Audiolab 6000CDT CD Transport Review

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by purr1n, Sep 27, 2023.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Forward

    At a Bay Area meet at the SofiTel about ten years ago, I learned something. There was an attendee (keep in mind that CanJam wasn't quite a thing yet and that most meets consisted of members who brought their own setups) who brought a system comprising STAX Lambda headphones, a Leben CS300, and a STAX energizer. I forget the source. I did not care for any of these pieces at all and thereby wanted pass by it at all costs! However, the attendee pulled me aside and asked me to listen (this is what happens when you organize meets). Most of you guys who know me personally know that I hate this kind of shit. The attendee was nice enough, so I decided to take a shot.

    Lo and behold, this system was actually pretty good. Maybe it wasn't totally my cup of tea, but I totally "got it". In my discussions with the attendee, he pointed out "one has to have a goal". This experience really changed a lot of how I approached gear reviews. I began to realize the following: 1) One's personal goal may not be the same as another person's; 2) Component synergy matters; 3) One should have a goal - although not having one is understandable if one is starting out. It's one of the reasons why I decided to shut down Changstar where it was pretty much shit if X person or Y person didn't personally like some piece of gear; 4) If one doesn't have a goal but randomly puts the most expensive components together, than more often than not, the system will sound like shit.

    Audiolab 6000CDT Intro

    The Audiolab 6000CDT is no joke - despite it being sold by online retailers such as Crutchfield and Audio Advisor, where in my experience stuff being pushed by them is often garbage or poor value. The unit isn't like the entry level Marantz CD players with flimsy tops and lightweight chassis, which require additional mass damping to sound decent. The chassis is hefty. Tapping on the side of the chassis returns thuds instead of resonant pings. It's a slot loader, but I found the loading mechanism to confidently grab the CDs and swallow them, unlike my typical experiences with CD slot loaders in car audio systems.

    audiolab6k.jpg

    The included remote is nice, not a cheap Topping job where it looks like they repurposed an OG Amazon Fire TV remote (although this remote has too many extraneous buttons for companion components such as receivers from Audiolab). The 6000CDT doesn't offer AES or BNC outputs, only Toslink and SPDIF coax. I did forget to mention: The Audiolab 6000CDT appears purely a dedicated transport. There are no RCA outputs on the back. This may be a good thing because I see a lot of used and B-stock deals, probably because some sites are advertising this as a CD player and getting a ton of returns after customers realize there are no analog outputs.

    The response time of the button presses to track seek is excellent for a CD player. The display shows the track that we are jumping to if forward or back buttons are pressed successively. I would have preferred more differentiation is button sizes, for example, a larger button for play/pause. However this button is intelligently placed center and up among the six on the front panel. Likewise the eject button is on the upper left closest to the slot.

    Initial Impressions

    In a nutshell, not shit. Those who know will understand this is praise, considering most modern CD transports or CD players out there under $1k are truly shit. I hooked it up in place of the Shanling ET3 top loader. Compared to the ET3, The 6000CDT has a diametrically different presentation. I know a few, who not having much experience with CD transports, where in for shock when they put the ET-3 into their systems because of the the ET-3's almost liquid vinyl-like even mellowish presentation. The Audiolab 6000CDT does not do this. I don't feel people who are used using USB from a computer or iPad will be as shocked compared to the ET-3. The 6000CDT does have its own unique take. (And yes, CD transports do make a difference and will contribute anywhere from 20-50% of the sound along with the DAC it feeds).

    The 6000CDT is bold, snappy, and rhythmically driving. To be honest, despite the initial positive impression, the sound eventually got on my nerves, at least in the system I used for evaluation: <CD transport> --> Yggdrasil MIL-F --> Mjolnir 3 (HD600, RS2X-Fcush, Caldera). Two reasons for why it got on my nerves: 1) Not my goal; 2) Bad synergy.

    Yureka!

    So I got to thinking. Why don't I try the 6000CDT on the Yggdrasil LIM, which just sounded horrid (too sleepy, too dark, lacking energy) replacing the MIL-F DAC in the system. I hindsight, I realized the ET3 and LIM (and maybe the Mjolnir 3) were just too much of a good thing (all three components that tend toward mellow or "lean-back" from the music). So yeah, the Audiolab with 6000CDT with the Yggdrasil LIM DAC worked quite nicely!

    How Does It Rank?

    Despite being able to find good synergy with the LIM DAC (and maybe many others - thinking Modius E), the Audiolab 6000CDT has a tendency to push soft sounds louder. Typical upward compression. This enables it's display of strong rhythmic drive, however at some expense of delicacy and nuance, and a headstage that's more closed in. The tonal balance has emphasis at the extremes, low bass and high treble. The transients are zippy like the heavy Denon CDTs of yesteryear. It's hard for me to be the sole judge because this really isn't the sound that I look for in CD transports. Over the years, I've become more of mid-centric kind of person. When it comes to CD transports, my primary goal is to find a liquid presentation (reminder that I have two turntables, three arms, and an assortment of carts). In gaming power level parlance (S class to A, B, C), while I would put the ET-3 in S- class, the 6000CDT slots somewhere around B+). What this means is that while there is higher potential, it comes at higher cost, and a different DAC from the MIL-F which I am currently using. However, if I only had the LIM DAC around, the 6000CDT is most certainly the way to go.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2023
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    It's kind of hard to measure jitter for spinners. Will try with an 11.05kHz signal. The digital outputs are going directly into the APx555.

    Audiolab 6000CDT
    11.05kHz CD
    SPDIF coax into APx555
    upload_2023-9-27_15-0-56.png

    Shanling ET3
    11.05kHz on CD track
    AES into APx555
    upload_2023-9-27_15-8-32.png
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2023
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    For good measure:

    Emotiva ERC-4
    11.05kHz on CD track
    AES into APx555
    upload_2023-9-27_15-12-25.png
     
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Emotiva ERC-4
    11.05kHz on CD track
    AES into APx555
    Jitter Analysis (UI)
    upload_2023-9-27_15-16-11.png

    Shanling ET3
    11.05kHz on CD track
    AES into APx555
    Jitter Analysis (UI)
    upload_2023-9-27_15-23-34.png

    Audiolab 6000CDT
    11.05kHz on CD track
    AES into APx555
    Jitter Analysis (UI)
    upload_2023-9-27_15-45-20.png

    Animated GIF
    [​IMG]
     
  5. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    This mostly squares with my impressions so thanks for taking the time to throw it on the AP and give your thoughts. Though, subjectively I know we're generally loathe to use the term PRAT, pairing with LIM, and compared head-to-head with Pi2AES the Audiolab has better PRAT (or drive, or incisiveness, or toe-tapping-ness). It's more involving for me (especially as a once-upon-a-time percussionist), but presents slightly less ether/planktons than Pi2AES. It is more spatially coherent and dense than Pi2AES despite the lack of sheer image size. The thing is, in my system, the 6000CDT presents similarly to my SL1200+103r, which is good enough for me and aligns with my intents. Now I'm just biding my time until the slot loader shits the bed. Also, even with the seemingly robust casework, the 6000CDT does benefit from some additional damping sheets on the sheet metal and transport mech, and some norsorex footers, like most other cheap-ish CDPs/CDTs.
     
  6. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    @purr1n is Emotiva ERC-4 class A or B in that rank?
     
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    C
     

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