 6000A, both having the same input impedance and slightly different gain and SNR measurements. The NAD, of course, offers the MC option as well.
As Pre and Integrated, the device convinces with its versatility of 5 input options: line (3x), Bluetooth (aptX), coax (2x), Toslink (2x) and Moving Magnet Phono in. I perceived the sound signature of the PRE, when using the PS Audio Stellar S300 and compared to the NAD preamplifier, to be unobtrusive, neutral with less warmth, although these differences are rather marginal in my opinion.
The ESS Sabre 9018 reference DAC chip in the 6000A is an old acquaintance of the Audiolab engineers, they've already operated it with success in several standalone DACs and the 8300CDT. Their actual implementation offers three DAC filters: FAST, SLOW & PHASE, selectable via the remote control menu function. I’ve identified the phase filter as best sounding for my ears. The inputs for the conversion are limited to COAX and Toslink up to 24bit and 192kHz and in line with the needs of the 6000 CDT player. By design an USB input option is excluded.
In the interaction of all functions as Integrated Amplifier, the 6000A gains advantage, the sound is harmonious, tight in the lower midrange and very focused in the high frequency range. Of course, it doesn't achieve the performance of a PS Audio S300, which is twice as expensive and clearly plays in a different league, especially for the bass definition and the immersive sound experience, but the 6000A masters all the varieties assigned to it with an excellent precision and ease, which is rarely to be found in its price range.
I could not retrieve any faulty function, neither in the electronics nor in the software, and found the acoustic reproduction much more balanced and transparent than e.g. with the competitively priced ELAC DS-A101-G Streaming Amplifier, which has considerably more functions in the manual, but whose implementation and SQ hardly meets my audiophile expectations for this price range between 500 and 1000 dollars.
Of course, I've read a lot about the Audiolab 6000 series and the return of the 6000A during my preparations and found it a blessing that other reviewers didn't evaluate these devices negligently but for a good reason very positively: The Audiolab 6000A’s quality in relation to its price is simply excellent.
The amplifier has an audiophile design with the option to upgrade with an external power amp or a pair of monoblocks, which then unfortunately excludes the use of the pre-out for the subwoofer connection.
The 6000A differs with its digital enhancements like Bluetooth and the ESS9018 DAC as well from its big brother 8300A, which in return may persuade us with a higher power output, balanced inputs, connections for a 2nd speaker pair and a second pre-output for subwoofer.
I have found the unit to be a refreshing example of how professional experience in designing, developing and manufacturing can lead to products with excellent quality and value, given the price range we are talking about. Surely IAG does profit from cheap labour costs in their modern production facilities like almost any competitive high tech company with the exception of Paul Hynes. The people I communicated with and the pictures I have seen from the IAG facilities gave me the impression that working conditions are considerably better than with Chinese IPhone suppliers.
4 Questions to Jan Ertner, Lead Electronics Designer Audiolab @ IAG
AS: What were your main design goals with the 6000 series and how would you describe the main differences between the 8300 and 6000 series of Audiolab?
Jan Ertner: The goal was to create an entry range of products which would push the boundaries of what's possible at this price point, especially in terms of sound quality. Flexibility was another goal, with the highly versatile 6000A at the heart of the system the user can easily configure the setup to suit their particular ways of listening and future expansion in different directions is of course also possible. The 6000 series has very much benefited from the work done on the 8300 with technology trickling down, main areas being Power Amp and DAC technology and, with respect to the 6000CDT, the CD drive technology.
AS: I absolutely love the plentitude of functionality of the 6000A for an integrated, but wouldn't it be more up to date to give the unit the network capabilities (and an USB input) we have seen in other (AIO) amplifiers this year?
Jan Ertner: We could have added even more features but it would have meant either a more expensive product or a reduction in performance. The 6000A strikes a good balance. The build in DAC is of a very high quality and we would rather our customers added a streaming solution of their choice than compromising on what we see as the key components.
AS: Is the 6000CDT basically a spec'd down 8300CD without DAC capabilities?
Jan Ertner: In terms of the actual CD drive and its ability to read discs, the signal integrity and the low jitter performance of the SPDIF output, the 6000CDT can very much be thought of as a 8300CD without the DAC.
AS: Which is the brand of the slot-loading CD mechanism in use?
Jan Ertner: We use a carefully selected mechanism that matches our requirements for performance and reliability. There’s a lot to consider and when selecting the right mechanism for what is a cost-conscious, high-performance application and there aren’t that many around that stand up to our demanding requirements. Our partner for this project is JVC.
Audiolab 6000CDT CD Transport
In a world full of DACs, there are good reasons to offer a CD transport that doesn't have one. The CDT6000 does just that, and consequently its congenial partner in Crime, the 6000A, features an integrated converter that can be fed via Toslink and COAX connection.
Jan Ertner, developer of the Audiolab 8300 and 6000 series explains his design decision this way:
“A transport only design does offer the potential of less interference between CD circuitry and DAC, however there is a lot of space inside the Audiolab case work and keeping sensitive circuitry isolated is less of a problem. The main reason we made a stand-alone transport was based on wanting to have the DAC in the AMP, ultimately allowing for greater system flexibility.“
The spinner works with Redbook CDs and has read some of my 2001 compiled CD-RW without hesitations. The downside has been the exposition of a sound quality standard to be ashamed about, I need to admit.
Most of you may have already read this review about the 6000CDT, and while I found it fun and entertaining to read, it can't hide the air of product marketing. Personally, I perceived the CDT’s sound signature in my listening scenario as well tempered or "balanced", an adjective we can hear/see often in the context of Audiolabs tonal presentation and as well the characterization we have heard from Dave about the Linton Heritage speaker.
I won't disagree about that, however, I refuse to get too excited about that fact. Having most of my audiophile experience made with equipment from Rega, Musical Fidelity, NAD, Cyrus, Bower & Wilkins just to name a few British HiFi brands, tells me that this typicity of sound meets my need and I just love it. YOU need to find out about YOUR preferences yourself.
The other key questions for a CD transport in 2019 are of course:
- Does it sound better than the audio stream from the Ethernet or via WiFi?
- How different does it sound compared to the phono input?
- And what about the mastering?
- Pls don’t forget to mention the very low jitter !
Any attempt to answer these questions 100% correctly is of course doomed to failure in the first place, because the real life test conditions contradict the validity of its results. I can adjust the levels, but I can't simulate a double blind test between CD and Phono, furthermore I don't have complete control over the quality of the mastering of the different recordings presented in the stream or available in online stores.
No reason to get excited, but that's life. In this respect, I would like to apologize in advance for the fact that I just tried to approximate the first 2 questions. I think it's worth trying, even if we can only see an adjacent tendency, if one at all. For some it will be worthless, others may be rewarded with a notion of an idea.
My test setup included the following signal path to the Audiolab 6000A (with and without the use of the PS Audio S-300 power amp) in conjunction with the Linton Heritage speakers:
- Streaming via Qobuz via Audirvana (since recently with FTTH 900 mbit - in real life the audio server has 90 mbit on Ethernet and 150 mbit on WiFi) using CAPS/iFi iDSD Black (no upsampling)
- Streaming via ROON from the audio server SSD using CAPS/iFi iDSD Black (no upsampling)
- Phono in Audiolab 6000A and
- CD with Coax @ 75 Ohm into the Audiolab 6000A, using its inbuilt ESS Sabre 9018 reference DAC, Phase Filter with minimum phase characteristics
I've selected the following works:
- The Allstar Percussion Ensemble & Harold Farberman - Golden String GS DXD 002 2008 - CD/DL/Stream - Qobuz 16/44-Download - Qobuz 16/44-Streaming
- Porcelain Bus - Rusty Rails - Talking to God LP/CD/CD-Rip - Citadel CGAS 804 1988 - CGAS804DC - no streaming available
- Dominique Fils-Aimé - Gun Burial - Stay Tuned LP/Stream/DL - LP Ensoul Records 2019 - Qobuz 24/44 Download - Qobuz 24/44-Streaming
- Young Marble Giants - Credit in the straight World - Colossal Youth - Rough 8 - 1980 Qobuz 16/44 / Vinyl
CD vs. Vinyl vs. CAPS
While I couldn't discount this impression that my bias was influenced from an emotional roller coast by only touching and putting on vinyl (somehow everyone has his/her own personal love story with music - mine starts with Pink Floyd records and DJing as a hobby through the 80s and the better part of the 90s), together with the fact that I could acknowledge the inevitable cracking and scratching from the record with somehow melancholic feelings, the acoustic performance of the Audiolab CD transport provided to me an unexpected great pleasure between my aging auricles.
In my test setup I preferred both available CD versions over the - admittedly - very intriguing phono variants, likewise with the streaming via Qobuz via Audirvana on the CAPS Zuma with AO Win10 with IFI Asio driver or the alternative downloaded/ripped file. In all other cases, to my ears, the locally stored file bettered the streaming and the vinyl in perceived sound quality.
The two best sounding test tracks were the DXD CD by Harold Farberman and Dominique Fils-Aimé's Gun Burial from the album "Stay Tuned" which I acquired as a download from Qobuz as I did with the track from the All Star Percussion Ensemble.
My personal award in this comparison - with a short lead - goes to the combination of Audiolab 6000CDT with a DXD Mastering / Silver CD from Harold Farberman, compared to the Qobuz download in PCM quality (possibly with other mastering?) in 16/44 PCM, closely followed by the 24/44 download of Gun Burial by Dominique Fils-Aimé (Qobuz) via CAPS/ROON. Which bettered Vinyl and streaming, especially in the low end section that in my recollection echoes the piano/sine wave (with an LFO modulating the amplitude) sequence of James Blake’s Limits to your Love.
I could not agree with Dave’s assessment here, the Lintons played it loud and clear and I was surprised that with considerable high volumes my room did not start to vibrate around the top windows. Which is s an special effect I usually experience with Mr.Blake in my system using a pair of subwoofers. With the Lintons I did not feel the need to connect them, as the low end came deep and clean down to the 35hz Mr. Comeau has projected for them.
The CD version of Porcelain Bus’ Country filled Rhythm’n Blues on “Rusty Rails” makes you think that the band plays every instrument at least one octaves lower to accord with their singer Ian James’ baritone voice. This record was produced by Died Pretty’s Brett Myers, whose skills were well sought after in the Australian Citadel orbit during the last years before the Noughties started. This CD played by the 6000 CDT showed overall a better sq in comparison to the locally stored CD-rip and the vinyl. I bought originally packed in 2019 via the Discogs-marketplace.
Emotional winners of the heart are the respective vinyl variants. However, Young Marble Giants’ stream had and easy match with the wrangled record version, even I bought that closer to the millennium as a replacement, if I remember correctly. This song is new wave minimalism at its best, possibly genre-defining and its special acoustic aura delivered by the timid instrumentation with drum machine, voice, guitar, bass and keyboard, never stayed hidden by the Lintons. This song, “Credit in the straight world” found was also adapted into Nirvana’s and Holes’s songbook.
It should be noted that "The ALL STAR Percussion Ensemble" disc - in my ears and opinion - is an absolute audiophile CD, whose recording and mastering qualities are rarely matched by those of standard Redbook CDs. A perfect example of recordings which can make you listen to your equipment (no pun intended). It is important to acknowledge, after all, that the Audiolab 6000CDT provides excellent transport for our trip into audiophile realms, regardless of the otherwise all-too-familiar shortcomings of the CD format.
Qobuz streaming via Audirvana provided bit-perfect and comfortable solution for enjoyable everyday listening, while for critical listening I may still prefer the combination of CAPS/ROON local or CAPS/Audirvana local in best possible resolution.
What I want to underline is my desire for the timeless & beautiful design of the 6000CDT. I have no idea why, but it flashed some 60s James Bond scenes in my mind, although I would contextualize it rather with Bauhaus design inspiration.
Finally , Yes, the jitter values are said to be of ultra low levels, quite unrecognizable. For myself I still need to define the level of jitter by numbers for the point where I start to recognize it at all, distinct from network transmission problems or other undesirable factors denigrating the sound quality and may say: THIS DEVICE IS REALLY UNLISTENABLE due to the high JITTER levels. Notwithstanding, it is measurable and there are many counter techniques available. In fact, Audiolab engineering underlines, that “The master clock is controlled by a temperature-compensated crystal oscillator, enabling the digital output from both coaxial and optical sockets to exhibit vanishingly low levels of jitter (digital distortion)”, which would mean that interface and sampling jitter is seriously taken care of.
The combination Audiolab - Wharfedale persuades us with sound, style and the MSRP of approx. 2500 Euro (AUD 5000, USD 3000 , GBP 2000).
The design, a clear reference to glorious tradition, combines noble English understatement with the legendary British sound and convinces with modern technology and a multitude of possibilities. Both Audiolab devices present themselves as a perfect starting point into an audiophile future or alternatively as solutions to fill gaps in the audiophile chain, each as an option at a modest price.
The Wharfedale Linton Heritage loudspeakers are visually and acoustically an affordable pleasure and will position themselves - because of their excellent price-performance ratio - in the top field of their segment for the foreseeable future.
Of course there is room for improvement, but if you look at the chain as an entry-level with the option to upgrade, there's actually no factual reason for criticism with the combination or the single components. In all areas that were defined by their developers for that chain, the devices play in the top range in terms of price, equipment and performance.
The Linton Heritage of course benefits from a profound improvement with accomplished power amplifier, which is not due to the 6000A shortcomings, but to the excellent performance of the speakers. For me personally, however, the 6000A was the biggest surprise in its versatility. Of course, it performs in the boundaries that the product family assigns to it, but it does convince in every detail and in every technical function.
The 6000CDT sounds excellent and has clear priorities, but it remains a decision about the need for CD transport in 2019, when Amazon and Apple have entered the streaming business. For myself it has been an enjoyable exception to test the CDT, but in principle I find a CD spinner just as romantic and luxurious as my Rega Planar 3 turntable. Not a must, but a pleasure to have one at any time! Though I would probably refrain from changing the dematerialized state of my CD collection and from bringing them back home out of its external location.
For friends of the silver disc, however, the CDT may be a reasonably priced way to play their existing digital music, bought or burned, in excellent quality. It could also be a perfect solution for those who have never owned a CD transport before, especially as you can discover a lot of CD's nowadays in the 2nd Hand Music Stores where you usually buy your vinyl.
My personal choice: Chose the silver option with Mahogany 😉
Equipment used in this review
- Wharfedale Linton Heritage 85 Anniversary Speaker with Stands
- Audiolab 6000A Integrated Amplifier
- Audiolab 6000 CDT CD Transport
(a full set of product documentation you may find as a zip-file under the following LINK, 226 MB)
★ Bower & Wilkins 805s
★ Dynavox Perfect Sound Speaker cable
★ PS-Audio S300 Power amplifier (on loan)
★ NAD Bee C165 Pre amplifier
★ CAPS ZUMA w/PPang USB V2 card, WIN10/WS2016-AO-JRIVER-ROON
★ HDPLEX 100w linear power supply
★ Khadas Tone Board DAC
★ UNRAID 6.7 NAS 12 TB
★ Audiophile Optimizer 2.35
Disclaimer: The majority of the pictures were taken @ Chateau de l'Islette in Azay-Les-Rideaux, Indre-et-Loire, and Château de Villandry, in Villandry, Indre-et-Loire, both in the center of France.
I like to express my gratitude to the Chateaux owners and acting persons, who made this happen. THANK YOU !!!
My special thanks goes to the French artist Gilles de Kerversau, who allowed me to use his sculptures in the Jardin de Soleil @ Villandry as setting for my photo productions. Thank you by heart, Mr. Kerversau !! If you are interested in his art, you may find more information on his FB page.
All Stock images courtesy of http://www.hashstar.co.uk/image_library/. All other images by myself except Cover Art by Qobuz.fr.