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Atoll Electronique CD200 CD Player Winnipeg MB

The almost spartan presentation and simple ergonomics of the Atoll CD player, stereo preamplifier, and power amplifier make the owner's manuals practically unnecessary—there is nothing about the designs that requires explanation. Atoll components are as close to plug-and-play as high-end audio ever gets.

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Atoll Electronique CD200 CD Player

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March 1, 2007 By Steve Guttenberg

The very best audiophile gear is, like most of today's luxury products, substantially sized, glamorous, and breathtakingly expensive. Lucky me, I live with steady parade of the stuff, but maybe I need a breather, just as some restaurant critics enjoy the pleasures afforded by a simple meal prepared with just a few well-chosen ingredients. Enter Atoll Electronique. It is French, reasonably priced, and has definite audiophile street cred, so Atoll might be just the "palate cleanser" I am looking for. Calls are made, and Atoll's importer obligingly sends three of the brand's top-of-the-range designs: the CD200 CD player, the PR300 stereo preamplifier, and the AM200 stereo power amplifier.

The CD200 is simple, but sweet, with just a stereo analog audio output and a coaxial digital audio output on the back. (Click image to enlarge)
Atoll was founded in 1997 by two brothers, Stéphane and Emmanuel Dubreuil, with the goal of making affordable high-end electronics. The best way to keep the lid on prices is to move production offshore; the brothers not only bucked the trend and based the company in Normandy, but also sourced most of the parts they do not manufacture in-house from French suppliers. The one cost-cutting concession is that all Atoll components—CD players, tuners, amplifiers, etc—use the same basic chassis, which measures a compact 3.75 inches high, 17.5 inches wide, and 12 inches deep. So all three of Atoll's stereo preamplifiers, ranging in price from $1,000 to $2,000, look alike, but the higher-priced models' internal designs are more sophisticated. The good stuff is on the inside.

Atoll's gear—CD player, preamp, radio tuner—can all be controlled from a single remote. Since this review appeared in print, Atoll has replaced the rather 1980s-looking remote our reviewer got with this more modern unit. (Click image to enlarge)

Rather than settle for off-the-shelf electronics or rely on inexpensive chipsets, Atoll crafts its unique audio circuits from individual resistors, capacitors, and transistors. All of the parts are hand-inserted into circuit boards, which are then hand-soldered and individually tested. Daily production is small enough that Stéphane still has time to listen to every Atoll before it leaves his factory. That's commitment.

The almost spartan presentation and simple ergonomics of the Atoll CD player, stereo preamplifier, and power amplifier make the owner's manuals practically unnecessary—there is nothing about the designs that requires explanation. Atoll components are as close to plug-and-play as high-end audio ever gets. The review samples' faceplates are beautifully finished natural aluminum, and black is also available.

The PR300 stereo preamplifier is the control center for the system. It has volume up/down buttons as well as left/right balance controls, and source buttons for each source, CD, tuner, etc. A cat's eye-shaped display offers visual conformation of the ...

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