EVO CD Transport
If you've nabbed yourself one of Cambridge Audio's EVO 75 or EVO 150 one-box systems of late, then you'll already know that it can deliver a huge selection of high-quality music from subscription platforms such as Qobuz, Tidal, or Spotify. So no need for any other source, right?
Well, maybe not, as some people will want more. For vinyl fans, Cambridge offers its excellent Alva TTv2 turntable with an optional aptX HD Bluetooth connection to the EVO 75 or 150. And for those with sizeable silver disc collections, there is the new EVO CD Transport – a high-quality dedicated Compact Disc drive, no less.
Like the EVO 75/150, the EVO CD Transport is 317mm wide, 89mm tall and 352mm deep. The units are, therefore, pleasingly compact, and hardly any heat is produced, so either can be stacked on the other with no concerns about temperature. It's a 'transport' in the literal sense – with no command buttons or screen, it cannot function away from the EVO 75 or EVO 150 and connects via a 1-metre dedicated cable that terminates in a four-pole mini-jack.
To operate the transport, connect it to an EVO 75/150, and switch the input selector to CD or press the Eject button. The disc drawer will open so you can load a CD. The various controls – like Play and Fast Search – are on the EVO 75/150 (and remote handset) rather than the transport. One benefit of this unusual arrangement is that all functions can be viewed via the large 16cm x 5cm LCD screen on the EVO 75/150.
On some CDs, you're even treated to a 5cm square representation of the album cover art in full colour. The screen offers a choice of album cover plus information, information-only, or album cover-only. With most rock/pop/jazz CDs pressed in the last thirty years, you're very likely to see an album cover, but with CDs of classical music, not so much.
Before the EVO CD Transport arrived, I initially thought I could partner it with my regular DAC for comparison purposes. However, that isn't possible as it has no optical or coaxial digital output and only functions when partnered with an EVO 75/150. Fortunately, the EVO 75/150 has both optical and coaxial digital inputs, so I was able to use another CD transport to make comparisons. Doing this confirmed that the EVO CD Transport sounds very good and showed how adept it is at playing damaged or faulty CDs.
My current references for coping with shonky CDs are the Audiolab CD transports – the 6000CDT, the 7000CDT, and the 9000CDT. The EVO CD Transport proved closely comparable, which is high praise as all three Audiolabs are significantly better than most others, regardless of price.
Being picky, the Audiolab 9000CDT was just a fraction better than the EVO CD Transport at playing faulty/damaged discs, but the difference is tiny. Choosing one of my failing discs that's suffering from oxidisation, and with most CD players/transports, I can hear 'chuffing' from track 3 onwards. By the time track 9 is reached, the sound breaks up badly and becomes unlistenable. On the EVO CD Transport, some chuffing was audible by track 9, but the outline of the music was still strong and clear.
When operational, the transport is virtually silent. There are no whirring or swishing noises produced, even with your ear right close by, though you might hear a few mechanical noises while the EVO CD Transport is searching for tracks or reading the disc when inserted.
The EVO CD Transport sounds surprisingly good. It is open, focused, detailed, and fully comparable to Audiolab's flagship 9000CDT, which costs the same price.
You'd think that forty-year-old 16-bit, 44.1kHz CD technology would be blown away by 24/96 or 24/192 hi-res streaming, but this wasn't the case. Comparing the CD of Glazunov's violin concerto with Nicola Benedetti on Decca, the 24/96 hi-res stream sounded very open and transparent, but CD seemed slightly better focused and tonally richer. There was also more sense of depth and hall ambience with Compact Disc.
The classic jazz of Sonny Rollins' Way Out West was a similar story. The 24/192 streamed album sounded perfectly fine, but CD seemed a touch more immediate and detailed. The sax had more body, while the drums and bass were a tad more present and tactile. This is not what many would expect, but it is often the case when you compare streaming to a good CD transport, in my experience.
This is a no-brainer if you're a Cambridge Audio EVO 75 or 150 owner and have a substantial silver disc collection. As well as being a lovely aesthetic match, it reads discs very well and sounds great. It's certainly the equivalent of a good budget standalone player operationally, but you get full integration with the EVO system.