Audiolab 6000CDT Review

While inexpensive DACs are a dime a dozen, excellent Compact Disc transporters are hard to come by. Given that there are billions of CDs in circulation, you’d assume there would be a demand for new silver disc spinners, even though new music sales are down in this format. The Audiolab 6000CDT is a £379 integrated amplifier designed to complement the company’s outstanding 6000A integrated amplifier. This silver disc spinner is compact, inconspicuous, and slinky to use, as well as sounding fantastic. It’s well worth considering if you have a nice DAC of any kind.

The 6000CDT has obviously been developed on a budget, but it has been done so in a really sensible way. The lesser series gets painted steel casework and a less expensive display instead of the nicely finished aluminium of the more expensive 8300CD. Its dimensions are 445 x 65.5 x 300mm, and it weighs 5.4kg. It looks sharp, modern, and purposeful whether you choose the silver or black finish. Even better, the smooth slot-loading CD mechanism doesn’t sound like it’s about to blow up whenever a disc is inserted or ejected. The display is clear and informative, and the transport functions are controlled by a row of buttons. The machine is a joy to use because everything is so straightforward and intuitive.

The machine, which is housed in its own electromagnetically insulated shell, has the same transport mechanism as Audiolab’s flagship 8300CD silver disc spinner. It contains a read-ahead digital buffer to prevent disc read failures, and the master clock is regulated by a temperature-compensated crystal oscillator, resulting in very low jitter claims. A differential line driver feeds the coaxial output for a high-quality digital datastream. It has an optical TOSLINK and digital coaxial output on the back, as well as trigger plugs, an IEC power in, and a main power switch. The device consumes 15 watts when in operation and less than 0.5 watts when in standby mode, according to Audiolab.

Some aficionados may still believe that “a bit is a bit” and that all CD transfers sound the same, but this has never been my experience. Jitter, as well as insufficient mechanical isolation and the quality of the power supplies and digital outputs, appear to have a subtle effect on the sound. The 6000CDT isn’t the best digital disc spinner I’ve ever heard, but it’s excellent value for money and performs admirably. It effortlessly loads discs, is quiet while doing so, and then quickly reads the CD’s Table of Contents. After that, it provides quick track access — not quite on par with a Sony from the 1980s, but far superior than the wheezy, whining DVD-ROM drives seen in many recent Compact Disc players.

Its sound staging was another amazing feature. Change’s Lover’s Holiday, a wonderful late-seventies soul/funk song, was delivered with tremendous scope and spaciousness. When I used more high-end DACs to partner it, the instruments were exactly situated in the stereo mix, and there was a considerable level of depth perspective as well. The Audiolab appeared to have a lot of control, putting out a well-organized recorded acoustic with everything in its proper place and properly separated from the rest of the mix. Higher-end transports perform better in absolute terms, with a true ‘out of the box’ feel, but this was still outstanding.

It’s also a good performer in terms of rhythm and dynamics. The 6000CDT offered a dynamic and exciting sound with Rush’s Red Barchetta, with a lot going on within the broad three-dimensional canvas. The powerful bass guitar was very noticeable here, accompanied with the drummer’s outstanding pan rolls and sweeps, all of which were precisely metronomic. This transport does indeed provide a clean, precise sound with a controlled yet insightful character that was a lot of joy to listen to during the audition. More expensive designs have more grip and punch in the bass, but this isn’t a slouch. I liked the crisp and delicate yet detailed hi-hat and ride cymbal work at the other end of the frequency range. The Audiolab 6000CDT is thus a CD transport bargain – a high-quality device at a price that often doesn’t get you much.