Digital CD Transports

MBL Logo3

 Since early 2009, we used the MBL 1531 integrated CD player. A very good sounding 16 bit player, not SACD. Engineered to last, solid and dependable, it has performed flawlessly since new.

The addition of an external DAC told us two things:

  1. The internal DAC section was good, but not really on a par with the Concert Fidelity DAC 040BD that we now use. The main difference when adding a dac and specifically this DAC, was that the sound opened up, it is more natural, texture of instruments are more detailed, and precision in an acoustic space was simply better. A brief summary would be a stronger, bolder and very tangible three dimensional picture of the stage upon which the musicians play can be expected when adding an external DAC to the digital output of the 1531. Of course, other DAC’s may alter this perception.
  2. That the transport section is really very good. How good, I don’t yet know. I hope to be able to try using the DAC with a top flight transport from Esoteric, DCS, Etc in the near future for comparison. The CF DAC 040BD has no digital filters or up-sampling ability, it needs a good jitter free signal. I would also like to test a Metronome Kalista Reference transport. Prior experience with a Kalista integrated ( in a totally different system admittedly) was that they are really very good, extremely good to be honest, but at a high price..

We have also tried an Esoteric K-03 as transport, featuring the TEAC VRDS Neo mechanism. We compared the DAC section of this piece with the new Concert Fidelity 16bit DAC040BD. It was no contest, the CF was in another league altogether. On SACD, things were closer for sure, but still the master-tape quality of the Concert Fidelity DAC was evident. Using the Esoteric as transport only in comparison to the MBL was also a side step. We heard a sweet and open mid range and top end, maybe slightly emphasised hi-hat/ cymbals etc, but the low frequency was loose compared to the MBL, quite indistinct, and not something we felt was just ‘right’. We then moved on briefly to an Audio-Note CDT-3, which sounded ok, but lost out again on the upper mid range emphasis which makes something sound too artificial. So our next step was to swap out the 1531 for a 1621a, MBL’s own reference redbook transport, which provided the final link in an impeccable chain.

Well, when we did install the mighty MBL 1621a CD Transport our reaction was WOW, this, even though fresh out of the box and no where near it’s recommended 3-400 hrs burn in time is already showing it’s class, totally authoritative yet so so sweet and delicate. Currently we are running through the Concert Fidelity DAC 040BD (battery drive), and have to say that the sound is absolutely sublime. This combination is truly world class, and all from the humble compact disc…

Why do we recommend the MBL so thoroughly?

Well, with the MBL, it’s all about the performance: how MBL achieve this I’m not quite sure, but with these transports, the listeners attention is subconsciously centred around the musical performance being replayed, drawing the listener in and keeping your attention while it goes about it’s duty quietly to the side, which incidentally  is another strong point for the MBL: it is totally silent in operation, absolutely nothing can be heard; no whirring, no hum, nothing, BUT – it breathes more life than any other transport/ player we have used..

3a System-Ariya-Sacca-10

The MBL 1621a and Concert Fidelity DAC 040BD, the most convincing digital reproduction we have heard in 28 years..

In addition, we have been developing our isolation base for some months now, using differing options under the transport as a test piece, and have hit on a final solution. This most likely is not an original idea, but it was borne out of a process and developed in our workshop. It makes a wonderful improvement to the MBL’s digital output, bringing more focus and separation to the top end, vocals benefit by being more defined, pinpoint in space. For more info on the supports we produce click HERE.


Esoteric K-03 & isolation/damping base under test.