To Hans Wetzel,
I enjoy your reviews and insights into this hobby very much, but today I am seeking advice on an upgrade of a highly reviewed product. The Audiolab 8200CDQ is a CD player with a built-in preamp, and can be used as a standalone DAC in a computer-based audio system. The question of differences in sound quality of higher-end players versus cheaper ones is the debate, as I currently use a Yamaha DVD-S657 SACD player that I purchased back in 2005 for $350.
The Audiolab 8200CDQ retails for $1600 CAD. How much of an upgrade can I expect with a higher-end CD player/DAC, and, of course, the preamp? My current system is made up of an NAD C 272 amplifier, NAD C 162 preamplifier, and Axiom M80 speakers.
Thanks for emailing, Gerald. Unfortunately, I do not have any experience with Audiolab's products. It does appear that the 8200CDQ has earned some very positive reviews, however. I also noticed that the unit uses ESS Technology's Sabre 9018 Reference chipset. While a chipset is only as good as its implementation into a given design, I am currently reviewing Benchmark Media Systems' DAC2 HGC, which, like the 8200CDQ, is a digital-to-analog converter, as well as a preamp. It, too, uses the 9018 chipset, and in my early listening tests, I think it's seriously good. If the 8200CDQ comes close to the Benchmark's implementation of the 9018 chip, I would bet that the Audiolab 8200CDQ could work well as a replacement for both your NAD preamp and your current Yamaha SACD player.
As for how much of an upgrade it will be from your current setup, I can only speculate. I know that digital-to-analog conversion has come a long way since 2005, when you purchased your Yamaha. Sound quality has improved, both in terms of resolution and musicality, and prices have fallen dramatically too. It's a good time to upgrade, and I suspect that it won't take you long to appreciate the Audiolab if you wind up purchasing it. . . . Hans Wetzel