Hear No Evil: KEF, Kimber, and the Parasound CD 1
Even as my dear friend Michael Lavorgna lays down the law in the Wild Wild West that is Computer Audio and continues to rid himself of Compact Discs, I find myself more and more attracted to the little silver discs and their associated players. So I was happy to learn about Parasound’s new CD 1, which adds a computer to the conventional CD player.
Parasound’s Richard Schram explained: “We’re convinced there are enough people out there who love audio and who still don’t trust computers. We think they’ll welcome an extraordinary way of playing their CDs.”
The Parasound CD 1 ($5000) uses a precision CD-ROM drive and an Intel computer running Linux with software developed by Denmark’s Holm Acoustics. The CD 1 is said to spin CDs four times faster than a CD drive, with a far lower error rate. Schram continued, “Every part of the disc is read at least two times. If the reads match, it’ll move forward.” The data goes into a buffer and is analyzed by the Linux computer. "If the data doesn't match, the CD 1 will read and re-read the disc until it’s verified the accuracy of every bit.”
The CD data is clocked by the CD 1’s computer to achieve “near-flawless” accuracy, for jitter that is barely measurable: “Less than 10 picoseconds,” according to Schram. Users can also select between the CD 1’s low-noise op-amp output stage and a discrete circuit by pressing a simple front-panel button.
In addition, there are two digital power supplies and a separate analog power supply derived from the JC 3 phono preamplifier. All sections are fully shielded.
What doesn’t the CD 1 do? There are no external data inputs, but a standalone DAC will be available soon, perhaps by the end of next month.
In a room sponsored by Denver's Hear No Evil, the CD 1 played in a system made of KEF Reference 201/2 loudspeakers, Parasound amplification, and Kimber Kable. I listened to “The Girl from Ipanema,” off of 50 Years of Popular Music, KEF’s 50th anniversary CD, and it sounded delicate, detailed, and present, with the subtle rhythmic interplay between bass and guitar easy and fun to follow.