Opera Audio Consonance Reference 2.2 CD Player/Recorder

Review by KrunchiePops

Model: Consonance Reference 2.2
Category: CD Player/Recorder
Suggested Retail Price: $1900
Description: CD player with tubed output stage
Manufacturer URL: Not Available

Review by KrunchiePops (A) on March 28, 2004 at 13:34:01
IP Address: 210.49.193.29

I can start by saying this is an impressive, nay extremely impressive CD player.

Initially I had decided on a Cary 308, I had heard it with all my components at my usual dealer - and it gave me goosebumps. This changed once I purchased the Cary unit and got it home however...but more on that later.

I had a Rotel RCD930AX, which was just an entry-level player - but still knocked the socks off mass-market offerings. After getting the Accuphase integrated and good speakers, I noticed that uh oh, my Nakamichi cassette deck sounded more open and had much more presence and depth than the ole faithful Rotel - which had sounded fine with a NAD 3020 and generic speakers. Yep, I had to do something I knew deep in my heart was going to happen - the Rotel had to go and was severely outclassed. Bloody Accuphase, hehehe.

The search was on...

Various players I auditioned were: Myryad something (cannot remember the model but it was 2600 Australian dollars (about 2k USD), Creek CD43 Mk11, Cary 308, Primare D20. There were several more players I could have auditioned but didn't that were in my price range , which was around the 2k AUD mark.

The Myryad had a defective or at least difficult to use button/s on the front panel - coupled with this particular dealers attempt at "system matching" - a 5k grainy Classe int and Elac bookshelves that were barely bigger than housebricks - well, I couldn't hear the Myryad at all, all I heard was the grainy amplification and tight tiny speakers! Buttons didn't work properly on the Myryad, no other Myryad dealer in town, forget the Myryad.

Creek was just thin and sterile, probably not broken in, but I was unimpressed with both the Creek integrated and CDP combo, lifeless and thin - and I have heard that since about Creek. I was actually auditioning speakers - but i got to hear the CDP too.

The Cary I had waiting for me, it was the last in my regular dealers stock, and I HAD been impressed with it instore - remember, it was hooked up using my Accuphase and my speakers and cabling - and I had decided to buy it. But I thought "Hell, listen to a couple more, 2k is a lot of money you know", so I organised an in-home demo of the Primare D20. The dealer that stocks Primare here in Melbourne also stocks Consonance, and we had discussed the Reference 2.2 on the phone, and i idly said "bring that along too, might as well" but privately thinking "Chinese, hmmm, last on the list"

The Primare D20 - smooth, refined, "nice". No excitement, I was auditioning by rote, not especially enjoying it. Switch to the Consonance Reference 2.2...WOW!

I didn't audition it, AT ALL!!! I simply kept putting Cds in and thinking "gee I love this song, I'm so glad I bought this album, pity I have to change discs" I FORGOT TO AUDITION PROPERLY!!!!! First time, ever. My real impression was this BIG, open sound, very immediate, very involving and emotional.

I was hoping that my memory of the Cary 308 was as good as I thought.

I bought the Cary, it left my house within 20 hours...it was nice and pacey, and a good tight bass (which I love), but very uninvolving and digital, and over-detailed - to the point where all musicality was lost. YUCK. It went straight back to the dealer.

Straight out of the box the Consonance player was boomy and dulled, but you could still sense the energy and confidence it has lurking inside. The Ref 2.2 has a fairly long breakin period (300 hours until the sound stabilises, up until that point things are erratic sonically), so I left it on repeat when I wasn't using it.

The Ref 2.2 is a very neutral player, with a dash of warmth added for good measure. It has a very big sound - if you like refined tasteful components this is not the player for you. It IS refined, but the sonic signature is not delicate or romantic. It has a great knack of revealing lots of detail without screaming 'Listen to me, see how detailed I am???', it is a very natural sounding player.

I am going to have to say it, and it's a bit of a cliche when describing this player - but it DOES sound "analogue-like", and you DO feel emotionally involved with the music. I sensed that immediately, within ten minutes of the home demo, this "ahhh, love this song", and I was quite surprised to read reviews AFTER I bought it saying the same things, "emotionally involving, can't-stop-listening" etc.

This thing makes music MUSIC. It's a simple player folks, it has no programmability except repeat track or whole disc, but it plays MUSIC - beautifully, without any harshness or digitalia.

This player has a 6h30 valve in the output stage, I have yet to listen to it in balanced XLR mode which bypasses the valve - my Accuphase amp only has RCA inputs. i don't see the point in buying a tubed player and not using the tube anyway - but some say they prefer the XLR output, some not.

OK, boring audiophile stuff now...

Bass, deeep, although possibly a little smeared, but FUN, and in no way bloated or fat. Wouldn't call it tight either - that was ONE thing the Cary had, was the tight bass, but nothing else. The midrange is superb and natural, same with the highs. Since purchasing this unit I have found out that there is a factory option of Auricaps capacitors instead of Solen Aeons in the output stage, and it's only marginally more expensive. It can also be done afterwards, I have the correct value Auricaps waiting to be put in. According to others who have heard the Solen vs the Auricapped version, the bass is tighter and with more range, so I'm looking forward to that. And the midrange is even better with the Auricaps apparently.

The soundstaging is great, without being artificial, wide and deep, and the imaging is darned good too.

Basically, in a nutshell, this is a cracker of a player, natural, analogue-y, big immediate sound that involves you emotionally without boring you with hyper-detail. It IS revealing however, it just plays what's there, it doesn't gloss over bad recordings and make them OK, conversely a good recording it plays to the hilt.

Onboard DAC is a Crystal 24/192 mhz upsampler. It's always on, but I am a big fan of upsampling so that's not a problem for me.

I'll say it again - THIS THING LOVES YOUR MUSIC!!! No real genre preferences either, it capably plays all. Speedwise it's middlin', not fast, not laidback - the Auricaps quicken its tempo and a good powercord will do so too.

The Australian distributor of Consonance is also the Audio Aero distributor, according to him it's a better buy at the same price than the AA Prima. I'd be expecting to pay at least 1k more to get sound this good...

Opera's website is www.operaudio.com

Product Weakness: Can't switch upsampling off, XLR connection bypasses tube.
Product Strengths: Very natural analogue-y MUSIC MACHINE, bang for the buck, very well built (16 kilos), metal remote, good looks.

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: Accuphase E-205B, 80wpc@8ohms
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): None
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Consonance Reference 2.2 CDP, Nakamichi RX-202E cass. deck Speakers: Amber Forte studio monitors (88db sens, Scan Speak 2-way front ported) Cables/Interconnects: Osborn Silverlink interconnects and Amber 8 speaker cabling
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Grunge, Electronica, Pop, Classical
Room Size (LxWxH): 50 ft x 18 ft x 11ft
Time Period/Length of Audition: 4 months
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner


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