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This review first appeared in the March 2009 issue of and can be read in its original German version here. It is herewith translated and presented to an English-only audience through a mutual syndication arrangement. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end has a link below it to his e-mail should you have questions or feedback you wish to send. All images contained in this review are the property of or the HIFIAcademie. - Ed.

Reviewer: Ralph Werner
Sources: Analog - deck - Acoustic Solid MPX; tone arms - Phonotools Vivid-Two, SME M2 12-inch; pickups - Denon DL-103, Ortofon MC Rondo Bronce, Zu Audio DL-103; digital – CD player - audiolab 8000CD, Audiomeca Obsession II, Fonel Simplicité; Computer & Co - Logitech Squeezebox, Readynas Duo NAS-Server, HP Notebook; D/A converter - Aqvox USB2DA-MKII, Benchmark DAC1 USB
Amplification: Phono pre - Aqvox 2 CI MKII; preamplifier - Octave HP 300 MK2; power amp - SAC il piccolo monos; integrated amplifier - LUA 4040 C, Myryad MXI 2080
Loudspeakers: Audium Comp 5, Quadral Rondo, Thiel CS 2.4, Zu Audio Druid mk4
Racks & Stands: Creactiv, Taoc, Liedtke Metalldesign Stand, Shale Audio Base
... and various cables
Review Component Retail: €1,485
Not merely academic
Asked what theories on upsampling and jitter he subscribes to, HIFIAkademie chef Herr Hubert Reith confessed to being more of a pragmatician without theories. That should lay concerns over his firm's name to rest. Professorial preaching isn't his beat. Which doesn't mean he isn't full of it. Information. A visit to his website for example will take most folks longer than anticipated simply because instead of the hundredth variation on the tired old 'we are the best' game, there are technical explanations galore.

Their newest product and under review is the cdPlayer, the latter fact partly due those readers who sent us nice e-mails with nice tips about this company. Reith founded his firm in 2006: "I was a trained radio and TV repair man, studied information technology, developed industrial computers, wrote web advert programming, was a freelance broadcast announcer, developed medical and car audio devices and then turned hobby to business. Television never was a great interest but hifi all the more. To delve more deeply into the topic, 2004 saw my first PowerAmp version. A few forum posts later and others found satisfaction with it. More and more requests arrived to eventually eclipse what I could accommodate beside my real job. So I quit and turned pro."

During its first two years, HIFIAkademie only supplied the DIY scene. But soon reports on their kits' quality breached circles of music lovers who weren't as handy with a soldering iron. They wanted turn-key machines. With the usual dis- and advantages to prospective clients, HIFIAkademie distributes factory-direct. Such sellers never tire of stressing how elimination of middle-men markups saves money (while their own sales & marketing efforts are often more expensive in turn). But you cannot audition their machines in the shop around the corner, never mind enjoy local dealer support. Reith's machines you must buy before you can test them. Because this creates an automatic hurdle, I wanted to know about return privileges. "But absolutely" was the reply. Reith was right of course. Per mail-order legislation, such goods can be returned within two weeks without any explanation given. As of today, Reith offers five fully assembled components: a pre and power amp, an integrated - and a D/A converter, which, the website explains, is optionally available with transport as the cdPlayer. That turn of phrase alone had me curious.

cdPlayer tech
My somewhat condescending smirk over this description mellowed into benign satisfaction when I unpacked the machine and actually inspected its business end. By now a digital input on CD players ought to be ubiquitous but it's not. HIFIAkademie offers four ( two coax/Tos selectable, two coax, i.e. all S/PDIF). Professional malcontents will decry the absence of AES/EBU but they should admit than in the home rather than recording studio, this is mostly irrelevant. Certain features elicit a "quite nice". However, to me certain core connectivity -- think music streamers, SAT receivers, DVD players, Wadia's iPod Dock for example -- is absolutely essential yet gets the cold shoulder by most. Thus four solid brownie points to Herr Reith. It's apparent that external sources must deliver PCM, the standard for S/PDIF inputs (certain digital machines like SAT or DVD have selectable options in their setup menus). Today's player shakes hands with data of up to 24 bits in word length and sampling frequencies of up to 216kHz (120K over Toslink). That should suffice.

While still around back, there's more; two S/PDIF digital outputs, a pair of single-ended analog outs (no XLRS), the power IEC with mains rocker - and a USB input. The latter isn't a 5th digital input but the access port for the internal DSP module. Yep, that's right. This player allows frequency domain manipulations via digital signal processing. Depending on which side of the bed you stepped out of, this is either a powerful and useful tool or an utterly fatal weapon to most high-enders. On which more anon.

The brushed aluminum fascia is so clean as to lack even a single control. The interface is by central touch panel exclusively whose logic is mostly intuitive.
While I did take two minutes before discovering the icons for digital input switching, that's a minor nit. Adjustment options with the cdPlayer so far exceed what can be listed that I'll refer you to the relevant webpage instead. I will mention that the analog output is variable to cater to amp-direct purists. While this eliminates analog sources, our machine accepts so many digital sources as to play back rather more than just CD. Not really a 'DAC with transport', it's really a 'preamp for digital sources'. Signal attenuation occurs in the digital domain by the way. Contrary to popular lore, Reith prefers it because modern converters no longer suffer small-signal distortions and he'd rather not add noise from analog parts. Output impedance is a friendly 50 ohms, max voltage a 'mere' 2 Volts. The bar on the display's right controls volume, the mute icon sits in the middle. There's no remote control but according to the maker, nearly every preprogrammed or learning remote will do the job. The one included with my Octave preamp worked immediately.

As a top loader, the cdPlayer sports at track-guided brushed aluminum lid which matches its fascia and loaded discs are clamp-coupled with a small magnetic puck. Overall cosmetics are clear, minimalist and timeless, fit & finish good but not excessive to convey clear deliberation that nothing should be thicker than required. Reith admits that compared to others, he did save on mondo front plates. Whether you fancy this no-nonsense approach or miss a bit of luxury is entirely your call to make.