So I’m back and have been listening to the Audia ‘Flight CD-One’ for over a month. This has given me a chance to listen to it with almost every kind of music. It let me do some serious listening. It let me listen to it as I write and I work. I’ve even listened to it from other rooms. It has been in the system long enough for others in the house to comment on how it sounds. I can tell you one thing, it does not sound digital. So, let’s see if I can tell you how it sounds.
Top End & Midrange
These are the glory of the ‘Flight CD-One’. Even after a month of listening, I can’t seem to be able to get away from the spotlight analogy. Compared to my VSEI 4.5 Sony SACD, it sounds like someone came along and hit a light switch and now I can hear everything clearer than before. Voices, strings, and horns all sound so clear and you can hear all the air and nuances that make them sound so real. Sometimes though it seemed a little clearer than life. The air and nuances of music is where I felt the VSEI modded SACD player had bettered almost all but the incredibly expensive Audio Note DACs. The Audia is nearly as good as the SACD player in this area while seeming clearer and quicker. At least this is the case in the midrange and top end. We will talk about the bass in a minute.
The dynamics and scale are stunning, though the vertical height is not as good as some. The Audia Flight with the WAVAC and Audio Note E speakers can create a truly big sound with a driving lifelike pace to the music. As dynamic as the system is, the micro-dynamics and coherency of the Audia is not quite the equal of the modded Sony SACD player. The micro-dynamics are close, but the coherency suffers from the fact that bass does not quite have the same air and nuances that I hear from the SACD system.
Don’t misunderstand me, the Audia’s bass is not slow, fat, or boomy. In fact, it is has no tendency toward being overly warm or slow at all. It goes very deep and has real impact. I think most would describe it as deep, fast and quick. What it doesn’t have is the kind of nuance and decay that bass can have with SACD and vinyl. For that matter, the Audia Flight CD One has those nuances in the midrange and top end. The mid-bass is tight, quick with a driving pace. Personally, I think it’s a little on the lean side, but my experience tells me this is the way most audiophiles prefer it.
Soundstage & Imaging
This is another area where the Audia excels. The stage is wider and deeper than I realized my system was capable of. I can only imagine how it would sound with a pair of monitors or a speaker like the Kharmas. The imaging is pinpoint and very palpable. This is the kind of soundstage that most audiophiles dream of.
It seems there are three recordings I’ve been using a lot for evaluation these days. One of my favorites is the SACD King of the Cellist, Starker plays Kodaly. It is one of the most beautiful recordings of a cello I have ever heard, and it is inspiring to listen to the cuts that are of the cello and the violin. The CD-One lets you almost see the two instruments. You get all of the attack of the leading edge of each note. It’s easy to hear the bowing that is happening one each instrument and in their own space. The dynamics and drive is also very good.
Ella and Louis the special edition Verve is a beautiful Japanese SACD. Again, on this recording, the voices are right there. The sound is immediate and you can hear every breath they take. Both Ella and Louis have their own space even though they are recorded very close to each other.
Elvis is Back has Elvis’ version of ‘Fever’ on it. This cut has tremendous slam and startling dynamics. Here, the Audia really shows off its stuff. It has powerful drive and the dynamics will make you sit up and listen. Elvis’ voice is right there in the room and the presence factor is unbelievable.
There are a few things about just normal use I would like to mention about the CD-One. First, it is very attractive in a simple, minimalist way. It is a top loading unit and so is my Sony SACD player, so that was no problem for me, but I thought you needed to know. Then there is the display, which is very limited in information. You can’t turn it off or change the timer to count down, at least I couldn’t find a way to. The previous track button is different too. On most players if you hit it during a track it goes back to the start of that track, here it actually goes back to the previous track.
The remote control is substantial (another word for heavy) and nice looking, but the buttons are too small and you have to pay attention to use it.
I want to repeat what I said in the preview of this review in May. The CD-One illuminates the whole frequency range. It is very, very detailed, but after warm up it’s not hyper/razor sharp, just wonderfully clear and fast.
I still feel the need to say there is no doubt about it this unit is the yang, light to bright and spectacular, to my VSEI modded Sony SACD 777ES’ yin, warm to dark and involving, to borrow a description of a component’s character from HP. I still feel it is both involving and spectacular. Is it more spectacular than real music? Maybe, but I love SETs and I know some think they are more beautiful than real, and I can live with that.
I want to finish by saying this is one of the best digital players I have ever heard. There seems to be a few digital players under 10K now that don’t scream out “I’m digital”, and instead let you enjoy music. This is good news, and the rest of the good news is that the Audia Flight CD-One is one of them. If you are in the market for a digital source between $5k and $10k, you should listen to it. Recommended.
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