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One interesting deviation from the norm, on the CDE, is a switch on the back that essentially toggles between high (Hi) and low (Lo) gain. The Hi gain mode boosts the signal by 9 dB. This allows for flexibility depending on how sensitive your amplifier and speakers are. I initially used the Lo gain setting, but ultimately settled on the Hi gain option as I felt I was not getting the enough output on the Lo setting. This is a very cool option to have, in my opinion. Unico supplies the same gorgeous wood and aluminum system remote that comes with the CDPrimo.
As with the CDPrimo, there is a soft start which allows the player to fire up the tubes gently. Less than thirty seconds later, you are ready to play music. And play music I did. My first impressions ultimately changed very little and, as the review period came to end, I was even more convinced about what I heard initially. This was the most beautiful sounding source component I have ever had in my system. It was simply stunning in the way it offered up lifelike 3D images, astonishing weight and body to instruments and voices, and a natural ambiance to recordings I had only previously heard on my Revox A77 reel to reel.
In some ways, this might be the trickiest review I have had to write. Simply because I was not 100% convinced the CDE was producing the most dead center neutral sound like some other players I have heard, but I simply did not care, since it was so delightfully ravishing in its realism. This deviation from neutrality, if indeed there was any, erred on the musical, voluptuous, and velvety side of things in the best possible way.
I will concede that in the context of an all-tube system (tube preamp and power amp), the CDE may have been too much of a good thing. When I subbed the superb solid state Danish-made Densen B310 power amp for the Audio Research VS55, an utterly perfect balance of warmth, detail, and musicality snapped into place. It was a knockout combination that really revealed the true nature of many familiar recordings.
A new CD I acquired, Cruel Sister, by Rachel Unthank (who also records with her sister as the Unthanks) & Winterset, is very well recorded, and the material reminds one of classic Pentangle and early Fairport Convention. The album mines the classic British folk rock sound. But the center piece is the gorgeous vocals. I had never in my experience heard such a beautiful reproduction of voices. They hung in space, and were so realistic that it was spooky. A true hair-raising experience. A special shout out to Robert Baird, of Stereophile, for writing about the Unthanks, and allowing me to discover them.
All my familiar reference material -- from Seal, Shelby Lynne, James Vincent McMorrow, Robert Plant, and others -- sounded as organic and engaging as I have heard them, with a velvety lifelike presentation that soon became the only way I wanted to hear these discs. “Anyone One Who Had A Heart”, the second track from Shelby Lynne’s Just A Little Lovin’, had gobs of ambience, and the vocal and piano introduction was as “in the room” as I have ever heard it, even on megabuck systems at audio shows.