Swiss Music Box St. John's NL
Happy Valley-Goose B, NL
Corner Brook, NL
Swiss Music Box
December 1, 2007 By Steve Guttenberg
I never saw jazz greats Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, and Louis Armstrong play live, and I missed Frank Zappa and the Beatles. But when I play their CDs on the Nagra Compact Disk Concept player I feel a little closer to their music. The emotional connections are that much stronger—the life force of their music comes through as never before.
The Nagra CDC is a front-loading design, but unlike more conventional players the Nagra’s laser and motor drive are mounted within its CD drawer. When the beautifully machined and finished drawer opens, it produces a mechanical swish as gratifying as the sounds produced by the exotic weaponry in a James Bond flick. Nagra engineers insisted on this "works-in-the-drawer" approach for its mechanical stability advantages, and probably because audiophiles like the hands-on routine of placing the CD directly on the motor spindle (the CD is held in place with a small metal clamp.) It’s certainly easy enough to do and not so different from putting a LP on a turntable. Nine red LEDs illuminate the drawer’s loading spindle, so even in a darkened room you can see what you’re doing. A large backlit LCD indicator mounted on the front of the drawer displays transport functions such as play and stop, along with track elapsed times.
Teensy toggle switches open and close the disc drawer, activate the headphone jack, adjust the brightness, and trigger track skip functions. Take a gander at the round "modulometer," a nod to the recording level meters found on Nagra’s tape recorders long used by the film industry. Here, the meter is mostly decorative, but does provide visual conformation of a CD’s dynamic range, or its lack of same. Sadly, many contemporary pop and rock recordings are dynamically squashed, mixed that way to sound their best over car speakers, but the sonic effect is a lot less flattering over any decent hi-fi. Your ears will probably notice first, but when the meter’s two needles, for the left and right channels, remain pinned over to right, the music’s dynamics seem as flat as Kansas. Once the music’s compressed, even the Nagra can’t restore its lost dynamic kicks.
The CDC’s brushed aluminum chassis is just a little over 12 inches wide and 10 deep; a much smaller aluminum box houses the player’s power supply. The main unit’s connectivity includes RCA and XLR stereo outputs plus three digital outputs (coaxial, optical, and AES/EBU). The CDC matches the trim dimensions of Nagra’s $11,495 PL-P and $8,495 PL-L stereo preamplifiers, and its front-loading mechanism allows the units to stack together. Alternatively, you can omit the preamplifier and have your installer hookup the CDC directly to a stereo power amplifier (the player has its own volume and left/right balance controls.)
The CDC doesn’t really look like a CD player. A rotary dial on the right handles transport functi...